4 minutes | Jun 7, 2020
Tarot Card Evolution
Most people in the United States think of Tarot cards only as a tool for fortune-telling. But they were used for playing card games long before being used for cartomancy (fortune-telling with cards). There is evidence of using layouts of cards for cartomancy by the early 1700s, but the first books on modern-style cartomancy do not appear until the 1760s. Tarot games are some of the oldest ancestors to modern trick-taking games. The special cards in a Tarot deck, also known as the Major Arcana was the trump suit in these games dating back to the 1400s. The 8 of Coins from the 15th century Visconti-Sforza Tarot The change in usage of Tarot cards for magic is reflected by changes in the symbolism on the cards. If you look at early Tarot cards like the 15th-century Visconti Tarot or the 18th-century Tarot of Marseilles, one of the suits is coins. Whereas, after Tarot cards started to be for magical purposes, a pentacle or five-pointed star begun appearing on the cards as the coins. Le Bateleur playing the cup and ball scam in theTarot de Catelin Geoffrey, 1557 One of the other interesting changes happened on the “Magician” card. In the early Tarot decks, the Magician was “le Bateleur,” in French, meaning the juggler,” or sometimes also meaning “the mountebank” or the “sleight of hand artist.” He was a street performer, sometimes portrayed as playing cup-and-ball scam. But as Tarot cards became used more for magical purposes, the items on the table of the Magician, as we call him today, were changed to the tools of ritual magic: a chalice, a dagger, a pentacle, and a wand. The Magician from the Ryder Waite Tarot, 1910 Another card that has changed over time is the High Priestess. In earlier decks, she is the “Popess.” She may represent the “mother church,” or Pope Joan -the story of a pope (Often John VIII), who was supposedly exposed to be a woman. But she was eventually turned into a more “Pagan,” or esoteric figure of the High Priestess that in most modern decks. The Popess from the 18th century Tarot of Marseilles So it’s pretty clear that some of the symbolism in Tarot decks evolved to reflect their increased use as a magical tool in fortune-telling after the late 18th century. If you are interested in some of the early Tarot card games, we have put together a booklet that includes the earliest Tarot games for which there are surviving rules. It is in the Rules and Game Parts area of our website.The theme music is “Scully’s Reel/Mrs.McCloud’s/Cooley’s Reel” by the band Slánte from their Album Cup of Tea and is used under a Creative Commons share-alike license.
5 minutes | May 24, 2020
The Origin of European Playing cards
Game historians have shown that playing cards first seems to appear in Europe in the 1370s. But the riddle has been where did they originate? There are four common theories: Cards appeared first in China, and gradually found their way west. The Roma people introduced them to Europe.Crusaders brought them back to Europe with them from the Holy Land. Playing cards crossed the Mediterranean from Egypt. 19th century Chinese Money CardsFrom https://www.themahjongtileset.co.uk China The earliest unambiguous reference to paper playing cards in China dates to a trial in 1294 in which two gamblers, were arrested with their paper playing cards and the woodblocks used to print them. However, while Chinese “money cards” did have four suits (representing coins), there were no face cards and 38 cards in a deck. So China is likely the origin of playing cards, but there seems to be no direct connection between them and Western-style cards. The Roma The idea that caravans of Roma traveling from village to village could have introduced playing cards to Europe might seem plausible. But the Roma did not arrive in Europe in any significant numbers until the early 15th century. By then, playing cards were well established in European culture. Crusaders It has been suggested that cards may have come back from the Holy Land with the Crusaders. But there is no evidence for cards in Medieval Palestine, and the last crusade ended in 1291 almost 100 years before cards seem to appear in Europe. The Mamelukes The remaining theory is that European style cards came from Egypt, and it is the strongest one. The Mamelukes ruled various parts of Egypt from 1254 until 1517. A deck of cards in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul called the “Mameluke Deck” dates from the 1400s. However, there are even older examples of these cards dating to the 12th century. A modern facsimile of the Mameluke deck from the Topkapi Museum, Istanbul form https://www.wopc.co.uk The Mameluke Deck closely resembles the earliest European cards. It is a deck of 52 cards divided into four suits. Each suit is numbered 1 to 10, with three court cards: a “King,” “Viceroy,” and an “Under Viceroy.” The resemblance to the earliest surviving Italian decks is immediately clear right down to the shape and arrangement of suit symbols. The court cards are similar as well – not figures of nobles yet, but as abstract geometric designs. The Mameluke Deck is close enough to the cards we have today that you could play any modern card game with them. It is reasonable to suspect that Mameluke cards evolved from Chinese money cards, perhaps through trade contacts between east and west on the Silk Road. But so far, we don’t have any examples of transitional decks illustrating that evolution. So, it seems clear that the Mameluke decks are the most direct ancestors to the playing cards we know today. The theme music is “Scully’s Reel/Mrs.McCloud’s/Cooley’s Reel” by the band Slánte from their Album Cup of Tea and is used under a Creative Commons share-alike license.
5 minutes | Oct 19, 2018
16th Century Satirical German Playing Cards
A look at the symbolism of the illustrations on the deck of 16th century German cards.
4 minutes | Dec 13, 2016
I just put together a little video look at the rules of our Ringo game.
3 minutes | Nov 30, 2016
So how old is Pente?
Since we use glass drops as game piece for some of our portable fabric games we often have people think a couple of our games have something to do with the game Pente which was sold with glass drops as game pieces. The theme music is “Scully’s Reel/Mrs.McCloud’s/Cooley’s Reel” by the band Slánte from their Album Cup of Tea and is used under a Creative Commons share-alike license.