Thanks for presenting more of the argument, Huck. I still don't see that the two paintings have to be saying the same thing. One can be extolling Margaretha's diplomacy, and the other her decision not to remarry.
Now I want to conclude my examination of Dummett on early cartomancy. He discusses lot-books and Folengo. While I have broken up this post into two parts, unfortunately my argument depends on both parts. The result is a rather long post.
Dummett acknowledges that there were books on how to tell fortunes using playing cards. But he insists that these are not examples of cartomancy. One was Francesco Marcolino da Forli, Garden of Thoughts
. published in Venice in 1540. It uses a Trappola pack, that is, an ordinary deck with the 2s through 6s removed. Dummett observes (p. 114f):
Ciò che rende il processo così diverso da qualsiasi tecnica usata dagli indovini moderni è il fatto che il libro non è un semplice manuale di istruzioni, ma fa esso stesso parte della procedura. All’inizio del libro c’è una lista di domande, alcune per uomini, altre per donne, altre ancora per entrambi, fra le quali la persona che lo usa deve sceglierne una, per esempio se la donna che ama lo ricambia. A fianco di ciascuna domanda c’è il numero di una pagina del libro a cui il richiedente deve andare. Su questa pagina sono rappresentate tutte le quarantacinque coppie di carte che si possono formare con un mazzo di trentasei carte se si trascurano i semi e l’ordine delle due carte. Il richiedente estrae allora due carte dal mazzo e guarda la coppia corrispondente sulla pagina; qui trova le istruzioni per andare a un’altra pagina e a una delle cinque sezioni (quattro quadrati e una croce) su quella pagina. In quella sezione sono riprodotte tutte le nove carte singole che possono essere estratte (se si ignorano i semi); a questo punto, egli estrae ancora una carta e guarda nel punto appropriato di quella sezione. Le istruzioni gli assegnano una carta (non necessariamente quella che ha estratto) e lo invitano ad andare a un’altra pagina ancora, una pagina doppia. Qui sono di nuovo raffigurate numerose coppie di carte diverse (ancora una volta igno- [end of 114] rando i semi e l’ordine); il richiedente estrae allora un’altra carta, la combina con quella assegnatagli e va sulla pagina doppia al punto che mostra questa coppia di carte. Lì, finalmente, legge una terzina che gli fornisce la risposta alla sua domanda: per esempio che la dama al momento lo ama ma è volubile ed egli potrebbe perderne l’affetto se non sta attento.
(What makes the process so different from any modern technique used by fortune-tellers is the fact that the book is not a simple instruction manual, but is itself part of the procedure. At the beginning of the book there is a list of questions, some for men, some for women, and still others for both, in which the person who uses it must choose, for example, if the woman who loves him reciprocates. Next to each question is the number of a page of the book to which the questioner has to go. Represented here are all forty pairs of cards that can be formed with a deck of thirty cards, neglecting the suits and the order of the two cards. The questioner then draws two cards from the deck and looks for the matching pair on the page; here are instructions to go to another page and one of its five sections (four squares and a cross). In that Section are reproduced all the nine single cards that can be drawn (ignoring the suits); at this point, he or she draws one card more and looks at the appropriate point in that section. The instructions assign him or her one card (not necessarily the one drawn) with an invitation to go to yet another page, a double page. Here are again depicted several pairs of different cards (once again ignor-[end of 115]ing the suits and order); the questioner then draws another card, combines it with the one assigned and goes on to a point on a double page showing this pair of cards. There, finally, he reads a triplet that provides the answer to his question: for example, that the lady at the moment loves him but she is fickle and he may lose her affection if he's not careful.
Dummett objects (p. 115):
Questo gradevole passatempo non ha nulla a che vedere con l’occulto ed è impossibile immaginare che qualcuno possa prenderlo seriamente come oracolo. A nessuna delle carte viene attribuito un significato simbolico: le carte sono semplicemente usate come espediente per la distribuzione delle probabilità;,,,
(This pleasant pastime has nothing to do with the occult and it is impossible to imagine that anyone could take it seriously as an oracle. None of the cards are assigned a symbolic meaning: the cards are simply used as a device for the distribution of probabilities;...)
I do not understand this reasoniing. He says "it is impossible to imagine that anyone could take it seriously as an oracle."
First, how does he know what would be taken seriously or not? People in those days did not have a scientific world-view. I can't imagine how the gobbledegook that was called astrology was taken so seriously that rulers planned their battles by astrologiers' predictions. But they did. The Druids cast runes to find the most favorable days for battles, and Agrippa reports it seriously. Looking at Wikipedia's article on divination, I see that a fixed ritual is an important part; this book has just such a ritual, and the cards, like runes of old, hold the sacred energy that goes beyond this world. Ross cites examples of people going to "witches" for card-readings to find out if they're spouses are faithful to them. The methods--seeing whether certain Jacks or pairs turn up--are absurd, but people believed them and consulted the "witches" again, at great personal risk. If people didn't take it seriously, why did they buy so many of them, including translations in various languages, as happened to Spirito's book? If people didn't take the lot-books seriously, why were they put on the Index of Forbidden Books in 1559 (for my reference find "1559" below)?
