The Last Judgment

Hand-Painted Tradition

In the Visconti-Sforza card a bearded figure looks down with a drawn sword, flanked by two angels blowing trumpets. Below them three figures emerge from a tomb.

The Gary Yale Visconti-Sforza card has just the two angels, one with a bannered trumpet, the other with banner only, but four figures rise from a tomb below.

The von Bartsch card includes the bearded figure with drawn sword above the two trumpeting angels, and he is also crowned. Two figures rise from the grave.

On the Gringonneur card there are just the two winged trumpeting angels and seven figures rising from the tomb.

Early Printed Card Tradition

The Beaux Arts sheet card is dominated by a single trumpeting angel who stands, a vast figure, on the landscape, with three figures rising below him. The Paris card is similar.

Two figures rise under a single angel, in a more formal interior context on the Rosenwald sheet. And there is also but a single angel on the Catelin Geofroy card, seated in the clouds, while three human figures rise below.

The Marseilles version shows three figures rising and an angel above appearing with rays from the clouds, with a trumpet from which depends a banner with a cross emblazoned upon it. (See Figure 22.)

Figure 22

Esoteric Versions

Wirth follows the Marseilles card quite closely, but introduces the falling drops that are associated with the Sun, Moon and Tower cards. Waite also, with sea and high mountain peaks in the background; a feature that is suggested in the Marseilles card.

The Golden Dawn card also features sea and a number of additional symbolic elements. The angel above is in the centre of a circular rainbow pathway in the sky and is attended by serpents. He is also surrounded by a white equilateral triangle. Seven Hebrew letter Yods appear in the air, and a letter Shin at the base of the card.

Commentary

This is obviously a card of Resurrection and is an unequivocal reminder that the Renaissance magi were Christian and quite happy to work within a Christian and Biblical iconography.

It is a great handicap to understanding to ignore this fact. If the angel were to be seen as an inter-galactic spaceman arriving on his starship to rescue the beleagured individuals of a dying planet then something of the mighty and wide ranging implications of this conception might become more apparent to those who cannot come easily to terms with conventional religious tradition.

The World

Hand-Painted Images

The World in the Visconti-Sforza Tarot shows two winged naked boys, each draped with a scarf about the shoulders, in an outdoor landscape, indicating a formal sphere above them in which there is a fair many-turretted castle, upon an island in the middle of the sea, with golden stars above the castle in the sphere.

The Gary Yale Visconti-Sforza card shows a woman in the top half of the card bearing a trumpet in her right hand and a crown in her left. Below a scallop-shaped motif there is a large golden crown beneath which, under an arch, is a scene of various castles and buildings, with sea and a river. Ships embark on the sea, and there is a boat being rowed in the river, between a fisherman on one bank and an approaching knight on horseback on the other.

The Visconti-Sforza card in the London Guildhall follows the former scheme. But a card in the Museo Civica, Catania is a variant of the latter. Here a maiden with a sword and orb, or seal, stands upon a sphere that contains land and seascapes -whilst below are six mountain islands. The Gringonneur card is similar but instead of a sword the maiden carries a sceptre with a cross at the top.

On the d'Este card a winged naked child sits above the sphere, and below is an eagle with spread wings, apparently supporting the sphere. The child holds a sceptre and an orb or seal.

Early Printed Card Tradition

The Beaux Arts sheet has a quite formal design. The sphere is like a circular wreath divided in a way similar to the arms of a Maltese cross, and surrounding a quartered centre in which are emblems of the four elements - clouds, a moon, a fiery altar and a tree. The figure standing above is fully armed with a winged helmet and holds an orb and sceptre. The orb is topped with a cross, the sceptre with a winged orb.

The Rosenwald sheet also shows a circular wreath in which is a land- and sea-scape. An angel stands above it, with wings and halo, holding sword and orb.

The Parisian card shows the world itself as a great orb, with cross rising from it, tilted at an angle. Above, a naked figure is partly draped with a curtain or banner.

The Marseilles card shows a naked figure, draped with scarf, and carrying two batons, inside an oval wreath, with angel, eagle, lion and bull at the corners, the first three with halos. (See Figure 23.)

Esoteric Versions

Wirth's Le Monde has a circular wreath in which the female figure appears, and the two batons are carried in one hand.

Waite closely follows Marseilles symbolism. The Golden Dawn also, in general structure, although the wreath is like a necklace of pearls before twelve spheres in zodiacal colours.

Figure 23

The female figure also has a moon above her head and a star beneath her feet.

Commentary

It is interesting to compare the Visconti-Sforza and the Marseilles card, for a certain counterchange seems to have taken place. The single draped figure on the Visconti-Sforza Sun appears on the Marseilles World; and the two naked children of the Visconti-Sforza World appear on the Marseilles Sun.

Esoterically there is a close symbolic link between Sun and Earth, which is highlighted in the Qabalistic Tree of Life, where the Lesser Countenance of the Sun sphere, Tiphereth, has his Bride in the Earth sphere, Malkuth.

A strong impression that comes from the Visconti-Sforza design is that the world here shown is an ideal world. It is the New Jerusalem yet to come. This card therefore seems the summation of achievement, as befits, in the game, the highest scoring Trump.

Indeed if the previous card of the Last Judgement represents an awakening of the dead, then this is the new world to which they are awakened. This is amply represented in the wreathed figure on the Marseilles card, surrounded by the four cosmic principles. It is a card of achievement.

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