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Major Arcana
Minor Arcana


During the Italian renaissance where liberal and freethinking minds were flourishing, tarot cards gained immense popularity as an avenue into the unknown and occult. The mystic art form was extremely widespread and variants of it were rapidly manifesting themselves across the European continent.

It was at this time that theories on the origins of tarot cards and their association with playing cards were emerging. The use of cards for purposes of fun and frivolity has been documented in varying degrees of accuracy from the thirteenth century onward. Previously mysticism and religious beliefs nurtured a small number of games for children and the idle. It was not until this period of European enlightenment during the fourteenth and fifteenth century that playing cards were thought to have been introduced and widely documented on.

In truth the exact period and location of the origins of playing cards is unknown. That the pack of tarot cards were adapted in to a game more readily accessible and easy to use for the mass population is however under little dispute.

The classic tarot deck consists of 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Lesser Arcana cards. The Lower Arcana cards are each sub divided in to four suits for the purposes of reading the tarot deck. Historians have alluded to the class system in ancient Egypt to explain their presence. These being the Sword, Wand, Cups and finally Pentacles. Respectively these refer to the military, agriculture, clergy and finance. The cards were then used to predict events that surrounded these four areas of most concern to the ancient Egyptians at this time. Adapted to modern playing cards these suits have emerged as Swords = Spades, Wands = Clubs, Cups = Hearts and Pentacles = Diamonds.

The 56 Lower Arcana cards sub divide in to sets of 14 cards by suit containing cards in numerical order from ace to ten inclusive and court cards in ascending order from Knave (Jack) to Knight to Queen and King. The similarities are stark and with the exception of the Knight who has since been dropped the evolution form one deck of cards to another is slight.

It appears the only survivor of the cull from the Major Arcana cards is the Fool who is depicted as the wanderer. He has evolved into the free roving Joker, again a minimal transition that closes the circle on the modern day deck of 52 playing cards and additional Joker.

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