[Divinatory Tarot cards, 1789]

Italian cardmakers preserved the Queen, along with a King, Knight and Valet, for use in a new game, c 1420, called Tarocco. Also added were a wild card (the Fool) and 21 special cards, mystical symbols that served as trumps (originally meaning "triumphs"). Among the Florentines, the trump suit expanded until their Tarocco totaled 97 cards. The game spread northwards, called Tarot by speakers of French and Tarock by speakers of German. In Germany and Austro-Hungary, the trump cards were allowed to illustrate any variety of new scenes and subjects. In all nations, the concept of trumps also came to be applied to common cards, no longer requiring any picture cards beyond the usual courts. The Tarot did not acquire its modern use by fortune tellers until the 1780s when French scholars interpreted the old Italian symbols as "hieroglyphs" from ancient Egypt, the reputed source of Western magic and occult philosophy. Now, Tarot decks are made, sold and advertised for divination, with no awareness that they were originally used in common games.

Divinatory Tarot cards by Etteilla, Paris, 1789


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