Re: The ordering of the trumps

#41
Hi RLG,

I don't find this analysis convincing, because it really has no explanatory power, and it is not necessary.

Forcing the Fool into the order, and knocking off the highest numbered card, in order to get the result of a simple symmetry of the virtues, is fudging. All this just to space the virtues two apart?

I think it's also important to keep in mind that with numbers on the cards, you don't have to remember the order - as a story or with any thematic method at all. You can just pick up cards and play - no need to memorize, as long as you know how to count. So if you are suggesting that someone played with an arrangement like yours, putting in a Zero and knocking of the 21 to obtain two equal halves of 105, and the further symbolism, then it seems you are getting into speculative realms that lose me, not least because it is not necessary.

I'm not saying it's ridiculously stupid to do this kind of playing with the cards - I've done it in the past and come up with different arrangements of the different orders, all of which show nice symmetries here and there - but none of them are/were compelling - I always had to fudge something or make some bizarre association, which meant I wasn't really getting it.

As for when numbering started, there are old-looking numbers on the Charles VI, Catania, and Este cards (the cards themselves date from the 1450s the early 1470s), which could have been written in soon after they were painted. It seems people needed help pretty early on.

The Steele Sermon (around 1480 - give or take a few decades!) lists the cards with numerals beside them - whether this indicates they were ON the cards is impossible to know - but the Eastern (B) order printed cards are numbered, and they date from at least the late 15th century (i.e. contemporary with the Sermon) so maybe they were.

If the Cary Sheet is Milanese (or Lombardy in general), it might indicate that the Western style/order of cards weren't yet numbered around 1500. The earliest attestation of the Western order, Alciato's list from 1543, doesn't have numbers - but this might not mean anything, since Garzoni, in 1586, lists the Eastern order without numbers, but we know it was numbered in all extant examples (and the Steele Sermon of course). The earliest French pack, Catelin Geoffroy, 1557, has numbers on the top and bottom of the trumps (Tarot de Marseille order).

The Bolognese didn't put numbers on their cards until the late 18th century - and then until today only 5 to 16, Love to Star. Like the Bolognese, the Minchiate didn't number the highest cards (in this case Star to Trumpets). Neither did they ever write names on the their cards (court cards included).

I guess I'd say that it would be poor methodology to draw historical inferences from your diagram. Unless you can come up with a geometric arrangement that explains both the subject matter AND the sequence for every part, then you are probably in a dead end.

Ross
Image

Re: The ordering of the trumps

#42
Hi, Ross,
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:That's great, Enrique! Seger really does make Aristotle's three-act scheme very clear. I almost feel like I could write a story/script of about 120 pages just looking at it.

I also rebel at the notion that death is "bad fortune", or a low point. Bad fortune is premature or unexpected death, but as the inevitable fate of everyone, death is ultimately a power beyond Fortune.

I think seeing death as a "low point" is a modern, secular view - but as the turning point to the third act, it is perfectly appropriate for the heaven-aspiring Christian, for whom Death is the entrance into the eschatological otherworld.
Let me combine some comments here on Death and Fortune, in response to several posts in this thread including the Seger scheme. The combination of Fortune and Death seems appropriate, given that the overall design of the Tarot trump cycle, with its ranks of man at the bottom, a Fall of Princes middle, and eschatological highest cards, is a Triumph of Death, and the fact that the Fall of Princes itself is a Triumph of Fortune. The archetypal story outline for a Triumph of Fortune or medieval tragedy is depicted on the Wheel of Fortune itself.

Naturally death is bad fortune. Sometimes a corpse was even shown at the bottom position on Fortune's Wheel, and it certainly wouldn't be appropriate at the top. In this excellent example, Death is even pulling down the Regnavi guy, while the fool assumes Fama's place and trumpets the rise of the Regnabo guy, with the message that Fame is no more than the Folly of Ambition.

Image


Death and the (varied but ultimately similar) paths leading there are what is cataloged in the Fall of Princes stories -- they all end badly. This is also the basic idea of tragedy -- things end badly. The only ultimate remedy is the Christian afterlife, which is either implicit or explicit in every story. Here is Boccaccio's own introduction to The Examples of Famous Men:
To be sure, people who make a habit of sensuality are usually difficult to influence and are never swayed by the eloquence of history. Therefore I shall relate examples of what God or (speaking their own language) Fortune can teach them about those she raises up.... Therefore, from among the mighty I shall select the most famous, so when our princes see these rulers, old and spent, prostrated by the judgment of God, they will recognize God's power, the shiftiness of Fortune, and their own insecurity. They will learn the bounds of their merrymaking, and by the misfortunes of others, they can take counsel for their own profit.
If we look to Petrarch's Remedies, we see some of the worst outcomes of De Remediis lead to death. He wrote two books, one of Good Fortune and one of Bad Fortune. Toward the end of the latter, the book of Bad Fortune, Fear of Death is followed by 15 other subjects related to death, including Death itself. That is how his book ends -- that is the worst of Bad Fortune.

The narrative of the middle trumps, ending in Death, is a TRAGIC one -- it ends badly, worse luck.

As Boccaccio says, it is the MIS-fortunes of others that makes a speculum principis or Mirror for Magistrates.

Second, with regard to narrative diagrams, they do not depict ups and downs of Tarot's cycle very precisely, and they are a misleading approximation at best. Looking to the assorted writers of universal outlines (whether drawn from Frazer and Campbell or modern screenwriters and literary critics) is a huge mistake from an historical point of view. It draws attention away from the actual plot outline that was universally known and very widely discussed and depicted at the time, the one actually used in Tarot.

The actual plot outline was the rise and fall of the Wheel of Fortune.

This is the kind of thing that is not even rationally debateable. Everyone who knows enough to even join the discussion knows that the Wheel of Fortune was a prominent moral allegory, with extant illustrations from as early as the 10th century and references going back to Boethius. People want to make their own story line, or adopt some modern one-size-fits-all, but we know for a fact that the designer(s) of Tarot modeled his narrative on the Wheel of Fortune; he was nice enough to actually place the Wheel of Fortune in the middle of the cycle! He put it between the earlier rising arc and the subsequent falling arc, right where its significance would be as a "turning point" of the narrative. The successes in love and war are clearly part of a rising arc; the changes brought by Time (or the Renunciation of the Hermit) and Fortune itself are clearly reversals; Betrayal and Death clearly represent downfall, in the most dramatic and characteristic mode of all. (Remember that Dante reserves the lowest place in Hell for traitors, and the arch traitors Brutus, Cassius, and Judas spend eternity in the maw of Satan.)

This is the Wheel of Fortune cycle, quite literally represented on either side of an explicitly depicted Wheel of Fortune. (It is difficult to accuse the designer of being excessively subtle, much less occult, here!) It seems crazy to impose a modern schema on this, whether it fits (or can be twisted to fit) or not. The trump cycle doesn't need simplification to match some other schema of "universal" application -- the trump cycle itself is precisely such a schematic presentation of our universal lot in life. That is what needs to be seen and appreciated, that Tarot is the generic schema -- the "archetypal" story, if you will.

P.S. Another point about death being the worst thing of all: Death is not natural to man.

Death was specifically a punishment, a bad thing, inflicted on mankind because of sin. This is a universally implicit and commonly explicit aspect of things like the Dance of Death, Triumph of Death, and De Casibus stories. Stories from Genesis and Revelation, reflecting the origin and overthrow of Death's sovereignty, were often either alluded to or actually depicted. Just as the Devil and Death are paired in Genesis 3, at the beginning of Death's reign, they are paired again in Revelation 20 when both are thrown into the sulfurous lake of fire. That pairing is central to the entire Christian economy of salvation, and puts Death in some pretty bad company... specifically, the worst. So for various reasons (including my own advancing years) I'm goin' with death being a bad thing.

Best regards,
Michael
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.

Re: The ordering of the trumps

#43

Stories from Genesis and Revelation, reflecting the origin and overthrow of Death's sovereignty, were often either alluded to or actually depicted. Just as the Devil and Death are paired in Genesis 3, at the beginning of Death's reign, they are paired again in Revelation 20 when both are thrown into the sulfurous lake of fire. That pairing is central to the entire Christian economy of salvation, and puts Death in some pretty bad company... specifically, the worst.



There also seems to have been a tradition where Death and the Devil were in fact husband and wife. :-o

From Christian Iconography or The History of Christian Art in the Middle Ages, Part 2 by M. Didron and E. J. Millingston,

"Death - Mors - was amongst the Latin Christians the queen of Hell, the spouse of Satan. Thus in the apostolic history of St. Bartholomew, a demon is made to say: 'But He (Jesus) has made prisoner Death herself, who is our queen, and even our king, the husband of Death, hath He also bound in chains of fire.'"

(pp.160)
When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds.

Re: The ordering of the trumps

#44
Hi Ross,

I respect your position, but allow me to ask a few questions in regard to it. For example you say that a triangular diagram
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:really has no explanatory power, and it is not necessary.
I'd like to know precisely what you mean by that. For example, does the tripartite scheme, (ranks of man, allegories of life, eschatological series) have such 'explanatory power'? And if so, why would such explanation not be reinforced by a diagram which also puts the same tripartite scheme on three levels?

Is it a question of linear versus non-linear schema? Are you suggesting that one can only explicate the trump sequence in a line from beginning to end? You seem to allow that some geometrical diagram might be applicable, if it is explanatory enough, but it's not clear exactly what parameters would make it so --
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:Unless you can come up with a geometric arrangement that explains both the subject matter AND the sequence for every part, then you are probably in a dead end.
As far as geometric arrangements go, there do not seem to be many alternatives. If we work with strictly 21 components, the 'Trumps' proper, then we can only make a rectangle of 3 x 7 or a triangle of 21 parts. The 3 x 7 scheme seems to have fallen out of favor, (presumably for lack of this 'explanatory power'), while the triangle is apparently dismissed for the same reason. Other than those two possibilities, one is left with a linear sequence of 21 parts, which have been broken into an unequal tripartite scheme, as mentioned above.

Adding the Fool as the 22nd 'trump' or excuse - let us say, the 'group of non-suit cards', actually reduces our possibilities even further, to a rectangle of 2 x 11 components, or again a straight line. This does not seem to have been any better at explicating the sequence.

Of all those possibilities, the triangle seems to me the most likely, mainly because of the analogy with the pips on a gambling die, which are very easily transferred to a 6-level triangle of 21 parts.

As I noted in the first post, the obvious move, if this indeed was the template, is to use the 21 Trumps, and leave out the Fool. When one does this, the diagram does not seem to resonate well with the tripartite scheme of the sequence, unless we consider that the Fool is not part of the ranks of man. But even allowing that, the rest of the three sections overlap on the various levels of the triangle, and so it doesn't serve as a good model to display the various members of the three sets.

But bearing in mind that we have 22 'non-suit' cards, but only 21 spaces in the triangle, then we must remove one to use such a template, and the two obvious candidates are either the first or the last card. Removing the first doesn't seem to work out well, so I tried removing the last. The results seem much better. Of this you said;
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: Forcing the Fool into the order, and knocking off the highest numbered card, in order to get the result of a simple symmetry of the virtues, is fudging. All this just to space the virtues two apart?
I can't agree that this is 'fudging', except in the sense that one of the Trumps is removed, in favor of one of the other 'non-suit' cards. But also, I don't see this as being done 'solely' to get the Virtues in a symmetrical position. It is also done to get the tripartite scheme to be arranged on separate levels of the triangle, and I think that would have been the main consideration. It would only be a secondary consideration as to where the Virtues ended up.
But as many commentators have noted, the most amount of shuffling of the order comes in the middle of the trump sequence, especially with the Virtues. Given that by including the Fool in this triangle, we have all 9 positions of the middle sequence to play with, we can then move them around until the Virtues are placed symmetrically, which happens to put them 2 cards apart. Some commentators have noted that this seemed deliberate, in order to have the Virtues in a repeated sequence, and it would appear that this could have been done strictly in a linear fashion, skipping two cards each time, or in a triangular fashion, having Justice symmetrically placed between the other two, (which had the side-effect of also placing them two cards apart). Which was intended and which was a side-effect is a matter of debate.

This leads into another concern that you voiced:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: I think it's also important to keep in mind that with numbers on the cards, you don't have to remember the order - as a story or with any thematic method at all. You can just pick up cards and play - no need to memorize, as long as you know how to count.
On the face of it, this would suggest that whatever original narrative order the cards had, it wasn't simple enough to follow without numbers, so eventually they had to be put on the cards. But alternatively, it might suggest that since the original narrative order was somewhat fluid, at some point someone decided that they needed to be numbered, and wanted to have an underlying schema to follow. If the original, overarching scheme was a tripartite one, it still left wiggle room within those three parts. Thus, a designer could have sat down and placed the cards in a slightly revised order that matched a template that was clearly related to the pips on a die.

But another fact that might be noteworthy is that, AFAIK, the 'original' sequence of the Trumps is still undetermined, (which is hardly surprising if there were no numbers on them to begin with). So we cannot say for certain which sequence is the oldest, meaning we are allowed to speculate as to why certain variants were ordered in the manner that they were. One such ordering is the so-called 'Marseilles' sequence, which is the one that fits so nicely on this triangle. Since this may not have been the 'original' sequence, it remains possible that it came later, and was an important variant precisely because someone designed it on a triangular template. A different designer, probably thinking linearly, put all Virtues in a row together, while yet another variant stuck Justice near the end. We apparently don't know which came first, so it remains possible that the 'Marseilles' order was an adjustment of the sequence that fit someone's desire for an arrangement that fits on a triangle, since the others don't.

And this is where the numbers come in. Since they were added after the Tarot was created, is it not possible that they were only added once a sequence that fit a specific designer's needs became established? This would affect your assertion below, which I think was a misunderstanding of what I was trying to say:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: So if you are suggesting that someone played with an arrangement like yours, putting in a Zero and knocking off the 21 to obtain two equal halves of 105, and the further symbolism, then it seems you are getting into speculative realms that lose me, not least because it is not necessary.
Actually, I don't think the triangle sequence was done because of the numbering. It would seem more likely that it was done to fit the tripartite scheme, and the Virtues, and possibly the eschatological realm as it splits into a 'right- and left-hand on Judgment day' type of arrangement. In fact, this might have been the point where the Fool would be given a number of Zero in the first place. If in fact none of the 'non-suit' cards were numbered originally, then who's to say what the proper position of the Fool was? We have no evidence, since there was no numbering on the first decks. I suppose the only evidence is in the rules of the game, which make the Fool an 'excuse', but I'm not a Tarot historian, so I don't know when all the rules were codified. Was this before or after the numbering?

My point here is that the sequencing of trump images, and the numbering of those cards, could easily have been separate operations. In fact, they must have been originally. But numbering and sequence must have gone hand-in-hand in the early stages, where we have three different primary sequences appearing in different regions. So I think numbering was the result of determining the sequence, not the cause of it. It would seem doubtful that a designer would look at a triangle of the numbers from 1-21, or even 0 to 20, and place cards on it based on those numbers; rather the cards would be placed in a triangle, (IMO, according to the tripartite scheme), and then numbered after the fact.

I appreciate all the data you provided regarding the numbering of the cards and the dates of same; this is very helpful information. And your comments and criticisms are also appreciated. I want to be clear that I am not trying to explain too much with this triangle. As a stand-alone template, it can only give us so much information. But it seems curious to me, at least, that it would fit so well with the tripartite scheme. It would naturally need to be substantiated with other historical evidence before it became anything other than suggestive. But I do think it raises some valid questions about the nature of the Trump sequence, and how it was arrived at. It's a rather simple template that requires very little ingenuity to employ, and it doesn't seem to be completely out of the realm of possibility that a designer would use such a device as a means of determining an order that they found favorable. And while one could speculate that it even determined the nature of the tripartite scheme, (given of course, the fact that the World is kept separate), it would more likely have been employed after such a scheme had already been decided upon. Then the numbering would take place, and the mathematical curiosities would be duly noted, reinforcing the schematic power of the diagram.

Of course, one might dismiss all of this as mere conjecture, which would leave us simply with a triangular arrangement done after the fact that supplements the tripartite scheme, and has its own peculiar details to add to the interpretation of the Trumps.

RLG

Re: The ordering of the trumps

#45
Hi, RLG,
RLG wrote:Hi Ross,

I respect your position, but allow me to ask a few questions in regard to it. For example you say that a triangular diagram
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:really has no explanatory power, and it is not necessary.
I'd like to know precisely what you mean by that. For example, does the tripartite scheme, (ranks of man, allegories of life, eschatological series) have such 'explanatory power'? And if so, why would such explanation not be reinforced by a diagram which also puts the same tripartite scheme on three levels?
Pardon the intrusion -- you didn't ask me, but this is my interpretation we're discussing; that "ranks of man, allegories of life, eschatological" analysis, often using those precise words, not only originated with me back in 2000 but, AFAIK I was the only person who found it meaningful and important until RAH picked it up last year. So I do feel free to intrude.

Let me begin by congratulating you on two things. First, simply for being interested in the 6/9/7 analysis. Second, congratulations for the cool mapping onto the triangle. My 6/9/7 analysis apparently didn't catch a single person's interest until after RAH started turning it into diagrams. I presented detailed analyses of every known deck ordering, I quoted Dummett's salient passages from at least three of his works, I presented and analyzed cognate works from art and literature and drama and church furnishings and so on, and I even used diagramatic arrangements of the cards, but it wasn't until RAH started posting his pictures that the analysis seemed appealing to others.

So, although I prefer a more evidence-and-argument based, i.e., rational approach, RAH's massive success in getting people to talk about this -- especially coming after my eight years of abject failure -- makes me look on such diagrams with some favor. They may not convey the kind of detailed and specific content or historical background that a genuine understanding of the trump cycle requires, but if they lead more people to talk about it then they give me opportunity to repost a lot of ideas from 6-8 years ago.

You also ask a good question, although you seem to have have personalized it. The general question is about explanatory power, and what that means. The answer is key to the changes that have taken place in Tarot explanations over the last 230 years or so. Different people have done different things with Tarot, and do so today. For most of them, "explanatory power" is irrelevant or worse.

Explanatory power means just that -- the hypothesis explains something. You offered your diagram as a "simple", mnemonic device, but you failed to explain the meaning of the trumps in the first place or why this would make them more memorable. They are not simply three groups of random subjects from each category, needing to derive meaning from a 2-dimensional arrangement. Without that underlying meaning, the diagram is certainly not a simple way to understand the cards, and with that underlying meaning the diagram appears to add nothing.

Explanatory power in terms of Tarot means that you explain the choice of subjects and their order. Your diagram doesn't do that, it just arranges them into a triangle. But it is not a coherent diagram. The first row is perfect, grouping like subjects. The fourth row is also perfect, encapsulating a distinct sub-group... but you don't appear to understand the sub-groups. The highest three also encapsulate a distinct sub-group, and having the World by itself is precisely correct... although, again, you don't seem clear about the reasons. However, the second and third rows make no sense of this ordering. That's the first problem -- a schematic diagram needs to make sense of the design to be memorable, and this one fails. The second problem is that it adds nothing to an explanation of the design itself.

Conversely, if you could figure out the subjects and their sequence, they would be memorable precisely because you understood their meaning! At that point, your mnemonic device would be superfluous. So parsimony would argue against imposing any such diagram. Ross was, as so often the case, precisely correct: no explanatory power and unnecessary.

Historical facts often call for explanation, a hypothesis with explanatory power. You ask about the three-segments analysis, so I'll include some discussion of it as an illustration. In 1980, Michael Dummett published a number of observations about the ordering of the trumps. He pointed out that there were many different orderings, that most locales in Italy used a unique ordering, and he observed that this seemed peculiar. But within the differences there was also some consistency.
When we look closely at the various orders, we find that there was far from being total chaos. A first impression is of a good deal of regularity which, however, is hard to specify. Now the cards which wander most unrestrainedly within the sequence, from one ordering to another, are the three Virtues. If we remove these three cards, and consider the sequence formed by the remaining eighteen trump cards, it becomes very easy to state those features of their arrangement which remain constant in all the orderings. Ignoring the Virtues, we can say that the sequence of the remaining trumps falls into three distinct segments, an initial one, a middle one, and a final one, all variation occurring only within these different segments.
The first group consists of the Bagatto (the “trifle”, aka Mountebank, Juggler, or Magician) and the four “papal and imperial cards”. The Fool is not included in most early lists of the trumps, it is generally not numbered, and it has a unique role in the game. However, as part of the allegorical design of the series, its place as the lowest of the low is obvious, and essential to the design. The Fool considered as an allegorical figure belongs in this group, and these six cards form a social hierarchy, a “ranks of man” design, showing two representatives from each of the “three estates” of medieval society. In every ordering of the Tarot sequence, the Mountebank is the lowest of the trumps and the Pope is the highest. This clearly suggests a rather simple, very intelligible design is present.

