Are we seeking to clarify or obscure?

#1
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Hi, OnePotato,
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.
That is one of the fundamental questions being begged here. Does ignoring the actual design of the trump cycle in favor of exploring the distant (literally, far-fetched) roots of those 15th-century symbols clarify Tarot's symbolism or obscure it? No one, at no time, in no place, ever created a cycle like the one in Tarot. It is a unique and remarkable work of art, not from other times and places but from c.1440 Northern Italy.

Those who feel compelled to escape the actual provenance of the work, deconstruct the cycle, and focus their attentions on what the individual pieces meant in other contexts, don't appear to be interested in Tarot so much as they are in some other subject. Tarot is an excuse to present essays on those other, more favored topics. That kind approach, either a microscopic examination of a detail out of context or a Postmodern look at something in a preferred (usually false) context, might be a good approach to a work of art or literature that has already been well studied, explored and explained in all the conventional ways. A work that has been thoroughly analyzed in its own right, in its proper historical context, where there is a consensus understanding of what it "says", is certainly ripe for such treatment. For example, searching out the more distant influences on Shakespeare, or making distant and/or incongruous comparisons, is the only way to write something new and publishable. All the "good stuff" is taken. But Tarot iconography is not like that. Yes, Dummett laid out most of the evidence and assembled it into a good, robust historical narrative... but he left the iconography question open.

Understanding the basic design of the trump cycle provides the rational basis for determining which far-fetched analogies might indeed be parallels or even influences, and which might be contrasting examples. But if we are sincerely interested in that design and the influences, we must begin with proximate sources and influences rather than ultimate ones. Those proximate sources and influences, combined with the hierarchical composition of the trump cycle itself, constitute the proper context to clarify the meaning of Tarot symbolism. That is the "good stuff", and it has not yet been established for this particular work of art.

Best regards,
Michael

P.S. If I'm wrong about the "good stuff", a fundamental iconographic study of the trump cycle, not yet having been presented and widely accepted as sound, just point me to the book, the journal article, the monograph, the website, or wherever else such a study has been presented, and to the comments of a few art historians and playing-card historians who have greeted that study with applause. The only study with anything close to that level of sobriety and acceptance is Moakley's, and hers is clearly not being accepted as a basis for anything by most Tarotists.
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.

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

#2
This helps clarify the dispute although gee the tone isn't what one might hope. Leaving aside attribution of motives and snippiness unbecoming discussion in this our elegant Study, it appears that the fundamental disagreement revolves around looking at the order of trumps as a historical "fact/thing" vs looking at the elements in and contributing to the development of the images on the cards, with MJ favoring the former and seeing in others' comments a mistaken tendency toward the latter, while others wonder what ax MJ is grinding as by tradition only small pointed pens are permitted in the Study.

I hope this is correct. If so, however, how is it relevant to the topic that Psykees has raised in his thread?

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

#3
debra wrote:This helps clarify the dispute although gee the tone isn't what one might hope. Leaving aside attribution of motives and snippiness unbecoming discussion in this our elegant Study, it appears that the fundamental disagreement revolves around looking at the order of trumps as a historical "fact/thing" vs looking at the elements in and contributing to the development of the images on the cards, with MJ favoring the former and seeing in others' comments a mistaken tendency toward the latter, while others wonder what ax MJ is grinding as by tradition only small pointed pens are permitted in the Study.

I hope this is correct. If so, however, how is it relevant to the topic that Psykees has raised in his thread?
Hi Debra. and Michael.

I suspect there are reasons why the tarot emerged from European Christianity, and not from some other branch of Christianity, or even elsewhere. I find it incredible to suggest that examining the influences that this particular brand of religion drew upon is somehow "obscuring" the issue of understanding the subject and structure of the trumps, and that ANY influence is automatically seen as "far fetched" by default. No need to even hear what it is before dismissing it? But I do respect Michael's position and his methodology.

However, I'd still like to actually hear what Psykees has to say.