Second, even if it is not taken seriously, why does it not count as cartomancy? In the next chapter Dummett quotes Etteilla as not taking his own method seriously in 1770 (p. 468f):
Il primo accenno all’uso divinatorio dei tarocchi si trova nella prima edizione del libro Etteilla, ou manière de se récréer avec un jeu de cartes del 1770. Questo è il primo di molti volumi e trattati scritti da un indovino di mestiere che si chiamava Etteilla. Il Etteilla descrive l’uso di un mazzo normale francese di trentadue carte più una carta supplementare per una tecnica di « cartonomanzia» (cartomanzia) — termine questo coniato da Ettella. Verso la fine del libro egli dice: «ci sono molti metodi di divertirsi con la divinazione... fra quelli più in voga sono i tarocchi,... i fondi di caffè, la chiara d’uovo» 1. Questa osservazione è omessa nelle edizioni successive (1773, 1782, 1791). A quel tempo Ettiella non prendeva la divinazione molto sul serio, ma solo come un modo di ‘divertirsi’. Il passo attesta tuttavia l’esistenza in Francia di una pratica di divina- [end of 468] zione per mezzo dei tarocchi. Nella stessa epoca fioriva indipendentemente a Bologna una pratica simile in cui venivano impiegate trentacinque carte del Tarocco bolognese 2.
(The first reference to the use of tarot for divination is in the first edition of the book Etteilla, ou maniere de se récréer avec un jeu de cartes, 1770. This is the first of many books and treatises written by a fortune-teller by profession who called himself Etteilla. Etteilla describes the use of a standard deck of thirty French cards plus an additional card, for a technique of 'cartonomanzia' (cartomancy) - a term coined by this Ettiella. Towards the end of the book he says, "there are many ways to entertain oneself with divination... among the most popular are tarot,... coffee grounds, egg whites" 1. This observation is omitted in subsequent editions (1773, 1782, 1791). At that time Etteilla did not take divination very seriously, but only as a form of 'fun'. The passage, however, attests to the existence in France of a practice of divination [end of 453] by means of tarot cards. In the same period a similar practice flourished independently in Bologna in which thirty-five cards of the Bolognese Tarot were employed 2.
1. Etteilla, Amsterdam, 1770, p. 73-4.
2. See M. Pratesi, ‘Tarot bolonais et cartomancie’, L’As de Trefle, n. 37, May1989, pp. 10-11.
Even if he doesn't take it seriously, however, it is still cartomancy. In fact, people these days usually don't take tarot-reading seriously at first. It is when a prediction has turned out to be (or seem to be) uncannily true that someone takes it seriously. It was already cartomancy before the person took it seriously, however.
There are degrees of seriousness. Etteilla probably put "s'amuser" in his title because he didn't want people committing crimes, like suicide, or other serious, irrevocable acts in the event of a particular reading. Although the cards may not lie, there is always a chance of error in interpretation--taking a metaphor literally, for example. On the far side of seriousness, I myself take even Chinese fortune-cookies seriously; they have good things to say, and for all I know, my Guardian Angel is speaking to me through them.
Dummett gives other reasons for not considering the procedure in the book he summarizes cartomancy. All it does, he says, is "distribution of probabilities". If by that he means that it is a random-number generator, that is precisely what Etteilla’s method of card drawing is, too.Etteilla, too, considers pairs of cards; they are not always the sum of their parts. To find out the meaning, one has to look in a book of instructions, or have memorized it. The book is part of Etteilla’s procedure, too, as well as most procedures for card-reading since.
This is not to say that either Etteilla’s method or this book have anything to do with the occult, i.e. hidden symbolism about the macrocosm and the microcosm. I know that he says his method is of that sort, but in fact he gives no examples that result in his keywords; it is just window-dresssing. It is possible that at some point in the past his keywords were inspired by some system, but if so Etteilla does not know it, It is similarly possible that the verses in the book were inspired by some system, astrological or Pythagorean; for that one would have to look at their content in the light of various systems. I would guess that they are simply more or less witty answers put in at random, but I don’t know them. The question seems to me not that of whether the user of the book is an occultist, but rather whether it is cartomancy, using Etteilla as our standard. That there is no apparent symbolic relationship between the triplet and what is depicted on the corresponding pair of cards is true of the Etteilla’s interpretations of pairs of number cards, too.
Dummett allows that single cards, too, were interpreted by means of lot-books. The “Losbücher” were designed originally for dice. One was entitled Eyn loszbuch Ausz Karten der gemacht
, first printed in Mainz between 1505 and 1510. He observes (p. 117):
Il tipo molto primitivo di pratica di oracoli esemplificato da questo libro non è la cartomanzia ma l’uso di un Losbuch: si conoscono molti altri Losbücher dell’epoca e tutti funzionano allo stesso modo, facendo ruotare un disco con indicatore, ma la maggior parte non è basata sul mazzo di carte ma su qualche altra classe di oggetti, per esempio animali 5 Ci troviamo di fronte solo a un metodo semplicistico di divinazione attraverso il ruotare di un disco e la consultazione di una pagina su un libro; il fatto che, in questo particolare esempio, si utilizzino carte da gioco per illustrare gli oracoli non ha alcun significato particolare.
(The very primitive type of practice of oracles exemplified by this book is not cartomancy but the use of a Losbuch: many other Losbücher of the time are known, and they all work the same way, by rotating a disk with indicator, but most are not based on the deck of cards, but on some other class of objects, for example animals 5. We are faced with only a simplistic method of divination through the rotation of a disk and the consultation of a page of a book; the fact that, in this particular example, playing cards are used to illustrate the oracles has no particular meaning.
5. Hellmut Rosenfeld has shown, in fact, that the verses in the Mainz Losbuch are adaptations from one published in Basel in 1485, in which fifty-two oracles were illustrated by different animals; he believes that the book of Mainz may represent a re-edition of one published in Ulm. See H. Rosenfeld, 'Losbücher vom Ende des 15. Jahrhunderts', Börsenblatt fiir den deutschen Buchhandel, Vol 17, 1961, p. 2381-6 or Archiv fiir Geschichte des Buchwesens, Vol IV, 1961, p. 1117-26, and 'Das Mainzer Kartenlosbuch von 1510 und die Spielkartentradition', Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, 1962, pp. 212-8. For a facsimile of the Losbuch animals, cf. Losbuch: ein scherzhaftes Wahrsagebuch gedruckt von Martin Flach um Basel in 1485 by Ernst Voullième, Berlin, 1925. In the exhibition catalog of playing cards at the Albertina in Vienna in 1974, entitled Spielkarten: Kunst und ihre Geschichte in Mitteleuropa, p. 229, Dr. Fritz Koreny believes that the Mainz Losbuch is to be dated between 1495 and 1500.)
