3. Comparing the Marseille & Waite-Smith Tarots

No doubt the “occult” reputation of Tarot cards (together with the air of “mystery” and “the forbidden” that continues to cling to them) contributes a great deal to the level of energy which we tend to experience as we interact with them–an energy which may frighten us at first, while at the same time enhancing their effectiveness as a facilitator of self-inquiry and self-knowledge once we break though that initial, culturally conditioned barrier.

Be that as it may, in addition to the sheer energy and sense of mystery associated with them, their general structure and history are also extraordinarily fascinating. The 78 cards can be divided into 3 groups:

The pips and court cards, together, make up the “Minor Arcana.” The images above and to the right show the Waite-Smith suits positioned above those of a regular poker deck. The Tarot of Marseille suits, below, are usually referred to as:

The four Knights + the 22 Trumps make up the difference between the 78 card Tarot deck and our regular set of 52 playing cards (think of the “Pages” as corresponding to the “Jacks” in a regular poker deck). It is worth noting that 78 card Tarot decks are still in popular use as playing-cards in parts of France and elsewhere in Europe.

The TarotMarseille and the Waite-SmithTarot are compared more closely on the following pages–just follow these links:

Comparing the Minor Arcana

Comparing the Major Arcana/Trumps 

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