About Site

Historical Tarot Decks

This Web site presents images, from a few historical tarot card decks, for contemplation, study and art appreciation. It offers a number of interactive features to help you deepen and enrich your experience.

Notes about each deck and layout can be viewed by clicking the “About Deck” and “About Layout” buttons. You can also read more about tarot history at sites such as Tarot Heritage and World of Playing Cards — Early Tarot Cards, and in articles linked from the notes.

You can move the card images across the display, and choose from a selection of layouts for card readings or compose your own. Each card image is linked to articles offering possible meanings, and the cor­re­spond­ing cards' images from different decks can be compared side-by-side.

Many of the images of cards were obtained from the Web downloads offered by libraries and museums; source links are provided where possible in the “About Deck” description page for each deck. Some of the images were of poor quality due to lighting conditions or other factors; Photoshop was used to correct color balance and adjust contrast to bring out details, at the risk of strengthening digital artifacts or giving an inaccurate impression of the actual condition of the original physical cards. The card back designs used here are not histor­ical; as those were not available for every deck, or were in poor condition, we have opted to use contemporary abstract designs.

Reading the Cards

This Web site does not perform a card reading (the art of interpreting the cards and their layout in relation to your question), but can facilitate your performing a reading. For those interested in doing so, this Web site provides a variety of methods and options.

Keep in mind that the symbolism of the cards has evolved, and been reinterpreted, by many tarot teachers over time. We link each card to a range of meanings that readers may use as a guide but, beyond any traditional meaning, we suggest that readers allow themselves to creatively connect the images to their own questions or issues, using them as a tool to spark personal insights and intuitions.

You can follow this general procedure:

  1. Choose a deck and a layout. You can start simply with a 1 Card (“Single Card Draw”) layout. Or, select a different layout from the drop-down list.
  2. Focus on asking a question, then click Shuffle. The Web site will randomize and lay out the cards. This simulates the physical process of shuffling and taking cards from the top of the deck, and has worked surprisingly well for some readers. Or, select and position cards manually: Some readers like querents to intuitively select cards. In that spirit, this Web site provides an option to “Choose from spread deck”.
  3. Magnify the card image and look up divinatory meanings. After the card images have been laid, you can click on any to view the image at a larger size. In the caption will be links to relevant information in this and other Web sites.

Tips: To expand on some card layouts, it is possible to draw additional cards from the deck shown in the upper left corner of the display. Further, you can try re-laying the cards from one reading’s spread, keeping the same order, in other layouts or decks to see if that evokes a richer reading. (To try this, use the Substitute button; the Substitute function will not be able to translate all cards between decks, as some decks have more cards than other decks. This feature is at an experimental stage of development.)

For a general introduction and easy how-to guide, see How Stuff Works — How Tarot Cards Work.

Bonus! Get Books on Tarot

The divinatory meanings featured in this Web site are from Mark McElroy’s A Guide to Tarot Card Meanings. You can get copies of his books as e-books or as physical paperbacks by following the links below.

Additionally, we provide, in PDF format, a selection of classic writings about tarot, including Arthur Edward Waite’s The Pictorial Key to the Tarot .

Graphical User Interface Tips

You can simply start exploring the site without reading this list of tips; we provide them here for users who may have special requirements.

All features of this Web site have been tested on the Chrome Web browser from Google, circa 2016, using a computer running Mac OS X. Depending on your brand/version of Web browser and of computer operating system, most features should work as described.

How to Contact Us

Thanks for checking out our tarot study project.

To submit feedback and questions about the historical card images on this site, or about the site: Send a message to the webmaster. Please note that we are technology and art specialists, not tarot experts, and cannot offer help in card interpretation beyond the facilities built into this Web site.

To those needing a reading, we suggest checking locally for professional readers, and we recommend these consultants for remote readings: