Structure

THE TAROT WHEEL

THE STRUCTURE OF THE TAROT DECK

After having considered the History of the Tarot, what can we say about the structure within a Tarot card deck. Based on the history, we have already some important indications :

  • The Tarot deck consists of Trumps and suit cards. The Trumps are an originally Italian invention, the suit cards find their origin in the Mamluk cards and were adapted to European reality
  • The Trump cards are ordered, the Trionfi cards did not have a number and even if some printed decks had a number on some or all of the cards, this is only to indicate there order in the game
  • There are four suits and each suit is divided in court cards and pip cards
  • The courd cards have a hierarchy proper to the court. The hierarchy is never mentioned on the cards, everyone should know who is more and who is less inportant in the court. The court can be different in different decks.
  • The pip cards are numbered from one to ten. Some decks do not have all the numbers, but they never have higher numbers. Please note that sometimes the numbers have a hierarchicaly order where the number one is more important than the number two who is more important than the number three and so on. On other cases it is the value that counts, ten is higher than nine, so more important, eight is more important than seven and so on. But even in this case the number one is often called Ace and has a special value on its own.

So the trumps are ordered, the court has a hierarchy and the pip cards are numbered.

In the next section we will have a close look at the structure of the Tarot cards. First we will have a look at the Trump cards. We will see how the originally structure, developed probably in Ferrara, looked like. We will see the cosmetic difference in structure of the extended Visconti Sforza deck and finally we will see how this structure changed to what we know nowadays as the Tarot of Marseille. For the suit cards we will have three sub chapters. The first is about the structure of the suit symbols, the second is about the court cards, and the last is about the pip cards.

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