Morocco Baraja Cards

Morocco Baraja Cards

As many of you know, I read Tarot cards. In fact, I read Tarot and I read an old deck of Hawaii playing cards that I carry around with me. In other words, I’m tuned into cards. I can even do a few card tricks.

I’ll often pick up playing cards I find in the street and read meaning from them. One of the things I noticed here in Morocco was that the cards here are pretty different than the cards I’ve seen elsewhere.

Baraja Casablanca Tarot Morocco

In fact, the playing cards look a whole lot more like Tarot cards than like the standard 52 card deck that most of us know. The suits are tarot suits coins, cups, swords, and wands. I saw this and then I decided to get a deck and check them out.

Unlike Tarot or poker cards, these cards are missing the 8’s and 9’s. The cards go 1-7 and then they jump to the face cards numbered 10-13. The facecards are a jack, a knight, and a king. So that adds up to only 40 cards.

In addition there are strange gaps in the lines that frame the cards. they are obviously by intent, but I don’t yet know what they are for. I’m working to figure out all the meanings of the cards now so I can read them. A quick internet search turned up that the decks have a Spanish origin and are called Baraja.

The earliest literary references to playing cards in Europe refer to the game having been introduced by a ‘Saracen’, and also to Moorish and Damascene varieties of playing card. We do not know for sure what these fourteenth century cards looked like… but for an idea click here.

The occupation of enclaves in North Africa was one of the objectives most actively pursued by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella after the conquest of Granada. This expansionist policy was curtailed shortly afterwards when Spain turned its efforts to the recently discovered West Indies. It might be logical to assume that North Africa has always been supplied with Spanish suited cards, and that these came primarily from France or Spain.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries playing cards were imported into Morocco and Algeria from Spain and France by manufacturers such as Camoin, La Ducale, B.P. Grimaud and others. These were of the Spanish National pattern, based on the Félix Solesio designs produced by the Real Fábrica de Madrid at Macharaviaya (1776-1815).

The Camoin firm closed down in 1971, but many clones of Camoin’s cards have been, and still are being produced by a succession of Moroccan manufacturers, usually from Casablanca. These include:

Malka Frères
Imprimerie Royale
Imprimerie de L’Entente
Imprimerie Litho-Type Marocaine
Maroc Cartes

…and other anonymous brands such as Cartes Lion, L’Elephant, L’Aigle or Sindibad. Morocco is now one of the last remaining countries to use the old Spanish National pattern.

jakc with gazelle Baraja Morocco

Of course, with only 40 cards there aren’t any major arcana either, but they appear in other ways. I’m certain that these cards are used by Moroccan soothsayers and fortune tellers. There really isn’t any way they couldn’t be. They are beautiful cards.

I haven’t learned any games yet either…but I will.

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5 Comments

  1. Interesting post Vago. As a great man once said “All i need to be happy is my deck of cards, they are never mad, never leave me and always ready to play.” Of course he was a bum and was laying on the street, but i think he meant it. The graphics on the casablanca are very cool.

  2. Do people still wear Fez hats in Morocco? If so, please tell me you have been wearing one daily.

  3. The cards which have coins on them (not all) but those which are of numbers; 2,3,5,6,7 mean recieving money, or something involving money. the card 3 with the 3 different coloured objects generally mean black magic or bad luck, the same, single red figure on card nuber 1 mean to draw blood or might have naything to do with losing virginity. the cards including swords such as on cards 2,3,6 mean a road. so the message might include travel or distance. the card with 4 swords on card 4 means luck. as far as the objects go, i have forgotten what the rest are but im almost sure that those stool-like things such as the 2 of them on card 2 mean furnishings, gifts, and i forgot what the single sword means. now moving on to the people, those holding a sword have to do with written business, or jobs example; lawyers, authors, teachers, or might signify signing something, those holding that trumpet like thing is generally the one who did black magic on someone, or weilds black magic, i think it might also mean the one who took virginity but im not certain, those holding a coin to their heads are rich, and those holding that stool-like thing are wise..the card number 12, with the king holding a sword also means ”the white one” or ”pale one” . i hope i’ve helped a little, if i manage to remmeber the rest i will write another reply including the rest of the meanings of the cards, what some cards combined mean and how to perfom the reading correctly, as there is a quick little ritual before laying the cards down by 3 different card groups.
    best regards

  4. Author

    Hi Hiba,

    That’s awesome information. Thank you so much!

  5. you’re more than welcome =) i’ll update the information soon and good luck!!

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