The term trumps is derived from the word trumphi, which is in reference to the 22 trumphi. The latin word Arcana meaning mysterious or secret. This is where the words Major Arcana source from, as the imagery on the cards is symbolic or allegorical in nature.
Each major arcana represents a pictorial, allegorical process of one’s life events. Many contemporary cards will vary the order and progression of the traditional card order.
Early priest writings from the 15th century show the major and minor arcana were used as separate games and were despised for mocking god , ridiculing the Christian faith because of their depiction of Angels, popes, and emperors.
Similar to what we use today as playing cards derive from early gambling with dice and cards of the four suits: cups, coins, swords, and staves (also known as the minor arcana). These are where the playing card deck with four suits derives from with the suit of hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs. Since gambling was despised by the church, the games were also.
Roman numerals reference each card as well as social positions (The Emperor, The Pope, etc.), allegorical positions (The Devil, The Hanged Man, etc., virtues (Justice, Strength, etc., astronomical elements (The Sun, The Moon, etc.), two cards of chance (Lovers and the Wheel of Fortune) and the elements of cosmic fatality (Chariot, Judgement, etc). Many writers have attempted to astrologically place the cards, and they vary greatly.
Four suits suggests the four seasons of the year while 12 court (picture cards) suggests the 12 months and the 12 zodiac signs.
There are comparisons and historical connections with hieroglyphic paintings, the bembine tablet, the Ouspenky writings of God, Man and the Universe, the Mystical number 7, the Torah, the Hebrew alphabet, the Kabbalah and the Tree of Life, the Tablet of Cebes, a connection with Vishnu, Dice, etc, etc. Needless to say it is an auspicious and has a long placement in our historical and worldly culture.
How these symbols and numbers relate do somewhat have to do with the type of deck and school of thought behind them.. but tarot is an interesting combination of interpretation and non-direct comparison, meaning each deck and book is that one person’s interpretation.
*Much of the historical information was referenced through The Encyclopedia of Tarot by Stuart R. Kaplan.
If one learns the tarot well enough, you can use the old way of reading, through a regular deck of playing cards (aka the French suits or pips), which is really just the minor arcana. The elements represented in each card are also linked with an elements Some scholars believe the contemporary playing cards derive from the early tarrochi of the knight and page combined to for the jack and the 22 card trumps were dropped, where only the fool survives as the joker. In comparison to the Major Arcana, which represents major influences and shifts in our lives, the Minor Arcana deals with influences on a day-to-day level.
Suits match up to the Minor Arcana suits and numerology will give you insight into the meanings of the cards.