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The protagonist in Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a young tarot card reader who takes over her mom’s pier-side booth when her mom dies. Twenty-one-year-old Hal is broke and deep in debt to a loan shark. Looking for an escape, Hal decides to assume the identity of an heir to the Westaway fortune. Unsure if the façade will work, Hal brings along her deck of tarot cards. Hal uses the cards to work through mental problems—not to predict the future. Ware’s book is a slow read; however, her portrayals of the tarot card deck and reader are authentic.

Here are 10 Facts About Tarot Cards

  1. Tarot cards evolved from playing cards. In Italy, they were used in a bridge-like game called “tarocchi appropiata.”
  2. The oldest surviving deck is circa 1440 in Northern Italy. The Visconti-Sforza deck were created for the Duke of Milan’s family.
  3. Card designs were influenced by carnival parades. Today there are hundreds of specialized decks to chose from.
  4. It wasn’t until 1781 when occultists incorporated the cards into their practices. Moreover, tarot cards do not predict the future.
  5. The most popular deck is the Rider-Waite deck created in 1909. It is sometimes called Rider-Waite-Smith or Waite-Smith deck.
  6. Tarot decks differ from Oracle decks. In tarot, there are generally 78 cards divided into groups. Oracle decks are more flexible and more accessible since they do not require complicated spreads.
  7. There is a playing card museum outside Paris. It is called Musée Français de la Carte à Jouer. It houses 11,000+ items.
  8. Christian Dior’s tarot inspired clutch can be purchased online for $1,125—used!
  9. Despite a popular myth, you should select your tarot or oracle deck. Select one that speaks to you or catches your eyes.
  10. Jasmine Becket-Griffith is a fan favorite artist and has illustrated eight oracle and tarot decks. She’s also incredibly nice and autographs her decks.