Step

performed the triple cut, deal them into three heaps, A, B and C, of twenty-six cards each.

Step 2. Heap B should be taken and placed off to the right. Heaps A and C should then be gathered together and shuffled by the querent.

Step 3. The shuffled cards of A and C should again be dealt out into three heaps of seventeen cards, A, B and C, and the remaining single card placed off to the left.

Step 4. Again remove the central heap, B, and place it off to the right alongside the other B pile. Shuffle A and C together with the single remainder card of the previous deal.

Step 5. Deal these cards into three heaps of eleven cards each. Again remove the flanking heaps A and C and discard them along with the remaining two cards left over from the deal. Now turn your attention to the three remaining B heaps off on your right. Pick up the heap you made first, containing twenty-six cards. Lay it out in a large horseshoe shape arching away from you, placing the first card in the bottom right-hand corner and the last in the bottom left-hand corner.

Then, beginning with the first card laid down and ending on the last, make your reading, which traditionally is said to refer to the psychological condition of the querent in the near future0

Having dispensed with the twenty-six cards, remove them and lay out the heap containing seventeen in exactly the same manner.

The area referred to by these cards is traditionally that of the querent's work or occupation and his thoughts about it, again in the immediate future.

The last pile of eleven cards when laid out is said to refer specifically to the querent's coming material condition—namely, his health, monetary situation and home life.

Thus the three horseshoes may be said to represent the spiritual, intellectual and material aspects of the querent's future.

"Le Grand Jeu" and "the Triangle" are the last two spreads I shall deal with. They represent the most complex type of tarot divination you can perform.

Le Grand Jeu uses sixty-six cards, whereas the Triangle employs the whole deck. If you think the preceding systems were mind-boggling, just take a look at these!

Le Grand Jeu

After selecting the significator, placing it centrally and shuffling and cutting the deck, let the querent draw sixty-six cards one after another, unseen, of course. These should be placed face upward according to the following layout (Figure 15):

Cards 1 through 11 in a column down the right-hand side of the table, beginning at the top.

Cards 12 through 22 up the left-hand side in a column, leaving plenty of room in between.

Cards 23 through 33 right to left along the top of the table, - joining the two columns like a beam.

Now, beginning halfway between the two side pillars on the remaining unfilled side of your square of tarots, lay cards 34 through 66, containing the significator, in a counterclockwise circle within these boundaries. Leave gaps in your circle between cards 44 and 45, between 55 and 56, and between 66 and 34 (where the two ends of the circle join).

Finally, place the remaining 11 cards below the significator in center circle. They will not be read.

Your spread is now complete.

Cards 1 through 11 and 34 through 44 are traditionally said to refer to what has passed apropos the querent.

Cards 23 through 33 and 45 through 55 represent the present.

Cards 12 through 22 and 56 through 66 represent what is yet to come for the querent.

As you can see, there are a great many cards to deal with here, and unless you have already acquired the knack of letting the cards "drift together," the best you will achieve as a reading is a very muddled hotchpotch of ideas and feelings.

Work up to this method. Don't attempt it to begin with,

34 33

10 I

JirpJRE

(unread]

Tast

Figure 15

because you will probably only be discouraged by the psychic indigestion it will cause. Your deep mind has to be led to the point where it can pick out and enlarge upon the relevant tarot symbols, and this usually requires practice with the simpler spreads to begin with. The more card variables you place in your tarot layout, the more accurate and developed your intuition has to be.

The Triangle

This method is simply a convenient way of arranging the entire deck of seventy-eight cards for the most complex type of divination, one with no physical selection of cards or convenient division into past, present and future. As such it is really more in the nature of a tarot meditation.

After selecting the significator and placing it at the bottom left- or right-hand corner of where your triangle will be (left for the Pope, right for the High Priestess), the cards should be shuffled and cut in the usual manner. The querent should then draw random cards until the entire deck is exhausted. These should be placed in a line leading from the significator to the left for a female querent, right for a male.

When twelve (including the significator) have been lined up, the thirteenth should be placed above and just between cards eleven and twelve to begin another line leading back on its tracks above the first, which has now become the base of the triangle.

This second line contains only eleven cards, and on reaching card number twenty-three again jumps up a rung to make the next zigzag layer back on its tracks. (See Figure 16.)

