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kwaw  kwaw is offline
Join Date: 29 Dec 2003
Location: Nr. Ephesus, Turkey
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According to L. A. Mayer, on the subject of the Mamluk cards:

"In the top register of all court-cards as well as of some numerals, we find other inscriptions, warning, encouraging or exhorting. We would have to know something substantial about Saracenic card games in order to understand the real meaning of these phrases."

An interesting aspect of having sayings with the emblems is in possible parallels with European emblemata. Also that such sayings could be used to draw fortunes, in which case it is interesting that
they are only on some cards, given the cartomantic tradition of using a shortened deck for fortune telling, although we would need to know what these sayings are and which they appear on before anticipating they could be used as fortunes, but the three examples in Kaplan [Vol.1, p.53] are certainly suggestive:

King of Cups: "With the sword of happiness I shall redeem a beloved who will afterwards be my wife."

Helper of Coins: "Rejoice in the happiness that returns as a bird sings it joys."

Lieutenant of Sticks: "I am as a flower, a string of pearls is my sail".

The inscription on the Lieutenant of Sticks also suggests a possible link with astronomy. One of the Arabic names for Orion's belt means 'a string of pearls', interesting in light of the research of Diana O'Donovan who identifies the emblem of sticks [and also the figure of the Fool] with the East and constellation Orion (the Hunter of the East). The Pleaides or 'sailing sisters' fly before him. In Homer, The Odyssey Book V Odysseus is told by Calypso to keep Orion on his left as he sails for home. (But theragain, 'string of pearls' is a common metaphorical cliche in Persian and Turkish poetry].

AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
Rendered into English by Edward Fitzgerald with Illustrations by Edmund J. Sullivan 1859

According to Andy's Playing Cards sites at:

The inscription on 'The Helper [or second viceroy] of Cups [or ten thousand, Myriads - a link with Chinese suits]' says:


He also notes only one of the subjects, the second viceroy of Polo-sticks, lacks the blue rectangle at the bottom [which contain title and suit], but still has the top one. We may note that in the TdM pattern too, one of the Valets is unnamed (Valet de Denier).

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