Published March 6, 2021
The Sign of Silence: The Jack of Heart Riddle
Symbolism of the Jack of Hearts in the old portrait of the Dauphiné in France (17th and 18th centuries)
“Fate shuffles the cards and we play.” wrote the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) But would not the cards of destiny carry in themselves by their own figures, drawings and rebus, the hidden signs of this destiny?
To do this, it is necessary to go back to their origins long before the adoption of the standard of playing cards mass-produced today. It is indeed in these original «portraits» invented several centuries ago by the « cartiers » printers of our former provinces that the unusual or esoteric messages of these modest cardboard figures are sometimes revealed, but of which we have lost the sense for lack of mastery of its symbolism.
One of these strange figures from the former portrait of the Dauphiné in France (17th and 18th centuries) invites us today to this discovery: the Jack of Hearts and his enigmatic call to silence…
The figure in this playing card is quite classic and fits well into the register of the printed figures of the « cartiers » of this period: a simple soldier whose uniform is quite freely inspired by that of a Roman legionary: a helmet, a breastplate, a cape held by a buckle or clasp on the right shoulder, a tunic fastened by a leather belt and waders.
Three peculiarities distinguish him, however, from the other Jacks, his companions:
1) A large curved saber, more scimitar than a boarding saber, drawn and held with the right hand, lining the entire lower body. This unusual weapon is emphasized threefold; first by its imposing size; then by its transverse position and on the front of the body, separating it into two parts; finally, it is the only weapon or object carried by the Jack of Hearts, like the stick of the Jack of Diamonds and unlike the halberds, sword or dagger carried together and much more discreetly by the Jacks of Clubs and Spades.
2) The left hand raised, index finger extended towards the sky in an explicit sign. It should be remembered that the hand, more than any other part of the body, is the tool of thought, its expressive extension and finally the symbolic representation of the person who possesses it. The left hand by which the sign is made, also has a special symbolic meaning: It is the hand of the Hearts, the one who precisely cuts the cards in the consultations of cartomancy and thus embodies the visible sign of the soothsayer.
3) A single word placed just above the raised hand and finger extended, as in correspondence with them, "Shh" (« Chut ») which could not be better than any other word to impose silence on the one who looks at the Jack or holds him in his player’s hand…
Can we find in these three original characteristics of the Jack of Hearts a common sense or a link that would unite them in a sort of symbolic rebus both figurative and written? The task seems difficult at first. What is there in common between a saber, a finger extended towards the sky and an injunction to be silent? No doubt nothing if one does not seek the signified behind the signifier and the symbol behind the apparent fantasy of the « cartier » printer.
With regard to the imposing saber brandished by the Jack of Hearts, it is doubtless necessary to see there a deliberate symbol, sharing with the raised finger of the character an esoteric probable significance. Traditionally, the saber, the sacred weapon of the East as the sword of the West, symbolically represents both the strength and weakness of a man. The strength by the dangerous and sharp aspect of its blade but also the weakness by its finesse and the fragility of its thread. Thus, by its own ubiquity, the saber represents the original duality of man and the indissoluble link between the human and the divine, between Earth and Heaven. Similarly, the left hand extended and the raised finger that points to the sky could not better distinguish it from the earth where the Jack stands, while recalling the existing link between the two worlds *.
For over 100 years, Olney H. Richmond and many others have dedicated their lives, endured great hardships, and given their time and knowledge, to share with you today what they understood about Cardology.
But wouldn’t this Jack of Hearts himself reinforce this relationship between Earth and Heaven by his own symbolism? Certainly if one refers to the traditional representation of the Jack of Hearts as described by the works of Cardology. The Jack of Hearts, so aptly named, is he not symbolically called the of « Christ card » or « card of true love »? He’s there for others when they need someone who wants to save the world or at least make it better. He is also the card of sacrifice and martyrdom, the living and working link between Heaven and Earth.
As for the unusual «Shh» enjoining silence by him who shows the sky with his hand of Hearts, does it simply address the player whose game is not to be disturbed by a futile chatter or more symbolically does it not teach to silence the noises of the world to better listen to the silence of the sky or the music of the cosmos?
Is not true love itself silence?
*The Jack of Hearts printed in 1873 by Gassmann of Geneva, still carries the saber drawn with his right hand and continues to show the sky with the index finger pointed with his left hand in the same attitude as his predecessors.
[DISCLAIMER: Any explanation, information, opinion, terminology, theory, and/or any cardological method or reference included in this article are not necessarily approved of or endorsed by the International Association of Cardology. This article's publication on the IAC website is purely for informational purposes only.]
Valet de coeur 1873 Gassmann de Genève au portrait du Dauphiné Gallica Source: Gallica.bnf.fr