The tarot is both a tool of psychic divination, and of self exploration. The origin of the tarot is debatable, but the earliest possibilities are found in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, or as the Egyptians themselves called it, "The Book of Coming Forth by Day". Other theories claim the tarot is the "Old Religion" of Europe preserved in picture form, and that the four suits of the minor arcana relate to the four sacred objects of the Grail Castle in the Aurthurian legends. The first verified documentation of the tarot in Europe can be found in the ledger books of King Charles VI of France; in 1392, he commissioned artist Jacquemin Gringonneur to paint three sets.
The very fact that such diverse areas as Egypt, Europe, India, China and Persia have been credited with the origin of the tarot, speaks strongly to it's very archetypal nature. An archetype is what Freud called "archaic remnants", and what Jung thought of as "primordial images" - they are not connected with individual mind, but work through the "collective unconscious" which Dr. Jung describes as "the part of the psyche which retains and transmits the common psychological inheritance of mankind". That is, the symbols that have appeared over and over throughout human history, and are found in myths and religions the world over. They are the symbols that appear and reappear in our dreams.
Dr. Jung used the word "synchronicity" to describe the phenomenon of "meaningful coincidence"- in other words, omens, premonitions and predictions. It is the combination of archetypal images and synchronicity which allows the tarot to work - synchronicity allows the right cards to fall at the right time, and the archetypal images are used to interpret the meaning. Anyone can learn it through study and practice, but a person who is naturally attuned to their own unconscious, and to the collective unconscious, a "psychic", is a born natural.
In modern tarot theory, the twenty-two cards of the major arcana are often refered to as "The Fools Journey". Most myths and legends have much in common; they generally start with the birth of a hero, (The Fool) and the hero often has both divine and mortal parentage (Hercules father was the god Zeus, his mother was a mortal woman). At some point in the hero's young life, he is somehow betrayed, and forced away from his birthplace to wander strange roads, often battling evil to defend goodness. His survival and eventual triumph over darkness results in a symbolic rebirth - no longer a young, na´ve prince, this hero will emerge as the benevolent King of his own realm, won not through inheritance, but by his own blood, sweat and tears. The cards of the major arcana symbolically mark the different points of this "heroic road trip", and can be used as a map to guide everyday people on their own epic journey through life.
Would you like to learn Tarot yourself? Vincente, Master of the Tarot, teaches you how to spread and interpret the Tarot using the principal divinations, with his video "Learning to Spread and Interpret the Tarot". Click here to visit his website.