What Is The Origin Of The Playing Cards Joker?

What is the real meaning of the Joker in Playing Cards?

The playing cards Joker is a knock-off Version of the Fool in Tarot. As with all knock-offs, they substituted authenticity with something synthetic. They demoted the magnificent Card Zero of the Tarot to a ‘wild card.’ The Trickster turned into just a jester. The Fool is Coyote-Raven energy. But the playing card version tries to domesticate it.

 Mind you; it’s not personal. All the cards got Muggled. Modern playing cards evolved from the Tarot. The four suits of Diamonds, Clubs, Staves, and Hearts are akin to the Tarot’s Pentacles, Wands, Swords, and Cups.

The playing cards keep the Kings, Queens, and Knights but lose the Pages aka Princesses and all the esoteric symbolism. And the Joker is all that remains of the Major Arcana; The Magician, the High Priestess, the Star and so on. 

There were likely good reasons to un-magic the Tarot and make it into a pale phantom of its true self. The Church ran vicious inquisitions for centuries, against herbalists, midwives, astrologers, and anyone still loving the Old Deities.

In times when anyone could be deemed a witch, imprisoned, tortured and executed, you would not want to be concealing the real Tarot under your mattress.

Still, it is strange to think of the rich characters and themes of the Major Arcana left out of the narrative. It is similar to rejecting an extraordinary pantheon of gods, goddesses, demi-gods, nymphs, elementals, angels, magical ley lines and animal spirits.

For what? A religion ruled by one male god with arguably limited views on many topics. 

Even so, the days of the week are named after the Old Deities. And on any one of these days, we can summon a set of Tarot cards to be sent to us from Amazon, for a few pentacles. And the original Fool made it into the ubiquitous standard playing cards. Magic is still here and in plain sight if you look.


27 thoughts on “What Is The Origin Of The Playing Cards Joker?”

  1. Woman! You are so bang on with all your posts today I’m in awe. Short Sharp Shocked comes to mind: I’m not a Michelle Shocked fan really but that album title seems so resonant with your writing.

  2. Fascinating reading lately on correlations between the ancient celestial placements of Virgo, Draco and Ursa Minor (aka the tree) and their symbology as replicated throughout antiquity.

    The same images of the hermaphroditic/self-reproducing (‘virgin mother’) winged-woman, the often winged-serpent and the great tree in ancient history and art found throughout every stretch of the world like a collective memory with a lot of meaning obscured or lost or needing to be sutured together. Also leaps of info on the tradition of divine androgyny misinterpreted as virginity. Unsurprisingly the relationship between the woman, the serpent and the tree is often benevolent (a notable exception being the Abrahamic tradition).

    I’ve been enjoying the spiritual embrace of this Jupiter transit immensely! Currently it conjuncts Gem Moon 9th house and is in opposition Neptune Saggo 3rd within 1 degree.

    1. on that divine androgeny note, Im re-reading an amazing book called ‘the cosmic’ serpent by jeremy narby- goes right into winged serpent mythology/ cosmology from worldwide aboriginal/ ayahuasca perspective, really fabulous

  3. Currently reading a great book “The Goddess Within” re Jung and the manifestation of each of the Greek Goddesses in every woman. What does not seem clear is the transition from the worship of Gaia to the dominance of Zeus. And how have we allowed this to continue?! It seems to be that Hera, Athena, and to some extent Aphrodite, have by their obedience to and support of Zeus allowed the dominance of the male, often destructive, elements of cultures to escalate: e.g. war, progress at the expense of the environment, adversarial behaviour in our courts and parliaments. Artemis, Persephone and Demeter have been side-lined and need to find equal footing in order to bring back a balance between the yin and yang.

  4. Hang on…..in the Bible….(basic information before leaving earth)….it says…..let us make them in our image……so where is God ever just one ???????

  5. Electric Eel Libran

    I know a Russian Gemini Mathematician who uses regular playing cards to tell fortune if you get loose with some vodka first. LOL! Those crazy math guys.

    1. Cartomancy in lieu of tarot is a real thing. My mum is a Cambodian fortune teller who uses normal playing cards. (but she slims down the pack even more)

      1. I’m very serious about cartomancy. I studied with Arne Lein a bit. He said I have great mystic powers, but unfortunately as a Taurus Ace of Diamonds, I don’t believe in mystic powers. LOL.

      2. Electric Eel Libran

        Yeah that’s the weird part. I think cartomancy in this form appeals to the more logical minded folk.

      3. Someone asked me what I do when I read cards and how I feel. Do I feel like I’m channeling some energy from beyond? I told him it felt like solving equations. But I have come to realize, those are only symbols of the energies I am accessing. They have their own calculus, but I can’t really say what it is. I can solve the equation forward to get a result, or I can work it backwards to break it down into its causes. But I can’t really tell you how I do that.

  6. you should read Italo Calvino “Il castello dei destini incrociati”
    The Castle of Crossed Destinies – he uses the tarot as the basis for two stories based on a two tarot packs (Visconti & Marseilles) same characters/ different roles – absolutely amazing.

    1. I have just finished reading this, Italo Calvino is so effortlessly wonderful. Mr Palomar is good too!

      PS See the edition with colour images of Tarot!

  7. Its why I like the Minchiate Tarot, which includes the Four Elements, the Zodiac and Hope, Prudence, Faith and Charity to the Major Arcana – bringing the total number up to 40.

    I’ve had some scorchingly accurate readings from it as well….

    and specifically to your point – the old pagan ways have had their tentacles clipped to stumps…. from a quote by Charles Fort about Science:

    “Every science is a mutilated octopus. If its tentacles were not clipped to stumps, it would feel its way into disturbing contacts.”

    Our natural spirituality and religious response to the awesomeness of Everything has been clipped to stumps by Monotheism.

    I am a Pantheist myself – I do enjoy living in a world of magic and enchantment – stretching my tentacles wide and deep into the World, in order to find as many disturbing contacts as possible 😀

    1. PS: Fellow Mystic-ites, DO check out Charles Fort and The Fortean Times – you can get The Fortean Times at better newsagents.

      Its a fabulous parade of “disturbing contacts” – frogs in rocks, rains of fish, goat suckers (don’t ask!) Big Cats, unlikely desert artworks, unsolved mysteries, newly found species, ancient ruined temples, haunted supermarkets, invisible friends and spontaneous human combustion…. Highly recommended !!

      1. Scorporation, Inc.

        The attention’s nice for a little while, but the constant stream of reporters is clogging up the neighborhood. Thanks for visiting, come back real soon.

      2. I have to add that my favourite section is “Strange Deaths ” 😀 😀

        *I’ll be quiet about the Fortean Times now *

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