The ‘East’: Ferrara, Venice, Alexandria, and Constantinople

#1
I am a newcomer to web-discussion regarding the tarot, and have not the time to dive into what appears to be a very extensive mix of topics over in the Aecletic forum. So I am going to start a few topics here (as free attention allots) and hope some newfound friends will enjoyably join with me in considering them. I am glad to have this opportunity to continue with my own inquiry and study of the tarot. I am ecstatic to be in the company of some of the best minds and most well-intended hearts in the field. Deep thanks to Le Pendu, JMD and long-standing companions for creating this house of enlightening history.

From my perusal of tarot websites and books published in relatively recent years, I gather that the general theory of Neoplatonic influence upon tarot development is now well established. As is commonly known, while medieval Europe had access to a limited number of Neoplatonic treatises (that subject in itself may make a worthwhile thread), often confused with works by Aristotle, it was not until the 15th century that Greek philosophers physically brought into Italy the bulk of their knowledge regarding Plato, Plotinus and associated thinkers and contemplatives.

The first mention of the triumphs as we know them appears to come from the D’Este court of Ferrara in 1442. The earliest sources containing the names and hierarchical order of the cards also point to Ferrara and Venice. viewtopic.php?f=11&t=52
I will contribute to presenting other significant Ferranese links in this topic.

One of the most important developments in the religious spheres of the time was the Ecumenical Council of Churches initiated in Venice and held in Ferrara (and subsequently Florence). That opened the door to a flood of Greek-influenced studies and fads that spread rapidly from Italy to the rest of Europe.

Although I left out of my book much of the below historical introduction, I think it is truly of import to any serious examination of early tarot development. I hope it doesn't prove to be too long-winded and generally boring to other members.

Sources are included at the end, with most of the below found in the sections on the Councils of Basel and Ferrara in the first two sources cited (my apologies for lack of specific page references). The other sources offer considerably more insight regarding this era and the Venice-Alexandria-Constantinople network in particular.

____________

In order to negotiate and finalize a reuniting of Eastern and Western Churches, a 700-strong Greek contingent arrived at Venice from Constantinople in February 1438. Venice was the only agreeable meeting ground that allowed proceedings to be initiated. It is of note that Venice was home to a primary monastery of Camaldolese hermits, which was established in the first half of the 13th century. (This was at a time when hermits importantly served as spiritual guides to the Templar Knights, whose primary base was in Venice.) The prior-general or head of the Camaldolese was a Florence educated humanist (indicating in large part familiarity and positive embrace of Greek studies), Ambrogio Traversari. Ambrogio had a great liking for Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Joseph II (1416-1439). Joseph’s years were coming to end (he died in his 80’s in 1439), as was the many-centuries history through which Venice and Constantinople were intimately bound together.

Venetian diplomacy was critical in the bringing together of these two quite foreign communities and cultures. For instance, Venetians calmed Italian ecclesiastics when the Greeks demonstrated seemingly disrespectful patterns such as not taking off their hats at appropriate times and – significantly – when the Patriarch greeting the Pope as Brother. (The Patriarch was aghast at the concept of kissing the Pope’s feet, which he did not do.) The Greeks stayed in Venice for a month, assessing arguments and approaches made by competing Western Church factions, and becoming familiar with their Latin counterparts.

Up to this time, Byzantium’s primary contact with the Latin Church was via Franciscan monastic presence in Constantinople. Roman bishops had a very limited knowledge base of the Greek Rite and Eastern Christian theosophy, as almost none of them spoke the language and as mentioned, there existed relatively few translations of foundational Eastern Christian worldviews. Prior to the Greeks’ participation in the Council, Franciscans had for some years (perhaps seriously beginning with Franciscan Antonio da Massa’s negotiations with Joseph II in 1422) been preparing the ground for an Eastern reunion with the Western Church. By the 1430’s, Constantinople was sufficiently under threat of being sacked by the Ottomans and Pope Eugene IV was likewise under threat of being ‘sacked’ by the Concilor factions of the Church, that both saw good reason to attempt a formal and fortifying rapprochement.

