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The tarot ( / t ro / first known as trionfi and later as tarocchi, tarock, and others) is a pack of cards (most commonly numbering 78), used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play a group of card games such as Italian tarocchini and French tarot. From the late 18th century until the present time the tarot has also found use by mystics and occultists in efforts at divination or as a map of mental and spiritual pathways. The tarot has four suits (which vary by region, being the French suits in Northern Europe, the Latin suits in Southern Europe, and the German suits in Central Europe). Each of these suits has pip cards numbering from ace to ten and four face cards for a total of 14 cards. In addition, the tarot is distinguished by a separate 21-card trump suit and a single card known as the Fool. Depending on the game, the Fool may act as the top trump or may be played to avoid following suit. Fran ois Rabelais gives tarau as the name of one of the games played by Gargantua in his Gargantua and Pantagruel this is likely the earliest attestation of the French form of the name. Tarot cards are used throughout much of Europe to play card games. In English-speaking countries, where these games are largely unknown, tarot cards are now used primarily for divinatory purposes. Occultists call the trump cards and the Fool “the major arcana” while the ten pip and four court cards in each suit are called minor arcana. The cards are traced by some occult writers to ancient Egypt or the Kabbalah but there is no documented evidence of such origins or of the usage of tarot for divination before the 18th century. The English and French word tarot derives from the Italian tarocchi, which has no known origin or etymology. One theory relates the name “tarot” to the Taro River in northern Italy, near Parma the game seems to have originated in northern Italy, in Milan or Bologna. Other writers believe it comes from the Arabic word turuq, which means four pathways. Alternatively, it may be from the Arabic taraka, to leave, abandon, omit, leave behind. According to a French etymology, the Italian tarocco derived from Arabic ar , rejection subtraction, deduction, discount.

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