_____
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I am not a cannibal.

Re: Are we seeking to clarify or obscure?

#4
mjhurst wrote:
Those who feel compelled to escape the actual provenance of the work, deconstruct the cycle, and focus their attentions on what the individual pieces meant in other contexts, don't appear to be interested in Tarot so much as they are in some other subject.
I agree each figure possesses a potent confusion of 'far-fetched' references and requires to be understood within contextual delimitations.

However, the history of a tarot figure or trope and its development, who used it when and what it meant to them, might also help us understand what it meant to the authors who chose to use such in their tarot deck, and is I think a valid historical field of enquiry.

Tracing the figure of the wheel of fortune to Boethius and his pagan Consolation of Philosophy does not of course make the tarot deck in which such a figure is used either a 6th century or pagan artifact (however the extent it may share not only the figure of the wheel of fortune but its stoic morality and platonic metaphysics), but no one here as yet has claimed any such thing (as yet).
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Are we seeking to clarify or obscure?

#5
Hi, Steve,
SteveM wrote:Tracing the figure of the wheel of fortune to Boethius and his pagan Consolation of Philosophy does not of course make the tarot deck in which such a figure is used either a 6th century or pagan artifact (however the extent it may share not only the figure of the wheel of fortune but its stoic morality and platonic metaphysics), but no one here as yet has claimed any such thing (as yet).
What's your point?

Since you've alluded to my many posts and web pages about Boethius and the Stoic-Christian design of the trump cycle, let me point out that Boethius was the origin of Fortuna's wheel in medieval art and literature. Boethius was a huge, direct, and continuing influence on Christian thought long before, during, and after the era when Tarot was invented. When Jean de Meun reprised his discussion in Romance of the Rose the debt was very direct and obvious, including direct references. Nearly identical Stoic-Christian views on the role of Fortune appear in such proximate (to Tarot's creation) works as Boccaccio's encyclopedia of moralized biographies, The Examples of Famous Men, and Petrarch's encyclopedia of virtuous rationalizations, Remedies for Good and Bad Fortune. This was mainstream Christian thought in an unbroken line leading directly to Tarot's doorstep. I did not leave that historical lineage as an exercise for the reader, but spelled it out in some detail, with substantiation and quotes.

More to the point, those posts and web pages that quoted Boethius at length, that quoted art historians about Boethius, that compared details of specific Fortune cards with specific passages of his Consolatione, and so on, didn't do so out of whimsy or leave the significance in terms of Tarot as an exercise for the reader. They took the time and trouble to make an historical connection with the design of the trump cycle. It is important not only to make the connections to later writers and artists noted in the previous paragraph but also to make the connections with the design of the trump cycle. How does Fortune and the large body of Stoic-Christian literature surrounding Fortune make sense of the trump cycle as a whole and the middle trumps as a conventional Triumph of Fortune? How does Boethius and that tradition explain additional specific details such as the iconography of the Tarot de Marseille Fortune card and, more importantly, the role of the virtues in the design of the Tarot de Marseille cycle as they relate to both The Examples of Famous Men and Remedies for Good and Bad Fortune? Is there any direct parallel between Boethius' own life story, as recounted in his Consolatione, and the allegorical Fall of Princes represented in the middle trumps?

Answering those questions involved talking about Tarot, first and foremost; offering a coherent analysis of the trump cycle; making direct connections with the proximate meaning of the subjects depicted in the CONTEXT of the rest of the trump cycle. Tracing that meaning back to Boethius was the least significant aspect of the discussion, and only significant at all because the specific connections could be made with aspects of Tarot's trump cycle.

In short, I don't ask others to do anything I haven't already done.