But Etteilla's cartomancy in fact does use random number generation: cards are shuffled and laid out in a way that gives every card an equal probability. The result is then a "keyword" for each of five cards. The difference is that the keyword is printed right on the card, and that losbücher do not appear to have asked their readers to spin the ponter five times. That would have required some integration of the verses into a single narrative, which the losbücher don’t encourage.
Any collection of 32, 36, 52, or 78 numbers, or method of generating such numbers, will do just as well, as long as one has the interpretive key. Given a key, dice with the required number of faces would work just as well. In this regard cards merely have the advantage of having more possible numbers to use. In this they are no different from many other types of divination, geomancy for instance. There is no relationship that I can tell between the names and meanings of the geomantic figures and what they look like. To generate them, some books suggest that it is not necessary to poke holes in the ground; flipping a coin four times will do as well. Geomancy is listed in Agrippa’s Three Books on Occult Philosophy
, along with a few other fortune-telling devices that depend on random pattern generation: looking at flames in a fire (pyromancy), patterns in water (hydromancy), a random word or sentence on a random page (bibliomancy).
In many cases in Etteilla’s instructions, there is no discernible relationship between a keyword and what is on the card. In other cases there is, but it is just the “manifest” meaning, like “Marriage” for a card with a man, a woman and a priest in between, or a variation on it, e.g. “love affair” on the same card when reversed. The art comes in making the appropriate narrative out of these keywords.
In the eyes of many and of ancient tradition, random number generation, when done by a special procedure by special people, was not just random. When the Greeks cast lots under the walls of Troy (in the Iliad
to see who would be sent on a dangerous mission, it was a means of determining the will of the gods, and of bringing the gods into their midst. Even today, people open the Bible randomly, put their finger on a random verse, and declare that they were guided by the Holy Spirit.
The ritual aspect of the procedure is also important, as long drawn out as people could stand. After all, when a priest did a certain lengthy procedure with wine and bread, he was bringing down a certain power into these substances that involved a conditional prediction about the life to come. The macrocosm worked in mysterious ways, and ritual is important.
Presumably by “occult” Dummett has in mind someone who knows books of the sort that Decker cites—Pythagoran, Hermetic, astrological, Kabbalist--and has applied them to a procedure with cards. Someone using lot books is not using such books, unless the inventor of the verses did so. But this part is missing from Etteilla, too, for all his talk of “occult sciences”—and from Waite's Pictorial Key and all the Little White Books of today. By Dummett’s criteria, there is no evidence of cartomancy before Levi, and only a few people after him. That seems to me an absurd view..
Dummett argues that the use of random-number methods proves that there was no method of divination using cards (p. 115):
L’esistenza stessa del libro è di per sé prova che non esisteva a quel tempo una consuetudine di divinazione con le carte; se ci fosse stata, infatti, l’autore di un tale lavoro avrebbe fatto qualche tentativo di adeguarvisi, anzi ché far ricorso a un metodo così puerile.
(The very existence of the book itself is evidence that there did not exist at that time a practice of divination with cards; if there were, in fact, the author of such a work would have made some attempt to adapt it, rather than making recourse to so childish a method.)
But divination was always by random-appearing events, as I have said: the flicker of flames in a fire, the holes made by a stick in the earth, the number of birds flying overhead, one’s time and date of birth, and so on. The position of the stars is not random, in the sense that it can be predicted with relative certainty, but any relationship to events on earth surely is, to someone who doesn’t believe in astrology.
There may have been some method of adapting Pythagorean, astrological, and hermetic texts to a deck of 78 cards, some of which, unlike dice, had pictures on them. But if so, it probabily involved some intuition as well, as these methods could produce a variety of results. Over time the most relevant and helpful associations could be found. It takes time to develop something that people will believe. Also, propounding such methods very likely would get a humanist in trouble, because it is too much like magic. The practice of magic, in the sense of bringing down occult forces to accomplish certain deeds outside the normal system of causation, was heretical, except for ordained priests in ordained ways. Otherwise only witches practiced such magic, and witchcraft was punishable by burning.
Dummett continues (p. 117):
Alla fine del XVII secolo fu prodotto in Inghilterra un mazzo particolare al solo scopo di predire la sorte: la più antica data di pubblicazione pervenutaci è il 1690, che è, con ogni probabilità, quella dell’originale, ad opera di Dorman Newman. Le incisioni per questo mazzo furono in seguito rilevate dal fabbricante John Lenthall che ne fece di nuove per alcune carte; Lenthall divenne apprendista di William Warter nel 1699, suo socio nel 1708 e ottenne [end of 117] l’esclusiva proprietà della ditta nel 1709. Lenthall è famoso per la produzione di svariati mazzi istruttivi, parecchi dei quali erano in realtà ristampe di mazzi precedenti, inclusi alcuni ad opera di Warter, e il suo nome ha finito per essere collegato a tutti questi mazzi, fra cui quello per divinazione che, negli studi sulle carte da gioco, è identificato come ‘mazzo Lenthall’ 6. Ciascuna delle carte di questo mazzo presentava, su un pannello superiore, uno dei segni di seme del sistema francese e un numero romano dal I al XIII, insieme a un nome (Pharoh, Wat Tyler, Dido, Merlin, Dr Faustus, ecc.). Il corpo di ciascuna carta presentava un disegno collegato unicamente al suo uso per predire la sorte; come giustamente osserva Detlef Hoffmann, ci troviamo essenzialmente di fronte a una trasposizione al mazzo delle carte del metodo proposto dal libro di Marcolino, dal momento che le domande e le risposte e, in forma enigmatica, le istruzioni intermedie sono stampate sulle carte stesse 7. Questo rappresenta un progresso verso la pratica di [end of 118] predire il futuro con normali carte da gioco, poiché svincola l'utente dalla necessità di consultare un libro: ma non è ancora un passo molto significativo poiché rimane essenziale l’uso di un mazzo di carte del tutto particolare. Non ho trovato alcuna traccia di divinazione con carte normali, non specificamente disegnate per questo scopo, prima del XVIII secolo 8.
