Card symbols - meanings and history

Cards can be recognised by almost everyone, especially the symbols and images of a standardised deck, but rarely does the user think about what exactly is represented on the cards? All of the court cards represent specific, historical individuals. The symbols on the cards are also not random, but have evolved through history. In this article we will discuss both the meaning and history of the card symbols and the images.
Card symbols

Symbols of the cards and the meaning of the images

Interestingly, all the picture cards depicted real historical heroes, kings, nobles and rulers. King of Hearts - Charlemagne, the king of drums - Julius Caesar, King of Crosses - Alexander the Great and the King of Spades - a famous biblical character David.

Incidentally, the King of Hearts is the only one depicted without a moustache and is also called the suicide king, because unlike the other three kings, who are holding a sword in their hand, this one is pointing the sword away and appears to be stabbing it into his head.

There are also notable personalities in the Queen's deck of cards. Queen of Hearts Regina, drum queen Key - historical figure from the Hebrew Bible, queen of the cross Regina and pitches - Judith - a figure from the Bible.

Cardiac Valet - Lancelot was King Arthur's most trusted knight, the drum - Hector - Prince of Troy from Greek mythology, the cross - La Hire - a warlord in the Hundred Years' War and the Picts - Dan Hogier.

The value of the cards depends on their rank and the rules of the game. An Ace can be either the highest or the lowest ranked card. Cards are usually ranked as follows: (A), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, (A).

Cards of the same rank are called singletons. However, there are games where the hierarchy of cards is slightly different, depending on the rules of the game. For example, in Thousand, the Ten of Diamonds is the second card after the Ace, and is considered to be senior to the other Queen cards, such as the Jack, Queen and King. There are other variations of the hierarchy.

Where is the most reliable place to play?

Classic deck of cards

The standard deck of cards that we still play with today was first designed by the French artist Ageno. The 52 cards in the deck represented the number of weeks in the year and the 4 of hearts represented the seasons. The cards were and are usually made of a special paper or plastic.

A particular set of cards is called a deck. Depending on the type of game, it consists of different numbers of cards, e.g. 24, 26, 32, 36, 40, 48, 52-56, 106, 110, etc.

Card names

Drums (usually marked with red diamonds);

Chirvai, otherwise - worms, lamentations or redheads (marked with red hearts);

Pikai, otherwise - wines, Leaves (indicated by black leaf marks);

Crosses, otherwise - deep, acorns (indicated by cloverleaf-shaped markings).

It may look quite different in different countries. For example, in Switzerland, the cards symbols Shields, roses, bells, acorns, and in Germany, card families are represented by hearts, bells, leaves and acorns.

In southern Europe, in Spain or western Italy, cups, coins, kuokas and swords, and in the Adriatic region of Italy, coins, swords, cups and crimps.

Many of these cards have a unique, ancient appearance and are similar to the first European cards.

Returning to the card families, it is important to note that each card has a different rank. This can be indicated by the image, number or letter in the corner of the card, next to the type symbol.

Cards are classified according to rank as follows akines and Manor, or ponines, cards.

Blind cards:

  • Gemini
  • Triacs
  • Keturake
  • Pentacles
  • Sheshakeh
  • Seven-legged
  • Eight-eyes
  • Nine-legged
  • Decathlon

Court cards:

  • Valets (also known as bartukais or Boys) are denoted by the letter J.
  • Ladies (also known as virgins) are denoted by the letter Q
  • Kings are denoted K raide

Aces, the 13th card in the family, denoted by the letter A.

Composition and design of decks of cards

In addition to the regular 52 cards, there are also 2 or 4 special cards in the deck - known as jokers, jokers, joker joker - The Jester).

The purpose of these cards depends on the rules of the game - they can be used in place of other firewood cards, or they can have the highest power (highest rank).

The history of the origin of these cards is consistent with the origin of the other house cards. As already mentioned, the cards were primarily intended for the entertainment of the nobility and could be said to reflect the hierarchy of the nobility at the time: kings, queens, knights and valets.

History tells us that most palaces had jesters, who had more rights than ordinary courtiers. Jesters not only made the banqueters laugh, but often even made fun of their lords.

Please note !

The cards are also of two suits - spades and clubs are black, and hearts and diamonds are red.

Modern card manufacturers try to attract players by releasing cards with different suits in order to generate publicity and higher profits.

For example, we know of German and Swiss cards with symbols that are not black and red, but four different colours - black, red, green and blue. In the USA, cards have been issued where the usual black symbols of wines and clubs are red and vice versa, hearts and drums are black.