Iconographically, the question is, can you explain the choice and arrangement of the trump subjects? What did these subjects and their hierarchical composition mean in early/mid 15th-century Northern Italy? You repeat the question-begging assertion that "the history of a tarot figure or trope and its development, who used it when and what it meant to them, might also help us understand what it meant to the authors who chose to use such in their tarot deck". LOL -- yeah, it MIGHT! But you don't know in advance, and you can't judge at all unless you have some idea what the trump cycle is about. You seem to be saying, "Let's find the most distant, least directly relevant information we can, and favor it in preference to more salient information."

WHY?

Are we TRYING to obscure the subject by looking at the least probative information? It's certainly not as if there are no proximate subjects to relate the cards to, if one is actually interested in the thinking of those who created Tarot in the first place. I didn't talk about Boethius to escape the meaning of the trump cycle and replace it with something more to my liking. Boethius was an inescapable outgrowth of studying Tarot itself. But to discover that required knowing something about Tarot itself... that is the standard of comparison.

If Boethius used Fortune's wheel in the same way that later writers and artists did, or more importantly, the same way that Tarot did, only then is the reference valid. If he used it in a significantly different manner, then the reference is misleading and will tend to obscure the meaning of Tarot. In either case, you need to understand how later writers and artists -- and Tarot -- used the trope BEFORE you can evaluate the more far-fetched (i.e., fetched from afar, distant, remote from the provenance of Tarot) sources or influences. If you don't know what the trump cycle is about, what criteria do you use to evaluate these alleged sources and influences?

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

Re: Are we seeking to clarify or obscure?

#6
mjhurst wrote: In short, I don't ask others to do anything I haven't already done.
Yes, Michael, that's reasonable and fair! And I assume that you ask them to do these things because you see your approach as best!

But we can still stand to learn from a different way of thinking, and I hope that when Psykees and others want to explore their ideas and research here, you'll let them. It's a big room.

cheers,
Debra

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

#7
I'm not sure if the mention of Boethius is as a consequence of Michael's site, or my prior mention of the same.

In terms of this specific reference, and speaking for myself only, it remains a pretty 'obvious' connection for anyone having a background in the History of Philosophy. In fact, when I read Boethius in the 1980s (pre-internet days), it was the ONE association that seemed to me fundamentally clear and seemingly and unexplicably missed by others. Same with Plato's three parts of the Soul and the Chariot.

What you are presenting here, Michael, is and answer to a question that, however, is something that is far more difficult and to which we may not all reach the same conclusion, for the simple reason that the evidence itself can point in multiple directions: what of the sequence as a whole?

It is in such determinations that what may at first be rather 'small' historical details may, over time, build to a different overall understanding, and in that light that even SteveM's showing of the crowning of the two allegorical branches of the church may become more significant with time.

This is still quite within the realm, I would have thought, of this area of the boards... though also bordering, depending on how discussion follows, on the activities in the Unicorn Lounge.
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Analysis versus Accumulation

#8
Hi, Jean-Michel,
jmd wrote:In terms of this specific reference, and speaking for myself only, it remains a pretty 'obvious' connection for anyone having a background in the History of Philosophy.
You appear to have missed my point entirely. Yes, it has been mentioned by many, but it has been understood and explained by no one, AFAIK. My point is that in terms of understanding the trumps as a meaningful allegorical cycle, such isolated and far-fetched references are very nearly worthless. It doesn't matter who makes them -- if they can't use them to explain the design of a particular Tarot deck, they are unhelpful. By themselves they are unhelpful, and the vast number of such "explorations", over many decades, with approximately zero critical analysis, obscures what should be the historical researcher's central subject matter -- the trumps and their arrangement into a unified composition. The old adage, you can't see the forest for the trees, seems appropriately descriptive here.
jmd wrote:In fact, when I read Boethius in the 1980s (pre-internet days), it was the ONE association that seemed to me fundamentally clear and seemingly and unexplicably missed by others.
What about it was missed by others? Moakley, of course, is the primary source for Tarot iconography just as Dummett is the primary source for Tarot history. Here is her discussion of Tarot's Fortune card, specifically the Visconti-Sforza rendition, from pages 86-87. As Robert has asked for more of her book to be posted, I'll quote the entire section.
X La Ruota (The Wheel of Fortune)

