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DoctorArcanus  DoctorArcanus is offline
Join Date: 10 Apr 2005
Location: Italy
Posts: 586
Human Destiny in XV Century Cards

I think some ancient decks provide evidence of an early connection between
playing cards and fortune/destiny. This seems quite natural, since card
games are partly based on chance. In particular I find relevant the Latin
sentences on some XV Century cards.

The first known round deck of cards was engraved in Germany at the end of the XV Century:
If you don't know this deck, please browse the images on It's a beautiful deck.
The author is identified as Master PW, from his initials.

The deck is similar to tarot, since it has five suits.
The five aces have Latin mottos on them:

Ace of Roses - banner: "Pepulit Vires Casus Animo Qui Tulit Aequo" meaning: He defeats the power of chance who endures with equanimity.
Seneca - Hercules, 231

Ace of Aquilegias (Pinks) - banner: "Par Ille Superis cui Pariter Dies Et Fortuna Fuit", meaning: He is equal to the celestials who equally received time and fortune.
Seneca - Hercules, 105

Ace of Carnations - banner: "Fortuna Opes Auferre Non Animum Potest", meaning: Fortune can take away wealth but not fortitude.
Seneca - Medea, 176

Ace of Hares - banner: "Felix Media Quisquis Turbae Parte Quietus", meaning: He is happy who is quiet in the middle of turmoil.
Seneca - Agamemnon, 103

Ace of Parrots - banner: "Quicquid Facimus Venit Ex Alto", meaning: Whatever we do, it comes from aloft.
Seneca - Oedipus, 983

On the Sola-Busca deck, which was produced in Northern Italy at the same time as Master PW, we have quite similar mottos:

"Trahor Fatis" - "I am drawn by destiny". This motto appears together with a star, on the Ace of Coins / Discs, XIII Catone, II Postumio. It seems to suggest "astrological" fate.
I think the motto and the star together produce a meaning similar to that of the Ace of Parrots by Master PW.

The other motto we find on the Ace of Coins / Discs of the Sola Busca deck is
"Servir. Chi persevera infin otiene." - "To serve. If you endure you win in the end". This motto is also somehow similar to the Aces of Aquilegias and Roses.

Also the Merlin Cocai / Folengo sonnets play on the analogy between drawing cards and human destiny (both can be called "sorti" - chance).
I think this concept might have been imporant in the early history of Tarot.

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