Thus a complete triangle is built up containing the entire deck of seventy-eight tarot cards. The last card remaining in the querent's hand represents the resolution of the divination and is placed at the apex of the triangle. The cards are then read beginning at the significator and working up to the apex, always following the same direction that the cards were laid in.

This layout represents the entire cosmic tarot ladder, and it requires the fully awakened intuition of the tarot adept to

climb it. Only by means of a complete and unobstructed interrelating between his deep and everyday minds can this serpentine path be followed with any degree of assurance, with the cards marshaled behind the significator coming to life and assuming meaningful patterns to the eye of the perceptive reader.

Two tarot games

Tarot Pelmanism

The simplest game for familiarizing yourself with the cards is that of "Pelmanism." The entire pack is laid out face down at random, and players take turns at turning over two cards for general inspection and then reversing them again. The object of the game is to make pairs. When a pair—such as two knights or two fours—are turned up, the player responsible removes them, scoring them as a "trick." Any Major Arcana trump pairs with any other trump. Play continues until all the cards have been collected. The winner is the player who has collected the most tricks. The practice of declaring out loud the name of the cards turned over is a good one to adopt; it will be found to aid the memorization process.

The game of Trumps

Though devised during the Middle Ages, "Trumps," or "Triumphs," is still played in Europe to this day. It is really very easy, especially for the card enthusiast, once you get'the knack of the point counts. The object of the game is like that of bridge: to reach a score of 100. This is achieved in two ways: by making "melds," which means counting up significant cards and sequences in your hand before play begins; and by scoring up points in your various tricks during the play itself.

SCORING

Any 10-card sequence in trumps or any of the four Minor

Arcana suits—15 points

Any 7-card sequence in trumps or any of the four Minor

Arcana suits—10

Any 4-card sequence in trumps or any of the four Minor

Arcana suits—5

Any three of the following trumps: King of Swords King of Rods King of Cups

King of Coins 15 points

Juggler

Fool

World

(If you have only two of these before the declaration of melds, you may ask either of the other players for a third tarot trump. If none has one, you score 5 points. If someone does, you must take it but score zero; you must then give him a discard from your hand in return.) To continue with the meld scores:

All five "lesser trumps" (Juggler, Female Pope, Empress, Emperor, Pope)—15 points Four lesser trumps—10 Three lesser trumps—5

All five "greater trumps" (Star, Moon, Sun, Judgment, World)—15

Four greater trumps—10 Three greater trumps—5 Ten trumps (any order)—10 Thirteen trumps (any order)—15

TRICK SCORES

As the game is played out after meld declaration, points are scored by trick takers, only the highest card in the trick being counted.

Tricks taken by:

A tarot trump (any king, the Juggler or the World-not the

Any knight—3

Any other card—1

A very important point to remember here is that for the masculine suits—Rods and Swords—after the regular order of precedence from king to page, the ten ranks highest and the ace lowest. For the feminine suits-Cups and Coins—the pip card order is reversed, ace being high and ten low. Thus in the suit of

Cups, for instance, the page of Cups will beat the ace of Cups, the ace of Cups will beat the nine of Cups and the nine, the ten. In the suit of Swords, on the other hand, the two will beat .the ace.

THE GAME

Ideally three should play, but if only two are available, a third hand should be dealt as a dummy and left unseen, keeping both players guessing what cards are out.

Deal should be cut for. For the sake of simplicity during the cut, count aces low, kings high, trumps highest of all (except for the Fool which, as always, counts zero). If the same cards of different suits are cut, such as nine of Cups and nine of Rods, repeat the cutting.

After shuffling the cards well, deal twenty-five cards to each hand, beginning at the dealer's right and going counterclockwise, five at a time (this helps to influence the odds in favor of sequences showing up in the hands). The remaining three cards are then placed at the dealer's right hand as the pot, or "widow," as it is known in Europe. Alternatively, for a harder game you may deal twenty-four cards to each player one at a time and place the remaining six cards in the widow.

All players should now sort their hands into the various sequences and melds. Cards may do double work. For instance, a king could figure in a tarot trump count as well as a sequence. Likewise, the Juggler might be used in a tarot trump count as well as in a lesser trump one.

Once you have sorted out which cards will be useful to you, the dealer may discard up to six of his useless cards and exchange them for those in the widow. However, he must discard his own before picking up the hidden ones. He need not exchange the full amount of six—just as many as he feels he needs. If he chooses not to exchange any, or only one or two, the option then passes to the player on the dealer's right. He in turn may then exchange discards of his own for the cards remaining. Should there still remain a card or two, the third player (if there is one) receives the option to exchange one or two of his own for these.