This explains several things. First, it explains Dummett's observations that the cards below the Pope were never promoted above him. In terms of the meaning of the cards, as the highest card of that type, the Pope forms a natural division between the subjects. He is the highest-ranking figure in hundreds of works of art and literature where a ranks of man is used to designate Everyman, the universal protagonist of a moral allegory. In terms of explaining the other subjects of this section, we now have iconographic constraints to guide our interpretation, making this a hugely important conclusion. This conclusion, and the hundreds of cognate images we can thereby adduce, shape our understanding of the Empress and Popess, Mountebank and Fool. Thus, the same hypothesis is consistent with, and explanatory of, both historical and iconographic facts.

Conversely, a numerical grouping of six subjects at the bottom of a triangle explains nothing in itself, adds nothing to the fact that there are six cards in this group, and leads nowhere in terms of further understanding the subjects and their ordering. Geometric groupings are next of kin to numerology, and tend to be just as empty. (Although an exception to the numerology bit is discussed below.)

Dummett noted that “the next group of cards could be described as representing conditions of human life: love; the cardinal virtues of Temperance, Fortitude..., and Justice; the triumphal car; the wheel of fortune; the card now known as the hermit; the hanged man; and death.” The Moral Virtues, Love, Death, and the Wheel of Fortune are among the most common allegories of the era. These images are allegory properly so-called, rather than the representatives of social rank in the first section. They reflect a “conditions of man” or our universal lot in life. Being the narrative portion of the overall cycle, it varied wildly from one work to another. The middle trumps, however, have direct parallels in many works illustrating the action of Fortune's Wheel in man's life. That is where we need to find our parallels in cognate works, and that is the context in which we need to interpret the more obscure or ambiguous subjects. This is how we explain the choice of subjects and their arrangement into a coherent composition.

“The final sequence represents spiritual and celestial powers; the devil, the tower, the star, the moon, the sun, the world, and the angel. The angel is the angel of the Last Judgment.” These images are related to Christian eschatology, and although they are not the most conventional representations, they derive from chapters 20 and 21 of Revelation, and tell the central story of Christ’s triumphs over the Devil (the lowest card of the section) and Death (via an image of resurrection.) Again, this explains what these subjects are by providing the appropriate context for their interpretation.

Getting back to the triangular diagram, there are some orderings in which that analysis, usually described as Neopythagorean, makes more sense. These discussions are recurrent, coming up again and again over the years. Something I think I suggested to Alain, during one of the several TarotL or Aeclectic discussions of triangular numbers and the like, is that a fit can be made to work for the Southern orderings. What is needed is a meaningful division of the middle trumps into groups of five and four. This occurs in the Bolognese Tarot, the Charles VI deck, Rosenwald, and probably other orderings. The key feature of these orderings, in this regard, is that the two successes of Love and the Chariot, along with the three Moral Virtues, are grouped below the two reversals of Time and Fortune and the two downfalls of Traitor and Death. That is, a grouping of five good things followed by four trials. That is my only offering in the endless generation of Neopythagorean triangular diagrams.

It could be further analyzed in various ways to make the analysis seem more inherently meaningful or intended, but since I think that's drivel I won't be the one to pursue it. In other words, I'm not suggesting that the triangular arrangement adds anything to the understanding of those designs, or that it has any historical value whatsoever. And unfortunately the Southern orderings screw up the highest cards, reversing the Angel and World. However, that problem can be argued, whereas the problem with the middle trumps in Tarot de Marseille seems irreconcilable.
RLG wrote:Is it a question of linear versus non-linear schema? Are you suggesting that one can only explicate the trump sequence in a line from beginning to end?
You can do anything you want, of course. However, the historical facts that NEED to be explained are the subject matter of the cards and their arrangement, which is sequential. The trumps are necessarily a hierarchical series, because that is required to play the game. That gets back to the question of explanatory power. There are facts that need an explanation. The 1-dimensional arrangement inherent to the game (and the trump cycle itself) calls for an explanation, while your 2-dimensional arrangment is not an historical fact needing any explanation. You have invented the diagram, and you then proceed to explain the diagram.

BTW, note that in my comments above the diagram does not explain the Southern orderings. It describes it, but it does not explain it. Just the reverse, the meaning of the Southern orderings is what makes the diagram coherently descriptive. I think that this is what you were getting at in your reply to Ross, about the meaning or explanation going the other way. If so, that is another way of saying what Ross said, that the diagram lacks explanatory value.

Like the suit cards, which are divided into pips and face cards, the trumps are divided into different groups within their hierarchy, but the 1-D hierarchy remains primary. If you want, you can divide the trumps into groups and make 2-D arrangements of them. Also, you can make geometric charts with the suit cards. Many occultists have done that with both the trumps and the suit cards, and many more will do so in the future. (I recommend Alain Bougearel's 78-card analysis as particularly attractive, conceptually neat, generally charming, and quite devoid of explanatory value.) But whether or not such analyses have any explanatory value, which remains to be demonstrated, (and would probably require finding contemporaneous documentation of the fact), it will always remain necessary to address the overall hierarchy. That is the design of the game, and if the allegories have any meaning that might make them suitable for that game, then their primary composition into a larger work is that hierarchy.

