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 Is There Any Connection Between Tarot Cards & Playing Cards

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Celestian
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PostSubject: Is There Any Connection Between Tarot Cards & Playing Cards   Wed Jul 16, 2008 4:05 pm

Is there any connection between Tarot cards & playing cards? What's your opinion?

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PostSubject: Re: Is There Any Connection Between Tarot Cards & Playing Cards   Tue Jul 29, 2008 7:12 am

There is a close relationship, as tarot developed from regular playing cards (not vice-versa as is often assumed) and were, for much of their life, used only for playing games. In fact, most of continental Europe still plays tarot games.

Playing cards probably developed in the east from tile games. They first arrived in Europe via the Islamic world in the late 14th century. These earliest cards, known as the Malmuks, were of the same structure that we use today. They had four suits of cups, coins, polo sticks, and swords. Each suit had three court cards, a King, a Rider, and a Footman. Polo was not known to Europeans at the time and so polo sticks became batons. These suits are now known as the Latin suits and were once used throughout Europe and Latin countries also retain all male court cards - the queen was a later addition.

The first time the queen is seen is in a Milanese pack which had six court cards in each suit, a male and a female of each rank. At some point most of these extra cards were dropped to form a 56 card pack that became a short lived standard in Milan. It was in the mid 15th century that the first tarot was created. It was commissioned by Duke Filipo Visconti as part of the celebrations for his daughter, Bianca Visconti's marriage into the Sforza family - which enabled them to succeed to power in Milan after Filipo's death (though not right away, politics has never run smoothly!). The extra cards added to the standard pack originally took as their theme a traditional triumph procession of the time, hence they were called trionfi, meaning triumphs and from which we get our word trump. It was the invention of tarot that introduced the idea of trumps into European card play!

The truth is, for their first 350 years, tarot cards were known for nothing other than card games (the church never took exception to tarot cards, even when they took exception to regular playing cards - firstly because the images were recognizably Christian to them and secondly because they were the cards usually used by nobility and they were cut a little more slack than the commoners!). At one point, tarot games were the most popular form of card game throughout continental Europe. They were known in Italy as Tarocchi, though much of the rest of Europe called them Tarock or Tarokky. Only the French called them tarot.

In the early 18th century, German card makers began to produce French suited tarot cards. This was for two reasons. The first was that the Latin suits required woodblock printing, which was very costly, while the French suits, already dominating regular playing cards for this reason, could be reproduced with just a stencil - much, much, cheaper! The second reason is that of freeing the artist to put whatever he wanted on the trumps, from local land marks to exotic or popular animals - this was an opportunity for the printers to showcase their skills at a time of great competition. This pattern quickly became the dominant one in Europe, although the French only adopted it for card play toward the end of the 19th century. Until then, the cards used for play in France used the familiar Marseilles pattern - and it was this that inspired Antoine Court de Gabelin to build an occult belief about the cards at the end of the 18th century. The French occultists began to modify the cards' images to better fit their occult systems but the results were largely just modified Marseille trumps. It was not until the 20th century, after the Golden Dawn began to import the cards and occult beliefs into England, that we saw the re-invention of tarot. Arthur Edward Waite's cards, drawn by Pamela Coleman-Smith redesigned the cards to explicitly reflect an occult philosophy - not just in the trumps but by fully illustrating the pip cards! This pack of cards, still popular, is known as the RWS. Since then there has been an explosion in redesign and innovations, giving rise to two, overlapping traditions of tarot.

The game players mostly use the newer French suited tarot cards, while the occultists/readers use the post RWS designs. The two divergent traditions overlap by both using the old Italian trumps and pips, such as the Marseille, the Swiss 1JJ, the Soprafino reproductions, and the modern Tarocco Piedmontese.

Contrary to the opinions of some, I see no necessary conflict between the two uses, they are not mutually exclusive and there seem to be a growing number of readers interested in the games as well.
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PostSubject: Re: Is There Any Connection Between Tarot Cards & Playing Cards   Tue Jul 29, 2008 11:30 am

Thanks for this great reply. I did start using playing cards when I first studied card reading and I found very little difference between my readings. Although the Tarot cards are more picturistic and could easily relay in my readings.
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