The Greeks had agreed to be taken to Venice via the Pope’s ships and not the ships of the Conciliar factions, who held that final authority in spiritual matters resided with the Roman Church as a corporation of Christians, embodied by a general church council, not with the Pope. Ecclesiastics of the Conciliar movement, which had a history of establishing and declaring alliance to anti-Popes, were holding an ecumenical council in Basel and were not agreeable about starting another council in Papal territory. The Greeks had indicated which direction their political diplomacy was taking, but spent their month in Venice listening to all sides. The Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch (or head Greek Orthodox Bishop, which in the case of the Coptic Orthodox branch centered in Alexandria was and still is called Pope) then moved on to commence a new ecumenical Council of Ferrara.

During this period, Ferrara was under Venetian influence even while it closely associated with Milan. Florence brought sea-and-east oriented Venice deeply into Italian politics (after centuries of guarded isolation from such) when Visconti took into its domain Venice’s old foe Genoa. Milan and Naples then threatened to capture Florence, which appealed to Venice for assistance. Both cities were culturally and intellectually inclined toward Greek humanism. Venetian decision to go to war with Milan permanently changed Italian politics. Over the next few decades, Venice gained control of much of Northern Italy. The Dukes of Milan were known for their ruthlessly domineering policies. In contrast, Venetian involvement with the East, and in particular Greek Orthodox Byzantium and Muslim and Coptic Orthodox Egypt, carried with it a great deal of diplomatic cachet.

Ferrara was an open and neutral conduit in which Venetians could mediate between their Eastern friends and the rest of Italy. However, Ferrara became an uncomfortable place for the Greeks when Milan-paid condottiere Nicholas Piccinino showed up. Piccinino had been leading the take-over of nearby Papal States. The Greeks at this time sent back all the valuables in their possession (except their vestments) to Venice. In 1439 the Council was moved to Florence for reasons of safety, including avoidance of the plague.

According to detailed comments made by Silvestros Syropoulos, the renowned Greek secretary of the uniat Council, the Greeks found the Italians’ process of ongoing rhetoric and incessant focus on Aristotelian philosophy (in contrast to Neoplatonic) to be exhausting and of little value. Many of them returned to Constantinople in October 1439. An agreement to reunify was established, although the population of the East in the years proceeding thereafter effectively vetoed it.

After the Council, Eugene IV sent Franciscans to establish contact with Eastern Coptic, Ethiopian, and Jacobite Churches in order to obtain their ecumenical agreement with the tentative East-West proclamations of a unitive, truly Catholic (meaning Universal) Church. The Franciscans had limited success. In 1441 Venetian merchants served as negotiators and translators in Alexandria with Coptic Patriarch John. Later that year, John sent as Coptic representative Andrew, Abbot of St. Anthony to Florence with his Venetian companions, the latter translating his Arabic into Italian and Latin and helping to convey the Coptic Church’s positions regarding the matter of unification.

Manuel II, Byzantine Emperor from 1391-1425 (seated as such only through the assistance of Venice) and father of Emperor John VIII Palaiologos who attended the Council of Ferrara, did not believe that citizens of his country would ever agree to attend a Mass that incorporated the Latin Rite. He suggested to his son that he do no more than draw out ecumenical discussions so as to keep the Ottomans in doubt as to Constantinople’s military and economic support from the West. In the end, he turned out to be correct.

Manuel II had spent his rule effectively acting as a vassal of Ottoman ruler Mehmed I, with whom he became friends. Manuel II’s wife was Empress Helena Dragash, a Serbian princess. In numerous ways, she exercised greater power than her husband and served for a period as regent until the time her son Constantine could be crowned in 1449. Regarding the triumphs, more needs to be said about the power of Byzantine Empresses, along with the substantial influence of female partners of Orthodox ecclesiastics.
__________

Having introduced that background, I would next like to bring up pieces of tarot card evidence connecting Ferrara, Venice, Alexandria, and Constantinople.


