Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Soldier's prayerbook or the devil's bible? Religious interpretrations of playing cards

Some of my readers would be familiar with a legend that goes under the name,  of "The soldier's prayer-book" The tale has been existence since at least the 18thc, and has been retold time and again in various forms. Here is one current version of the legend, from This example should serve as a representative or most of the versions published:
  After heavy fighting, a soldier returned to camp. The next day being Sunday, the Chaplain had set up church service. The men were asked to take out their Bible or Prayer Books. The Chaplain noticed one soldier looking at a deck of cards.
After service, he was taken by the Chaplain to see the Major. The Chaplain explained to the Major what he had seen. The Major told the young soldier he would be punished if he could not explain himself.

  The young soldier told the Major that during the battle, he had neither a Bible or a Prayer Book so he would use his deck of cards and explained:

You see, Sir, when I look at the ACE, it tells me that there is one GOD and no other.
  When I see the "2," it reminds me that there are two parts [in] the Bible, the OLD TESTAMENT and the NEW TESTAMENT.
  The "4" reminds me of the FOUR GOSPELS, MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE and JOHN.
  When I see the "5," it tells me of the FIVE UNWISE VIRGINS who were lost and that five were saved.
  The "6" makes me mindful that GOD CREATED THE EARTH IN JUST SIX DAYS, and GOD said that it was good.
  When I see the "7," it reminds me that GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY.
  As I look at the "8," it reminds me that GOD DESTROYED ALL HUMAN LIFE BY WATER EXCEPT FOR EIGHT PEOPLE, Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their three son's wives.
  When I see the "9," I think of the NINE LEPERS that GOD healed. There were ten lepers in all, but only one stopped to thank him.
  The "10" reminds me of the TEN COMMANDMENTS carved in stone by the hand of GOD.
  The "JACK" makes me remember the Prince of Darkness. Like a roaring lion, he devours those that he can.
  When I look at the "QUEEN," I see THE CHURCH, THE BRIDE OF JESUS.
  As I look at the last card, THE KING," it reminds me that JESUS IS LORD OF LORDS and KING OF KINGS."
  There are 365 spots on a deck of cards,and that is the number of days in each year.
  There are 52 cards to a deck and that is the number of weeks in a year.
  There are 12 picture cards and that is the number of months in a year.

  There are 4 different suits in a deck and that is the number of seasons in a year..."
  And so, the young soldier then said to the Major, "You see, Sir, my intentions were honorable. My deck of cards serves as my BIBLE, my PRAYER BOOK and my ALMANAC. Most importantly, my deck of cards reminds me that I need JESUS... 365 days, 52 weeks and 12 months a year and that I should always PRAY 4 others."

May you never look at a deck of cards the same way!

Of course, there are variations and inaccuracies in this tale: The total number of pips on a deck of cards is not 365, but 232. Other versions ascribe different significances to the numbers. For example, the Queen, for example, is said to represent Mary. Likewise, the five also may represent the five wounds Christ suffered on the cross. 
  However, in recent years, other denominations of Christianity have posited a wholly opposite interpretation of these objects . Instead of being aids to religious meditation, they are instead awash with satanic symbolism. Variations of this interpretation may be found on some Christian sites; this is one of the more extensive examples, from I quote the pertinent part of the page:
Facts About Cards and Card-Playing
Many times the question is asked, "What is the difference between cards and other games?"  It is said, A game is a game; and if it is all right to play dominoes, why not cards?
There is a vast difference.  Water and whiskey are both drinks, but everyone admits that there is a difference between them.  The following facts show plainly the difference between cards and all other games.
In the first place, cards were invented to amuse an idiotic king*, not for the entertainment of Intelligent people.  Every thought suggested by them is in direct opposition to God and rightousness.
1. The "ten spot" is in opposition to the Ten Commandments.
2. "Clubs" represents a weapon of murder.
3. "Spades," a tool to dig graves, suggests death.
4. "Hearts," holds up the broken heart of Christ for deririon instead of devotion.
5. "Jack" represents a libertine who lives off the gains of fallen women; one who makes business of comerbliplized* vice.
6. "King" represents the devil, the king of darkness, the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air, in opposition to God, the king king of all the univers.  Satan, the king of darkness, leads and entices men away from God and heaven, downpiano coversd to hell.
7. "Queen" represents Mary in a slanderous way.  Semiramis, the mother of Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, set herself up in opposition to God and instituted, with her son, every pagan type of religion, all of them opposing God.  Knowing that a "Deliverer" should come (Gen. 8:15), Semiramis set herself and son up to be the "Mother and Child."  Ancient sculpture shows this plainly.  She took the name "Queen of heaven," also "Queen of angels," "Mother of God," etc.   She is the "Queen of harlots" and is worshipped as such in every country under different names such as "Diana", "Juno," "Venus," etc.  Knowing God's plan, she ran ahead of God under Satan's direction, and every licentious religion on earth and every anti-Jehovah religion sprang from her unholy, rebelious mind.  She us a slander on the name of the virgin mother of our Lord.
8. "Joker" represents Jesus, and this is the most horrid blasphemy of all; for the joker is supposed to be the product of an illicit union between the "Jack" and the "Queen."
-- Could any but Satan be the inverntor of a deck of cards?
-- A person is known by the company he keeps.
-- Every dissipation of youth has to be paid for by a draft on old age.
(Furnished by Grant Clofax Tullar)
Editor's note:  The "Joker" as discribed above points to the clown-fool character of ancient religion.  This figure, a real man, was sacrificed in place of the King of the land.  It is refered to as the "ritual sacrifice of the king."  Since the King had to be sacrificed yearly (relating to sun worship and/or Saturnalia), but he of course was indispensible, a Fool (or Clown) was selected for the "privilege" of dying for the King.  He was then called the "King" and treated "royally" before he was killed in place of the real King. :
* The king in question is probably K. Charles VI "the mad" of France, whom, according to legend, cards were invented to cure him of his insanity. However, this legend is now known to be false.It is widely accepted that the earliest evidence for any type of playing cards is in a 1377 work, Tractatus de moribus et disciplina humane conversationis, ( ). Charles would have been 9 when this was  written, and he only suffered his first bout of madness in 1392. It is not inconceivable however,  that he may have played at cards in his youth.
It should be noted, despite the conflicting message of the texts, they both agree that the Jack or knave as representing of the devil. In case, we may conclude, from these two texts, the sheer power of the human mind to produce interpretations of this world.


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