(At the end of the seventeenth century a special pack was produced in England for the sole purpose of fortune-telling: the oldest publication date that has come down is 1690, which is, in all probability, that of the original, the work of Dorman Newman. The engravings for this deck were later taken over by the manufacturer John Lenthall who made it new for some cards; Lenthall was apprenticed to William Warter in 1699, his partner in 1708, and obtained [end of 117] the exclusive proprietorship of the company in 1709. Lenthall is famous for the production of a variety of instructional decks; several of them were actually reprints of earlier decks, including some by Warter, and his name has come to be attached to all these decks, including one for divination that, in studies on playing cards, is identified as a ' Lenthall pack' 6. Each of the cards in this deck appeared on a top panel, one of the suit signs of the French system and a Roman numeral from I to XIII, together with a name (Pharaoh, Wat Tyler, Dido, Merlin, Dr. Faustus, etc.). The body of each card had a picture that connected only to its use for predicting one’s fate; as rightly pointed out by Detlef Hoffmann, we are essentially faced with a transposition to a deck of cards of the proposed method from the book of Marklinen, since the questions and answers and, in enigmatic form, the intermediate instructions, are printed on the cards themselves 7. This represents a step towards the practice of predicting the future with ordinary playing cards, since it frees the user from the need to consult a book, but it is still a very significant step because it remains essential to the use of a deck of cards of its own. I have found no trace of divination with normal cards, not specifically designed for this purpose, before the eighteenth century 8
Actually, whether the meanings are on the cards or in a book is irrelevant. It is the procedure that matters. Putting the procedure on the cards is simply a matter of convenience. To follow Etteilla’s method also required consulting a book, for "synonyms and related meanings". Later, when variations on the Tarot de Marseille were used instead of Etteilla's cards, the keywords--a list of them--were put in the Little White Books instead of on the cards .
Ora, qualcuno potrebbe dire: può darsi che le cose stiano così, ma i tarocchi non sono carte normali e il mazzo dei tarocchi potrebbe essere stato ideato per la divinazione, anche se ci vollero altri trecento anni prima che a qualcuno venisse in mente di utilizzare, per questo scopo, il normale mazzo. Al contrario: si cominciò ad usare il mazzo dei tarocchi per la cartomanzia simultaneamente alle carte normali; il primo accenno a un tale uso in Francia è del 1770, e a Bologna della stessa data circa, o forse di uno o due decenni innanzi 9. Da quanto si è detto in precedenza, risulta chiaro che il mazzo dei [end of 119] tarocchi non fu inventato in un ambiente in cui era pratica consueta usare carte di qualsiasi tipo per predire la sorte. Pertanto, se fosse stato ideato per un uso così totalmente nuovo, fra i numerosi riferimenti ad esso nel XV e, soprattutto, nel XVI secolo, ce ne sarebbero sicuramente stati molti con allusioni a tale uso. Invece, con un’unica eccezione, quando pur si accenna all’uso dei tarocchi, se ne parla come di strumenti da gioco proprio come nel caso delle carte normali.
(Now, someone might say, it may be that this is so, but the tarot cards are not normal and the tarot deck may have been designed for divination, although it took another three hundred years before someone had the idea to use the normal deck for this purpose. On the contrary, they began to use the deck of tarot cards for divination simultaneously with normal ones; the first mention of such a use is in France in 1770, and Bologna about the same date, or perhaps one or two decades before 9. From what has been said above, it is clear that the tarot pack was not invented in an environment where it was standard practice to use cards of any type to predict one’s fate. Therefore, if it had been designed for use as a totally new among the many references to it in the fifteenth and, above all, in the sixteenth century, there would certainly have been many allusions to such use. Instead, with one exception, even when it mentions the use of tarot cards, it is spoken of as tools to play just as in the case of normal cards.)
It can certainly be conceded that the cards were not designed for divination. But we already know that the cards were invented in a milieu in which almost anything was used to predict the future, including cards. Given that everything else was used to predict the future, and that even the rulers were very superstitious—Filippo Visconti, Ercole d’Este, Ludovico Maria Sforza, Bianca Maria Sforza (but not, to all appearances, her husband)—what really needs to be explained is why, out of all the methods of divination, playing cards, including tarot, wouldn’t have been used, too.
My hypothesis is that card-reading—specifically the art of interpreting cards with pictures on them and forming narratives from groups of cards with and without pictures--unlike other methods of divination, was associated with witchcraft. Cards were new; so were witches, as a mass phenomenon. At first the Inquisitors probably didn’t even ask about cards, because they used manuals with standard questions. Since medieval heresy trials hadn’t asked about cards, they didn’t come up, until spontaneously they did. And when a question is asked, the right answer will be forthcoming one way or another
Losbooks, I theorize, were tolerated at first, because the cards themselves were clearly just numbers to be looked up in a book. No "arte" was involved, of the sort required to interpret pictures symbolically and combine mysteriously derived meanings derived (even they were what someone happened to think of) into a single narrative predicting someone’s future. It was tied to special people, not just anyone who could read a book.In order to interpret picture cards and combinations of cards, imagination or “intuition” was requireed, as though summoned up from an unknown, i.e. occult, source. This method applied to future events is ominous at least, witchcraft at most.