Henry and Owen Chadwick, ed., Oxford History of the Christian Church (Oxford: University of Oxford, 1986)
Dale T. Irvin, History of the World Christian Movement (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2001)
T. Spidlik, The Spirituality of the Christian East (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1986)
P. Chaunu, European Expansion in the Later Middle Ages (New York: North-Holland Publishing Company, 1979)
R. S. Lopez and I. W. Raymond, Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955)
B. Z. Kedar, Merchants in Crisis (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976)
W. Ullmann, Medieval Foundations of Renaissance Humanism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977)
Dai Leon
http://www.OriginsOfTheTarot.com

Re: The ‘East’: Ferrara, Venice, Alexandria, and Constantinople

#2
If your book reads like this- I will be first in line.
:roll: I mean it is the style as well as content.
Fascinating look into the considerations of the (maybe) weird mixture of not quite Catholic- but not quite Eastern conflux in images of Tarot.
Our libraries are woeful in Kiwiland eh!
Have read 2nd and last on your list, acquired with a great deal of patience.
Welcome by the way- are you going to sell your book here in NZ?
~Lorredan~
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: The ‘East’: Ferrara, Venice, Alexandria, and Constantinople

#3
Well met, Lorredan...I didn't realize that the board had such a strong Kiwi contingent ;)

Regarding the Christian nature of the triumphs...that is clearly obvious. I can't imagine arguments realistically denying that, given the presence of Emperor, Empress, Pope, Popess, Angel, and World and their early depictions.

That the triumphs are also Pagan (indicating spiritual worldviews 'of the country-folk'), is also obvious given the presence of Love, Temperance, Chariot, Fortitude, Wheel, Death, and Justice.

Christianity and Pagan worldviews, of course, merged to varying degrees in varying territories, but that intercourse was particularly abetted through the pantheistic philosophy of Plotinus' school and his primary Eastern Christian 'successor,' Dionysius the Areopagite.

Eastern Christian branches see themselves as Orthodox because they conserved the early rituals and understandings of the religion more than the Latin branches. (I say branches, because whether decried as heretical or not, there have always thrived multiple versions of Christianity in Europe.) Any singular study that is not an encyclopedia will be able to only touch upon the many individuals, schools, and sects that compose the primary streams of this history.

When I say, as I do on my website, that the triumphs are also Islamic, I am pointing to Neoplatonic influenced theosophical branches of Sufism (of which there exists a wide range, with many divergent views and practices). In particular, the Hunchback, Devil, Tower, Star, Moon, Sun, and Justice indicate a Sufi worldview. Properly explaining how that is so would likely require writing a full tome on the matter, however :ugeek: .The Devil and Justice are key triumphs in understanding the Sufi-Greek influence found in the early triumphs, imo. (I'll gradually get around to discussing this.)

Stated simply, Eastern Christian and Sufi circles lived, shared, considered and practiced together for over 700 years before the emergence of the tarot. Some famous communities in the West participated in that, namely the ones who lived in the East for varying reasons involving trade, gold, crusades, pilgrimages, diplomacy, artisanship, et al. Jewish and Templar banking circles based in Venice and Southern France would be well-known examples. Franciscans, beginning with St. Francis' eastern travels during the crusades and embracing of an eastern Desert Hermit tradition, would be another.

The interchange of cultures and learning in Islamic Andalusia also exemplifies the East-West blending of traditions preceding the tarot; out of that came the Kabbala and what remains to be seen by many as Sufi's greatest theosophical understandings, represented largely by the work of Ibn 'Arabi.
Dai Leon
http://www.OriginsOfTheTarot.com

Re: The ‘East’: Ferrara, Venice, Alexandria, and Constantinople

#5
Thanks RAH (and others) for the warm welcome here. Glad this otherwise mundane history may be of some interest.

Some considerations regarding a few pieces of early tarot evidence involving Ferrara, Venice and Alexandria:

• One of the literary sources attesting the earliest order of the triumphs addresses a game of Tarocchi as played by the noble women of Ferrara (the Bertoni poem).
• One of the sources was published in Venice in the late 1500’s (Garzoni’s Piazza Universale).
• Several other poems from the 16th century name the Triumphs, although not their order. These were all published in Venice.
• Venice was Italy’s major center for playing card imports. Venetian merchants both printed and purchased cards in association with designers and producers in Alexandria, Egypt.
• The Steele MS., which is our most important source of playing card names and order, has a completely unknown geographical origin; however it is likely that the author was a Franciscan and the Franciscans served as the Pope’s primary conduit into the Eastern Orthodox communities and teachings of Alexandria and Constantinople.

One deck that informs us further regarding this topic of eastern connections is the Budapest/Metropolitan woodblock tarot. (My research here was gathered via Kaplan and Dummet; I would very much appreciate any corrections or additions to it. Once more, I apologize for lack of page references, which in the below case would be of assistance to some readers.)

I suggest that a key to examining possible birthplaces of the Metropolitan woodblock deck lies with its suit cards. These cards are not found in the sheets housed by the Metropolitan Museum, which were originally acquired from the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts in Hungary. They now reside at the Museum of Decorative Arts of Budapest.

• The Budapest museum’s sheets includes a number of suit cards.
• These show strong stylistic affinities with a set of standard playing card sheets in the Cary Collection of Playing Cards at Yale University.
• Several court cards between the two decks are identical or very similar.
• Identical stylistic elements between the decks’ numeral cards in the suits of Swords and Batons clearly suggest common design roots.
• A four-sheet set of early playing cards in the Fournier Museum in Vitoria, Spain demonstrates the same similarities with the addition of almost identical Aces to those in the Tarot sheets.

Where did these playing cards originate? It is commonly suggested that they came from Ferrara, which is the presumed source of this earliest documented tarot order. However:

• A singular card, the 3 of Cups, was discovered in Egypt that is identical to one on the Cary sheets. It dates back to the Mameluke era of late 14th and early 15th centuries. (Wish I could be more specific.)
• Another significant clue is found on the Budapest’s 10 of Batons. As was pointed out by Melbert Cary (whose fantastic collection of cards was gifted to Yale), the form diexe or ten used on the card belongs to a Venetian dialect of the 15th century.
• The Budapest Museum of Fine Arts adhered to the position that the Tarot sheets were printed in Venice.

The unique Venetian usage of the letter x strikes me as a small but important bit of evidence. That usage also brings us to the so-called Tarot of Mantegna, an interesting 15th century educational deck of Tarot-like images. Text and imagery on the Mantegna cards point us toward Venice and eastern philosophical worldviews. These indicate that Venice was at the forefront of Neoplatonic, Greek inspired card production.

The Mantegna deck is thought to have been created by one or more students of the famous Italian artist Andrea Mantegna, circa 1460-70 (though I gather there exists no solid evidence for this). This 50 card, non-Tarot deck is based on 5 sets of 10 stations each, many of which hold strong similarity to the Triumphs, seemingly indicating that trionfi were circulating in Venice previous to this time. A deck comprised of uncut sheets depicts engravings wherein each set of 10 stations represents a universal hierarchy of diverse themes, such as Apollo’s Muses and the Heavenly Spheres.

I’ll share further observations about this set of images and its ten-stage structure in a future post. I think it appropriate and best to build up some historical framework before ensuing with discussion of Neoplatonic (and other) cosmological ten-stage worldviews.
Dai Leon
http://www.OriginsOfTheTarot.com

Re: The ‘East’: Ferrara, Venice, Alexandria, and Constantinople

#6
Hi, Dai,
Psykees wrote:Regarding the Christian nature of the triumphs...that is clearly obvious. I can't imagine arguments realistically denying that, given the presence of Emperor, Empress, Pope, Popess, Angel, and World and their early depictions.