It is meaningful to divide the hierarchy into three groups, above the Pope and below the Devil, and these three sections can be treated as three "registers", of the sort that is found in a lot of complex didactic art from church facades to books of hours. As I noted, RAH has presented a number of such 3-register depictions, and I used to have a number of such things online. But to go further one needs a meaningful sub-division that is consistent with that overall design. In the Tarot de Marseille ordering there is such as coherent sub-divsion of the three sections:

3-3 / 3-3-3 / 3-3-1

That doesn't mesh well with the 6/5/4/3/2/1/1 triangle.
RLG wrote:As far as geometric arrangements go, there do not seem to be many alternatives.
Have you considered the possibility that it's just a crappy idea? Ross didn't say it was a good one; he simply admitted the possibility. There is no necessity to impose any geometric arrangement on the trumps. On the other hand, there are in fact many alternatives. Occultists have been trying variations on a 21-card pyramid idea for a great many years, that delightful "Neopythagorean" stuff. Although a lot of time and effort has been expended in what has proved to be an unproductive line of inquiry, it seems that it will never exhaust its appeal to those who don't appreciate the historical meaning of Tarot.
RLG wrote:As I noted in the first post, the obvious move, if this indeed was the template,
But who cares what the obvious move would be, if it is NOT the template? You are begging the question and then changing the subject: "If we beg the question, then we can talk about other cool things....:

In terms of explanatory power and parsimony the question is, can your diagram explain something better than it is already explained, with less baggage? Your chart seems to explain nothing that is not better understood without it. It's just cool.
RLG wrote:This leads into another concern that you voiced:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: I think it's also important to keep in mind that with numbers on the cards, you don't have to remember the order - as a story or with any thematic method at all. You can just pick up cards and play - no need to memorize, as long as you know how to count.
On the face of it, this would suggest that whatever original narrative order the cards had, it wasn't simple enough to follow without numbers, so eventually they had to be put on the cards. But alternatively, it might suggest that since the original narrative order was somewhat fluid, at some point someone decided that they needed to be numbered, and wanted to have an underlying schema to follow. If the original, overarching scheme was a tripartite one, it still left wiggle room within those three parts. Thus, a designer could have sat down and placed the cards in a slightly revised order that matched a template that was clearly related to the pips on a die.
That gets back to another of my long-running arguments, the civic-pride idea. Every locale re-designed the trump cycle and the rules of play. The question is, why? People have suggested that without numbers on the trumps, players were just confused. That's not only silly and insulting to the card players, it ignores the other deck changes and the rule changes that we know became established in each area. In fact, card games tended to be highly localized in general, and Tarot more than most.

Regional identity and civic pride in Italy was amazingly strong, and one of the remarkable aspects of Tarot history is that every locale wanted it's "own" Tarot. Based on our extremely fragmentary surviving evidence, they changed iconography a bit, they changed the ordering a bit, they changed details of play and scoring, and sometimes they created substantially new decks (like the Minchiate or Leber-Rouen) or even wholly new decks to play Tarot, novelties like Sola Busca and Boiardo-Viti. However, there is absolutely no question that each locale knew their own game. Again, the alternative conclusion is just silly.

About the meaning of the trump cycle, regardless of quibbles about the ambiguity or obscurity of a few of the allegories, the general meaning of the hierarchy was obvious. No mnemonic road map was needed. Because the general ordering was obvious, only a few details (things like Empress over Popess, or the order of the Virtues if they were adjacent) would need to be memorized. In all likelihood, that would be fully accomplished by the second time someone played the game.

Because the general allegory was obvious, learning the details was easy.
RLG wrote:But another fact that might be noteworthy is that, AFAIK, the 'original' sequence of the Trumps is still undetermined, (which is hardly surprising if there were no numbers on them to begin with). So we cannot say for certain which sequence is the oldest, meaning we are allowed to speculate as to why certain variants were ordered in the manner that they were. One such ordering is the so-called 'Marseilles' sequence, which is the one that fits so nicely on this triangle. Since this may not have been the 'original' sequence, it remains possible that it came later, and was an important variant precisely because someone designed it on a triangular template.

Slow down a bit. Why would an occult revisioning -- because this appears to be a deep secret rather than any mnemonic device -- be "important", or have any value for game players? Again, it's cool, but an additional burden rather than an aid.

My person conviction is that the design which was imported into France from Milan in the 15th century was the original Milanese standard pattern, the regular deck used in Milan at that time. (It's a long argument in its own right.) But whether it was the original deck, one of the earliest decks, or a centuries-later invention, Tarot de Marseille needs your mnemonic aid LESS than any other deck. Tarot de Marseille appears to be the most perfectly coherent, systematic design of them all, and thus the most easily remembered. It was IMO designed with a great top-down architecture specifically so as to be easily understood... as odd as that may see today.
RLG wrote:A different designer, probably thinking linearly, put all Virtues in a row together, while yet another variant stuck Justice near the end. We apparently don't know which came first, so it remains possible that the 'Marseilles' order was an adjustment of the sequence that fit someone's desire for an arrangement that fits on a triangle, since the others don't.
But that still has zero explanatory value. You've made up a "just-so" story. You can make up a dozen more if you have the time and inclination. But you haven't explained anything about any of the orderings.

Why these subjects?

Why this ordering?
RLG wrote:And this is where the numbers come in. Since they were added after the Tarot was created, is it not possible that they were only added once a sequence that fit a specific designer's needs became established?
So they were holding off for a few decades or, in some cases, centuries, until they got it "right"? What do you mean by this -- all the other designers were unhappy, so they didn't put numbers on the cards? What were these mysterious "needs"?