Soon enough, as I have said, in 1559, divination books of all kinds were put on the Index. As I recall, the most common types were even listed: geomancy, pyromancy, chiromancy, hydromancy. These are all types talked about in the Greco-Latin classics and so there would be no harm done in publicizing them. Cartomancy is not there; but there is an “and others of that sort”, an “etcera” at the end. Unfortunately I cannot find my reference to this quote, but here is an 18th century note that gives the thinking, by Apostolo Zeno in his posthumous (d. 1750) Annotazioni
to the Biblioteca della eloquenza italiana
of Giusto Fontanini ((I get this quote from the article “Le Risposte di Leonora Bianca: Un gioco di divinazione del tardo Rinascimento” by Eleonora Carinci, p. 170 (http://books.google.com/books?id=w6Kyui ... ca&f=false
). Carinci’s main theme is a lot-book published by one Leonora Bianca, which Gianmaria Mazzuchelli in Scrittori d'Italia
suggested might be the pseudonym of Aurora Bianca d’Este, a vernacular poet in Venice at that time (but not listed in any d’Este genealogy, according to Carinci, p. 171). Bianca’s book combines the 28 Mansions of the Moon, the 16 geomantic images, and a journey to Dante’s Hell, in order to get rather whimsical answers to the usual questions). Here is the quote from Zeno (p. 170):
Tutte queste baje non meritavano che se ne parlasse, ma l’esenipio di Monsignore mi ha dato eccitamento. Il Padre Menestrier (l.c. pag. 407) condanna a ragione tutte queste sorte di giuochi, asserendo, che in verun modo non possono esser permessi, non solo a riguardo di tali indovinamenti, i quah sono mere fanfaluche, e chimere, ma perche in esse si fa abuso di cose sante, impiegandovi i nomi de’ Profeti, per dar mano a bugiarde risposte in quisiti vani, e profani; e pero a ragione tutti questi hbri di Ventura e di Sorti furono condannati dall’indice Tridentino (in Fontanini 1753, 190).
(All these below do not deserve to be spoken of, but the example of Monsignor gave me excitement. Father Ménestrier (l.c. p. 407) rightly condemns all this sort of games, asserting that in truth they cannot be allowed, not only in respect of such divination, which is mere balderdash, and chimaras, but because in essence they abuse holy things, impugning the names of the Prophets, giving into the hands of liars responses to vain and profane questions; so it is with reason that all these books of Fortune and Fates were condemned by the index of Trent (in Fontanini 1753, 190).
Father Menestier (d. 1705) is best known these days for having declared the “Charles VI” tarot to be the work of the artist Gringonneur in 1392. Carinci observes, about the condemned books (p. 175):
Se prendiamo in considerazione gli altri esempi di libri di Sorte che ho citato all’inizio, possiamo notare che nel libro di Spirito i responsi vengono dati dai Profeti Biblici (motivo principale della messa all’Indice, oltre che per il riferimento alla divinazione)...
(If we look at the other examples of books that I mentioned at the beginning [she is referring to Italian lot-books of the first half of the 16th century], we can see that in the book of Spirito the responses are given by the Biblical Prophets (the main reason to put [it] on the Index, as well as the reference to divination)...
In other words, not only is divination offensive, but the use of images of the prophets to do so. Tarot is of course more of the same, with its images of Pope, Popess, and Angel. I suspect that behind this prohibition is the idea that images have power, especially sacred images (think of all the votive images, for example); lot-books misuse and degrade that power.
The date 1690, for the tradition’s first known reappearance after 1565, is significant; it is right after the “Glorious revolution” of 1688 that established a constitutional monarchy in England, with a Bill of Rights following in 1689 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_of_Rights_1689
_). It was probably safer to publish such a book then than before.
But that is not to say that in Italy cartomancy did not develope further in the interim, in isolated areas where people and confessors could be trusted not to tell the Inquisition, or in closed groups such as the gypsies, who were always quick to pick up some marketable and portable skill (and who arrived in Italy at the right time). We have no way of knowing. All we know is that the various traces we have of non-gaming uses of cards when put together come close to what we see two centuries later.
Suddenly in 1730 England a method of card reading for normal cards is described in a stage play called Jack the Gyant Killer
, as Ross relates (http://www.academia.edu/6477311/Brief_h ... cartomancy
). It involves picking a significator (representing the questioner) and then spreading out the cards in rows looking to see where varous cards are in relation to it and the four kings. Spades is a suit of sorrow, the others not, just as for de Mellet in 1781.
Then in around 1750 (Ross’s estimate) in Bologna there are some words associated with normal cards, and in 1770 Etteilla in Paris presents a fully developed method, mentioning tarot as well. In 1772 or so a woman is arrested in Marseille in conneciton with the tarot. In the 1780s, Etteilla presents his system, which is still the basis of most cartomancy books. In Etteilla’s books there is no clue to how he arrived at the keywords he did. There is only information about what one needs to know in addition to the keywords in order to tell a proper fortune. I myself find it hard to believe that Etteilla made them all up himself, precisely because they have been so enduring. Even Waite bases himself on them in 1909.
What is new in Etteilla is that he does not use just one card, or pairs, or the whole pack, but certain specific patterns, “spreads”, that are pictured in his book (The BNF has unhelpfully not included these layouts in their reproduction of the book, but they are described in the text.) He then develops a narrative for the person’s future based on the spread. He says he is the first to do such combinations of cards.