That the triumphs are also Pagan (indicating spiritual worldviews 'of the country-folk'), is also obvious given the presence of Love, Temperance, Chariot, Fortitude, Wheel, Death, and Justice.

Christianity and Pagan worldviews, of course, merged to varying degrees in varying territories, but that intercourse was particularly abetted through the pantheistic philosophy of Plotinus' school and his primary Eastern Christian 'successor,' Dionysius the Areopagite.
You seem to take a lot for granted, some of which is contradicted by many (if not most) books on the Tarot shelf. For example, the notion that the Christian content is obvious is a pretty new -- and unpopular -- idea in the Tarot world, and most people who mention Christian content do it in the same way they mention theories of ancient Egyptian origins of playing cards, just to get it out of the way. It is almost never taken seriously, and some of the most influential writers on the subject (I'm thinking of Bob O'Neill in particular) have claimed that any Christian content is only a sham, to disguise the true content. It is now becoming a commonplace for online Tarot authors to 1) debunk some of the older Tarot legends and 2) give lip service to Christian content in the trumps before moving on the regurgitate the modern Tarot legends developed in the 60s and 70s.

"Yes, sweetheart. We all know that Tarot is Christian. Go to bed now and let the grown-ups talk about the real historical significance of Tarot and its secret meanings, magical practices, initiated mystery traditions, divinatory functions, Renaissance magi, Islamic influences, Jungian symbolism, witches, the "old religion", and other pagan cults, Cathars, Templars, Waldensians, Albigensians, and Gnostic heresies, Byzantine art, numerological, astrological, and Cabalistic correspondences, Goetic sorcery and Enochian chess, the Fool's Journey...", and so on ad nauseum.

I'm also curious about what you mean about Tarot being Pagan simply because common subjects appear in the trumps. Are you calling Aquinas and every other Roman Catholic who opined on love, virtue, triumph, fortune, or death all Pagans or simple country folk? Or is it simply those who referenced them allegorically? Is talking about virtue all it takes to make one a Pagan or is the allegory required? And if allegory is sufficient, then were those churches and psalters and books of hours with Fortune's Wheel, personified Death, virtues, etc., all false churches and Pagan psalters and books of hours?

And how can Tarot (or the writings of Aquinas, et al.) be both Christian and Pagan? Or are you simply referring to the fact that Christians borrowed and transformed elements, including most of their scripture and philosophy, from Pagans and Jews? That's an obvious fact, (and most of the Christian Bible is a direct steal from the Jews and the other part was written about a Jew), but it doesn't make medieval Christians into Pagans or Jews. And it doesn't make Christian art and literature Pagan or Jewish. Of course Christian mysticism (think St. Augustine and everyone after) drew heavily from Neoplatonic teachings and Christian philosophy (think St. Thomas and everyone after) drew heavily from Aristotle. Again, that doesn't make Christians into Pagans.

From the earliest Christian writings, the letters of St. Paul, Christians were obsessed not only with spreading the Good News to new populations but with correcting those who had gone astray. They weren't kidding, either. I'm not at all sure what you're saying, but it appears that you, like most others who mention alleged Christian content in Tarot, do so only to dismiss it an move on to something quite different. How many Christians from that era would have agreed with your cavalier use of terms, and how many, after torturing you appropriately, would have given you a good Christian incineration for such blasphemy?

Before passing summary judgment on whether an allegory of Fortune or Virtue is to be categorized as Christian or Pagan, might it not be a good idea to LOOK at it? To see how it's used? Your approach, judging from this beginning, seems to be throwing labels around quite freely, with no apparent justification, and then launching into a discussion of your preferred interests while forcing the trumps, taken out of context as you've done here, to fit. Is that the "design" of Tarot, just a random collection of images to be dealt with individually, and assigned any meaning that comes to mind?

