Tarot cards originate out of italy in the early 1400’s and were originally in use as part of a card game. (Which is still popular in france.) The way we have come to understand the tarot as a spiritually connected icon and divinatory tool however, is dated much later during the 1700, when the cards began to be connected to mysticism and the occult through The Order of the Golden Dawn.
The tarot deck itself contains seventy eight cards divided into two parts the Major Arcana, numbering twenty-two cards, and the Minor Arcana numbering fifty six cards divided into four suits. For divinatory purposes the deck is shuffled and a number of cards laid out in various patterns that have symbolic or spiritual meaning, using the symbols on the cards to intuit the meaning of the results.This process of identifying and anyalisng symbols is something which has engaged many non-mystics in the study of the tarot, Carl Jung being one of the more notable examples.
Jung saw in the the “face cards” of the Major Arcana symbols for various archetypes, steriotypical or idealized figures often seen in forms of storytelling, and also identified archetypes for each of the four suits in the Minor Arcana. Here are a few examples from the Major Arcana.
0. The Fool
The Fool is the first card of the tarot deck and is a card of new beginnings and leaps of faith. The fool itself often represents the questioner in a reading. in a storytelling sense The Fool is as the protagonist moving forward into the rest of the deck. The fool is also seen as a symbol of innocence and wonder, and is most commonly interpreted as such in Jungian use of it.
The Magician is a card of mastery over the universe, it is a card of power and the ability to control and direct it. It is also a card of self actualization and awareness. It is also sometimes interpreted as a symbol of thought and or magic.
The hermit is both a card of experience and of wisdom, but also a card of attainment, of lighting the way or showing a goal in some aspects. The archetype of the hermit is connected to the wisdom and creates an advisor figure.
12.The Hanged Man
In the Tarot deck The Hanged Man is one of the most difficult symbols to interpret, though it has connections to martyrdom, it is not often read in that manner. It is a card of sublime mystery, and can also be seen as a card of knowledge. In Jungian thought it is a card of sacrifice, but one that is required by the situation.
Studying archetypes and looking at the Tarot as an example of archetypes could be useful in teaching as a way to discuss identity with students, by either having students identify with a symbol or charachter archetype, or by allowing them to create their own symbols to represent themselves, the concepts that create and shape their identities can be explored. It can also give students a method of looking at the different ways art can be understood and viewed by audiences, as there are many different understandings in the meanings of an individual card.