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Most of us love to play cards for enjoyment; others for gambling. But whatever the game, whatever you do, whether you play with wages or just having fun, playing cards never go out of style.

But did you kn
ow that there are lots of symbols behind these playing cards, especially the most commonly used deck, the French deck of playing cards.

* Symbolism

Popular legend holds that the composition of a deck of cards has religious, mystical, or astrological significance.

Each suit of 13 cards represents the 13 months of the lunar year. Since the sidereal lunar month may be approximated to 28 days, each suit is equal to 364 days of the year.

Similarly, the whole deck of 52 cards represents the 52 weeks of the year. Therefore, the whole deck is also equal to 364 days of the year (the positivist calendar).

The ace is symbolically “alpha and omega” or “the beginning and end.”

* Origin of the four suits

It is commonly believed that the 4 suits in a deck of playing cards -- spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs, derive from French decks of cards. In French decks, the suits represent the four classes:

Spades represent nobility and their soldiers.
Hearts stand for the clergy.
Diamonds represent merchants.
Clubs are for peasants.

Also, the four suits were derived from the Tarot cards, in the Minor Arcana.

Spades came from Swords.
Hearts came from Cups.
Diamonds came from Pentacles.
Clubs came from Wands.

* Historical people behind the cards

Court cards designed in the 16th century in the manufacturing centre of Rouen became the standard design in England, while a Parisian design became standard in France. Both the Parisian and Rouennais court cards were named after historical and mythological heroes and heroines. The Parisian names have become more common in modern use, even with cards of Rouennais design.

King of Spades = King David
King of Hearts = Charles (possibly Charlemagne, or Charles VII, in which case Rachel (see below) would be the pseudonym of his mistress, Agnès Sorel)
King of Diamonds = Julius Caesar
King of Clubs = Alexander the Great

Queen of Spades = Pallas (Athena)
Queen of Hearts = Judith (The Jewish heroine who saved Israel from Assyrian invasion by seducing and beheading their commander Holofernes)
Queen of Diamonds = Rachel (either biblical (as the wife of Jacob), historical (see Charles above), or mythical as a corruption of the Celtic Ragnel, relating to Lancelot below)
Queen of Clubs = Argine (possibly an anagram of regina, which is Latin for queen, or perhaps Argea, wife of Polybus and mother of Argus)

Jack of Spades = Ogier the Dane/Holger Danske (a knight of Charlemagne)
Jack of Hearts = La Hire (comrade-in-arms to Joan of Arc, and member of Charles VII's court)
Jack of Diamonds = Hector (from the Iliad)
Jack of Clubs = Judas Maccabeus (Jewish hero against the Greeks), or Sir Lancelot


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