4 – History of the game of Tarot

History of the game of Tarot

Was the game of Tarot actually made to encode hidden information?

Much of my thesis connects information from the historical game of Tarot, to deciphering the mystical system around it. There have been many rumors that the game was actually hiding secret knowledge, and I think that with this new view on the Tarot, I can now prove that. The following is easier to understand if you have some familiarity with game design.


The 121 pattern in trick taking games

Going all the way back to the beginning, I showed how this pattern that unlocks the Tarot is centered around a 1-2-1 pattern. What is significant about that though, is that this same pattern is used in the historical game of tarocchi. These types of games are built around a trick taking mechanism, which creates this 1-2-1 pattern, over and over again:


from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trick-taking_game

This pattern, that unlocks all of this stuff, has been hiding in plain sight this whole time. While you could say that the pattern is very common, and maybe its just a coincidence, if you examine more of the rules, you will see that it is actually deliberate. The pattern to unlock this has ALWAYS  BEEN encoded into the game itself.


78 cards unevenly split

The next big piece of evidence that the game was encoding information comes from the fact that there are 78 cards total. If you add or remove any cards from the total number of trumps, it throws off this perfectly symmetrical pattern of 1-2-4-8-4-2-1. You have to have 22 cards to do that, no more, no less.

What’s interesting though is that if you have: 14 courts, 40 minors, and 22 majors, along with 4 people playing the game, you can’t divide the cards evenly since 78 / 4 = 19.5

These games handle that by having players choose to pass cards, and then discarding a couple of them. In games like Hearts and Spades though, even though there is a passing mechanic, you don’t have a discard mechanic, since you don’t need one, because 52 / 4 = 13.

So lets say that hypothetically you were a game designer, why would you choose to include 22 cards for specifically that group of cards? If you were to choose 20 or 24, you could avoid having to pass cards or discard cards completely. As a game designer, you don’t want clunky mechanics in your game if you can avoid it, you want to streamline things as much as you can. So there is no “logical” reason, from a game design perspective, to pick 22 cards for the number of trumps.


Irrational ranking

I mentioned Irrational Ranking in the last post, going back to that for a moment, I noticed that this too is a strange and clunky mechanic. There really isn’t a good reason why would you design a game so that half of it flows in one direction, but the other half flows in another.  When playing the game, there is no fundamental game-play change, all it would do, would cause the player to get confused. This is actually why they call it “Irrational Ranking”, because it really doesn’t make much sense from a game-play perspective. Why have this rule in there at all then? When studying the evolution of the rules of game, this is one of the first things that would end up getting removed, it’s another clunky rule that just holds up the flow of game.


Game as hidden system

Once these systems are discovered though, we can then ask the question if these rules were in there for game play, or something else? If we take the view of these rules as a way to encode information, it would then make perfect sense as to why there are these three strange rules. Passing extra cards is there to preserve specific number of cards needed for the entire deck and give the key of 1-2-1 to the entire system. The specific number of 22 trumps are to preserve that data-set, and the irrational ranking is there to preserve ordering information.

If someone were to want to encode this information for future safe keeping, but keep it in an unchanged state out in the open; they could take all of the important stuff, like the 22 cards, and then build the game around it, which is probably what happened.

When these numbers and systems are encoded as a game, rather than actual mystical texts, they can fly under the radar, no problem. It also helps preserve the data, because people generally don’t mess with the rules of a game, especially if it’s viewed as a “classic”, whereas people are constantly tampering with esoteric knowledge


Did Tarot from Mamluk cards? Were they “Geomancy cards”?

Another potential connection from the history of playing cards, comes from an old deck that might have been  precursor to the early Tarot decks. This deck that has been often overlooked are called the “Mamluk cards” since they were found in Egypt, during a time of Mamluk rule.


What’s interesting about them though, is that they are visually very similar to the Visconti Tarot:


What’s interesting though is that the Mamluk deck predates the Visconti deck by at least a hundred years. During that time, in that area, the most predominate method of divination happened to be geomancy. Mamluk cards might then be the true source of what the Tarot evolved out of, but instead of just being playing cards, these Mamluk cards might actually “geomancy cards”. In fact, the equivalent of the court cards in this deck only has geometric designs on it, instead of a picture of an actual person (due to Islam’s taboos). On each of these those court cards at the bottom, they have a little piece of poetry that has kind of puzzled historians. There might have been originally 16 court cards in the deck, this might signify it’s connection then to geomancy since there are 16 figures in that system as well. Then it wouldn’t be a great leap of imagination to see this possible connection since there are 16 court cards in the Tarot, and the Major Arcana matches the pattern of produced by a geomantic chart exactly. This is extremely significant, because it was only viewed that the Tarot was originally just a game, and not a divination tool; but this finding might prove that the cards always had an intended meaning in divination.

In the late 14th century, Europeans changed the Mamluk court cards to represent European royalty and attendants. In a description from 1377, the earliest courts were originally a seated “King”, an upper marshal that held his suit symbol up, and a lower marshal that held it down.

from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playing_card


© 2015 Steven Glick  All Rights Reserved

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