Just an idea


Hm, ok, I have no proof but what if the first tarot like cards were not printed on paper, parchment, vellum or whatever but on small wooden or ivory plates?

Ok, we have not found them but...do you think it possible?

Any input on this?


this idea makes me think of MahJong.
A google search brought me to this page http://www.sloperama.com/mjfaq/mjfaq11.html
where they say:
Mah-Jongg as we know it today was created in the mid-to-late 1800s, based on money-suited card games that do go back to ancient times (in fact, those cards and games were the progenitors of today's tarot cards and playing cards). The fact is, the earliest written record of mah-jongg is no older than the 1890s, and the earliest known mah-jongg sets go back no farther than the 1870s.

So it seems that MahJong is not a candidate as a parent of tarot, since it is one of its children.
But there are many other wood or ivory games that could be related to the birth of tarot.
For instance, dice are such a game. The fact that two dice can produce 22 different combinations has been considered relevant by many.



Old Chess figures have occasionally similarities to Tarot cards. In the 1377 manuscript of Johannes of Rheinfelden the author draws connections between chess and playing cards. Back-gammon stones occasionally showed motifs. Some have survived.
We've not much to this:

http://trionfi.com/0/c/08/ (chess)
http://trionfi.com/0/c/01/ (Johannes)

Marco, sorry, two dices have 21 possibilities, the 22th is "nothing" (which means, that you throw not).


Thanks guys, helpful as ever!!

Huck, I am glad I don't have to translate the 29 pages about chess by babelfish ;)


I was just thinking about this the other day...
how we are so used to Tarot cards that it is
sometimes impossible to imagine them not so.

Rune cards actually offend some people... but~
what really is the difference, if it works for you?

Tarot in a form other than cards is a 'definite'
possibility, since the foundation of the cards
travelled to us unchanged from ancient times.


Thanks for the link, le pendu.

What inspired me to my musing were the threads about paper and printing and that Mah Jongg cards were made after Mah Jongg tiles so I was wondering if it could not be similar with tarot/playing cards.


"Yet another example of Medieval interest in the secular can be found in the tiny boxes known as game boxes. These little containers were often carved out of wood and covered in ivory, or the less expensive bone, and were specifically built to house game chips and cards. They were long and thin (17.8 x 14.1 x 7.0 cm St. Clair and McLachlan 60) and just as elaborately carved as the jewelry/document caskets. The images depicted on the exterior most often recorded all manner of diversion, as the Casket with Warriors and Dancers. Hunting expeditions, dancing, various types of games, elaborate animals, birds, and floral patterns, all these elements are often found on these boxes."

I found this ,while looking for 1400 AD depictions of games. Stuart Kaplan has a collection of these early game boxes. I remember seeing somewhere a french card game called glic or glec was carved.~Rosanne


Now this is funny, I keep my Thoth deck in a box carved of bone :O