There are many texts describing the origin of the tarot card, although no proof has been found to justify a clear case. Some say they came from gypsy origin, others say they are part of ancient Hebrew, Greek or even prehistoric imagery. What is known is that the first cards were found in the 1400s where an Italian document describes a set of playing cards similar to the 78 deck we see today, but contained pictures of Greek gods and four different bird types.
The structures of the tarot cards were said to have been set in place to tell a story of the soul; to describe a young Christian's journey through his life with moral guidance and instruction. They have also been used as an alternative to the playing card, which originated in Europe on a large scale some 50 years prior to the Tarot card being distributed. Many texts describe the gambling uses of the Tarot, and how similar they are to other card games, although the use of Tarot was mainly restricted to the upper classes at this time.
During the Renaissance, the Tarot began to appear as a form of divination, where spiritual leaders, occultists, and even scientists used cards to draw upon the power of the spirits to answer questions they had about their life. The deck consisted of 72 cards, split into two groups: 22 court cards known as the Major Arcana, displayed images with spiritual references to both the self, and also to symbols of ancient cultures. The remaining 56 cards (the Minor Arcana) closely resemble the playing cards of the times, although often the suits are altered to include wands, cups, and pentacles amongst others.
Since the increase in the Tarot cards being used for divination, the air of mystique has tended to follow, although there are still many stories circulating about the use of playing cards as a form of fortune telling, as the Minor Arcana are very similar. In the modern day, the use of the Tarot card isn't only restricted to the upper classes. There are many decks to choose from, all of which contain different symbols relating to many paths of paganism or other spiritual cultures. The most popular Tarot card deck is the Rider-Waite, deck, brought into production in 1910, as the use of pagan symbols and the many references to the circles of life and the nature we are surrounded by have proved most useful in interpreting the images contained within the card spread, especially by newer initiates to the way of the Tarot.
However, it is usually best that the specific Tarot card deck is chosen by the user to represent how they feel about the self, and where they fit in with their surroundings, and how closely they believe that the particular deck is the best one for them, although it has been considered that bad luck may follow if a deck isn't given as a gift, but used by the purchaser. The cards themselves are laid out in various forms, or spreads, and the reader seeks to find the story hidden within the images that will help in deciding upon a course to follow, and each spread contains a personal reflection about the user.