Ace: This is the pip card numbered 1 in regular suits and is usually abbreviated to ‘A’. In tarot games Aces rank low.
Angel: Also called The Judgement and traditionally numbered 20, however, in Italian games this card outranks the World (21 of trumps) as the highest trump and honour. To avoid confusion, I have been consistent in ranking the cards by their number.
Arcana: Occultists introduced the habit of calling the four nation suits the Minor Arcana and the trump suit, the Major Arcana. Arcana is just Latin for secrets and frankly, as there are no real secrets here, I wouldn’t be able to take the cards seriously if I used these terms. So I won’t.
Auction: This is a part of the game in which players bid to have the rule of Declarer, playing against the other players. While the risks are greater for a Declarer, the rewards for winning are much greater also.
Bagatto: See The Juggler
Bidding: (see also Auction) This takes place during an auction. Bids can take various forms depending upon the game, typically it will offer to commit the player to win a given number of card points or achieve specific feats, such as winning the last trick with the lowest trump (called The Sparrow).
Birds: Some countries, where the French suited cards are used, have the tradition of naming the four lowest trumps as birds. The Juggler was sometimes called The Sparrow, The Female Pope, was The Owl, The Empress was The Cockatoo, and The Emperor was The Vulture (or sometimes, The Marabou). These names are also given to specific tricks won with the corresponding cards. So, winning The Sparrow is to win the last trick with The Juggler, The Owl is the last trick won with The Female Pope, and so forth.
Black Suits: In the French pattern, these are Clubs and Spades. These are usually taken to correspond to Batons and Swords respectively in Latin suits.
Brass Balls: Not a traditional term. In some games, if a player holds no trumps at all, bar The Juggler, they may call for the hand to be re-dealt. However, they may also declare that they have ‘Brass Balls’ and continue play but with The Juggler now played in the same way as The Fool.
Card Points: These are the points won from the cards in your trick pile – however, they might also include points from the number of tricks won as well. They will often determine who has won a hand and are used to calculate Game Points.
Celestials: These are the five highest trumps, being The Star, The Moon, The Sun, The World, and The Angel.
Cockatoo: As one of The Birds, this is another name for The Empress.
Contras: Not all games have this feature and those that do implement it a little differently. After the auction, each player will have the chance to double the stakes by calling contra, they can also re-contra to double again, re-contra will usually have a limit, often ending with a call of sub-contra. This can increase the points won or lost considerably, so if you are playing for money, you might want to limited this or disallow it altogether.
Counters: (or Counting Cards) These are the cards that have a value of 2 or more card points.
Counting Card Points: In most of the games given here, this process has been simplified – though I have made one or two exceptions where I felt it necessary. For the most part, you will total the card point values individually, sometimes adding another point for each trick won.
Court Cards: There are four court cards in each of the four regular suits, they are named and ranked: King, Queen, Cavalier, and Valet. Rather than picturing a number of pips corresponding to its rank, these cards feature characters. In the corner index of each of these cards is a corresponding letter instead of a number.
Cutting the Cards: With the pack on the table, lift two or three piles from it and then stack them together in a different order. Sometimes cutting the cards is not done as a part of shuffling but to randomly reveal a card – in this case, part of the pack is lifted and the card revealed on the bottom of the lifted part is selected. This may be done to select first dealer, determine partners, or, in non-tarot games, this is sometimes done to select a trump suit.
Dealer and the Deal: The first Dealer is chosen at random or by agreement, after that, the deal moves to the right after each hand. Dealer shuffles and Dealer’s right (Youngest) cuts the cards, then Dealer hands out the cards – deals them – to the players clockwise from Eldest (Dealer’s left). The cards are usually dealt in ‘packets’ of more two or more cards, which speeds things up a bit.
Declarer: Many tarot games involve one player, Declarer, playing against all the others who play together as Defenders. Declarer is usually decided by an auction.
Defenders: These are the players working as a team to prevent Declarer winning the game.
Deuce: This is the pip card numbered 2 in a nation suit.
Discard: Many games involve a player taking additional cards into their hand and then discarding an equal number to a discard pile. The discard pile will usually count toward the players tricks at the end.
Doubleton: if you have just two cards of a suit, they are called a doubleton.
Eldest: This is the player to Dealer’s left. Sometimes may be known as forehand.
Empty Card: This is a card with a value of 1 (or 0) card points.
Empress: The third of the four Birds, she is also known as The Cockatoo. She is the second card of The Powers, four trumps that some games treat as being of equal rank.
Emperor: The fourth of the four Birds, he is also known as The Vulture. He is the third card of The Powers, four trumps that some games treat as being of equal rank.
Emperor’s Trick: (Also The World By The Balls). In games in which The Fool is Tomfool, the highest trump, it would seem that he is invulnerable. However, if all three Honour cards (The Fool, The Juggler, and The World) are played to the same trick, then it is The Juggler who wins it.
Fixed Trumps: In trick taking games played with regular playing cards it is usual to select a suit to act as trumps by cutting the pack (such as in Whist) or by an auction (such as in games of Bridge) – though some games will have what we call a fixed trump suits. The fifth suit of picture cards in the tarot pack is what we call a fixed trump suit – which is simply to say that its role is fixed and unchanging.
Female Pope: This card is often named The High Priestess by occultists, her original identity being The Female Pope. In Renaissance Italy, the figure of a female pope was used in Christian art to represent such things as the virtue of faith, the New Covenant, and more frequently, the body of the church itself. This is why, contrary to popular myth, the card was not condemned by the church as heretical. She is the second of the four Birds, being known as The Owl. She is also the first card of The Powers, four trumps that are sometimes treated as being of equal rank.
Fool: A card unique to tarot and although numbered 0, it was not created as part of the trump sequence. In its original role, this card is often called The Excuse – or some derivative thereof – and can be played at any time to avoid playing a card that the rules would otherwise require be played. However, in many games of central and Eastern Europe, this card has become the highest ranking trump – in this role, we call it Tomfool.
Fool’s Errand: If a player has played The Fool and kept it back from the player who won the trick goes on the taken no tricks at all, then they cannot compensate the other player for having kept The Fool and so must surrender it to them after all.
Game: A game usually consists of as many hands as there are players. This is because the role of Dealer often carries with it an advantage, so it is important that each player have that role and equal number of times during the game.
Game Points: These are the points won or lost against other players. They may be determined in part by the number of card points won and in gambling, they translate to money.
Hand: The cards dealt to a player are known as his/her hand. A round of play, as part of a game, in which all the cards of a hand are played out, is also called a hand.
Hanged Man: A card misnamed by French card makers. It traditionally shows a man suspended by one foot and has struck many as mysterious. However, in Italy this was known as The Traitor – and that is how they executed traitors there, suspended by one foot and left to die slowly and publicly.
Hermit: A card misnamed by French card makers. The naming error followed from the copying error showing the figure of an old man holding a lantern. However, the lantern was originally an hour glass and the figure was Old Father Time.
Honours: These cards are The Fool, The Juggler, and The World. They are always among the highest scoring cards in the game.
Irrational Ranking: This is something unfamiliar to most people in English speaking countries but quite common in continental Europe. The black/long suits ranking as you would expect but the red/round suits rank from high to low: King, Queen, Cavalier, Valet, Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. It seems like an odd quirk but is common to most tarot games – however, so as not to confuse new players, I have not employed it here.
Judgement: see Angel.
Juggler: The lowest trump was first renamed The Magician by occultists and it is a rather grandiose name for the fellow – he really was just a mere street performer at best and so I call him The Juggler (he has many names but they essentially come to the same thing). It is one of three cards known as The Honours and so has one of the highest point values and can be of strategic value. He is also one of the four Birds and as such he may also be called The Sparrow.
Long Suit: If you have a large number of cards in a given suit, it is called a long suit.
Long Suits: A name used for the Latin suits of swords and batons.
Major Arcana: See Arcana
Minor Arcana: See Arcana
Nation Suits: (see also Suits and Regular Suits) These correspond to the suits of our familiar playing cards. They are referred to as Nation suits to distinguish them from the Trump suit and because they each have their own court and subjects (pips).
Order of Play: As a rule, tarot games are usually played counter-clockwise. However, to remain consistent with the card games most English speakers are familiar with, I have kept everything clockwise.
Owl: As one of The Birds, this is the other name for The Female Pope.
Packets: In most tarot games, cards are not dealt singly but two or more at a time – these are called packets.
Pip Cards: These are the cards numbered 1-10 in the nation suits. Some of these cards may be omitted in some games, usually to make a 54 card pack. They are sometimes called ‘spot’ cards but we will stick with pips.
Point Trick Games: Trick taking games broadly fall into two groups, those that are won according to the number of tricks taken, which we call simple trick games, and those that are won according to the number of card points won in the tricks. Games of this later group are usually known as Point Trick Games (or sometimes complex trick games).
Pope: This card is often named The Heirophant by occultists, his original identity being The Pope. He is the fourth member of The Powers, four trumps that some games treat as having equal rank.
Powers: Four trumps, being The Female Pope, The Empress, The Emperor, and The Pope, are treated by some games as having equal rank – in this context they are known as The Powers. In the regional pack of Bologna, these are replaced by The Four Moors.
Preference Bids: A type of bid used in an auction that allows the Declarer to choose which cards from the stock in such a way that increases the stakes of the game.
Queen: The Queen is a familiar figure to us who have grown up playing with French suited playing cards and so it is natural that so many would think that it is the Cavalier who is the extra court card in the tarot suits. However, in the original Latin suits of the time – and to this day – all three court cards are male (and not just the Latin suits either, but also those of Germany and Swiss Jass Pack), so it is really the Queen who is the novelty here.
Rationalised Ranking: All the regular suits rank from high to low: King, Queen, Cavalier, Valet, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – this is used by all the games given here.
Red Suits: These are the hearts and diamonds of the French suits. There equivalents in the Latin suits are the cups and coins.
Regular Pack of Cards: By this I simply mean and ordinary pack of 52 cards, comprised of four suits, each with three courts and ten pips.
Regular Suits: (see also Suits and Nation Suits) The four suits as we find in ordinary playing cards are referred to as regular suits. In traditional tarot they are Swords, Batons, Cups, and Coins. In French suited packs, they are Clubs, Spades, Hearts, and Diamonds.
Round Suits: These are the cups and coins of the Latin suits.
Singleton: If you have just one card of a suit, it is called a singleton.
Short Suit: If you have only a small number of cards in a given suit, it is called a short suit.
Sparrow: As one of The Birds, this is the other name of The Juggler. It may also be the name of a trick won with The Juggler.
Stock: In many games a number of cards are dealt to the table as a stock. These cards will often be counted towards a player’s or a team’s tricks but are not added to their trick pile until the hand has been played.
Suits: A suit is a subset of a pack of cards sharing a theme. In traditional playing cards, there are four suits. The earliest suits in Europe are the Latin ones of Swords, Batons, Cups, and Coins. The popular French suits are Spades, Clubs, Hearts, and Diamonds. Other nations have experimented with suit designs. In Germany, though mostly just in the South these days, there are Leaves, Acorns, Hearts,k and Bells. The Swiss have the Jass pack of Shields, Acorns, Bells, and Roses.
Suit Symbols: The themes of regular suits are usually represented some way in a symbol, or suit sign. These may be a little abstract, such as found in the French suits, or it may be very literal as found in the Latin suits, so that the suit of Swords has as its symbol an image of a sward.
Tarot: A pack of playing cards developed in 15th Century Italy by adding an additional 22 cards (21 trumps and a wild card) to what was then the standard 56 card pack of Latin suited playing cards. Although still used throughout Europe for a family of point-trick games, the last century has seen an astonishing growth in tarot related myth making and divination. It’s all a bit like someone calling dominoes runestones and going on to claim that they somehow codify secrets of the universe and that they are magically able to foretell the future. On balance, after examining them through the lenses of evidence and reason, I think it best to stick to playing games – the desired result of a good time is far more certain and any failure to achieve that is unlikely to screw up your life for more than half an hour.
Tomfool: The Fool card was traditionally used as a kind of wild card but there are many games now that employ it as the highest trump – when this is the case, we shall call the card Tomfool to save confusion.
Tricks, playing to: Declarer (or, if the game does not have one, then Eldest) begins by playing a card face up in the middle of the table. This is called leading to the trick. The suit of the first card played is the suit that has been led. Each player in turn, moving to the left, must play another card of the same suit, this is called following suit. If they cannot follow suit, then they must play a trump. If they can neither follow suit or play a trump, then they may play any card, though it will not win. The highest card played of the suit led, wins the trick unless a trump has been played, in which case the highest trump played wins it. The player who won the trick, takes the cards, places them face down beside him/her to form a trick pile, and then leads to the next trick.
Trick Pile: When players win a trick, the add the cards face down to what we call their trick pile. Where partnerships are clear, then one member of the team keeps them. However, sometimes it is not immediately clear who a Declarer’s partner really is, in which case players must keep separate trick piles until partner’s identity is known.
Trumps: These are the fifth suit of cards unique to tarot. When played they beat any card of the other suits.
Void Suit: If you have no cards of a given suit, it is called a void suit.
Vulnerable Counters: These are valuable cards (Counters) that are particularly vulnerable to being taken. So, if a player holds the Queen of Batons but not the King, then she could be considered vulnerable to being taken by him.
Vulture: As one of The Birds, another name for The Emperor is The Vulture (or sometimes The Marabou).
World by the Balls: See Emperor’s Trick.
Youngest: The player on Dealer’s Right.