Cartas: Gentle Pastime, Divinatory Science
Cartas is the both the gentle diversion consisting of playing games with packs of cards and also the divinitory art of cartomancy as practiced in the Eastlands. Trick taking games & large meld games are very popular. Triumph & Despair, Cripplers, Mosaic, Crib & Creel are some examples of popular games. Cripplers is kind of like poker, Mosaic and Crib & Creel are more like canasta. Typically, a gifted reader uses the same pack of cards (i.e., cartas) that anyone playing an ordinary card game would use. The difference is that the cartomancer arranges the cards in an eight pointed figure called a cartoscope in order to ascertain the nature of future events.
The usual pack of cards in the Eastlands consists of a large number of cards divided into three general classes. First are the pip cards, which are cards that depict a certain number of iconic pips on their face: for example, the "cater of crowns" has four crowns painted upon its face while the "deuce of wands" has two staves or wands painted upon it. These cards are numbered from one (the ase) up to twelve (the dedouze). In between, of course, each pip value has its peculiar name, which seem to be bastardized Rumelian numerals. Next are the honors or court cards, which depict four noble ranks: the queen is the highest in rank among the Daine everywhere, and also in Codeis and Oz and frequently in Auntimoany, followed by the consort, the scholar and the warrior; in other countries, the king ranks highest, followed by the queen, knight and shield bearer, or else king, queen, prince and princess. Obviously, the same exact pack of cards can be used in either fashion: it's simply a matter of declaring which ranking is to be used during the game. Thirdly are the triumph cards themselves which are either 32 or 52 in number depending on the quality and cost of the pack.
All packs of cartas are arranged in suits, or distinct sets of symbols. A few specialty packs have only four suits, but the number of games one can play with these is quite limited. Most games require at least an eight suit pack and not a few require the more deluxe sixteen suit pack. No matter how many ordinary suits come in the pack, they all contain a single suit of trump cards and a motley assortment of fools. A typical pack of eight suit cards will thus have 96 pip cards (eight suits of A through 12) plus 32 honours plus eight motleys plus either 32 or 52 trump cards: 168 or 188 cards in total. The most deluxe sixteen suit packs will have 192 pips, 64 honours, 16 motleys and all 52 trumps for a total of 324 cards.
The most common suits are: wands, coins, swords, cups, acorns, losenges (or diamonds), leaves and hearts. In Codeis they have stars in place of diamonds and crescent moons in place of hearts and in Rumnias & Auntimoany, they have crowns in place of diamonds. Other suits are shields, clovers, spades, bells, orbs, rings, wheels, stars, suns, etc. The choices of which suits are used in any given pack is largely dictated by local custom and even the card maker's whim. In Codeis, for example, they use stars, moons, clovers and spades for the four basic suits. In Rumnias they use crowns, batons, swords, cups, diamonds, clovers, spades and hearts. In Auntimoany, one popular deluxe 16 suit pack uses crowns, clovers, spades, hearts, coins, batons, swords, cups, bells, acorns, leaves, shields, stars, wheels, flowers and fruit clusters.
Of the trump cards, these consist solely of portrait cards. There are no pips and no suits. Trump cards are often numbered with Rumelian figures (1 through 72).
The names of the pip cards are as follows: ase, deus, trey, cater, cinque, sice, set, oyt, neuf, dice, ondez & dedouze.
In olden times, there were some makers issuing pack with thirty two trumps, being arranged in four houses of eight each. The eight virtues and their againvirtues make up the first of these sets: honesty & deception, compassion & despite, valour & cowardice, justice & wrong, sacrifice & covetousness, honour & dastardliness, spirituality & attachment, humility & pride; another set of eight are the cards of being: Sun, Moons, Gea, Heavens, Creation, Life, Death & Judgement; another set of eight are the personalities: the Fool, the Monk, the Hunter, the Wizard, the Empress, the Emperor, the High Priestess and the Hierophant; the final set of eight are the passages: Chance, Free Will, Circumstance, Action, Hanged Man, Tower, Serpent (Ha Satan), Wheel of Fate.
In modern times, most makers issue packs with fifty-two trumps arranged according to a more philosophical and mystical arrangement, a sort of "Myth of the Journey of Life". It is this modern arrangement that the cartomancers rely on for interpreting their cartoscopes.
The fifty-two trumps are:
o o Void i i Potential ij ij Creation iij iij Heavens iiij iiij Sun & Moons iiiij v World (Yeola and Camay her twin) ф vi Life фi vij Birth фij viij Female фiij viiij Male фiiij x Faith & Rejection фiiiij xi Milepost Λ xij Monk Λi xiij Honesty & Deceit Λij xiiij Compassion & Despite (Kindness & Envy) Λiij xv Valour & Cowardice (Diligence & Sloth) Λiiij xvi Justice & Wrong (Patience & Wrath) Λiiiij xvij Sacrifice & Covetousness (Charity & Greed) Λф xviij Honour & Dastardliness (Temperance & Gluttony) Λфi xviiij Spirituality & Attachment (Purity & Lust) Λфij xx Humility & Pride (Humility & Pride) Λфiij xxi Hanged Man / Seeker Λфiiij xxij Wisdom Λфiiiij xxiij Sawyer / Wise Man / Grandfather-shaman M xxiiij Travail Mi xxv Hope & Despair Mij xxvi Loss Miij xxvij Luck Miiij xxviij Woodman Miiiij xxviiij Chance Mф xxx Angel & Daimon Mфi xxxi Adversary (Ha Satan) Mфij xxxij Scholar & Warrior Mфiij xxxiij Love & Indifference Mфiiij xxxiiij Wizard (?) Mфiiiij xxxv Sawyer / Wise Woman / Grandmother-shaman N xxxvi Bishop Ni xxxvij Emperor Nij xxxviij Empress Niij xxxviiij Demon Niiij xxxx Free Will Niiiij xxxxi Fall Nф xxxxij Circumstance Nфi xxxxiij Death & Judgement Nфij xxxxiiij Wheels of Fate and Fortune Nфiij xxxxv Empty Throne Nфiiij xxxxvi Tower Nфiiiij xxxxvij Redeemer (Redemption) Ξ xxxxviij Archangels Ξi xxxxviiij Powers Ξij q Divine Throne ∞ ∞ Rest
Eight is a significant number in cartomancy, and it is for this reason that most cartomancers use the eight suit, A to 12, fifty-two trump pack as a standard. Not only are there (quite coincidentally!) eight suits, but they mystically assign each suit one of the eight cardinal virtues. What is more, there are the four houses of eight trumps and many mystical ways of arranging the various trumps within those houses. It is not uncommon to find in the popular literature of the Eastlands stories that unfold this "Myth of the Journey", with their cycles of life and learning, loss and recovery, often with references to various of the trumps.
