Tarot cards have been around since the mid-fifteenth century, although originally they were used as a deck of cards for playing various card games. A tarot card was used in games by the French and by the Italians. Tarot card games were probably played by other central European peoples as well. The etymology of the word is unclear. It has been traced variously to the Arabic, Italian and French. Card games first came into Europe from Egypt during that latter part pf the 14th century. The cards from Egypt were very similar to the tarot cards used in European games.
Origin of Tarot cards
The name for the game played with tarot cards probably came from the Taro River region of northern Italy. The game played by both the French and Italians originated in Milan or Bologna. As early as 1367, there is documentation of a ban on tarot card decks and card playing in Bern, Switzerland. The ban didn’t seem to eliminate the playing of games with the tarot card deck throughout Europe from 1377 to the present day uses. There are surviving cards from decks that were hand painted in the mid-15th century for an Italian ruling family.
18th Century Tarot Cards
With the invention of the printing press, tarot cards were no longer hand painted in small numbers. They were produced in larger numbers, although there are many different regional variations of tarot card decks. The Tarot de Marseilles is perhaps the most famous of the tarot card decks. Other variations include the Swiss tarot and the expanded deck with 96 cards known as the Minchiate. While the usage and production of cards and card games increased during this period, so did the preaching against the game and the cards used in the games. Today, most games are played with the non-occult cards similar to the Italian decks.
Games Played with Tarot Cards
Many of the tarot card games played in France, Italy and other parts of Central Europe use the non-occult type decks. Some of the best known games played with tarot cards include tarot, tarock, tarocchi, taroccho and ottocento. Many are played only regionally or in the home country, but others, such as tarock are played widely in several European countries. The tarot card deck is often a standardized 78-card deck. The expanded, 96-card tarot card deck uses astrological symbols in addition to the standard tarot elements.
Make-Up of a Tarot Card Deck
There are dozens of different tarot card decks, although most use a 78 card deck with four suits including court cards and numbered cards, 21 trump cards and the Fool card. The 22 trump cards are known as the Major Arcana. They do not have suits. The balance of the 56 tarot cards are 4 suits of 14 cards each. These tarot cards are known as the Minor Arcana. Traditionally, the Minor Arcana suits are coins, cups, sword and wands. Modern tarot deck suits are disks, cups, swords and rods. Variations of decks are sometimes whimsical and at other times simply reflecting the viewpoints and emphasis of the creator-owner.