Tarot Cards: How Many in a Deck? (Surprising History)

There are a lot of Tarot Cards. If you have gotten a deck, you will notice there is a lot more than a common pack of playing cards. 

In this article, I will be sharing how many Tarot cards are in a deck. I’ll also share some history that might surprise you about the number of cards in a deck. It’s probably not what you think….

How Many Tarot Cards are in a deck?

Most modern Tarot decks contain a total of 78 cards. The deck usually has 22 in the Major Arcana and 56 in the Minor Arcana. The vast majority of Tarot decks have 78, but there are historical instances of decks with different totals of cards.

One of the most famous Tarot Decks, the Rider Waite Smith Deck, or RWS, was printed in 1909 with 78 cards. 

This became the gold standard and most modern decks are based on the 78 cards of the original RWS.

However, the Rider Waite Smith Deck was not the first Tarot and there have been many different versions with different numbers of cards

Read More: How Many Cards To Pull In A Reading?

Number of Tarot Cards Changing Throughout History

The total number of cards in a Tarot deck has changed throughout the centuries. 

The oldest surviving deck, the Visconti-Sforza deck, only has 15 or so cards. There are other decks from the 15th century that had anywhere from 86 to 60 cards. 

When Tarot was first born it was used more like a card game, but over the centuries it started to be used more for divination and self-reflection.

The widely popular Tarot of Marseilles is how most people associate Tarot with 78 cards. Then in 1909 when the RWS deck was published with 78 cards, it became the new standard. 

Number of Cards per Tarot Deck:

Name of the Deck
Year Published
Number of Cards
Rider–Waite–Smith deck
1909
78
Tarot of Marseilles
1701
78
Thoth Tarot Deck
1969 
78
Minchiate
16th-century
97 (included astrological signs and other symbols)
Cary-Yale Visconti Tarocchi 
15th century
86 ( has Male and Female for each of the court cards)
Visconti-Sforza tarot deck
15th century
15 or so (up for debate) It’s the oldest surviving copy of the Tarot.

As you can see there has been a wide range of total cards in a Tarot deck. 

Modern Tarot with Extra Cards

I am constantly checking out Kickstarter for new Tarot decks, and see a lot of amazing innovation.

I have seen decks with a whole new suite, decks with multiple genders for the court cards, and other interesting ways of building off the standard 78 cards in a deck. 

Here are four examples of decks with more than 78 cards:

I think it is great that people are experimenting outside of the Rider Waite Smith version of Tarot with 78 cards. 

What are the 78 Cards in the Tarot:

The Rider Waite Smith deck, and most modern decks, have the same structure.

  • 22 Major Arcana (or cards)
  • 56 Minor Arcana that is separated into 4 suites. (14 for each suite equals 56 total)

Here is a list of the 78 cards found in the Tarot:

Major Arcana
The Fool
Justice
The Magician
The Hanged Man
The High Priestess
Death
The Empress
Temperance
The Emperor
The Devil
The Hierophant
The Tower
The Lovers
The Star
The Chariot
The Moon
Strength
The Sun
The Hermit
Judgment
The Wheel of Fortune
The World

List of the Minor Arcana:

Pentacles Suite
Wands  Suite
Ace Suite
Cups Suite
Ace of Pentacles
Ace of Wands
Ace of Swords
Ace of Cups
2 of Pentacles
2 of Wands
2 of Swords
2 of Cups
3 of Pentacles
3 of Wands
3 of Swords
3 of Cups
4 of Pentacles
4 of Wands
4 of Swords
4 of Cups
5 of Pentacles
5 of Wands
5 of Swords
5 of Cups
6 of Pentacles
6 of Wands
6 of Swords
6 of Cups
7 of Pentacles
7 of Wands
7 of Swords
7 of Cups
8 of Pentacles
8 of Wands
8 of Swords
8 of Cups
9 of Pentacles
9 of Wands
9 of Swords
9 of Cups
10 of Pentacles
10 of Wands
10 of Swords
10 of Cups
Page of Pentacles
Page of Wands
Page of Swords
Page of Cups
Knight of Pentacles
Knight of Wands
Knight of Swords
Knight of Cups
Queen of Pentacles
Queen of Wands
Queen of Swords
Queen of Cups
King of Pentacles
King of Wands
King of Swords
King of Cups

In Conclusion:

If you were to pick up a deck at the local shop, it would most likely have 78 cards in the deck. Actually… 90% of the time it would have the traditional 78 cards in a deck. 

Historically this wasn’t always the case.

If you hear of someone that has a deck with more or less than 78 cards in it, remember that Tarot has never had one standard version throughout history. It is a living and collective art that changes with time. 

There are a lot of modern decks that are expanding on the original 78 cards. I for one embrace innovation behind the Tarot and look forward to a variety of different decks that are more or less than 78 cards. 

However, if you are new to Tarot I would stick with a deck that has 78 cards so that you can get a good footing on Tarot. After you understand the Rider Waite Smith or another 78 card deck, you can expand into a deck with more cards. 

If you are interested in learning more about Tarot, check out the following articles:

Isaac Cotec
Isaac Cotec
Creator of HeroRise, Isaac Cotec has dedicated his life to empowering others through art and creativity. He is a scholar of the subconscious and has studied the power of symbolism to help create enduring change.

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