Heroes | Warriors |Worthies

Published by Alison Cross on

A long time ago,  I promised to show you the Court Cards from the Dame Fortune’s Tarot Wheel deck (by Paul Huson) because they are REALLY interesting: They are all named after well-known characters from classical literature and the Bible.

I know.  CLASSICAL LITERATURE!!  THE BIBLE!!! Here on m’blog!!!!

Before we meet those Court families, I thought that it made good sense to take a look at just why these cards bear the names that they do.

*does the wobbly hands time thing*

Back in the 1400s in France, it was the custom to pop names onto the face cards of the standard
deck of playing cards. Two groups of names were common; one that
became known as the Paris pattern and the other, the Rouen pattern.  These patterns, or lists of names,  have quite a bit of overlap and it is the Paris pattern that we are interested in today because this is the design that influenced early Tarot decks, such as Etteilla’s Tarot in the 1700s. And it is Etteilla’s deck that forms the basis for The Dame Fortune’s Tarot Wheel.
The Paris Pattern

                   Hearts         Spades            Diamonds          Clubs
Kings          Charles       David              Caesar                Alexander
Queens       Judith         Pallas              Rachel                Argine
Knaves       La Hire      Ogier               Hector          Judas
Maccabeus *

                                                                                   Judah Maccabee

Although we’re not talking about them today, here are the famous stars of the Rouen Pattern.

The Rouen Pattern

                   Hearts          Spades    Diamonds    Clubs
Kings         Alexander     David        Caesar          Charles
Queens      Rachel           Pallas        Argine          Judith
Knaves      La Hire          Hector      Ogier            Judah Maccabee **
                                                                             Judas Maccabeus

Info from the International Playing Card Society website                                                                
You will have noted, because I know that you are a clever and discriminating personage, that there is a Tarot rank missing – the Knights are not included in either the Paris or Rouen Patterns.  There’s nothing sinister about this, just that in ordinary playing card decks (where these patterns come from) there were only the three ranks of King, Queen and Knave.   We’ll be talking about this again when we get on to the Sola Busca Tarot in a week or so, because it’s contrary!  I know, it’s almost like I’ve PLANNED these posts.

13th century ‘Nine Good Heroes’
(City Hall, Cologne)

It was also suggested to me that the Nine Worthies (Neuf Preux) play a role in the names selected for the Paris and Rouen patterns.

These Worthies were famed rulers of the Christian, Jewish and Pagan worlds and were first mentioned in a chanson de geste (a type of epic poem), ‘Voeux du Paon’  (‘The Vows of the Peacock’) by Jaques de Longuyon around 1312 – all about chivalry.

It seems likely that similar chivalric tales (which were all the rage) influenced the naming of the cards in both the Paris and Rouen patterns.  

The Nine Worthies 

Pagan         Hector, Alexander and Caesar
Jewish        Joshua, David, Judas Maccabeus
Christian    King Arthur, Godfrey of Bouillon,  Charlemagne
I’ve highlighted the overlapping names in the Paris Pattern with the Worthies in red.

* Edit:  Paul Huson very kindly commented on this blog post and provided the following correction:  “Judas Maccabeus was one of the Nine Worthies but his name was never attached to the Knave of Clubs. From 1490 the Knave in both Rouen and Paris patterns bore the name “Lancelot” (of Camelot fame) although the name “Roland,” another name from French legend, was briefly tried but didn’t last”. 

In the late 1300s,  Lists of 9 Lady Worthies were created, but only Judith seems to be an overlapping name. However, the Lady Worthies seem to change depending on who is creating the list!
So while the Worthies must have influenced the naming of many of the male characters in the Paris system for playing cards,  the sources of the Lady Worthies just seem to be sourced from the Bible (Judith and Rachel), Argine isn’t a name that I’ve managed to find as a heroine anywhere (but it means ‘dam’ or ‘bank’ in Italian) and Pallas will be referring to the Greek goddess, Pallas Athene.
King Arthur and Lancelot need no introductions from me but some of the others might need a Big Up:  La Hire was a French military commander during the 100 Years War and comrade of Joan of Arc and although Ogier (The Dane) was one of Charlemagne’s Knights, he became more widely known as a subject of European literature.
Anyway, now that we’ve cleared all that up, I hope that you’re all geared up to meet Dame Fortune’s Families……in Monday’s post!

Alison Cross

The Tarot's Court Cards are my specialist area.Β  They talk to me. Not LITERALLY though ....


Vivianne · 5th November 2014 at 10:49 am

*Homer Simpson Voice* bouillon …..fooooood….yum

    Alison Cross · 5th November 2014 at 11:07 am

    Yanno – I WAS going to make a joke about his place in history as the source of the stock cube.

    Anonymous · 5th November 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Hi Alison. AFAIK Judas Maccabeus was one of the Nine Worthies but his name was never attached to the Knave of Clubs. From 1490 the Knave in both Rouen and Paris patterns bore the name "Lancelot" (of Camelot fame) although the name "Roland," another name from French legend, was briefly tried but didn't last.

    Alison Cross · 5th November 2014 at 10:31 pm

    Paul Huson – thank you for that clarification, I am very grateful and I will amend the main body of the article with the information πŸ™‚ One of my main sources for this article were the two tables of Patterns from website:http://www.i-p-c-s.org/faq/history_13.php

Ania · 5th November 2014 at 9:58 am

A very interesting line of study and it's clear that you've spent a lot of time researching this. These appear to all be related to French cards. Do you know if there is a similar association in Italian and German/Swiss courts? Are they also based on real people?

    Alison Cross · 5th November 2014 at 11:06 am

    The Italian Sola Busca deck also names the Court Cards, Ania. It dates from the late 1400s. Don't know about German/Swiss decks YET, I'm ashamed to say. I believe that it started in France, where chivalry was RIFE πŸ™‚ And possibly the style was taken up by decks similar to the Sola Busca. Although the Sola Busca is quite different to the names in either the Paris or Rouen pattens. I'll be covering the SB in a short while πŸ™‚

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