It is during this initial phase of the game that tarot trump requests should be made.

When you have finished discarding and requesting, the various melds and sequences should be declared, exhibited and scored, beginning with the player to the right of the dealer and traveling counterclockwise.

Once you have a chance to see what cards are held by the other player or players, you can plan your strategy of play accordingly.

Having noted down the various scores, each player picks up his cards again, re-sorts them into suits, and play begins.

Second hand leads again. All players must either follow suit or trump. The only time a nonsuit nontrump discard is allowed is when the player in question has no trumps or correct suit cards to follow with. The only exception to this rule is when the player possesses the Fool, whose only use, characteristically, is that of a scapegoat or sacrifice. If you have a high card, such as a king or the Juggler, that you don't want to have snapped up by the third hand or because the king is the last card you possess of the suit led, you may play the Fool as a substitute. The poor Fool has no number and is in fact the lowest card in the deck. If he is led, any other card can take him. (We shall see where this traditional attribute of total vulnerability comes from later on.)

Continue counterclockwise with the taker of the trick leading until all the cards are exhausted, scoring as you play. Only one scoring card may be counted per trick. For instance, if a trick contained a page, a queen and a king, the person who played the king scores only the king—5 points.

When you have finished the hand, make a total of each player's mefd and trick scores. If there are three players, the lowest scorer forfeits his entire score. The second highest scorer subtracts his score from the highest and likewise scores nothing. Only the highest scorer achieves a final score, which is what is left after the second highest has subtracted his score.

For instance, if player A scores 30 points, B 20 and C 40, then B forfeits his entire score, leaving him a count of zero, and A likewise scores zero. C only scores 10 points ( 40 minus 30).

If only two persons play, then the lesser score is simply subtracted from the greater. The first player to reach 100 points is the winner.

Deal should pass to the right at each new hand, thus giving each player the advantage of first crack at the widow and her dowry.

The actual scoring can be accomplished with a cribbage board if two play, a bezique marker or pencil and paper for three.

CHAPTER 2

Î0{tm Bib the tFanit

The first appearance of recognizable tarot cards in Europe can be traced to A.D. 1392. An entry was made at that time in the ledger of the court treasury of King Charles VI of France to the effect that a specified sum of money had been paid to a painter, Jacquemin Gringoneur, in return for three packs of cards. These cards had been designed especially for the amusement of the king " ... in gold and diverse colors, ornamented with many devices ...

Seventeen of these cards are all that remain of those packs. They may be seen in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, mysterious and exquisite miniatures painted on vellum, illuminated with gold leaf and exotic pigments like ground lapis lazuli, "dragon's blood" and mummy dust, in the style of the day.

Whether the cards were invented by Gringoneur or merely copied by him from packs already in existence is a matter of conjecture. No evidence of substance has been documented to indicate that they originated earlier, though there are a lot of suggestive clues. Many of these clues have been formulated into theories, but they remain theories only.

One theory places their origin in China, where playing cards were definitely in use before the eleventh century A.D., some three hundred years before the packs of King Charles VI. A Chinese playing card at present in the Staatliches Museum für Volkerkunde in Berlin is probably the oldest of these. It depicts a little figure of a man with a symbol denoting ¿.specific sum of money over his head, which may indicate that it was used in gambling.

Another theory holds that tarot was introduced into Europe from India by bands of wandering gypsies. The Romany language is now known to be a remarkably pure dialect of Sanskrit, the language of sacred Hindu writings and the oldest of the Indo-European tongues. The word "tarot" may well derive from the Hungarian gypsy word tar, meaning "a deck of cards," which in turn derives from the Sanskrit taru.

The third theory of the tarot's origin also connects the pack with gypsies but this time assumes that the Romany bands came from Egypt. In this case, of course, the dcck they brought with them would have come from the land of Khem.