Fortune is shown here in her most common form, with the revolving wheel and four human figures. According to a medieval epigram, the one on the way up is growing a pair of ass ears, and is saying "Regnabo" (I shall reign). The one on top has full-grown ass ears, holds the rod of a ruler, and is saying, "Regno" (I reign). The figure on the way down has lost his ass ears, but acquired a tail. He is saying "Regnavi" (I reigned). The lowliest of the group, the man at the bottom, is the only fully human figure of the four. His words are "Sum sine regno" (I am without reign). Fortune herself has a pair of golden wings, and that expression of blissful unawareness of which Dante writes in his description of her:

But she is blissful and she does not hear;
She, with the other primal creatures, gay
Tastes her own blessedness, and turns her sphere.

Between the triumphs of Love and Death, Fortune turns her wheel and dispenses both joy and sorrow. The more sophisticated Italians of the Renaissance would find a deeper meaning in the idea that Fortune points to the equivalence of the two seemingly opposite triumphs: to Eros as the god of both love and of death. The beautiful story Psyche and Eros, well-known at that time, was related to the idea of Hypneros, the Funerary Eros pictures with legs crossed and torch held downwards. Lorenzo de' Medici referred to "that death in the sense in which lovers are said to dies, when they are entirely transformed into the object of their love."

Notes: La Ruota

Dante's Inferno, Canto VII, lines 94-96, is quoted from Dorothy Sayers's translation, by permission of the publisher, Penguin Books.

For Fortune see Patch (Goddess).

The medieval idea of Fortune's wheel is drawn from Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, book II, in which Fortune has a long talk with the author. She says: "Rotam volubili orbe versamus infima summis, summa infimis mutare guademus. Ascende, si placet, sed ea lege, uti ne, cum ludicri mei ratio poscet, descendere injuriam putes." The idea is strikingly like the Buddhist idea of the wheel of birth and death to which men cling, thereby creating their own sorrow and pain, and may ultimately have sprung from it. There was a corresponding idea that the practice of virtue made Fortune more friendly. "Duce virtute comite Fortuna" is the motto on a medal in Litta (Famiglie) II pt 1, fasc XVII, tav XXI fig 6. On a piece of faience of the Renaissance period Fortune is shown surrounded by Justice, Fortitude, and Prudence, with the Greek motto: "He Tyche akolouthos esti tes aretes" (Fortune is the follower of virtue). (Alexander Speltz, The Coloured Ornament of all Historical Styles, Leipzig, K.F. Koehlers Antiquarium 1914-15, III pl 24 fig 3). In the strife between Fortune and Poverty in Boccaccio's De Casibus (bk III, ch I), Poverty winds and makes Fortune bind Misery to a pillar. In Gentilshommes campagnards de l'ancienne France, by Pierre de Vaissiere (Paris 1925, p 35), we read of a man who had engraved over an entrance door "Inveni portum; spes et fortuna valete" (I have found harbor; hope and fortune, farewell).

In Dante's time it was said that Fortune's wheel has eight parts: umilta, pazienza, pace, ricchezza, superbia, impazienzaq, guerra, poverta, in which each state of life is across the wheel from its opposite. (Ancona, Uomo, p 12.)

Pope Pius II said of Francesco Sforza that he was the only man of his time whom Fortune Loved. (Memoirs of a Renaissance Pope, tr by Florence A. Gragg, New York, Putnam 1959, p 129).

An epigram known about Fortune in the Middle Ages is quoted in Ancona (Uomo) p 13: "Cursus Fortune variatur in more lune: / Crescit, decrescit et eodem sistere nescit. / Elevor in primis, regno tuo utor, in imis / aufero ecce nimis: raro distant ultima primis: / regnabo, regno, regnavi, sum sine regno."

