cards, playing


cards, playing
   Invented in the 14th century, and a popular pastime ever since for both pleasure and profit. It is hardly surprising that numerous superstitions concerning card-playing have been reported, including, for example: sitting *cross-legged, changing or turning your *chair, being the first to touch the two of clubs, and even possessing a piece of hangman's rope (N&Q 4s:1 (1868), 193; 4s:12 (1873), 41; Gentleman's Magazine II (1832), 491-4). Since at least the 17th century, card-playing was particularly popular at Christmas, and even those who did not play the rest of the year would take a hand or two at the festive season. 'The country-maid leaves half her market, and must be sent again if she forgets a pack of cards on Christmas-eve . . .' (Hone, 1827: 804, quoting Stevenson, Twelve Mouths, 1661). Card-playing was also prevalent at *funerals and wakes, even on the coffin itself (Henderson, 1879: 55).
   The popular view of cards has long been ambivalent, however, as there has always been an awareness of the moral and spiritual danger involved in handling them. Not for nothing were they termed by many 'The Devil's Picture-Books', either in earnest or in uneasy jest. Playing on Sundays was particularly frowned upon (N&Q 4s:10 (1872), 377). A moralistic story, known all over Europe in various versions, reflects this ambivalence by relating how members of a card-playing party suddenly realize that they have been joined by the Devil. This is often told as a developed tale, but also exists in more modest form:
(The Devil's) partiality for playing at cards has long been proverbial, both in Lancashire and elsewhere. A near relative of the writer firmly believed that the devil had once visited their company when they had prolonged their play into Sunday. How he joined them they never rightly knew, but (as in the Danish legend respecting a similar visit) his presence was first suspected in consequence of his extraordinary 'run of good luck'; and a casual detection of his cloven foot completed the dispersion of the players. (Har-land and Wilkinson, 1882: 81; see also Puhvel, 1975)
   Some cards were generally thought to be unlucky, the Four of Clubs, Queen of Spades, and Ace of Spades, are usually the ones quoted in this context, while others had individual names: Four of Clubs (Devil's bedpost), Four of Hearts (Hob Collingwood), Ace of Diamonds (Earl of Cork), Nine of Diamonds (Curse of Scotland), Six of Hearts (Grace card), Queen of Clubs (Queen Bess), Four of Spades (Ned Stokes), Jack of Clubs (a Sunderland Fitter), and so on. Each has a story (or several stories) to explain it.
   ■ Lean, 1902-4; Opie and Tatem, 1989: 56-7, 68, 109-10, 189, 382-3, 449; Chambers, 1878: i. 281-4; Martin Puhvel, Folklore 76 (1975), 33-8; N&Q 5s:12 (1879), 426, 473; 185 (1943), 199, 262-3, 294).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Playing card — Blue Rider back Bicycle Playing Cards by USPCC …   Wikipedia

  • playing cards — n. cards used in playing various games, arranged in decks of four suits (spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs): a standard deck has 52 cards * * * Small rectangular cards used for playing games and sometimes for divination and conjuring. Modern… …   Universalium

  • Cards in the hat — or Card flip is a game in which the players throw playing cards into a hat or other receptacle. [cite book|url=http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=FDH1huAGSTkC|pages=120|title=Games and Fun with Playing Cards|author=Joseph… …   Wikipedia

  • playing cards — n. cards used in playing various games, arranged in decks of four suits (spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs): a standard deck has 52 cards …   English World dictionary

  • cards — [kärds] pl.n. 1. a game or games played with a deck of cards, as bridge, rummy, poker, or pinochle 2. the playing of such games; card playing * * * …   Universalium

  • cards — [kärds] pl.n. 1. a game or games played with a deck of cards, as bridge, rummy, poker, or pinochle 2. the playing of such games; card playing …   English World dictionary

  • Playing cards — Playing Play ing, a. & vb. n. of {Play}. [1913 Webster] {Playing cards}. See under {Card}. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • playing card — playing cards N COUNT Playing cards are thin pieces of cardboard with numbers or pictures printed on them, which are used to play various games. Syn: card …   English dictionary

  • cards — Brit. informal documents relating to an employee, especially for tax and national insurance, held by the employer. → card cards [treated as sing.] a game played with playing cards. → card …   English new terms dictionary

  • Playing — Play ing, a. & vb. n. of {Play}. [1913 Webster] {Playing cards}. See under {Card}. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English