I have my doubts that he invented the practice of reading cards in combination, because the English stage play also reads a spread. Moreover, there is the example of Folengo’s tarocchi sonnets, which although not cartomancy has much in common with Etteilla’s practice. One of Etteilla's "spreads", probably the most popular, was simply to lay down five cards and construct a narrative in relation to the questioner. Actually, he advised laying down several sets of five cards, in case nothing relevant came out of the first five.
Groups of five also show up in the Spanish Inquisition records cited by Caldwell:*the reading was done from the characteristics of the first five cards shown" one early 19th century record shows; in the 17th century "cards were arranged in five rows" (http://www.academia.edu/6477311/Brief_h ... cartomancy
One difference between Folengo and Ettailla is that Folengo does not use keywords; he uses the usual titles of the cards. However some of Etteilla’s keywords for the tarot part of his sequence are also the names of the cards: Justice, Temperance, Force, Prudence, Fool, Marriage, Fortune. Others are not far off: Enlightenment, for his Sun card, Betrayal for his Hermit (he is anti-clerical), Violence for his Devil. For both Folengo and Etteilla, five such words are used as stimulus-words to say something about the future of the person who randomly drew these cards. It is not a prediction, except in the most general sense: to a certain man involved in politics, don’t count on the Pope to fight the Turks; to a naive man who is susceptible to being taken advantage of by women, he gives a warning, and so on.
Dummett finds the comparison wanting. He begins by summarizing Folengo. In what follows, I mostly use Tarotpedia’s translation of Folengo. But for the Italian “sorte”, which Tarotpedia translates as “chance” I have put in brackets “lot, fate”. The Italian word “sorte” does not exclude the meaning “lot, fate, destiny” while the English word “chance” does. The understanding of this word “sorte” is of key importance, which Dummett realizes. In one other place Tarotpedia’s understanding does not match Dummett’s, which I indicate in brackets. (I agree with Dummett’s.) Here is Dummett’s summary of Folengo:
L’unica eccezione è fornita da un passo singolare nel dialogo II Caos del Triperuno di Merlin Cocai (pseudonimo di Teofilo Folengo (1491-1544)). Questo libro, pubblicato a Venezia nel 1527, è molto strano nell’insieme. Il passo comincia con Limerno che parla:
:... heri Giuberto e Focilla, Falcone e Mirtella mi condussero in una camera secretamente, ove, trovati ch’ebbeno le carte lusorie de trionfi, quelli a sorte fra loro si divisero; e volto a me, ciascuno di loro la sorte propria de li toccati trionfi mi espose, pregandomi che sopra quelli un sonetto gli componessi.
Triperuno: Assai più duro soggetto potrebbevi sotto la sorte che sotto lo beneplacito del poeta accascare.
Limerno: E questa tua ragione qualche bona iscusazione appresso gli uomini intelligenti recarammi, se non così facili, come la natura del verso richiede, saranno. Ora vegnamo dunque primeramente a la ventura ovvero sorte di Giuberto; dopoi la quale, né più né meno, voglioti lo sonetto di quella recitare, ove potrai diligentemente considerare tutti li detti trionfi, a ciascaduno sonetto singularmente sortiti, essere quattro fiate nominati sì come lo aiuto de le maggiori figure si comprende.
Limerno continua recitando il suo sonetto sopra Giuberto, che ha estratto i trionfi Giustizia, Angiolo, Diavolo, Foco (che equi* vale alla Torre) e Amore. Il tema del sonetto è che il fuoco d’amore, anche se pare essere un Angelo, è in realtà il Diavolo «che la Giustizia spinse del ciel fora». La morale è che «amor di donna è ardor d’un spirto nero... ch’è fraude e non Giustizia ».
Nello stesso modo Limerno recita il secondo sonetto, «nel [end of 120] quale la sorte di Focilla contienesi»; la loda come «una temperata forte e bella donna, che di splendor le Stelle passa», ma che «la instabil Rota tien umile e bassa». Tuttavia, quando Limerno viene «a l’oscurissimo soggetto de li disordinati trionfi di Falcone», declama un sonetto che non tocca Falcone in nessun modo, ma invece censura il Papa Clemente VII (1523-34) perché non ha combattuto i Turchi (rappresentati, nelle carte, dalla Luna). Viene infine il turno di Mirtella, il cui sonetto è un memento mori: «Morte, su’l Carro Imperatrice, affretta/ mandar in polve nostra umana prole»10.
(The only exception is provided by a unique passage in the dialogueII Caos del Triperuno
by Merlin Cocai (pseudonym of Theophilus Folengo (1491-1544)). This book, published in Venice in 1527, is very strange as a whole. The passage begins with Limemo, who says:
...yesterday Giuberto and Focilla, Falcone and Mirtella took me secretly to a room where, after they found the triumph playing cards, they divided the cards among them by chance [sorte=lot]. Each one told me which triumphs he had received by chance [sorte], praying me to compose a sonnet about them.
Triperuno: You might receive a much harder subject by chance [sorte, lot], than by the choice of the poet.
Limorno: This reason of yours gives me a good excuse to be presented to intelligent people, if my verses will not be as easy as the nature of poetry requires. Now, let us see firstly the chance [sorte=lot or fate] or fortune of Giuberto; after that, I will recite the corresponding sonnet, where you will be able to consider that the said triumphs, uniquely assigned by chance [or fate] to each sonnet, are named four times, as you can understand with the help of the major figures:
Limorno continues reciting his sonnet on Giuberto, who drew the triumphs Justice, Angiolo, Devil, Foco (which is equivalent to the Tower) and Love. The theme of the sonnet is that the fire of love, even if it seems to be an angel, is actually the Devil, "which Justice pushed out of Heaven" The moral is that "Loving a woman is the heat of a black spirit, ... which is fraud and and not Justice."
