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Origins, Symbolic Elements and Meanings of Tarot Cards

While the Tarot is associated well with astrology, its origins are not entirely clear. There are different opinions that are confused in time. Some hypotheses are as follows;

•    Egypt is said that the Tarot originated in the Book of Toth. Toth is Hermes and Serapis Bey, Atlantean priest who came to Egypt with the secrets of their civilization. It is said that the cards of Egyptian tarot come from this book that were inscribed in gold, secret corridors of the Great Sphinx.

•    Italy relates to the Visconti family, specifically with the Duke Filippo Maria Visconti. The deck dates from the fifteenth century and is the oldest preserved today. They are letters of great beauty and artistic value. They have the current structure of the tarot.

•    According to Paul Foster Case, founder of BOTA, several philosophers were the designers of the tarot in Morocco. This was done in order to preserve the arcane knowledge after the Library of Alexandria caught fire. The codes in these letters intended to be a universal language.

•    It is said that the tarot could have originated from China, for its similarity to some aspects of the Chinese dominoes.

Rider Waite Tarot

It is almost impossible to say exactly how many tarot games have been created as you can find a quite extensive list of tarots. The Rider Waite Tarot is undoubtedly one of the most known and used one. This is primarily due to the high visual content. All arcanas, major and minor, are represented in drawings alluding to its meaning. This does not happen in tarots such as Marseilles, for example.

Secondly, the drawings are simple and focused on the symbolic value of each item. We see in other tarots that the images are more aesthetics oriented.

Thirdly, the color is simple and purposeful. Spot colors are used mostly in the cards with an austere palette.

Another very important aspect of the tarot is that it fairly accurately reflects the tradition of the tarot that has preceded it.

For these reasons, we will take the Rider Waite Tarot as reference for understanding this discipline.

Symbolic Elements of Rider Waite Tarot


•    White has the fullness of gifts, clarity and purity of purpose. It is the divine and the wisdom it brings. It is positive.

•    Blue is the color of higher vibration. It refers to the spirituality and it also represents the emotions and feelings.

•    Green is the color of nature and expresses vitality and growth. It is the capacity for renewal and represents fertility.

•    Gray is the combination of black and white and it is the joint and balanced action of opposites.

•    Yellow is a complex color as it relates to consciousness and creative mind, and at the same time, it represents money, material wealth, intelligence and divine energy.

•    Red is the color of lower vibration and represents the momentum, action and movement. It has the vitality and strength along with passion and desire.

•    Black is the color of darkness and it is analogous to ignorance showing what is not or has not been revealed. It is what is hidden in the shade. It is also death, emptiness and negativity.


The Tarot, like astrology, recognizes and works with the four elements. The significant elements are very similar, so I just make a brief mention of these elements.

•    Fire mean momentum for action and the action itself, movement and change and transformation.

•    Earth means the tangible material and relate to the concrete and richness.

•    Air has to do with the mind and its processes, the thoughts, judgments, and the conditioning.

•    Water has to do with emotions with the flow or blockage of these emotions, peace and emotional balance.

Other Meanings

•    Plants, fruits and vegetation represent abundance, richness and fertility in general.

•    Hills, mountains and elevations indicate effort so they pose challenges and tests.

•    Water, rivers and waterfalls show emotions in different states.

•    Animals or animal parts have to do with the visceral and instinctive matters and which appear alone without a mandate of consciousness represent unconscious.

•    What comes from above represents divine origin, inspiration or divine mandate.

•    What comes below nourishes physically from the ground.

Abigail, a renowned psychic, has written a report on this subject and it is a great read if you are interested to learn more about this subject.