I only ask because this is posted in the "Researchers Study" forum, where such challenges are expected. If it was meant for the "Unicorn Terrace", my apologies.

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

Re: The ‘East’: Ferrara, Venice, Alexandria, and Constantinople

#7
For example, the notion that the Christian content is obvious is a pretty new -- and unpopular -- idea in the Tarot world, and most people who mention Christian content do it in the same way they mention theories of ancient Egyptian origins of playing cards, just to get it out of the way.
The popularity, per se, of varying tarot opinions or writings is not much of a concern of mine, Michael. I do not see where I have given via my website or postings any cause for a discerning reader to lump me into the camp you repeatedly refer to in your post.
...some of the most influential writers on the subject (I'm thinking of Bob O'Neill in particular) have claimed that any Christian content is only a sham, to disguise the true content.
I don't know if that is what you are suggesting yourself, and although I have not read O'Neill, whether one thinks that the Christian references obviously shown in the triumphs are a sham or not, they are still Christian references. In any case, from a scholarly viewpoint, it is not simply offhand to point to the Christian iconography of the Angel, Pope, et al cards. It would be, on the other hand, not so obvious to state the Buddhist or Jewish appearance of the cards. Pagan [Middle English from Late Latin paganus from Latin country-dweller, civilian from pagus country, rural district] iconography is also apparent in Dame Fortune and other Greek references of the early images along with the medieval image of Death. (I do not intend to go through every 15th century triumph delineating which symbols evince Greek or medieval pagan references or roots, as much as that would make for an interesting analysis and perhaps one already made?)

You seem to be saying that varying tarot authorities of whatever stripe claim that Christian and Pagan iconography is not clearly evident in the early triumphs, while then sarcastically trashing into the same can every subject ever discussed in association with tarot cards:
"Yes, sweetheart. We all know that Tarot is Christian. Go to bed now and let the grown-ups talk about the real historical significance of Tarot and its secret meanings, magical practices, initiated mystery traditions, divinatory functions, Renaissance magi, Islamic influences, Jungian symbolism, witches, the "old religion", and other pagan cults, Cathars, Templars, Waldensians, Albigensians, and Gnostic heresies, Byzantine art, numerological, astrological, and Cabalistic correspondences, Goetic sorcery and Enochian chess, the Fool's Journey...", and so on ad nauseum.
...'so on ad nauseum' seems to be the key message you are trying to convey to me? I did not come away from such statements feeling informed.

