Tarot cards symbolize random, unexpected events and situations that we may encounter in life. Our lives are the result of activities that we plan and circumstances in which we find ourselves due to the events around us. Our lives can change significantly when we meet a new person, when we are delayed in traffic by a few seconds, or when we happen to be in the right place at the right time.
Unexpected events can include achieving success in a particular activity, meeting a new person who becomes important in our life, making a choice that has serious consequences, or suffering an accident or illness that changes our life. There is nothing occult or mysterious about Tarot. The random nature of a "reading" is like a stochastic simulation that forces us to focus on aspects of life that we might not consider otherwise. Pondering about the subjects represented by the cards can help us to plan a better future or to prepare for unforeseen circumstances. Newspapers frequently carry stories of lives that changed by unusual twists of fate. The Washington Post reported on February 26, 2005 (p. D2) that Dale Parlin, who was a course marshal at the Lake Arlington Golf Course in Texas died after "a golf ball hit by his son glanced off a tree and hit Parlin in the head Feb. 18." What are the chances of a son killing his father in this way? One can only wonder what would have happened if the wind, the trees, or the position of the people on the golf course had been slightly different.
The tarot, also known as tarocchi or tarock, is a deck of seventy-eight cards with twenty-one trump cards, one Fool, and four suits of fourteen cards each of which contain ten pip and four face cards. The traditional tarot suits are swords, batons, coins and cups. Some tarot decks use rods or wands instead of batons, and pentacles instead of coins. In tarot readings, wands represent the early stages of a situation or condition, cups reflect emotions that have not yet materialized, swords indicate struggle and action, and pentacles represent prosperity and the realization of desires.
In Europe, Tarot cards are used to play games such as Italian Tarocchini and French Tarot. In English-speaking countries, Tarot cards are utilized mainly for divinatory purposes. The trump cards plus the Fool card make up the twenty-two major arcana cards and the pip and four face cards comprise the fifty-six minor arcana. The terms Major Arcana and Minor Arcana are used only in reference to "occult" tarot and are seldom used by card players. The divinatory meanings of the cards are derived mostly from Medieval Alchemy and from the Kabbalah of Jewish mysticism which seeks to define the nature of the universe and the human being, as well as the nature and purpose of existence.
Some of the descriptions used in the readings are derived from Learning the Tarot - An On-Line Course by Joan Bunning. Tarot cards are sometimes called tarto cards or taro cards.