This theory seems more valid when one considers the evidence. The word "gypsy" itself is an old English abbreviation of "Egyptian," although this may only mean that the ignorant English merely fancied that the strange, dark-haired nomads had emigrated from Egypt. On the other hand, the crypt of the Church of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer in the Camargue area of southern France is reserved exclusively to the gypsies, even to this day. It contains the shrine of Saint Sara of Egypt, supposedly their patron saint. Since Sara is somewhat suspect as a Catholic saint, she may turn out to be none other than Sarapis, the Egyptian god of the dead, in his mortuary crypt. In the Camargue there is a dark tradition that the shrine of Sara rests upon an ancient altar dedicated to Mithras, the Persian sun god. It is interesting to note that the Egyptian deity Sarapis was assimilated into the Mithraic pantheon. Yet none of this can be called proof of origin.

Both the Chinese and Indian notions are fine as theories. However, when one actually compares a deck of tarot cards with an Indian or Chinese card game, one will find very little symbolism in common, particularly where the all-important

Major Arcana is concerned. Any similarity is limited to the fifty-six cards of the Minor Arcana. This is one of the arguments advanced in favor of the original independence of the major and minor sequences. It is certainly possible that the four tarot suits refer to the four castes of Hinduism: the cup to the priests or Brahmans, the sword to the warrior overlords or Kshatriyas, the coin to the merchants or Vaisyas, and the baton to the serfs or Sudras.

The Major Arcana obviously shares a lot of symbolism with the metaphysical teachings of India, notably Buddhism, whose founder, Gautama, is thought to have been born some 560 years before Christ. The Fool might well be said to represent the wandering monk, or Sannyasin himself; the Emperor and Empress Suddhodana, King of the Sakyas, and his bride Maya Devi, Buddha's parents; the chariot, the juggernaut or triumphal car of Vishnu; the Pope, the Hermit, the Hanged Man and Death the Man of Religion, Ancient, Cripple and Corpse said to have been encountered by Buddha prior to his enlightenment; the Wheel of Fortune quite obviously the Wheel of Rebirth and Karma; the Devil Yama, the bull-headed god of death; the World Mount Meru surrounded by the four Dhyani Buddhas; and so on. Undoubtedly the tarot deals with the same ideas but filtered through an almost entirely Western doctrinal mesh.

The last of these three theories—the Egyptian—is the oldest. It was evolved by eighteenth-century occultists who had rediscovered the tarot, recognizing that there was something about these quaint old cards that rendered them considerably more important than mere fortune-telling devices. Because in a sense this third theory forms a part of tarot history, we shall consider it in its proper sequence presently. Before we do, let us examine the religious climate that prevailed in the fourteenth century when the tarot first made its appearance in Europe.

Christianity officially reigned supreme in Europe, though beneath the surface paganism still lurked in many fairly obvious forms, resulting in terrible ecclesiastical persecution of hcretics.

The church pursued its own ends with a zeal compounded by fanatical piety and simple political opportunism. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries unorthodox Christian sects like the Waldenses, Cathari, Albigenses and Bogomils were ruthlessly harried by the papacy, with fire and sword. The monastic order of the Knights Templar also fell under the papal eye of displeasure during the fourteenth century for similar reasons and was systematically burned out of Christendom's body like a malignant wart. The Holy Inquisition arranged an equal settlement of the confiscated property of the disinherited Templars between themselves and the crown of France.

Many of the doctrines preached by these heretical Christian sects were drawn from late pagan religions that flourished well into the fourth century. Today these are grouped together under the collective title of "Gnosticism." Most of the pagan rituals appropriated by the Roman and unorthodox churches for their rites also came from these cults. The word "gnostic" itself is derived from the Greek and implies much the same as the Anglo-Saxon words "wizard" or "witch"—that is, "someone who knows," a wise man or initiate. Stemming as it did from the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire, Gnosticism mixed together Indian, Chaldean, Persian and Egyptian magical doctrines and seasoned them with Greek philosophy and Hebrew cabalistic beliefs. Alexandria became the center for Gnostic learning around the second century A.D., and Coptic Christianity absorbed many of the old Gnostic symbols dating from that period. In this manner the Egyptian ankh, or crux Ansata— that occult symbol so popular today among the "love generation"—passed from the ancient Egyptian papyri into North African Christianity as an alternative to the cross of crucifixion. (See Figure 17.) Similarly, it is from this welter of Gnostic cults that the occult arts of the West appear to derive: alchemy, astrology and, indeed, the images of the tarot cards themselves.

