In one way, the Tarot is a selection of seventy-eight pictures on equal sized pieces of paper. It is also, however, a wonderful tool for divination, enabling us to tap into the future, helping us to make decisions, and to find out information about those important to us.
Despite rumours to the contrary, the Tarot probably did not originate with the gypsies, but was developed from ordinary card decks which may have been used to tell the future. The first Tarot deck known in history appears in 1444 in Italy . So it's not that ancient either.
It is made of twenty-two ‘Major Arcana' cards which represent major life changes and ladder-rungs we all go through. Cards like The Burning Tower and The Lovers will show physical changes, and others such as The Star or Death are symbols of mental or emotional states. Those have always been elaborate pictures, rich is symbolism.
The rest of the card, the ‘Minor Arcana', are divided into the four elements, and touch on more subtle transformation, acting as cautions and advisors. Some of them represent people, some are cards of growth, some are innocent, some can be moving. These cards used to be simple, graphically, but Pamela Coleman-Smith, who designed the famous Rider-Waite Tarot deck, painted them in as much detail as the Major Arcana, and most decks since followed this blessed initiative.
When sitting down to read the cards, try to look at the pictures as if you're reading a wordless picture book. The cards will then speak to you in their own language. They will call you to notice their colours, and composition, and placing. You will notice the pictures moving, and changing and you will learn, through practice (and blood, sweat and tears), how to interpret them their own way.
There is nothing wrong with reading the books or memorising meanings, but the most beautiful journey you will take with the cards will be by yourself.