In the same way Limorno reads the second sonnet, [end of 120] “which contains the chance [sorte = lot, fate] of Focilla "; he praises her as "a tempered, strong and bautiful woman, whose splendour surpasses that of the stars," but whom "the Unstable Wheel makes humble and low." [my note: here Tarotpedia has “can make the Unstable Wheel humble and low”; with the “but” preceding, that does not seem to be Dummett’s interpretation.] However, when Limorno comes to "the dark [or obscure] subject of the disordered triumphs of Falcone," he recites a sonnet which does not touch Falcone in any way, but instead criticizes Pope Clement VII (1523-34) because he has not fought the Turks (represented, in the cards, by the Moon). Finally, he turns to Mirtella, whose sonnet is a memento mori: “Death, the Empress on its Chariot, is quick to turn to dust human being” 10.
Footnote 10 is the page reference in the works of Folengo. Here is Dummett’s assessment (p. 121):
Benché il Folengo usi la parola «sorte», è chiaro che il passo non descrive un metodo sistematico di leggere il carattere o l’avvenire di un individuo. Nessun significato esoterico è attribuito ad alcuna delle carte: rappresentano semplicemente i soggetti di cui portano i nomi. Infatti, la scelta dei cinque o sei trionfi non determina l’analisi del carattere dell’individuo in questione: tutti sono incorporati nel sonetto relativo, ma potrebbero essere stati incorporati altrettanto facilmente in un altro sonetto di contenuto del tutto diverso. I sonetti non presentano in realtà analisi di caratteri individuali: i loro temi sono completamente generali, e uno dei quattro sonetti è di carattere politico. La fantasia di Folengo è solo un espediente per introdurre quattro sonetti, ciascuno basato su una scelta di trionfi, insieme con un quinto che menziona tutti i trionfi. Questi sonetti formano insieme una variazione del tipo di versi chiamati ‘tarocchi appropriati’, del quale abbiamo parecchi esempi del XVI secolo e dei secoli successivi.
(Although Folengo uses the word "sorte" [lot, fate, destiny], it is clear that the passage does not describe a systematic method of reading the character or future of an individual. No esoteric meaning is attributed to any of the cards: they are simply the subjects of which they bear the names. In fact, the choice of five or six triumphs does not determine the analysis of the character of the individual in question: all are incorporated in the related sonnet, but they could just as easily be incorporated in another sonnet of a different content altogether. The sonnets are not actually analysis of individual characters: their themes are completely general, and one of four sonnets is of a political nature. The fantasy of Folengo is just a gimmick to introduce four sonnets, each based on a choice of triumphs, along with a fifth mentions that trumps all. These sonnets together make a change in the type of verse called 'Tarot appropriati ', which we have several examples of the sixteenth century and the following centuries.
Are these sonnets cartomancy? They are words of advice, based on the individual circumstances of four people, each one incorporating the titles of the relevant cards. I take the man to whom the sonnet about the pope and popess is directed to be in politics. I don't know if that counts a cartomancy or not. The poems sometimes involve predictions: the Pope won't fight the Turks,a particular man is likely to fall victim to female wiles, a particular woman will find happiness if she seeks it. Divination is to be expected from someone whose name is an obvious anagram of Merlin. But divination was against the Christian faith as interpreted then, where sanctions were in fact employed against violators. It doesn't hurt to be ambiguous. we should look at the similarities to Etteilla as well as the differences.
It is true that the words could just as easily be made into a different sonnet. But in this work of fiction, Folengo has constructed sonnets that relate to the particular persons who drew them, giving them advice for the future. One person needs to be warned about being taken advantage of by women, because that is his weakness. Another has to be warned about the hypocrisy of the Pope, because his weakness is there. A woman is cautioned not to let life pass her by. And so on. In this regard it like what an Etteilla-schooled tarot reader does. Behind good card reading is wisdom about life. And if the cards don’t come up with anything plausible, it is allowable to try again. Etteilla's keywords by themselves are fairly ambiguous. So if the prediction turns out false, it might be the mistake of the reader. To guard against that, some readers learn to make their predictions fairly general. The one for whom the reading is done only notices that it seems helpful to him, or the particular way in which the reading turned out to be true.
The titles of the cards are stimulus-words from which Limorno constructs a cautionary sonnet for each person based on their individual circumstances. They are "if...then" statements, e.g. the political one is for a person who is engaged in politics. The sonnets do say something about the character of each person: one is susceptible to being victimized by women; another, from experiencing ill fortune, is susceptible to postponing the joys of life altogether; a third is someone who is likely to trust authority, especially when that authority is the Pope.
The lot-books are the start of what will become more systematic and fixed. Over time, particularly successful card-readers make particular associations in a particular state of mind; these are then imitated by others, and over the course of time a system develops. At every stage there will likely be more than meets the eye. Folengo tells us explicitly that fear of the authorities is a factor restraining his pen. He didn't even use the terms "Pope"."Popess". and “Emperor” in the first edition; he put in blank spaces.
The main difference between Etteilla and Folengo is that Etteilla’s examples--I don't know how typical they are of his practice--involve fairly specific predictions (of which we hear the successful ones, of course); Folengo’s do not. They are merely general observations. To have made specific predictions would have been against the Christian faith as defined at that time. Folengo is not about to do that. Other than that there is no particular system in either, beyond the keywords. It is the use of imagination/intuition grounded in wisdom (which can be folk wisdom as well as any other) and stimulated by the keywords. Etteilla, as I recall, claimed to have predicted the French Revolution. That has nothing to do with a particular individual. It is also something that would not have been hard for an anti-monarchist to do. It is a small step from Folengo to Etteilla, one that did not take 250 years to make.
