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What Is the Tarot?

The Tarot; first known as Trionfi and later as Tarocchi, Tarock, and others, is a pack of playing cards, used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play games such as Italian Tarocchini and French Tarot. In the late 18th century, it began to be used for divination in the form of Tarotology/Cartomancy.

Like common playing cards, the Tarot has four suits (which vary by region: French suits in Northern Europe, Latin suits in Southern Europe, and German suits in Central Europe). Each suit has 14 cards, ten cards numbering from one (or Ace) to ten and four face cards (King, Queen, Knight, and Jack/Knave). In addition, the Tarot has a separate 21 card trump suit and a single card known as the Fool.

The History of the Tarot

The tradition of Tarot and Tarot card readings has been in existence for thousands of years and has been linked with many types of religions. Once upon a time known as a form of “Fortune Telling”, the Tarot deck would have consisted of the 22 Major Arcana cards (the word Arcana means secrets or mysteries) and the earliest evidence can be traced back to 1450. It is believed the cards were created for nobles and only became widely available on the creation of the printing press. In current times, the Tarot deck always consists of 56 minor Arcana and 22 Major Arcana cards.