History of Cards

Olney H. Richmond and more...

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The History of the Cards


Cardology, the fascinating science of the cards that incorporates astrology and numerology, is believed to date back to the days of Atlantis. The oldest printed material known comes to us from Olney H. Richmond, a man who published information about the true meaning of the playing cards back in 1893 in his first book, “The Mystic Test Book.” It was given this title because everything inside could actually be tested for its validity. He gave some miraculous demonstrations for the newspaper reporters who came to see and understand his work.

Olney Richmond (born February 22, 1844 in St. Johns in Clinton County, Michigan) was the chief of the Order of the Magi, which he officially resurrected in the upper Midwest in the late 19th century. Richmond was a Civil War veteran who was told of the Order by a mysterious stranger one night while he stood guard duty at Nashville. This stranger told him that he was to be his successor and eventually passed on to him the teachings of the Magi. Further, he told Richmond that he would pass through many battles in the course of the war, but that no harm would come to him. This proved to be true.

The Order of the Magi was the star religion of the ancient Chaldeans. It is said that this tradition existed 20,000 years before the birth of Christ. Indeed it was held that the three Magi of the Bible were members of this order and that Christ himself later became an initiate. Richmond held that the Order had centers in not only Chaldea, but also Egypt and Persia. He also held that Pythagoras, one of the most famous and controversial ancient Greek philosophers who lived from ca. 570 to ca. 490 BCE, was a Grand Master of the Order (by way of the Egyptian temple).

It is said that the original cards were carved on ivory tablets and used exclusively by the priests in the temples in Atlantis. Later, the tablets were moved to Egypt to help preserve the human race.

Richmond lectured in the Grand Temple of the Magi on the history, philosophy, and practices of the Order as well as other topics including the Astral Body, the Study of Infinity, and the Evolution of Matter. An interesting aspect of the Order was its extensive use of magic squares and playing cards in divination. Richmond had extraordinary mathematical abilities. His skills and mathematical analysis of the game of checkers were publicly demonstrated during the 19th century- the peak of that sport.

To read the writings and articles about Olney H. Richmond, please go to our page: Olney Richmond Writings

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Mainstream history suggests that the first playing cards were made after the invention of paper in China.  As mentioned above, Olney H. Richmond indicates that was not the case. The original playing cards may have in fact been carved into ivory and possibly stone. Sharon Jeffers, author of Cards of Destiny, says “Many people believe that the card deck originated in ancient Egypt, where it was disguised with pictures and given to the gypsies for safekeeping.”

“In a very early French deck, the Kings were found to represent historical rulers of old, including medieval King Charlemagne (King of Hearts); Julius Caesar (King of Diamonds); Alexander the Great (King of Clubs); and biblical King David (King of Spades).  Around the turn of the eighteenth century, artists began designing cards with images drawn around or including the pips (hearts, clubs, diamonds, and spades) as part of the image.” These “transformation cards,” as they were called, represent the majority of the cards featured in Jeffer’s Cards of Destiny. She states, “In parts of Europe around this same time, the suits of hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs were instead symbolized by hearts, leaves, bells, and acorns in Germany; by shields, roses, bells, and acorns in Switzerland; and by coins, cups, swords, and clubs in Spain and Mediterranean Italy; and by coins, cups, swords, and batons in Adriatic Italy. America added the Joker to the fifty-two-card deck around 1870.”

“The French, who have always had a very strong connection to the fifty-two-card deck, were responsible for introducing the cards to the Western world. Realizing the divinatory power the cards held, the French government at point banned the use of cards for the common people and then created a military deck that was used to strategize and gain a greater perspective on their enemies.”

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History of the Cards