Besides the wheel, Fortune is sometimes shown standing on a ball and carrying a sail. She appears thus in some of the illustrations for Petrarch's Triumph of Chastity. Here the allusion is to the wind, for in Italian various degrees of storm at sea are known as fortuna, fortuna di vento, fortunale, fortunalone. (Niccolo Tommaseo, Nuovo dizionario de' sinonimi della linguia italiana, Napoli 1935, p 1093; in a footnote he reminds us that for Horace Fortune was "domina aequorum.")

The equivalence of love and death was an idea which came to the Renaissance by way of the classical mysteries (Wind, Pagan, p 93). It is the theme of Colonna's famous Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. The thought may be related to the loss of the illusory ego in sexual union, as in death, which is so well described in Watts (Nature), ch 8: "Consummation." Van Eyck's painting, "The Marriage of the Arnolfini, " contemporary with the Sforza, seems to me a portrait of a man acquainted with this notion.

Wind (Pagan, p 133ff) tells us that Hypneros, the funerary Eros pictured with legs crossed and torch held downward, is related to the beautiful story of Eros and Psyche in the Golden Ass of Apuleius, which was well known in medieval and Renaissance times (Haight, Apuleius, p 111ff). He quotes Lorenzo de' Medici: "Nqatura insegna a noi temer la morte, ma / Amor poi mirabilmente face / suave a' suoi quel ch'e ad ogni altro amaro," and more plainly: "... intendendo questa morte nella forma che abbiamo detto moire li amanti, quando tutti nella cosa amata si transformono."
When Moakley wrote, "Between the triumphs of Love and Death, Fortune turns her wheel and dispenses both joy and sorrow", she came very close to identifying a crucial design element of the trumps. However, she failed to take the sequential arrangement seriously. Love and the Triumphal Chariot are on one side of Time and Fortune's Wheel, while Betrayal and Death are on the other. The hierarchy of the trumps is precisely the turn of Fortune's wheel, which is the foundational insight for explaining both the choice and arrangement of subjects in the middle section. The lowest trumps represent Mankind, the protagonist of Tarot's allegory; the highest trumps represent eschatological triumphs over the Devil and Death, the culmination of history. Between is the allegory proper, which is a Triumph of Fortune culminating in Death. Instead of seeing this as a detailed narrative arc explaining the trump cycle, Moakley merely noted the presence of related subjects as an interesting aside in her parody-of-Petrarch interpretation of the trumps.
jmd wrote:Same with Plato's three parts of the Soul and the Chariot. What you are presenting here, Michael, is and answer to a question that, however, is something that is far more difficult...
and correspondingly more worthwhile...
jmd wrote:...and to which we may not all reach the same conclusion, for the simple reason that the evidence itself can point in multiple directions: what of the sequence as a whole?
Again, you have misunderstood me completely.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with coming to the same conclusion. NOTHING. It has to do with actually making a case about the significance of the trumps, precisely "the sequence as a whole". Rather than arguing against some interpretation of the trumps, I'm arguing against the endless evasion of interpretation. Vague hand-waving in the general direction of distant analogies, taken out of their sequential context, do not move the project forward. Year after year they fail to show progress. Decade after decade they fail to show progress.

How many decades of brainstorming and "exploration" are needed before we try our hand at actually interpreting the series as something other than a random assortment of images? Dummett took the most conservative approach to presenting the grab-bag hypothesis back in 1980, and O'Neill took the most profligate, showing how endlessly the kitchen-sink eclecticism can be expanded. That approach can't really be taken any further than he did, as he included everything! If Tarot was just a hodge-podge, fine. If it was a hodge-podge intended as a collection of targets for psychological projection, again, fine. We've got that. It's been done to death for decades and is conventional wisdom.

My point is that there is another possibility. Maybe it had a coherent meaning.
jmd wrote:It is in such determinations that what may at first be rather 'small' historical details may, over time, build to a different overall understanding, and in that light that even SteveM's showing of the crowning of the two allegorical branches of the church may become more significant with time.

