Steve,SteveM wrote: ↑23 Oct 2017, 13:14But a problem I have with an eschatological reading, especially one so focused on Babylon, is that it feels naggingly anachronistic to me for the 15th century - it feels to me more of a 16th century motif, when anti-catholic polemics so heavily conflated Babylon with Rome in its end of days narratives -- as much as such a reading 'feels' right, the more the dating seems 'wrong' --
The eschatological reading is limited to the preceding card of Nimrod, whose crown and tower of Babylon are broken via God's wrath. But even that is not really eschatological, but rather just the destruction of a ruler. I would argue the concerns of the Sola Busca are when and whom will God's wrath fall upon (mainly in an astrological sense).
The Sola Busca trumps show a dragon twice:
1. wingless with Olivo (with the dragon wings apparently affixed to person of the next card, Ipeo); and
2. the second time seemingly signifying the cosmos, "rampant" within a starry armillary-like sphere, just above the head of the sleeping/dreaming(?) Nebuchadnezzar.
The only clear textual connection we have with any of these figures to a dragon is Nabuchodenasor (Nebuchadnezzar):
In the Sola Busca trump, there is no hint of Daniel killing the dragon, merely Nabuchodenasor and his "living god", a "great dragon." But this dragon is not necessarily evil in the earlier appearance in the Sola Busca, tamely sitting before Olivo. But also consider that some read the preceding figure of Metelo in the context of Olivo and Ipeo, as the "SC" banner Metelo holds can be combined with "Ipeo" to spell "Scipeo"; and it has already been pointed out that the wingless dragon would seem to go with the dragon wings on [Sc]ipio. There is thus a suggestion of an operation of combination, and Metelo, pointing his wand at the column mounted Hero of Alexandria-like steam-powered device, seems to be initiating that, perhaps in an Picatrix (alchemical) context (see also the Queen of Cups, Polisena, seated on a dolphin throne beholding a serpent atop a similar urn-like object upon a column; dolphins would point to Delphic Apollo). But if the wingless dragon is with Olivio, who in turn is Livy (? the held scroll being one of his works of history), is that dragon then history, or more properly "Time" (which is what the fully formed dragon in the Nabuchodenasor card's armillary sphere suggests, the movements of the celestial bodies marking Time)? [Sc]ipeo then as a seerer, necromancing with a soul, lost somewhere in time (see also Lucan's necromancing episode via a magical concoction in Book VI of his Pharsalia) , enabled by the alchemical operation? But what exactly would be that operation?Daniel 14:23–30; Daniel Kills the Dragon
23 Now in that place[a] there was a great dragon, which the Babylonians revered. 24 The king said to Daniel, ‘You cannot deny that this is a living god; so worship him.’ 25 Daniel said, ‘I worship the Lord my God, for he is the living God. 26 But give me permission, O king, and I will kill the dragon without sword or club.’ The king said, ‘I give you permission.’
27 Then Daniel took pitch, fat, and hair, and boiled them together and made cakes, which he fed to the dragon. The dragon ate them, and burst open. Then Daniel said, ‘See what you have been worshipping!’
28 When the Babylonians heard about it, they were very indignant and conspired against the king, saying, ‘The king has become a Jew; he has destroyed Bel, and killed the dragon, and slaughtered the priests.’ 29 Going to the king, they said, ‘Hand Daniel over to us, or else we will kill you and your household.’ 30 The king saw that they were pressing him hard, and under compulsion he handed Daniel over to them.
The passage in Daniel 14:23–30, written in Hellenistic times, points to a very Picatrix-like magical concoction that kills the dragon: "pitch, fat, and hair, and boiled them together." Since the dragon is not killed here, but rather assumed by the magical operator (the wings on [Sc]ipeo), the concoction rather somehow enables the "soul's vehicle" of the operator to explore Time.
That alchemical-like elixirs were making the rounds at the time of the Sola Busca is undeniable. In fact in a 1481 letter from Ficino, requesting such a substance, to a Venetian humanist, Bernardo Bembo, we read:
I've stated before that I view the Sola Busca as heavily influenced by Ficino, as received in Venice via Bembo. Below, Ficino can be connected to the liberation of the mind from the body with Nebuchadnezzar as the exemplar, in the context of Daniel (albeit in a Daniel passage that precedes the mention of the dragon):"I am most grateful for the small pot of theriac...in this small, health-giving pot I have received an immense gift, coming from Phoebus himself..." (The Letters of M. Ficino, Vol. 6, Letter 2, 1999: 7). The editors explain: "Theriac was a treacly substance consisting of various powders mixed into honey. It was said by Galen and Avicenna to have first been prepared by the Roman physician Andromachus in the first century AD, under divine inspiration....In Venice, Bembo's home city, it had to be prepared in the presence of the Priori e Consiglieri to ensure its proper manufacture....Ficino prescribed it frequently and thought highly of its virtues. See De Vita, III, 12 and III, 21". (ibid, 68, fn. 2.2)
That the dragon can be a "celestial Serpent", as presented in the armillary sphere of the Nabuchodenasor trump, as well as the sign of the transformation of men and daemons in the dragon-winged [Sc]ipeo trump, is made explicit here by Ficino:The imagination of a person who has kept his soul far from the intellect and close to the life of
animals, will after death amplify the images with which that soul has been
most familiar. In this way, he will be besieged and obsessed by what his
imagination sees or imagines that it sees, until he ends up believing that
he really posses an animal body. That is what happened to Nebuchadnez-
zar, the king of the Babylonian empire, who, according to the Bible, was
reduced to an animal madness and to eating ‘grass as oxen’:
When the prophet Daniel says that the king of Babylon, on account of his
terrible crimes, was transported by divine agency among the oxen until, puri-
fĳied, he felt respect, the Hebrews interpret this to mean that the imagination
of that king was so distraught by divine agency that he believed himself to
be an ox and sufffered grievously, as usually happens when we are affflicted
by a magician or by melancholy [is apt to bring about].
(Ficino, Commentary on Plotinus, in Opera omnia, II, 1711).
To return to the highest of the court cards, Alexander the Great flying griffin throne (a "soul vehicle" in my opinion) and holding an orb in the same shape as Nabuchodenasor's armillary sphere, ,what is he to fly through if not precisely history/Time, as exemplified by the Classical and Biblical figures that make up the Sola Busca trumps?"I have said elsewhere that down from every single star (so to speak Platonically) there hangs its own series of things down to the lowest...Under the celestial Serpent or the entire constellation of the Serpent-bearer, they place Saturn and sometimes Jupiter, afterwards daemons who often take on serpent's form, in addition men of this kind, serpents (the animals), the snake-weed, the stone draconite which originates in the head of a dragon, and the stone commonly called serpentine...By a similar system they think a chain of beings descends by levels from any star of the firmament through any planet under its dominion. If, therefore, as I said, you combine at the right time all the Solar things through any level of that order, i.e., men of Solar nature or something belonging to such a man, likewise animals, plants, metals, gems and whatever pertains to these, you will drink in unconditionally the power of the Sun and to some extent the natural powers of the Solar daemons." (Ficino, Three Books on Life, trans. Kaske & Clarke, Bk. III, Chap. 14, 1998: 311).