Most social card games are of the trick taking or card grouping varieties. Each of these games are modified by the use of the trump cards which may enhance a trick or overturn one. Some are quickly played while other may take several hours or continue for more than a day
Cartas as Vehicle for Ancient Legendary History
Some card games contain within them significant recollections of folkloric or legendary history. Take for example the simple four suit game Queen's Court. Even in the World, it is but a simple pastime more than an actual game: you arrange the Queens in the middle and try to get all the Consorts and Scholars and Warriors in place around their Queens before you run through the pack three times. It does result, when you win anyway!, in a pretty picture of the Four Queens of the World with their Consorts and Herzogs surrounding them and a couple tricksters alongside for good measure.
Very few people know that this game has as its origins an ancient competition between four rival rulers of the principal mythological realms of the Farther West, these four Queens of the World. In those lands, the four great empires of Mythological Times were Hyrcania, Phazzanea, Atelante and Ziviria, roughly comprising the realms of East, West, North and South respectively. And it is from iconic attributes of the four rulers of these realms that the four principal suits of cards derive their shapes and names. Arrana, queen of the East, was proud and fierce and bore a sword of shining bronze: hence the suit of swords/spades; Leilami, queen of the West, was the most humble of the four and bore no weapon other than an oaken staff: hence the suit of wands/clubs. Of course, I'm not saying that "cartas", or playing cards, are anything like so old! It is just that some curious and random bits of sawyery have survived because of these games, almost as if the game were itself a vehicle for story. It is entirely possible (and likely) that the card games are quite new, but based on far older tile games such as the Daine and Teyor play. And that these ancient games were based ultimately on well known histories and legends of time long past...
It those long ago days, when even the long memories of the Teyor tend to fail and histories fall silent, it seems that the Four Queens of the World were disputing. As usual, who was most beautiful, bravest in war, most powerful of all the sixteen Queens and lesser queens, who would kick the royal bejeezus out of all the others. And they met to resolve their dispute in a wonderful shimmering city of gems, along the western shores of the Inland Sea. From this City ran two ancient highways, the Great Highway running to the north and south, and the Lesser Highway, running to east and west. And that city hight Lereamman, 'Navel of the World', though in later ages it went by other names before at last the World changed and the people went away and the Great Forest reclaimed all the lands around and even the sparkling waters of the Inland Sea were turned into a trackless swamp.
Unable to resolve their differences, each sent swift messengers along the broad highways to their homelands, calling upon their Consorts and the Herzogs to come to the aid of their embattled Queens. Four mighty armies cam hurrying along the Roads, each vying to reach Lereamman first, capture the other Queens and thus demonstrate their own Queen's dominance. Each had its own adventures and suffered its own delays and mishaps and by chance they all met on Midsummer in the Gardens of Yunnan, to the west of the City. First came the Consort of the Queen of the East -- certainly the proudest of the four!, and surely she thought she would win the day. But the Herzog of the Queen of the South came next, then the Consort of the Queen of the South. This upset the Queen of East no end, and she refused to recognise the swiftness of the Queen of the South's armies and vowed a bitter revenge.
And there, in the midst of the gardens, they held a jolly war the likes of which had not been seen in those lands for a good age or more. Twas a long and protracted war and indeed very many valiant warriors were laid among the trampled blossoms of the gardens in those days. Even though Ziviria won the contest, none of the Queens could claim victory in the wars. Indeed, all four realms suffered catastrophic losses, and even the lesser queens who had also thought to aid one side or another or even those who made a bid to rise above their station, lost out. No fewer than Eight Queens, twelve Consorts and all but one Herzog died in the fighting. Of the four great Queens, three were killed in the fighting and the fourth, her of the East, was mortally wounded.
The war ravaged that whole middle land and so destabilized all the realms of that part of the world that certain dark powers lurking ever on the sidelines seized the opportunity to gain the upper hand in their own dastardly bids for ultimate mastery. The ruin of this power's downfall caused much turmoil in Yeola: once powerful realms were overthrown and many fair peoples perished. The old world passed away awash in fire and flood and the now reshapen world bore little semblance to that which was before. Yet the recollections of those tumultuous times survived the trip through the interface. And in time, those histories wore down and became mere legends and legends became myths and myths got themselves mixed up with card games... And in so doing at least got remembered by the Knowing.