This is still quite within the realm, I would have thought, of this area of the boards... though also bordering, depending on how discussion follows, on the activities in the Unicorn Lounge.
First, blind accumulation does not seem like a productive method. As evidence, I would offer the great quantity of accumulated information re Tarot, in books and online, which contrasts with only a few actual attempts to explain the choice of subjects and their arrangement.

Second, as noted above, it's not about being right or wrong: it's about a worthless method of accretion and bullshit (as defined by Harry Frankfurt, assertions made without concern for their truth-value) posing as scholarship versus real research. Let me offer a specific example. Since the 19th century it has been an occultist commonplace to refer to the Love card as The Two Paths, in reference to the Tarot de Marseille iconography and Prodicus' allegory of Hercules at the Crossroads. This was basically bullshit, again, using that as a technical term. Like all the other occultist interpretations, there was no particular concern with the truth-value of the claim, and although many repeated the identification, few if any (none that I recall) bothered to find any historical cognates for the image to justify the claim. The intended subject matter of the Tarot de Marseille image is unclear. Given the numerous contradictory examples from other Tarot decks the claim seemed unlikely, and in the absence of any substantiation it was just another of the hundreds of unfounded claims.

This is the method you are advocating, as it functions in practice: the collection of ideas that may or may not have a connection with any particular Tarot deck.

This does not mean that all of the many hundreds of occultist claims, bullshit though they are, are false. To reiterate, it means that they were developed without concern for their truth-value. Some may in fact turn out to be correct, as it is difficult for anyone to be wrong 100% of the time. In this case there may be evidence that supports the occultist reading. Although the Tarot de Marseille Love card is not a very clear representation of this allegory, a 1580 painting by Paolo (Cagliari) Veronese does have elements reminiscent of the common Chosson/Conver style card. (There may even have been an iconographic tradition along these lines.) Vice is shown with a throne supported by a feminine sphinx, another motif familiar to occult Tarot. The moral lesson of the picture is indicated by the engraved legend in the upper-left corner: Honor and Virtue Flourish after Death.

[HO]NOR ET VIRTUS
[P]OST MORTE FLORET

Admittedly, that motto is more consistent with my own view of Tarot's moral allegory, both in terms of virtue and death, than with the occultist's systems of correspondence, but the point is the pictorial cognate. Paolo's hot curvy blond with the bare back and harlot-scarlet dress has apparently ripped the fellow's stocking, and he seeks refuge with the plain brunette, in her virtuous-green and royal-purple dress and wearing Minerva's laurel wreath. In the Tarot card the figures of Virtue and Vice are reversed L-R from the painting, so I've flipped it in the image below. The key elements of the comparison are the attractiveness and stylish hair of Vice/Venus, the wreath of Virtue/Minerva, and the gestures made by the three figures. The gestures are different, but seemingly related and understandable via the same allegorical subjects. The central figure's body is turned slightly toward Vice/Venus while his head is turned toward Virtue/Minerva, a perfect reflection of Man's ambivalence. Cupid, naturally enough, is aiming his arrow to the side of his patron, Vice/Venus.

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Once again, the point is not whether this reading is right or wrong, and it is not about who first pointed out the cognate, although in this case the earliest mention of I can find is from you, about six years ago.

http://www.tarotforum.net/showpost.php? ... stcount=16

The point is about actually presenting evidence and making a case. In a circumstance like the Wheel of Fortune, where the subject matter is clear to all but die-hard occultists, mentioning Boethius is the norm but dwelling on Boethius is a digression, a distraction, unless you have some particulars that explain something not already obvious.