Etteilla has a fully developed system for 36 cards, at a time when there is much anti-clerical sentiment. It appears out of nowhere; his book explains how to tell fortunes but does not explain the rationae for his system at all. It is the same a few years later with his system for 78 cards. His works give no clue for how he arrived at his system of card-meanings. Either it is obvious (e.g. Justice, Marriage) or it is unknown. I cannot see how it can be other than a system that developed gradually over the years, adding, to be sure, many original contributions, especially for the tarot sequence. That he was first to publish is related to the particular situation in France that eventually allowed Court de Gebelin to be chosen one of the king's censors, that is to say, a liberalization of censorship in his direction.
It most likely did not develop in Paris, because Etteilla cites the examples of people thrown in prison for cartomancy in the 1750s (which Ross confirms). Probably they were from somewhere else, or they would have known better. Then thanks to the Revolution, which for a while absolished censorship, the written record of cartomancy could develop further with a core of followers. Even Etteilla says that his system came from elsewhere, a certain "Alexis Piemontese", descendant of a famous author of a book on folk-medicines that his group in Naples had tested and found to be effective (see Wikipedia). Interestingly, the French historian of culture Paul Lacroix (aka bibliophile Jacob) talks about another Piemontese fortune teller, who came to Paris in 1494 to make his fortune and did so (https://archive.org/stream/lescartesjou ... g_djvu.txt
, p. 324f). Piedmont-Savoy is a likely place for card-reading to have survived, with its isolated valleys full of Waldensian heretics that the Inquisitors never wiped out and with French its language of government.
I hypothesize that there was a cartomancy that developed slowly using a system of random number generation but with elements of simple symbolism based on the images presented: e.g. the Devil meant a supernatural evil power, the Pope meant religious authority, and so on. Ross comes to a similar conclusion, but about Spain, after surveying Inquisition records, ending in the early 19th century (http://www.academia.edu/6477311/Brief_h ... cartomancy
Unfortunately the exact details are not given in the records, But we can see that there was a continuously evolving underground tradition among Spanish cartomancers for at least two centuries.
I do not see why the same shouldn't have been true in Italy, perhaps with more participation in the Italian courts early on. The Inquisition records were destroyed in 1787, and probably a good deal else after the imposition of the Index in 1559.
A similar conclusion was reached 150 years ago by Lacroix. I do not cite him as an authority; I only want to use his distinction between "inferior" cartomancy and the sort that came later, with Etteilla. If you read what follows these quotes, you will see that he is no friend to cartomancy or the occult.
A quelle époque commence à être en vogue la cartomancie? Cette question ne se résout pas facilement.
Pour ce qui est de la cartomancie inférieure pratiquée dans les foires, on peut, on doit même affirmer qu'elle date juste du jour où les cartes ont été introduites en Europe.
(In what epoch does cartomancy begin to be in vogue? This issue can not be resolved easily,
As regards the lower cartomancy practiced in the fairs, we can, we must even affirm, that it dates properly from the day when the cards were introduced into Europe...
Then, after reviewing the lack of evidence of cartomancy in the courts, even that of Catherine de' Medici, he concludes:
Ce n'est qu'au siècle dernier, dans le siècle des philosophes, que la cartomancie étend son empire en dehors des chaumières et des cabarets, et que les cartes s'installent sans façon à côté des merveilleuses fioles mises à la mode par Cagliostro.
La révolution française a été favorable à ces envahissements. Jamais on n'a vu les hommes et les femmes tourmentés d'une plus inquiète avidité d'oracles; jamais il ne s'est produit un aussi grand nombre de devins. La baguette de coudrier, les miroirs magiques, tout l'attirail de la sorcellerie était discrédité, et, comme il fallait s'improviser prophète, le jeu de cartes, facile à acquérir, facile à manier, fit fortune.
(t was not until the last century, the century of the philosophers, that cartomancy extends its empire outside the cottages and cabarets, and cards are installed without affectation beside the marvelous vials made fashionable by Cagliostro.
The French Revolution was favorable to these invasions. Never have we seen men and women tormented by a restless avidity for oracles; neve were produced so many soothsayers. The hazel wand, magic mirrors, all the paraphernalia of witchcraft was discredited, and, as was necessary to be an improvised prophet, the deck of cards, easy to learn, easy to handle, made fortunes.
But how did the "inferior cartomancy" arise? Picture-cards are one thing, not hard to explain. But there are also the number cards. How did they get their interpretations? Perhaps it was just a simplification of the lot books. But my guess is that some humanist developed them as a a court amusement, which the servants also learned, probably better than their masters. Such a system was then probably taken over by people of various walks of life, including illiterates as well as members of the secret societies that came in the wake of 1559. The non-obvious symbolism (of the numbers) would have most likely included Pythagoreanism, which already existed in crude form among the people, as even preachers used it, and in more sophisticated form among humanists. Other components could have been the texts that Decker cites in his recent book, and the lot-book tradition. I of course have no proof, which in the nature of the case cannot be expected. I am simply trying to articulate a reasonable hypothesis, at least as reasonable as Dummett's.
We also have to ask, finally, how much Etteilla differed from those that came before him. In my view very little. It is only in the packaging, a pretended system of hard to understand calculations falsely based on the ancient "science of number" of the Pythagoreans. In my view there is no relation between his calculations and his keywords. That does not mean that there is no relation between his keywords and Pythagoreanism. Either he didn't know it or he found it too simple-minded to use on an educated but gullible public. However this, too, is a hypothesis, based on my initial and imperfect reading of Etteilla's works. It requires further study.