The tarot is also known as the tarocchi or the tarock. It is a set of cards that features twenty one trump cards, and an extra face card. These decks of tarot cards are largely spread in Europe and are used at playing tarot games, but in English speaking countries are rather unknown and serve primarily at divinatory purposes.
Throughout history, a variety of tarot decks have emerged, and a number of typical regional patterns soon started to appear. One of the most important designs is commonly known as “Tarot de Marseilles”. Court de Gebelin studied this type of tarot deck and his book, “Le monde Primitif” was illustrated by this deck. Tarot de Marseilles was also popularized in the 20th century, and some current edition set of tarot cards are based on a deck of deck of a particular Marseilles design that was printed by Nicolas Conver in 1760. Another style is the “Swiss” Tarot. This one substitutes Juno and Jupiter for the Papess, or High Priestess and the Pope, or Hierophant. “Minchiate” was an expanded deck used in Florence. This deck features ninety six cards and includes astrological symbols, the four elements as well as traditional tarot motifs.
During the 18th century, French suited tarot cards began to appear in Germany. The first generation of these decks depicted animal scenes on the trumps, and therefore were called “Tiertarock” decks. This design innovation is often credited to card maker maker Göbl of Munich. The symbolism of French suited tarot trump card is very different form the older, Italian suited design. With very few expeptional cases such as the Tarocchi di Alan and the recent Tarot de la Nature, French suited tarot cards are nearly exclusively used for card games and rarely for divination.
A common usage of the tarot deck is for playing card games. Although in Italy, the game lost a lot of its popularity, it enjoys a wider spread all over Europe. The game is played with the so called “playing deck” of the tarot cards. The “esoteric” deck misses the corner symbols and therefore is not suitable for the game of tarot.
Another usage of the tarot deck is for divination. Many believe that these cards can be used to gain insight into the current and possible future situations of the subject, while others believe the cards help them tap into a collective unconscious or their own creative, brainstorming subconscious.
Some schools of occult thought or symbolic study, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, consider the tarot to function as a textbook and mnemonic device for their teachings. This may be one cause of the word arcana being used to describe the two sections of the tarot deck: arcana is the plural form of the Latin word arcanum, meaning “closed” or “secret.”