As for your suggestion that I am copying you without attribution, if that is true I sincerely apologize. If you explained the symbolism on the Tarot de Marseille Wheel by reference to specific passages in the Consolatione before I did, I'd love to see it so that I might cite you for it. I did not mean to slight you, but I simply don't recall having seen it. If you explained that the trumps above the Pope and below the Devil are a distinct section of the overall cycle and explained that the hierarchy of that section shows the turn of Fortune's Wheel before I did, I'd love to see that so that I can credit you for the discovery. If you pointed out that the lowest two subjects of that section are successes, the middle two reversals, and the final two illustrate downfall, in a Boethian, Wheel of Fortune, Fall of Princes narrative arc, I will be thrilled to quote what you wrote and give you credit for explaining the central role of the Wheel in the overall cycle. If you explained the position of the three virtues in Tarot de Marseille as being directly connected with those successes, reversals, and catastrophes in the manner of Petrarch's Remedies, again please let me quote your posts on the subject. I do not mean to ignore anyone who "got there first", and I would very much like to quote you and cite you for these discoveries, despite the fact that I don't recall having seen them.

The suggestion of plagiarism or unacknowledged borrowing is naturally disturbing, and I will correct any oversights I've made IMMEDIATELY. I assure you that I was not aware of any of these things being presented by you.

Of course, if that was not your interpretation but instead you provided some other detailed analysis of the trumps and Fortune, I would very much like to see that too. Reiterating yet again, in the hope that you understand it, the point is not one particular interpretation. I would love to see any detailed reading of the trump cycle as a whole. There have been very very few sober attempts that I am aware of, while there have been hundreds of collections of vacuous parallels of the type you seem to be promoting here.

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

Re: Are we seeking to clarify or obscure?

#9
Nice to have your response to my reply, Michael. But frankly, I do not think I had missed your point given what you wrote above... or I've missed it again!

When I said that "when I read Boethius in the 1980s", I found it rather inexplicable that his reference and future development of imagery of the Wheel of Fortune had been "missed by others", it was as a general statement. I suppose I really should have been more precise, and said that authors I had by that time come across (and Moakley was for me at that stage only a footnoted reference, as I did not obtain her book until many years later), such connection seemed to be generally unknown in the tarot world. Even Kaplan's Encyclopedia of Tarot (vol 1 - at that stage the only volume out), fails to mention such - or if it somewhere therein does, I failed to find it at the time (and must admit that I only rather quickly checked again in making this post... and could again have missed it if in there).

The closest I found then (and again) in that vol. is on p 69 is mention of Giulio Ferrario's compilation of Poesie Pastorali e Rusticali (with wonderful short explanatory expressions from each of the figures quartering the Wheel and Fortuna herself).

When you say of Moakley that "Instead of seeing this as a detailed narrative arc explaining the trump cycle, Moakley merely noted the presence of related subjects as an interesting aside in her parody-of-Petrarch", I would suggest that in her very explanation she did indeed attempt to make an explanatory 'narrative arc' with her view of the carnival procession (chapter 5 is a good synopsis of her view on this). What she does not do, of course, is what many of us consider must also be able to be accounted for in terms of the cards as sequential cards, and not carnival parade (even if 'originally' there was a close affinity between the two), and that this latter may have more intrinsic suggestive value than she may have presented... and as mentioned elsewhere, her work remains but an opening to whole fields of plausibilities remaining to be further explored, of which Michael remains one of the few who appears to have taken his research and presentation in that direction.

In this, and in your statement about "actually making a case about the significance of the trumps, precisely "the sequence as a whole"", I entirely agree.

Where I perhaps suspect that we may be at odds one with the other is in seeking still further possible, and historically consistent and plausible, accounts for individual images, and that in order to allow plausible explanatory sequences to emerge.

Personally, I remain unconvinced that there is a single explanatory model for the sequence as a whole, but rather various episodes that each had an impact on perhaps even modifying the order and its very imagery. For example, there is a clear distinction that is to be made between what developed as the Empress as empress, and the Visconti-Sforza equivalent of the card (her ducal crown in the latter exemplifies this).

It is a combination of not only detailed note, but also how the sequence may variously have been plausibly viewed (as well as the stabilising influence of copyist and game rules), that may best account for the sequence as a whole.
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