How did this Gnostic lore survive in the face of the considerable effort made on the part of Christianity to stamp it out? The answer is an interesting one, and it leads us directly to our tarot trail. Gnosticism was preserved within the fold of the church itself, admittedly but understandably in an altered form. While without the cloister walls—the only places of learning to

Figure 17

survive during the Dark Ages—all those guilty of well worship, tree worship and any other pagan practices were being pressured into Christian conformity, within those sanctified walls the older doctrines were preserved and studied, albeit under a mask of science and learning consonant with ecclesiastic respectability. The planetary and stellar gods of old, after their brief period of residence within the port of Gnosticism, found a more permanent haven in the twin sciences of astrology and alchemy. Many of the ancient deities fared worse, however, being transformed into demons in the Christian hierarchy of hell, their mangled names and descriptions being listed in Gnostically derived grimoires, such as the Greater Key of Solomon, the Lesser Key of Solomon, and the Picatrix, forbidden spell-books used to conjure up spirits and force them to do the operator's will. The monastic libraries often possessed copies of these conjuring books. In order to counter Satan's wiles, one must know the type of creature one is dealing with.

The occult principle behind a deck of tarot cards may also owe a lot to monasticism, if not for originating it, then at least for preserving it. Memory served a far greater purpose for the medieval monk than it does for us nowadays. All books then consisted of laboriously hand-written manuscripts. Indeed, the art of writing itself was hard to acquire. In view of this, vast tracts were often committed to memory. Memory or "mne monic" systems similar to those so widely advertised today were very much in demand.

The most simple type of mnemonic system consists of a series of pictorial images, usually arranged in some special order, which may be used as a mental filing index or pigeonhole rack. The medieval student monk could, by vividly visualizing each portion of the tract he wished to learn, file the section away in one of his memory boxes until he needed to take the tract out of mental storage and look at it again. All that would be needed then was a return to the correct category image in order to release the associated portions. A similar type of memory system, using plants and trees and the digits of the hand as category images seems to have been used by druids and bards long before their Christian successors, the Dominican and Franciscan monks.*

The pigeonhole images themselves sometimes consisted of places or large buildings well known to the memorizer, and as he was usually a monk, these were often churches or abbeys. Pagan elements did creep in, though, especially since candidates for memory training were advised to make their own pictorial filing systems, and classical works like those of Virgil were not unknown, albeit often in a very garbled form.

In such a way the medieval ars memorativa or mnemotechnic was devised, which in many respects closely paralleled earlier classical systems of memory training used by orators, such as that of Metrodorus of Scepsis. Interestingly enough, investigations carried out by Professor Aleksandr Luria of Moscow University into the mental processes of a world-famous theatrical mnemonist of the 1920's revealed that the subject used similar, naturally evolved memorization techniques. In this instance, however, the mnemonist's imagery was completely self-devised. The items for memorization were "coded" into pictorial symbols, and the symbols were then arranged in their correct order along a visualized "route," such as the walk between a

•See Robert Graves, The White Goddess (London, Faber & Faber, 1961), Chap.

well-known public building and the subject's home. They were placed in juxtaposition to such obvious landmarks as doorways and lampposts. When the correct sequence was to be remembered, all that was necessary was that the route be mentally retraced and the various items read off.*

Such systems fitted themselves well to the memorization of religious articles of belief. (See Figure 18.) "The Stations of the Cross" is one practicc that remains to this day among Roman Catholics. "Credo tapestries," illustrating the Nicenc or shorter Apostles' creeds, were woven on this principle.

The medieval brethren, however, omitted one very special belief from their theory of mnemotechnic which was an integral part of the ancient bardic and classical varieties—in fact, one may almost say it was the main reason for indulging in such practices: The frequent use of a complex mnemotcchnic system was believed to result in the enlivening or "potentiating" of the imagination, which in turn brought mysterious benefits to the user other than merely a splendid memory. Benefits so special, in fact, as to be deserving of the description "supernatural," as the Jesuits, with their "spiritual exercises" of their founder Ignatius of Loyola, also came to suspect several centuries later.

There are quite a number of medieval memory systems still preserved in treatise form to this day. The best known is that of Ramon Lull, the Ars Memoria. Another is that of Peter of Ravenna, entitled Phoe?iix, sive artificiosa Memoria (Phoenix, or the Artificial Memory), printed at Venice in 1491. Here the route memory image advocated is that of a church known to the prospective mnemonist. He is advised to commit it to memory by walking around it several times.

