After having considered the History of the Tarot, what can we say about the structure of the Tarot decks? 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 have 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 was probably only to indicate their order in the game.
  • There are four suits and each suit is divided in court cards and pip cards.
  • The court 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 important 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 in game-playing in some decks in two of the suits, the number one has a higher value than the number two who has at his turn a higher value than the number three and so on. In the other two suits, ten has a higher value than nine, eight has a higher value than seven and so on. But even in this case, the number one is often called Ace and has sometimes a special value on its own.

As a conclusion, the trumps are ordered, their number serves only to facilitate game playing; the court cards have 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 original structure, maybe developed 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 subchapters. The first is about the structure of the suit symbols, the second is about the court cards, and the last is about the numbered pip cards.

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