Playing cards are known for their various games of skill and chance including poker, blackjack, solitaire, bridge, and many other games. Playing cards are used in gambling, magic, solitary games, card houses, and other various forms of entertainment. A deck of cards can be found everywhere, in dollar stores, in grocery stores, on the Internet, etc. Because playing cards are taken for granted, few people know the history of the cards that they play with.
Historians believe that playing cards were invented first by the Persians. From there, They moved East to China and West to Egypt.
The Chinese were the fist to invent the suit, Coins. This is a recurring suit throughout history. It is known ad both Coins and Diamonds today.
Egypt was where the four suits concept was first invented. These four suits were called Swords, Sticks, Cups, and Coins. These suits are still used in the 78 card Tarot deck.
From Egypt,the deck of cards moved farther West, into Europe.
In the 13th century, The French invented the red and black deck with simple symbols that became the basis for the current common deck of cards.
Early cards had no Queens. This reflected the fact that there were no women in the Royal courts. Even today, the French deck of cards have no Queens.
The games of skill and chance that could be played with a deck of cards bred the use of the playing cards as a gambling tool and gambling quickly became a favorite pastime among card players. So much of a favorite pastime that in the 14th century, the church began to try to limit the sale of playing cards due to the fact that people began spending more time and money gambling than going to and giving to the church. The church won out on their battle and the playing cards were banned throughout most of Europe.
But they were still being played. In the 16th century, Henry the 8th complained that card playing was distracting his archers from their bows.
In the 17th century, a group of card makers petitioned King Charles to give them a charter to sell cards. The King saw an opportunity and charged a tax of 6 pence on every pack of cards sold. 6 pence equals 5 dollars in today’s currency. The tax was raised a few times until it finally became 2 shillings, 6 pence-which is the equivalent of $25 in today’s money. When the decks were made, the Ace of Spades was removed and held until the deck was sold and the taxes paid.People that tried to evade the taxes and were found out were hanged. This is why the Ace of Spades is considered unlucky.
The backs of the cards were originally left blank. This made them good for many things.They were used for currency, love letters, and invitations. Very poor women who could no longer take care of their children would use playing cards to identify their children.The card carried the child’s name and a message. If the card was torn in half, that meant that the mother intended to return one day with her matching half to get her child back. If the card was left whole, the mother had no intention of coming back and the child was abandoned by it’s mother forever.
People began to see symbolism in the cards. The most common belief was that the cards represented nature. 4 suits meant 4 seasons, 52 cards meant the 52 weeks in the year, and 13 cards in a suit meant the 13 lunar months. There were many other symbols attached to the cards. Freemasons and the Knight Templar were linked to the cards. There was a story about a soldier who had a deck of cards in church and offended the Father. When the Father asked the soldier why he had a deck of cards, the soldier explained that it was his bible. He told the Father the meanings of the cards. These meanings included: Ace=One God, 3=the Holy Trinity, 6=Days of Creation, 7=Day of Rest, etc.
Since playing cards are simple and complex at the same time, anyone can find their own meaning in the numbers and suits.