Someone, at some time around 1440 and some place in Northern Italy, invented Tarot. From the surviving direct evidence we can't even say which of the three families of orderings was original, as Bologna, Ferrara, and Milan all have arguments in their favor. However, as noted in regard to the use of Justice as the penultimate trump, there can be good iconographic arguments about certain design elements being derivative. That is, we can rule some out with considerable confidence and by a process of elimination make some additional progress. In any case, Tarot spread and changed. Some locales put numbers on the cards and others did not. That's not really a mystery. Eventually, most of the versions in Italy died out, although some remained until today. The Milanese desgin that went to France had numbers added, probably to aid the rapid spread of the game. This deck was produced and exported in great numbers, and it became the most popular and widespread type of Tarot deck. As for these secret "designer's needs", what are they intended to explain that isn't more easily explained by just wanting to put numbers on the cards to promote the game?
RLG wrote:This would affect your assertion below, which I think was a misunderstanding of what I was trying to say:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: So if you are suggesting that someone played with an arrangement like yours, putting in a Zero and knocking off the 21 to obtain two equal halves of 105, and the further symbolism, then it seems you are getting into speculative realms that lose me, not least because it is not necessary.
Actually, I don't think the triangle sequence was done because of the numbering. It would seem more likely that it was done to fit the tripartite scheme, and the Virtues, and possibly the eschatological realm as it splits into a 'right- and left-hand on Judgment day' type of arrangement.
But Ross asked, why?

Yes, in a sense it was done to fit the tripartite scheme -- by you. But what does it explain about the design of the trump cycle? Ross said it was an unnecessary accretion, and you offered nothing to dispute that.
RLG wrote:In fact, this might have been the point where the Fool would be given a number of Zero in the first place.
Have you considered the more plausible possibility, that there was NO secret meaning or esoteric distinction between decks where the Fool was unnumbered and those where it was numbered "0"?
RLG wrote:If in fact none of the 'non-suit' cards were numbered originally, then who's to say what the proper position of the Fool was? We have no evidence, since there was no numbering on the first decks. I suppose the only evidence is in the rules of the game, which make the Fool an 'excuse', but I'm not a Tarot historian, so I don't know when all the rules were codified. Was this before or after the numbering?
Back up. Tarot was a card game. It still is. You need to start there. It was (and remains) a trick-taking game with a fifth group of cards serving as trumps. Games have rules. Trumps, as well as the other cards, have an order of ranking that permits the game to be played. The Fool, in most Tarot games, is not a trump per se. Usually it can be played like a trump but it does not win the trick. That, and other rules, add interest and complexity to the game, spice it up.

None of which is necessarily relevant to the allegory. You want to do as a thousand others have done and cover up the rest of the deck while discussing one card. In terms of the allegory there is no question about the general gist of the hierarchy, and there is no question about his place in that hierarchy. Even if it is numbered 22 and turned into the highest trump in the game, the original allegorical meaning is still dead obvious.
RLG wrote:My point here is that the sequencing of trump images, and the numbering of those cards, could easily have been separate operations. In fact, they must have been originally. But numbering and sequence must have gone hand-in-hand in the early stages, where we have three different primary sequences appearing in different regions. So I think numbering was the result of determining the sequence, not the cause of it. It would seem doubtful that a designer would look at a triangle of the numbers from 1-21, or even 0 to 20, and place cards on it based on those numbers; rather the cards would be placed in a triangle, (IMO, according to the tripartite scheme), and then numbered after the fact.
But again you are just begging the main question. There is no reason to think that any triangle had any place in the selection of the trump subjects, their composition into a meaningful hierarchy, or their subsequent numbering. These things are all more readily explained without a 2-D diagram... (unless you count a 3-register diagram as 2-D, which it really is).

There are some interesting questions about the numbering of the trumps. These have been explored in detail by -- surprise! -- Michael Dummett. The numbering of most numbered decks is a bit odd in one way or another. It seems that there was a design goal, a "designer's need" if you will, to have Death at the #13 slot, and in most decks that doesn't work out easily. Therefore the designers cheated in one way or another. Eastern decks promoted one of the lower-ranked cards, Justice, to serve as Last Judgment. Death became #13. Some Southern decks left a lower card unnumbered, while Bolognese decks began numbering with Love at #5. Death became #13. (Some decks numbered the lower cards and had both Pope and Love as #5!) The Rosenwald deck, to avoid giving Death’s number to another card, omitted all numbers higher than 12. All these kludges are indicative of clumsy reworkings. Only the Tarot de Marseille ordering appears well-designed, making Death the thirteenth numbered card without any obviously awkward gimmick. (However, the reason for that apparent desire is itself a bit mysterious, as Ross' investigations have shown.)
RLG wrote:I appreciate all the data you provided regarding the numbering of the cards and the dates of same; this is very helpful information. And your comments and criticisms are also appreciated. I want to be clear that I am not trying to explain too much with this triangle. As a stand-alone template, it can only give us so much information.
That's really the question here -- what does it tell us?
RLG wrote:But it seems curious to me, at least, that it would fit so well with the tripartite scheme.
Why? Lots of things have been tried, this one over and over by every Neopythagorean out there, so it stands to reason that some would fit better than others. And Tarot de Marseille, which has been used in most such occult exercises, doesn't fit nearly as well as the Southern orderings.
RLG wrote:It would naturally need to be substantiated with other historical evidence before it became anything other than suggestive. But I do think it raises some valid questions about the nature of the Trump sequence, and how it was arrived at. It's a rather simple template that requires very little ingenuity to employ, and it doesn't seem to be completely out of the realm of possibility that a designer would use such a device as a means of determining an order that they found favorable.
That assumes that he had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what he was doing.