re:
I'm also curious about what you mean about Tarot being Pagan simply because common subjects appear in the trumps.
Perhaps you are holding to a definition of pagan differing from what I meant in my post. In any case, I am referring broadly to European tradition rooted in Greek and Latin spiritual beliefs and culture, which most certainly was incorporated in many ways by the varying branches of Christianity and which also continued to thrive within otherwise largely Christian societies. Are you suggesting that I am only presuming this or taking it for granted? Perhaps you could share your own definition of pagan.
Are you calling Aquinas and every other Roman Catholic who opined on love, virtue, triumph, fortune, or death all Pagans or simple country folk?
I never mentioned any of the individuals you raise in your post. Fortune, to give an example, was one of the most enduring and popular iconographic symbols in medieval times. It speaks of the cycles of life, society and nature. I refer to it as pagan whether or not it is also referred to by Christian authors.
And how can Tarot (or the writings of Aquinas, et al.) be both Christian and Pagan?
Michael, you are apparently an intelligent man, and I assume the same goes for many if not most participating in this forum. To pretend not to be aware that Christianity incorporated many aspects of pagan (capitalized or not, i.e as a formalized, urban based sectarian religious tradition or just 'beliefs of the country-dwellers') thought, culture, language, symbols, et al. strikes me as disingenuous.
Or are you simply referring to the fact that Christians borrowed and transformed elements, including most of their scripture and philosophy, from Pagans and Jews? That's an obvious fact,
oh, ok
(and most of the Christian Bible is a direct steal from the Jews and the other part was written about a Jew)
This reads to me as a broad, undefined statement that can serve only to distract from the topic at hand...
but it doesn't make medieval Christians into Pagans or Jews. And it doesn't make Christian art and literature Pagan or Jewish. Of course Christian mysticism (think St. Augustine and everyone after) drew heavily from Neoplatonic teachings and Christian philosophy (think St. Thomas and everyone after) drew heavily from Aristotle. Again, that doesn't make Christians into Pagans.
Well, we agree or we don't agree (I'm losing track of what) or we are just dancing in circles. In any case, maybe we can enjoy discussing these many subjects in other topics. I see that an 'issue' of Christians vs. Pagans is looming large. I was certainly not referencing or pointing to that issue in my above post.
From the earliest Christian writings, the letters of St. Paul, Christians were obsessed not only with spreading the Good News to new populations but with correcting those who had gone astray. They weren't kidding, either. I'm not at all sure what you're saying,
At this point, I have to say that the same goes for me, Michael. Your message here is unclear.
but it appears that you, like most others who mention alleged Christian content in Tarot, do so only to dismiss it an move on to something quite different. How many Christians from that era would have agreed with your cavalier use of terms, and how many, after torturing you appropriately, would have given you a good Christian incineration for such blasphemy?
Lol. Hmmm...I fail to see how I've given you the grounds to identify me with these other people you are referring to. As to cavalier, torture, incineration and blasphemy ... lol ... you get all of that from my rather simple statements regarding the obviousness of Christian and Pagan iconographical references within the early tarot triumphs?
Before passing summary judgment on whether an allegory of Fortune or Virtue is to be categorized as Christian or Pagan, might it not be a good idea to LOOK at it? To see how it's used? Your approach, judging from this beginning, seems to be throwing labels around quite freely, with no apparent justification, and then launching into a discussion of your preferred interests while forcing the trumps, taken out of context as you've done here, to fit. Is that the "design" of Tarot, just a random collection of images to be dealt with individually, and assigned any meaning that comes to mind?
While this area of the board is for researching and presumably scholarly discussion, I do not think that I can be held to 'passing summary judgment,' 'throwing labels around,' 'no apparent justification,' and a position of holding to a 'design' of the Tarot as a 'random collection of images to be dealt with individually, and assigned any meaning that comes to mind.'

I did not, after all, say 'the Angel triumph clearly evinces an Augustinian dogma referring to a specific branch of Christian dogma and that any other references one might read into it are mistaken;' or that 'Death was an image arising out of vernacular references to the Plague found in Italian communities that did not hold to any Christian beliefs but instead personified nature through Pagan dogma,' or whatever...
I only ask because this is posted in the "Researchers Study" forum, where such challenges are expected. If it was meant for the "Unicorn Terrace", my apologies.
I see lots of attacking and inflammatory words in your statements, but little else.
Dai Leon
http://www.OriginsOfTheTarot.com

Re: The ‘East’: Ferrara, Venice, Alexandria, and Constantinople

#8
I admit that Michael writes in a manner that tends to include both a meticulous address of points raised, with apparent impatience for what tend to be theories that look for evidence to support a preferred view rather than a careful looking at the evidence in itself.

In Michael's post, what I detect is something that I too saw in Dai's (Psykees's) post that made me want to say: "hang on a sec! these 'pagan' sources are not simply pagan any longer. They have been incorporated and transformed within the Christian context of the times and rediscovery of Greek sources with the fall of Constantinople". Similarly, neo-platonic thought (and neo-pythagorean and aristotelean) becomes streams within the European Christian framework.

For example, when Psykees writes that "Pagan [...] iconography is also apparent in Dame Fortune and other Greek references of the early images along with the medieval image of Death", this is certainly the case, but if we look more closely as to how these manifest in mediaeval imagery, Fortune, for example, takes its form out of one of the most popular early philosophical works written by Boethius, a learned Roman Christian senator imprisoned near the end of his long and successful life, in Consolation of Philosophy. That he refers to a concept taken from pagan thought is not as important as his acceptance as (extremely) popular Christian author.

