Rider-Waite Tarot Cards are arguably the most widely used Tarot cards in English-speaking countries and may be the best known. Many experts recommend the use of this particular deck for Tarot beginners because of the lovely pictures and the depth of the symbolic meaning.
The actual origin of Tarot cards is hard to pin-point. One prevalent school of thought is that the originated in northern Italy in the 15th century as playing cards. It was not until the 18th and 19th centuries that Tarot cards began to be used in divination. The use was popularized in the New World after 1910 with the introduction of the Rider-Waite Tarot Cards.
These Tarot cards were drawn by Pamela Coleman Smith as instructed by academic and mystic A.E. Waite and were published by the Rider Company (hence the name Rider-Waite). Although the illustrations appear simple, they provide a wealth of symbolism. A. E. Waite toned down the Christian imagery in the cards – for example, the “Pope” became the “Hierophant” and the “Popess” became the “High Priestess.” A book by Waite, The Pictorial Key to the rider waite tarot symbolism, was published in 1910 and included a history of the cards, explanation of their symbolism, and black and white photos of each of the cards.
The Rider-Waite Tarot Cards deck contains 78 cards: 22 in the Major Aracana (including the Hierophant and High Priestess described above, as well as the Magician, the Fool, and the Hanged Man, among others and 56 cards in the Minor Arcana. The Minor Arcana is composed of four suits (Wands, Pentacles, Cups and Swords) consisting of 14 cards each.
Learn the symbolism of the cards of both the Major and Minor Arcanas. Color is another important symbolic aspect of the cards. Find and use a layout your are comfortable with. As you ask questions and practice with the cards you may be surprised at what you learn about the Rider-Waite Tarot Cards