The Ars Notoria was another memory manual, and it was severely condemned by no less an ecclesiastic than Thomas Aquinas. This work is more germane to us than the others, being a memory system which retained all its pagan magical attributes. Its authorship was fathered alternately upon the

*A. R. Luria, The Mind of a Mnemonist, translated from Russian by Lynn Solotaroff (New York, Discus Books, 1969).

Tarot Journal

Greek magician Apollonius of Tyana, or Solomon, the wizard-king of Israel. By meditating upon the magical notae—symbolic memory images and diagrams—and intoning magical formulas, the wizard sent a call ringing into the world of the unseen and stirred up supernatural agencies to his aid. Students of Eastern mysticism will discern here elements of yantra and mantra yoga. The memory images were planetary and zodiacal, and the grouping of associated images about them served a far deeper purpose than merely providing one with an infallible shopping list. It was from such a pagan sequence of images that the tarot deck itself appears to have evolved.

The divergence between the tarot as a deck of playing cards as opposed to a set of memory system notae did not emerge until the early fifteenth century. By 1423, notae used for gaming purposes must have been fairly widespread, for the evangelical monk Bernardino of Siena, in one of his fire-and-brimstone sermons, vehemently preached against them in Bologna as an invention of the devil. Historically speaking, the French deck of Charles VI was followed by that of the Venetian Visconti family in 1415. Others undoubtedly were produced in the interim, many perishing in the flames lit by Bernardino and his followers. The Charles VI and Visconti decks represent what today is regarded as the conventional tarot pack-a set of twenty-two trumps and fifty-six pip cards, making a deck of seventy-eight in all. Though Charles VTs trumps were unnumbered, the Italian fifteenth-century decks often possessed Roman numberals at the top of each card, indicating some sort of sequence. The order has been constantly switched around throughout the ages in various attempts to make the cards* meanings fit one theory or another. A fifteenth-century manuscript with a marginal note dealing with tarot cards gives us the following sequence* (beside them I have listed their usual titles):

I II Bagatella (the Juggler)

II Imperatrice (the Empress)

III Imperator (the Emperor)

IV La papessa (the Female Pope)

V El papa (the Pope)

VI La tempetia (Temperantia?) (Temperance)

VII L'Amore (the Lovers)

VIII Le caro triumphale (the Chariot)

IX La Fortez (Strength)

X La rotta (the Wheel of Fortune)

XI El gobbo (the Hermit)

XII Lo impichato (the Hanged Man)

XIII La morte (Death)

XIV El diavolo (the Devil)

XV La sagitta (the Lightning-struck Tower)

XVI La Stella (the Star)

*Scnnones de Ludo aim Aliis (fifteenth-century illuminated manuscript ia the collection of United States Playing Card Co., Cincinnati, Ohio),

XVII Laluna (the Moon)

XVIII El sole (the Sun)

XIX Lo angelo (Judgment)

XX La justicia (Justice)

XXI El mondo ave dio padre (the World)

XXII Elmato.

The Italians also produced two other important kinds of tarot packs with differing numbers of cards. One was the "tarochinno," or "little tarot deck," from Bologna, containing all twenty-two trumps but lacking several of the minor cards, making only sixty-two cards instead of the original seventy-eight. It appeared first around 1415 and was probably the one Bernardino preached against. The second is common to Florence, of about the same period, and is known as the Minchiate. This contains ninety-eight cards in all, having in addition to those of the regular tarot pack cards representing the twelve signs of the zodiac, the four Aristotelian elements (earth, air, fire and water), and the four remaining virtues apparently left out of the seventy-eight, namely prudence, faith, hope and charity. This is undoubtedly the pack that is used in the Florentine witch-spell mentioned by C. G. Leland and quoted at the beginning of this book: The deck. has. to be laid out on a table (minus the fifty-six Minor Arcana cards) and the "forty gods" contained within the tarot images are then invoked.

These three varieties of the tarot—the tarocchi, tarochinni and Minchiate—represent the three primary types available on the market today. Of course, there are many other national and regional varieties such as those of Switzerland using bells, shields, roses and acorns as suit emblems instead of the customary cups, coins, rods and swords. Most tarot-derived playing cards currently in use also tend to have dropped the all-important trumps, even those maintaining the original suit emblems^ such as the deck used in Spain and South America for thé game of Rocambor.

