Tom Tadfor Little is a Tarot Historian and says that the traditional playing cards were first seen in Europe around 1375 after it had been brought over from the Islamic Societies. These cards though were not Tarot cards and he says that there is no evidence that suggests that Tarot cards had even been created yet which goes against other claims that state the traditional playing cards were based off Tarot cards.
In 1440 the Tarot card was first mentioned in a letter from the Duke of Milan who requested several decks of triumph cards to be used at a special event.
However it does seem that the first Tarot decks were created as a game. There were four suits with cards numbered from one to ten as well as court cards that included the queen, king, knight and page. The deck also had 22 symbolic picture cards that did not belong to any suit. The decks were then used to play a game called triumph which was similar to bridge. In the game of triumph, 21 of the 22 special picture cards are permanent trump cards.
This game then spread quickly to parts of Europe and was soon referred to as tarocchi in 1530, which is the Italian word for the French word Tarot.
Followers of the occult in France and England discovered Tarot cards in 1781. They believed that the symbolic pictures actually had more meaning to them then just that of simple trump cards.
They used these cards as a divination tool and occult writers began to write about the Tarot.
Others believe that Tarot cards originated in Egypt. There are also some circles that think the Tarot Cards are sole surviving book from the great fire that burned the libraries of ancient Egypt and the cards are thought to be the hieroglyphically keys to life.
Tarots decks come in many varieties and there are not a standard number of cards across the decks. The types of cards, the suits and the meanings are all the same however, but the illustrations vary. The decks are based on various themes like nature, fantasy, dragons, and animals and so on.
The most common deck in the US is the Rider-Waite deck which was created in 1909 by A. EW. Waite. This is a 78 card deck that was the only readily available deck in the US for many years.
A Tarot deck is made up from the Minor Arcana and the Major Arcana. The Minor Arcana of the Tarot has four suits which are wands, swords, cups and circles or pentacles.
Each of the suits has a meaning that shows a specific approach to life. The cards that are in these suits are numbered from 1 to 10 and also include the court cards which are the king, queen, knight and page. These Minor Arcana represent the minor practical daily ups and downs in life.
The Major arcana are not associated with the suits. These include the picture cards which show principles, concepts and ideals. These are numbered from one to 21 and the 22 card is marked as zero. These cards represent strong and long term energy or big events that may occur in some area of life.
If a Major Arcana card is seen that is about a particular subject in one reading and then in the next reading see a Minor arcana about the same subject then it would mean that the subject is becoming less important.