Playing Cards – Clubs and Hearts

The Court characters are keeping me busy with my latest project to create a set of playing cards inspired by Nine Lives Tarot. While re-painting them (standing on their heads amongst other things), I have also been learning new things about the history of cards – a truly fascinating journey, which you can read more about later in this post …

The Royal Fashion Police

After posting the Suit of Clubs, I looked at the 3 court cards lined up together… and it became embarrassingly obvious that individual fashion sense was getting in the way of representing the house of Clubs…

You already know how entertaining, convincing and even distracting the court characters can be; it’s hard not to be swept away by their charms …

So, there I was painting the initial outfits, happily chatting away, and the Knight of Clubs/Rods says to me: “I really love my blue vest, don’t you? – See it’s so slick and it’s cool and it goes ever so well with my hair…”  I say: Yes Sir, and trim his nose hairs instead… There were similar requests and comments from the other two as well, and I must admit I bowed to each and every one.

Luckily, after we had the first photo shoot, the fashion police descended with a flurry of words about not so matching capes, vests and collars and the absolute need for flair, and exuberance… This resulted in a delightful light-bulb moment, after which, they all happily agreed to a few clothing adjustments. The tailor was brought in to resew (paint) their Royal garments with a more distinct exuberant touch of Clubs:

Royal Clubs Playing cards Annete Abolins House of Clubs – The Royals – updated version

 House of Hearts – The Royals

Moving on to the next group of Royals, we have the Hearts – Cups, representing love and emotion. Having learnt a thing or two from my experience with the Clubs, I got the tailor in straight away and presented these three royals with an exciting choice of fabrics before we got started on posing and painting.

House of Hearts - Royals - Annette Abolins House of Hearts – The Royals

The Knight of Hearts is facing the opposite way to his depiction as the Knight of Cups, but he seems happy with the view… Both the Queen and King have expressed delight in their collars, and I have to say I enjoyed painting them too …

Next, I’m working on the House of Diamonds – Pentacles, and hope to update with some more royals soon :)

Now for a bite sized journey into the history of Playing Cards… 

Card games, Gambling, Luck and Cartomancy

Like Tarot cards – Playing cards have travelled through the ages, making their presence felt at many life-changing events. The last five hundred (or so) years, have seen playing cards gain reputation and infamy of sorts – as familiar, and at times illicit, companions and entertainers around the Courts, and in homes, clubs & back street gambling dens…

As card games and gambling swept across Europe, less honest characters were able to make a steady living from cheating at card tables. Card game losses resulted in players going broke, and one man is even reported to have lost his wife (!) The authorities tried to ban or regulate the use of cards, by enforcing fines and urging players to burn their cards… Over time, gambling taxes were introduced, while churches continued to preach about the vices of gambling…

playing-cards_historyAt the Gambling table – image source: The World of Playing cards

Around the world to this day, playing cards are held with equal measure of superstition, magic and sheer dumb luck – evoking lure and excitement for the next hand of cards, the impossible card trick, or the life story hidden within a reading.

Cartomancy – is a collective name given to various forms of divination, where a deck of playing cards is used to do readings. Cartomancy can be quite similar to Tarot readings where the Major Arcana is excluded. As playing cards arrived on the European scene, reading the cards became increasingly popular, further increasing the symbolic value associated with each card.

Nicknames and Characters

Where some cards are considered lucky and others not so lucky, some have acquired nicknames; like the Knight of Diamonds, also known as ‘The Laughing Boy’… or the Queen of Swords being referred to ‘The Bedpost Queen’ or simply ‘The Black Lady’…

The Court cards were also said to represent famous people of the European Courts, though which ones they represent does vary depending on what you read… From what I have read it appears that each country (and era) has been happy to declare the Royal cards as their own – representing people from their own court, history, religion or folklore – which in many ways makes the history of the cards more exciting and personal.

Your story and your favourites?

Have you ever used playing cards for divination? Do you have a favourite card game? Do you have a favourite suit? If you would like to share I’d love to hear :)

Back soon with more – and don’t forget to subscribe before the 31 October as you could win a handmade Tarot bag :)

Annette :)