Characteristic with the spirit of the Renaissance, the quaint medievalized mnemonic images of the fifteenth-century tarot were already being reinvested once more with their old pagan forms. The set supposedly created by the artist Andrea Man-tegna, but more probably by Baccio Baldini, in 1470 or 1485, returns to the old pagan images, heavily classicized. Interestingly, in this particular instance they appear to have reverted to their original use as a memory system as opposed to merely a deck of playing cards. They are made of flimsy paper and are much too large to play with. The artist who made them used only fifty images, five sets of ten. Differing opinions have been put forward as to who originally commissioned them and for what purpose. One theory maintains they were evolved as a quasi-theological memory game on the familiar lines by the cardinals Johannes Bessarion, Nicholas of Cusa and Pope Pius II to relieve the tedium of a seven-month-long ecclesiastical council held at Mantua in 1459.*

The first rank depicts the conditions of man, ranging from beggar to supreme pontiff; the second the nine classical muses led by the Greco-Roman god of art, Apollo; the third, the ten liberal arts and sciences; the fourth, the three cosmic principles of astronomy, chronology and geography followed by the seven virtues; the fifth and last, the seven planets of astrology and the spheres of the zodiac, primum mobile and first cause, or absolute. From beggar to God in ten relatively easy steps comprehensible to the educated Renaissance mind. It is said that the German painter and engraver Albrecht Diirer saw these tarot images when he visited Italy in 1494 and, inspired by them, produced his own Gothically styled set.

By mid-Renaissance pagan gods and heroes had been widely accepted as artistic metaphors. On a considerably lower level, the characters of the Italian commedia dell'arte also exhibited characteristics imputed by medieval scholars to the ancicnt gods. Arlecchino appears to have distinctly mercurial traits, complete with multicolored garment, magic baton and invisibility, even on occasions impersonating Mercury. Colombine, "the

*H. Brocjchaus, "Ein Geduldspiel, die Leitung der Welt oder die Himmelsleiter, die Sogenannten Taroks Mantegnas vom Jahre 1459-60/' in Miscellanea di storia dell 'arte in onore di I. B. Supirio (Florence, 1933).

dove," shows the amatory inclinations of that bird's mistress, Lady Venus. The miserly Venetian, ancient slippered Pantaloon, has much in him of Saturn, while the boastful Scaramouche, Skirmish or Captain Fracasse, has an obviously martial air about him. The gullible and hedonistic Dr. Gratiano appears as either lawyer, doctor or priest, all three guises of the medieval Jupiter. Pulcinello, the Apulian rascal who in later times becomes the malicious puppet character Punch, shows a striking similarity in his antics to Hercules.

The popular iconography of the time was all-pervasive. It filtered into literature and fed back again into the common stock of legend and story. By the time of the late Renaissance, the Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists of England and France had used and reused the old pagan themes and characters time and again, changed, distorted, reinvested with contemporary values, but still containing at their core the same old pagan archetypes.

By the seventeenth century many of the older varieties of tarot packs had disappeared, to be replaced by the simpler decks we know today containing the familiar suit signs—hearts, spades, diamonds and clubs.

It is not until the eighteenth century that we can again pick up the thread of documented tarot history. Though traditions of memory magic had been maintained within those last sanctuaries of Gnosticism, the Masonic and Rosicrucian lodges, the lowly tarot had only managed to preserve its existence as at best a pack of gypsy fortune-telling cards, at worst a game.

And this is where our Egyptian theory was evolved. In 1781, eight years before the French Revolution, the theory that the gypsy tarot was the remains of an ancient Egyptian book of magical wisdom, treasured by the Romany peoples since their exodus from their native land of Egypt, was proposed by Antoine Court de Gebclin, a French occultist and archeologist. He published it in a nine-volume book called Le Monde Primitif analyse et compare avec le monde moderne {The Primitive World analysed and compared to the modern world). Gebelin was a Freemason, much preoccupied with the mysteries of the

The Illustrated Key To The Tarot

The Illustrated Key To The Tarot

The pathology of the poet says that the undevout astronomer is mad the pathology of the very plain man says that the genius is mad and between these extremes, which stand for ten thousand analogous excesses, the sovereign reason takes the part of a moderator and does what it can. I do not think that there is a pathology of the occult dedications, but about their extravagances no one can question, and it is not less difficult than thankless to act as a moderator regarding them.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment