There is little reliable information about the true origin of the Tarot.
Some authors have tried to find references historically, resorting as little as possible to associations and extrapolations (the act of applying the same reasoning to something outside the spectrum of information that is proven to be true), and yet there is still uncertainty as to the gypsy, or even Egyptian, origin of this card-based oracular practice.
After extensive research, Nei Naiff concluded that the Marseilles Tarot, in structure which is most well-known today, had its first documentation proven in the early thirteenth century, as a set of Naibis cards, which were used for games, learning and stories, and later came to have psychoanalytic, oracular and divinatory application.
From the word Naibis, came the definition of “suits” that appear in the Playing Cards that are used until today, or Minor Arcana. The Triumphs or Major Arcana would be later additions, and have become an instrument for analyzes related to more general issues and influencing various fields of life.
The most well-known structure of the Tarot of Marseilles has 78 cards, with 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana.
The Major Arcana
The Major Arcana represent tendencies that influence various fields of life, and their order presents a journey from the infinite potential of the Fool to the decision of which path to take with the Magician, culminating in obtaining all that is desired with the World, and returning to the Fool, in the field of ideas, to regenerate and think about a new journey.
The Minor Arcana
The Minor Arcana, however, include the Ace cards, which are the mental elements arising in their purest form, the cards numbered from 2 to 10, representing the journey through that element, and the court cards or face cards, representing the stages a person undergoes on their journey, manifesting that element.
Swords (spades) are usually associated with Air, reason and thought. The Cups are related to Water, emotions and feeling. Coins or pentacles (diamonds) are related to Earth, material goods and physical sensation, and Sticks (clubs) are related to Fire, spirit and intuition.
Some authors present different correlations for each suit (mainly regarding the inversion between swords and clubs), and some decks alter the order of some Major Arcana, which influences the reading technique.
Correlations between systems
Other symbols may be related to each card, such as Hebrew letters, mythological figures or astrological symbols, but these additions are performed by association or proximity, and are not part of the intrinsic structure of the Tarot.
The elements that are originally part of the Tarot system are only the medieval aspects that have been presented in the cards since their creation and consolidation as a complete system.
Reference: Nei Naiff - Tarô: simbologia e ocultismo.