The Tarot is made up for two sets of cards, the 22 Major Arcana and the 56 Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana, also knows as Trumps or Keys, are the big cards. They represent grand passions and events far larger than our individual lives. Symbolically the Major Arcana represent the journey of the Fool, numbered zero, who evolves from setting out on the journey to enlightenment and goes through twenty one stages that represent meetings, locations and revelations on his journey.
The Minor Arcana look a lot more like the cards in a normal deck of cards. There are the four suits: Wands, Cups, Swords and Disks. There are Aces and Royal cards, although in the Tarot there are four Royal Cards instead of three. Generally the Royal cards represent either personalities, organisations or personal qualities. The pip cards in each suit correspond to the progression of energy down the tree of life from the first spark of creation as the Ace to it’s realisation in material form as the Ten. Each on of the Suits is linked to an element: Fire for Wands, Water for Cups, Air for Swords and Earth for Disks.
These Elements too represent the stages of creation: the first fiery moments of the big bang, cooling to form planets with fertile seas that give birth to early mammals, that evolve to develop intelligence and culture, then eventually build cities. In the Thoth Tarot these cards are also modified with Astrological signs, Planetary influences and Hebrew letters in order to give us a more detailed idea of the divinatory meaning for each card.
The reason we put the cards into a ‘Reading’, or a layout of cards on the table is to see how the different elements fit together and affect each other. Life itself is made up of different people and events affecting each other, and the Tarot is no different. By putting these things together we can get a picture, from which we can draw conclusions about what is going to happen.
In strict terms it’s inaccurate to say that the Tarot predicts the future, because it’s out of time. The universe is being created anew from moment to moment. Pulses of divine energy come down the Tree of Life, from the Godhead, so close together that they could look like an unbroken chain. Each pulse creates the entirety of the universe: past, present and future. Since the Tarot reads from the Tree of Life, everything is happening at the same moment, and since creation is a constant and dynamic process everything is subject to constant change. By reading the Tarot we can ride those pulses of creation and influence the way the universe is created. Everything we do affects the Sephira, and the Sephira are the ingredients of creation.