hist-games: Tarot game suggestions?

John McLeod john at pagat.demon.co.uk
Thu Jun 14 12:54:11 PDT 2001

On Thu, 7 Jun 2001, Chas <webmaster at historicgames.com> wrote:
>Sorry if this comes through twice -my phone line hiccupped :-(
>Anyone have recommendations for period tarot games to try teach a high
>school-aged group? Versions that might be quick and easier to teach to people
>who are not regular card players? 

The words 'quick' and 'easy' do not readily come to mind when discussing
Tarot games. In many places where they have been played, Tarot games
have acquired the reputation of needing experience and patience, and
being accessible only to serious players. Indeed, the earliest
substantial description we have of a Tarot game, unfortunately
insufficiently detailed to enable the rules to be reconstructed, is a
poem by Lollio, published in Venice in 1550, which disparages and
ridicules the game for being so lengthy and difficult. It is quoted,
with a translation, on pages 432-434 of Michael Dummett's 'The Game of

However, if you want something simple, you may like to try Baronetti,
described on p261 of the same book. It is a two-handed game, recommended
as suitable for introducing Tarot games to children. 

>I'm familar with Dummett, but haven't had a chance to read it yet -off to
>We belong to a 30 Years War era living history group, so anything pre-1630's
>that is quicker/ easier to teach will work.

Baronetti an 18th century game, which perhaps rules it out for you. The
very earliest usable published description of a Tarot game that we know
of dates from 1655. This was a French game, and you could argue that it
was likely to have been played much the same way in 1630, but I would
hesitate to describe it as quick or easy.

>On a related Tarot note, I recently saw a small mention of an author named
>Gertrude Moakley who suggested that the personas portrayed on the trumps of
>tarot cards may have been inspired by characters that were paraded in
>processions in the 15th century, anyone read this before?

Yes - this theory is cited for example on p87 of 'The Game of Tarot'.
Moakley's theory on the origin of the Tarot pack is also discussed, on
pp81-83 of the same book.
John McLeod                      For information on card games visit       
john at pagat.demon.co.uk           http://www.pagat.com/

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