Their has been much wrote on the subject of tarot and their are a million and one books on tarot cards their history, uses and meanings. Although Tarot have a mystical use they where created as a game like the Ouija board. In an attempt to mystify the tarot may stories of the origins have arisen about the origins of tarot, including that they are meant to be from ancient Egypt or brought to Europe by Gypsies. The fact is the tarot originated in northern Italy early in the 15th century (1420-1440). There is no evidence for it originating in any other time or place. Or that modern set of playing cards evolved from Tarot the fact is that tarot evolved from the Islamic Mamluk cards of the day. Tarot increases the pack from 52 to 78 with the introduction of the queen and the trump cards.
Originally Tarot cards where called carte da trionfi (cards of the triumphs). And only changed to tarocchi about one hundred years after their invention to differentiate themselves from a new game of trumps which had become fashionable played with ordinary playing cards. The origins of this new name are unknown for sure but could come from German word tarock, or the French word tarot.
The use of tarot cards as a tool for divination and magicks has been around since 1487 and even may be before, since the card where originally created during the Italian Renaissances a time when Hermeticism, astrology, Neoplatonism, Pythagorean philosophy where all on the rise they may have had some hidden uses which still to this day remain unknown. But is only in the1790s with Etteilla‘s deck we find the tarot card design being modified specifically to reflect divinatory and esoteric meanings.
It was Etteilla who split the tarot deck in to two parts the Arcanas:-
The Major Arcane (greater secrets), or trump cards, consists of 22 cards without suits: The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Strength, The Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Justice, The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, The Sun, Judgement, and The World.
The Minor Arcana (lesser secrets) consists of 56 cards, divided into four suits of 14 cards each; ten numbered cards and four court cards. The court cards are the King, Queen, Knight and Page/Jack, in each of the four tarot suits. The traditional Italian tarot suits are swords, batons/wands, coins and cups; in modern tarot decks, however, the batons suit is often called wands, rods or staves, while the coins suit is often called pentacles or disks. This two packs in one version of the Tarot card remains today.
Since the Etteilla deck was created many other packs of tarot have been created purely for divination the most famous is the Waite-Smith or Rider Waite Tarot this was the only readily available pack on the market in the US for sometime.
Many famous occultists have produce Tarot cards which are not just for divination but also are used for meditation, personal and spiritual development as well as learning magickal arts and formula some of which no longer are identified as tarot but more as oracle, angel or even fortune cards.
The major differences with all of these pack of tarot is the symbology and imagery the meaning stay much the same as the original tarot buy have been adjusted to meet the imagery and mythology behind the pack an example is the brilliant Arthurian Tarot By John & Caitlin Matthews which uses the magic of the legends, history and traditions from the Celto-Arthurian legends, along with the four Hallows of the quest for spiritual wholeness, the Hallows being the suits.
But not only has the tarot been designed to connect with mystical forces many of the newer cards have been design to understand personal situation and relationship needs such as the Gay Tarot which uses universal symbol of relationships, the eternal yin and yang, is represented here by reflections and situations from the experience and identity of gay men. This is a means of understanding and introspection for those who are not afraid of diversity.
Since tarot cards are so widely available and a known tool of divination many people will read the tarot for fun or for profit and it seems that everyone know someone who reads the cards and with the rise of teach your self tarot books many more people are getting interested and learning to read tarot by rote and never connecting to the inner mysteries of the cards.