Similarly with Death. Of course there are various aspects of this that can be seen to reflect thoughs from pagan writings - but one need not step out of the rich Christian streams, enriched by neoplatonic and aristotelean thoughts especially, combined with daily experiences and the various traumas and annual farming cycle of the period, to understand and account for the imagery.

To refer to these as pagan, therefore, is also true... but that doesn't imply that they are not, in themselves and as depicted, a reflection of the Christian view and mindset.

Of course the rich provision of new works brought from the Eastern Church is vitally important in renewing knowledge of both Aristotle and Plato (and others) and in providing further fodder for what became the Renaissance and its vast breadth of imagery. And I suppose that it is in this that I would like to especially see how some of the above statements are further developed.
Image
&
Image
association.tarotstudies.org

Re: The ‘East’: Ferrara, Venice, Alexandria, and Constantinople

#9
Hullo Psykees.

I studied the pagan influence on Christian symbolism as it manifests in the tarot with Arthur Corwin back in art school, around 25 years ago. Unfortunately, he hasn't published anything yet, as far as I know.

If I understand correctly, it sounds like one of the things you are stating is that "Christian Symbolism" has roots too. That it did not drop into history as a closed system, but rather incorporated concepts from earlier mythology. And that by examining those roots, the "Christian Symbolism" of tarot is clarified and in turn put into context within the bigger picture.

Anyway, I did not mean to interrupt.
Carry on. :D

___
So, I've been scraping the ceiling in the library, in preparation for painting, and it's revealed all sorts of figures under the old plaster. It's probably going to take at least three or four coats of white to cover them up again...
I am not a cannibal.

Re: The ‘East’: Ferrara, Venice, Alexandria, and Constantinople

#10
OnePotato wrote: If I understand correctly, it sounds like one of the things you are stating is that "Christian Symbolism" has roots too. That it did not drop into history as a closed system, but rather incorporated concepts from earlier mythology. And that by examining those roots, the "Christian Symbolism" of tarot is clarified and in turn put into context within the bigger picture.
Indeed. There were numerous branches of medieval Christian belief also, not just between Eastern and Western Churches, but within each of those divisions; seems that would go without saying.

The Venetians were Roman Catholics, yet many important merchants and diplomats spoke the languages and engaged the cultures of Islamic and Orthodox Christian societies. Some Venetians, such as Marco Polo, spoke the languages and engaged the cultures of lands further east, including the Persia of Nestorian Christians and the China of Mongolian Khanates.

In art, an intermixing of symbolism may also be found in varying cultures. For instance, the position of Justice appears to mark the most significant difference between the varying tarot orders. Only in the ‘eastern’ order of Venice and Ferrara was it elevated to the highest rank between the Angel and World triumphs. It is of significance that Venetian paintings from the early 15th century depict Justice with the Archangels Michael and Gabriel on either side of her. In paintings from other Latin Christian cities, it is Jesus who serves to mete out justice in accordance to the great angels’ judgments. Venice was singular in its cultural focus upon the traditional Greek archetype of Justice, supplanting Jesus in this role, which indeed originally belonged solely to Justice herself.

Bartolomeo Buon's Justice seated with sword and scales, fifteenth century, above the Porta della Carta, Palazzo Ducale, Venice.
Venetian Justice.jpg
The Indo-European root meaning of just is law. Justice upon Her Throne (as primary daughter of Zeus) was a very old Greek concept combining Fate, Death, and Eros as Universal Law. The Throne in Hellenic, Judaic, and Islamic traditions often symbolized divine judgment and law. In Greek, the word frequently used to connote Justice, Diké, originally meant the Way. Justice served an important role in Plato’s thought, associated with that Truth upon which all wisdom and learning inevitably had to be based.

Cheers...
Dai Leon
http://www.OriginsOfTheTarot.com

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