By Deacon Marques Silva
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “…the liturgy itself generates cultures and shapes them.” (CCC 1207) It should not be surprising, then, that even our games are influenced by Sacred Scripture and contain the vestiges of cultures’ myths and legends.
Take, for instance, playing cards. This week I am at the beach enjoying some great family time down at the Outer Banks. Among our traditions is playing Hearts until the wee hours of the morning. As I was losing profoundly last night, my mind drifted off (to ease the pain of the game obviously) and remembered how our playing cards and Scripture intersected (don’t mock, we all have our defense mechanisms).
W. Gurney Benham, shared in his book, The History of the Pack, that the inspiration for two of the twelve face cards within a deck of cards are taken directly from Scripture. In fact, among the court cards in a deck, we find King David and Rachel, who were the inspiration for two of the cards. Here Behham’s list of “Who’s Who” in our face cards:
- The king of spades is modeled after King David. On French cards, he holds a harp alluding to the Psalms, while on English cards, he carries the sword of Goliath, whom he slew.
- The queen of diamonds is Rachel, wife of Jacob, whose twelve sons founded the twelve tribes of Israel.
- The king of hearts is Charlemagne.
- The king of diamonds is Julius Caesar.
- The king of clubs is Alexander the Great.
- The queen of hearts is Judith of Bavaria, a daughter of Charlemagne.
- The queen of spades is Pallas Athena, Greek goddess of war and wisdom (the Latin Miverna).
- The queen of clubs is Marie d’Amjou (at least according to tradition), wife of dauphin Charles VII.
- The jack of hearts is La Hire, a 15th-century French warrior.
- The jack of spades is Hogier, one of Charlemagne’s paladins (one of the twelve peers or knight companions of legend attending Charlemagne).
- The jack of diamonds is Hector, or Roland, or possibly half-brother to Lancelot of the Round Table.
- The jack of clubs is Lancelot, a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table.