Tarot cards were most likely created sometime between the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Tarot spreads are not creations of the new age. It is debated whether Tarot was created in Europe, Egypt, India, Italy, Spain, China or France.
Today, there are thousands of decks and all are unique. However, most decks consist of 78 cards. There are 22 cards called the Major Arcana and fourteen cards (divided into 4 suits - usually, cups, wands, swords and disks) called the Minor Arcana. There are many different ways to lay out the cards when you do a reading.
All tarot cards contain images, symbols and meanings. Some cards are assigned the elements -earth, air, fire and water. When doing a tarot reading, you can read the book that came with your deck to find out what the images and symbols mean on the cards, or you can use your intuition to interpret the cards' meanings. Books also contain many tarot spreads to choose from.
Early tarot symbolism is rooted in Medieval and Renaissance Europe. There are many decks that use nontraditional symbolism. There are decks based on feminism, cats, Alice in Wonderland, mythology, astrology, angels, goddesses, fairy tales, dragons, herbs, baseball, animals, unicorns, art, vampires, Native Americans, runes, Egypt, flowers, crystals, gypsies, and more! You can even use regular playing cards to do a tarot card reading.
Tarot can be used to gain insight, clarity, and achieve greater control over issues involving relationships, life changes, work and career, health, spirituality, dreams, and family. Anyone can do a tarot reading, but it takes effort and commitment to gain a depth of understanding of the cards. Some people simply read the card interpretations in books, while others find they have a special talent for just "knowing" what the cards mean. Many people who read tarot cards for others find it better to have someone else do their own reading so that the reading is more objective.