Moon, the 18th card of the major arcana.—Mary Evans Picture Library

Sets of cards used in fortune-telling and in certain card games. The origins of tarot cards are obscure; cards approximating their present form first appeared in Italy and France in the late 14th century. Modern tarot decks consist of 78 cards, of which 22 have pictures representing forces, characters, virtues, and vices. The remaining cards are divided into four suits—(1) wands, batons, or rods, (2) cups, (3) swords, and (4) coins, pentacles, or disks—of 14 cards each. Each suit has 10 numbered cards and 4 court cards (king, queen, knight, and page). Modern playing cards evolved from these suit cards. Initially used as playing cards, tarot cards were imbued with esoteric associations in the 18th century and are now used widely for fortune-telling. Each card's basic meaning is altered by the card's position in the spread of cards laid out by the fortune-teller, by the card's orientation, and by the cards that are near it.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on tarot, visit Britannica.com.

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