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Trump Cards

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The Fool trump card from the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck
The Fool trump card from the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck

In any game of cards that features trick-taking or trumping, the most potent suit is called the trump. Tarocchi decks differ from other card decks because of they contain a special set of permanent trump cards, called the trumps, trionfi, or major arcana cards. In fact, tarocchi and tarot packs were often originally designated "Cards With Trumps" to distinguish them as different from other types of card decks.

In tarot decks, the trumps are a special portion of the deck, usually consisting of 22 cards which do not have a suit of their own, but instead constitute a series of "triumphs" or symbolic punctuations or exaltations. As the so-called "major arcana" or greater mystery cards, they are generally given Roman numerals rather than Arabic numerals, to distinguish them from the pip cards or "minor arcana."

Most psychic tarot card readers interpret the trumps as important themes that are currently active in the querent's situation or that may emerge in the near future. It should be noted that despite their early name of "triumphs," not all of the trump cards are positive and triumphant in nature. Some, like the Tower, have notorious reputations as harbingers of doom, and can indicate past, present, or future disaster or a dramatic re-structuring of the querent's life. Other cards, like The Lovers (related to love, sex, and relationships), Justice (related to Court Cases), or Strength (related to personal power) bear obvious visual symbolism that makes their interpretation easy to understand.

To some occult tarot card readers, the trumps are interpreted as a sequence having greater significance than mere rank, and they are typically related in some way to the card known as the Fool, who is said to engage a spiritual journey through the symbolic 'keys' or encounters and events depicted there from card number I through card number XXI (the Fool constituting the first, last, or '0' card amongst them). These readers develop the idea of the Fool's Journey carefully, implying that the querent takes on the role of Fool and that each trump card indicates what challenges he or she may face in the current phase of work. They believe that these cards taken together depict an upward journey ultimately leading to a greater source of wisdom and understanding for The Fool.

Other tarot card readers, equally occult in their orientation, treat each trump as a singular card in its own right, without regard to the Fool or a symbolic journey. These cartomancers view all of the tarot cards -- pips, court cards, and trumps alike -- as indicators of the querent's past, present, and future. These tarot card readers may give greater weight to the trumps than to the pips, as befits the importance of the trumps in the game of tarot, but they do not seek to relate the trumps to a pre-laid sequence or life-journey.

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