How many tarot cards are in a tarot deck? In traditional tarot decks there are a total of 78 tarot cards. Those 78 cards can be broken down into 56 cards of the Minor Arcana, and 22 cards of the Major Arcana.
The Minor Arcana are roughly equivalent to the cards in a deck of standard playing cards, and are divided into four 4 tarot suits: Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. Unlike playing cards, each tarot suit contains 14 cards.
Within each tarot suit, there are 10 numbered cards, starting with the Ace (technically, number one) up through Roman numeral “X” or number 10. Above the tenth card there are 4 “court cards“, the Page, Knight, Queen and King.
The 22 Major Arcana cards are individually named and do not belong to any tarot suit. The Major Arcana are generally considered to be more important, and reference larger more consequential issues in a tarot reading.
The cards of the Major Arcana cards are as follows:
0. The Fool. (Technically not part of the numbering sequence)
- The Magician
- The High Priestess
- The Empress
- The Emperor
- The Hierophant
- The Lovers
- The Chariot
- The Hermit
- Wheel of Fortune
- The Hanged Man
- The Devil
- The Tower
- The Star
- The Moon
- The Sun
- The World
NOTE: One major difference between many decks is the relative position of the Strength and Justice cards. In many decks, Strength is number 11 and Justice is number 8.
Are there any decks with more or less than 78 cards?
Yes. The modern tarot card deck evolved over the centuries and had many different permutations. The well known Tarot de Marseilles which dates back to the 1500’s contains only 56 cards. The well-known 20th century Zen Osho tarot deck contains one additional card, “The Master”, for a total of 79 cards. The question of “How many tarot cards” appear in a tarot deck is really a question about traditional decks, and does not apply to all modern decks.
In addition to non-standard tarot decks, there are hundreds of “oracle card” decks, which often borrow from traditional tarot imagery and tarot lore, but may include different numbers of tarot cards.
Tarot decks with more or less than 78 cards are generally considered to be “non standard” however. Most classic decks like the well-known Rider Waite deck, and Aleister Crowley‘s Thoth tarot, adhere to the 78 card standard.
How about tarot reading with playing cards?
Lastly, some tarot readers and fortune tellers read tarot with standard playing cards. A standard deck of playing cards has 52 cards and can be used to roughly correspond to the 56 Minor Arcana cards. While playing cards are not a traditional divination tool, they can do in a pinch: See our complete guide to reading tarot with playing cards.