The most common cards are those in which, for the players' convenience, the images are drawn symmetrically, in the mirror principle, where the cards have no top and no bottom, and the cards look the same from all sides when held in the hand, no matter how the card is placed.

The cards are usually rectangular in shape, approximately 60 × 90 mm. Smaller cards of approximately 40×60 mm, known as Passion Cards.

However, the cards produced for advertising and commercial purposes can come in a wide variety of shapes: round, oval, or even in the shape of various objects such as a fish, a Christmas tree, a heart, a mummy, a star, etc.

Historical Cards

The first Chinese cards

Ancient China played with very different cards than today. They are elongated (about 5,5 cm high and 1,5 cm wide) and narrower. They depict various symbols and legendary creatures that are not well understood and have little meaning. The oldest ones date back to 1120.

Indian Cards

Indian cards are very similar to Roman cards. They are rectangular or circular, painted in bright colours and decorated with gold. The deck consists of 7 or 8 families of 12 cards (a ruler, a vizier and 10 spectacle cards). The families are also marked with swords, bells, kabbalah talismans, pagodas, ivory sculptures and other symbols. Similar cards, apparently derived from Indian cards, were also found in the Persian Empire.

Arabic Cards

Arabic cards usually depicted a ruler and his subordinate, the vizier. Europeans replaced them with their own rulers - kings or emperors - and knights - a senior and a junior. The latter was depicted as an armourer or infantryman, while the senior knight was often depicted as a knight.

Egyptian Cards

In 1377, sources found in Basel tell of a new development - card wood: "The usual card wood has four kings seated on thrones, each holding a different sign in his hand... The king is followed by two marshals. They also have a sign, but one is upside down. Then there are 10 spectacle cards, marked with dots from one to ten. There are 52 cards in the pile. This is thought to refer to an Egyptian deck of cards, which was common among slave soldiers.

German, Swiss cards

From Spain and Italy, the cards spread to Switzerland and Germany, but again they were very different. Instead of the King's (ruler's) assistant, there were senior and junior knight cards. The knights could be distinguished by the way they raised the coat of arms - the senior knight held the coat of arms raised at the top, the junior knight held the coat of arms lowered at the bottom.

French Cards

It was only later that it was realised that the most important thing in cards was not the colours and the fine designs, but the mark that denoted the value of the card. The French were the first to standardise cards, followed by the English. The symbols of French cards became established by the end of the 15th century.

Akine cards were very easy to make - just a few stencils. The court cards were more work, but there were only 12 in the French deck. There was already a queen among them - she took the place of the elder knight.

One of the more interesting phases in the history of cards is that not all cards had queens in the old days.

You won't find ladies in Italian, Spanish, Swiss and German houses even today. The "discrimination" against female cards is said to be linked to the history of cards.

Souvenir cards

In the old days, the upper classes were very fond of very beautiful, elaborate, even artwork-like cards, which were more suited for admiring than playing games.

For example, the now common spectacle card was represented by a full-length maiden, the queen by a huge coat of arms with a crown and three different shields, and the valet by knights seated around a table. The cards were not only red or black, but the card families were represented by realistically drawn symbols in other colours.

In the 19th century, one-off sets began to be produced, depicting aristocrats, cultural, political and literary figures, and even historical figures. Such cards were still a fashionable souvenir.

The world's card museums have preserved wooden cards, painted on plant leaves, etc. There are known sets of cards on beer corks or beer steins, on plastic decks (as dominoes), etc. There are even cards on gold foil.

Interesting facts about cards

Card production.

The United States Playing Card Company, based in Erlanger, Kentucky (USPCC) is one of the world's largest producers of playing cards. Founded in 1867, it produces such famous brands as Bicycle, Bee, Tally-Ho, Congress, Hoyle, Aviator, Aristocrat and KEM.

Annual production - The USPCC produces more than 100 million decks of cards each year, almost two decks per American child per year.

World War II escape aid

Special cards - During World War II, the US government sent prisoners of war decks with hidden maps. By peeling off the backs of the cards, prisoners could find escape routes.

Mixing combinations

There are 80 658 175 175 170 943 878 571 660 660 636 856 403 766 975 975 289 505 440 440 883 277 824 000 000 000 000 000 000 possible ways of shuffling the deck. This number exceeds all the atoms on Earth and all the known stars in the Universe.

Hidden Eight

8 of Diamonds - The 8 of Diamonds card has the number eight hidden in the white area. If you squint, you can see the number eight