"Hey, these cards are meaningless -- how do I arrange them?"
RLG wrote:Of course, one might dismiss all of this as mere conjecture, which would leave us simply with a triangular arrangement done after the fact that supplements the tripartite scheme, and has its own peculiar details to add to the interpretation of the Trumps.
Again, that is the question -- what is added to the interpretation of the trumps?

IMO, as applied to Tarot de Marseille, it adds nothing and makes a mess of the crucial middle trumps.

I wanted to start with my positive comments, and my own contribution to Alain et al. and their continuing attempts to fit the trump cycle into the Procrustean bed of a Neopythagorean diagram. Because it is a cool arrangement, and it is based, loosely, on a realistic analysis of the trump cycle. But at the end of the post, I have to ditto Ross again. Trust me, it's much more fun to argue with him, but he's just so damned... right most of the time.

Best regards,
Michael
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.

Re: The ordering of the trumps

#46
Hi Michael,

Thanks for taking your time to reply at length. I feel that my posts are hardly worth the effort, but it is appreciated nonetheless.

First of all, let me say that I think I have been misunderstood to some extent, insofar as I'm not trying to make any grandiose claims regarding placing the trumps in a triangle. I was struck at how it seems to fit with the tripartite scheme, and was exploring that idea in an open forum. I make no pretense to be a tarot historian, but at the same time I'm not trying to engineer an 'occultist' interpretation of the Trump sequence, since I see little evidence for such a thing.

What was most helpful is your delineating the difference between 'explaining' and 'describing'. I would agree that the triangle helps 'describe' the trump sequence, but I certainly never intended it to 'explain' it in any thoroughgoing way. You're certainly right that explaining such a sequence requires much more than a mere triangular diagram. I did not delve into such explanations because from what I've read of your work, the tripartite scheme itself has what you call the 'explanatory power', so I was taking that analysis for granted, and not deigning to elaborate on it when you have done that superbly in other places. So my stance was, as I originally said, to look at this triangle as a supplement to the arguments for a tripartite scheme, arguments which are found elsewhere and should be studied in their own right.

So hopefully I've made myself clear, that my intention was not to presume one little diagram is somehow the 'key' to unlocking all the secrets of the trump sequence, (if there are any secrets), but that it is an adjunct to much more detailed arguments. As for it being unnecessary, well, obviously if you have a sequence, and then you number it, you don't need any further help to know the sequence. In that sense it would add nothing. My only idea, which is pure speculation, is that if a designer were trying to decide between a few different alternatives when it comes to the middle section of the trumps especially, maybe they used something like this diagram to decide on the final placement of the trumps, which would then be numbered eventually, thus turning the original diagram superfluous. I have no historical evidence that this ever happened, since I am not a tarot historian and only toyed with this diagram a couple weeks ago, after reading your essays on the triumph of death and the 6-9-7 arrangement.

I imagine you've had to encounter a number of occultists or qabalists who want to find the 'one secret diagram' or the 'real reason' behind the trumps sequence, so it is understandable if I get lumped in with such attempts at first glance. But I assure you my agenda is much more modest. Maybe it's just a cool diagram, done after the fact, as I said in my initial post. And maybe it's not. But it would require a lot of evidence before one could claim that it was more than mere speculation.

You asked 'what does this triangle tell us' about the trumps that isn't already known, and I would day that the only thing it adds to what you have already said about the 6-9-7 arrangement is that the top three rows could be seen as the Judgment dividing the souls into the damned and the saved, the dark and the light, with a group in the middle that need to go to purgatory first. Other than that, and the idea that the World, rightly so IMO, is the summation of the whole, the triangle is just describing the tripartite scheme. I disagree somewhat that it makes a mess of the middle trumps, if only because the Virtues are place symmetrically, but I had forgotten your take on the Southern ordering, which puts 5 'good' cards followed by 4 'bad' ones, (though I can't totally agree that the Wheel of Fortune is entirely an allegory of a fall, since it represents as you show elsewhere, a whole cycle of rise and fall). But this does fit the rows of 5 and 4 better, when the trumps are understood in that qualitative sense, and if the Angel were the top of the triangle rather than the World, I think it would be a better fit then the Tarot de Marseille sequence, as you say. But for some reason that I don't understand yet, the Bolognese pattern puts the Angel above the World, which is kind of idiosyncratic, but maybe they had a reason for that which you or someone else could explain to me.

It seems that your 6-9-7 arrangement, coupled with the iconographic analysis and the other historical data, present a viable explanation of the trump sequence, both in its overall scheme, and in many of its particulars. There remains a certain amount of fluidity, especially in the middle sequence, which may or may not have had a final determining scheme. The fact that there were so many variants suggests that it was either not understood well, or different people had their own reasons for favoring one sequence over another. Until it is clearly determined what the 'original sequence' was, discovering what those reasons were may not be possible. I suppose that's why the study of tarot history is so intriguing to you and others; what is known is interesting in its own right, and what remains unknown is even more compelling. It's certainly a fascinating subject, and I've enjoyed the blogs from both you and Ross that provide such a wealth of information.

So thanks for your comments and feedback :-)

RLG

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Huck and 7 guests

cron