Re: Themes and Games

also a few things of Augustine's "city of God"
Yes, yes... For example, Book I, chapter X or Book V, chapter I et ss.

as other literary works
Yes, its interesting Seneca and Cicero.

we've done ourselves
:-? ... Yes, but no :) .

I think there are important milestones in the study of tarot. Generations have raised all over again. I think this evolution is:

I. Moakley
  • Begin serious study. But much remains to be discovered.
II. Kaplan
  • Much material. There would be no history of tarot Kaplan.
III. Dummett, Depaulis, Berti, Pratesi and Vitali (mainly)
  • The study is systematized. Many advances.
IV. + Internet researcher generation (Ross, Robert, Lorredane, Hurst, Marco, Steve, Cadla... all Forum Tarot History) + And historians III which are still active, as Vitali.
  • Age postgraduate.
    Now its making much progress. Many. Very serious studies. With scientific rigor.
    In other matters, this phase of the study began around 1960... but of course they did not have the fateful tandem Gébellin-Eteilla.
When a man has a theory // Can’t keep his mind on nothing else (By Ross)

Re: Themes and Games

The philosophy of Boethius

As with the Triumphs the source for this theme was widely known. The most popular work of philosophy from the early Middle Ages up to c.1650 was Consolatio Philosophiae, "The Consolation of Philosophy" by Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius (480–525). He was a former Roman Consul who was imprisoned by the barbarian king of Italy but managed to write the Consolation in prison before his execution.

The Consolation is concerned with using philosophy to understand the world and achieve happiness, seeing everything as a consequence of God's nature.

I've used the English translation of the work at ... ePhil.html. I've also arranged the cards under six headings: God, Fate, Chance, Fortune, Virtue, Philosopher.

(Note: I've changed a couple of things in this group since the initial post. The Angel is introduced and the Fool removed.)


Card: Angel/Judgement. God has a timeless existence and has a fixed plan for ordering the Universe.
the universe ... its government is not subject to random chance, but to divine reason (Book I, Prose VI)

This universe would never have been suitably put together ...unless there were some One who joined such different parts ... a fixed order of nature could not continue its course ... this cause of their remaining fixed and their moving, I call God (Book III, Prose XII)
To fill this slot I have used an idea I mentioned for the highest card in Karnöffel namely that the Angel was originally a "God" card. It was also the next card above the Sun in most Tarot orderings.


Cards: Star, Moon, Sun. God's plan manifests itself in the temporal world as Fate which drives the heavenly bodies in a predictable and regular way.
Thou who dost rule the universe ... who hast bidden time stand forth from out Eternity ... giving movement unto all (Book III, Verse IX)

every motion and progress in the world, draw their causes, their order, and their forms from the allotment of the unchanging mind of God ... Fate moves the heavens and the stars ... constrains, too, the actions and fortunes of men (Book IV, Prose VI)
Some poetry provides imagery for the cards.
Founder of the star-studded universe, resting on Thine eternal throne whence Thou turnest the swiftly rolling sky, and bindest the stars to keep Thy law; at Thy word the moon now shines brightly with full face, ever turned to her brother's light, and so she dims the lesser lights; or now she is herself obscured, for nearer to the sun her beams shew her pale horns alone. Cool rises the evening star at night's first drawing nigh: the same is the morning star who casts off the harness that she bore before, and paling meets the rising sun ... (Book I, Verse V)

Card: Tower. The fortunes of men are also caused by Fate but are made less predictable by Chance.
Thus all things Thou dost rule with limits fixed: the lives of men alone dost Thou scorn to restrain, as a guardian, within bounds. For why does Fortune with her fickle hand deal out such changing lots? (Book I, Verse V)

the chances of good and bad fortune are tossed about (Book I, Prose VI)
Chance seems to be the best subject for this card as the image matches with the idea of a sudden chance event and may have been taken from a line in a poem.
He who has calmly reconciled his life to fate, and set proud death beneath his feet, can look fortune in the face, unbending both to good and bad: his countenance unconquered he can shew. The rage and threatenings of the sea will not move him ... the lightning, whose wont it is to smite down lofty towers, may flash upon its way, but such men shall they never move. (Book I, Verse IV)

Card: Wheel. Fate and Chance together cause fortune and misfortune. Fortune can favour evil men over good and cannot bring true happiness.
What more unjust confusion could exist than that good men should sometimes enjoy prosperity, sometimes suffer adversity, and that the bad too should sometimes receive what they desire, sometimes what they hate? (Book IV, Prose VI)

Fortune: nothing is to be sought in her, and it is plain she has no innate good, for she is not always joined with good men, nor does she make good those with whom she is joined. (Book II, Prose VI)

happiness cannot be fixed in matters of chance: if happiness is the highest good of a man who lives his life by reason, and if that which can by any means be snatched away, is not the highest good ... Fortune by its own uncertainty can never come near to reaching happiness. (Book II, Prose IV)
The Consolation was the original source for the image of the Wheel of Fortune in art.
As thus she turns her wheel of chance with haughty hand, and presses on like the surge of Euripus's tides, Fortune now tramples fiercely on a fearsome king, and now deceives no less a conquered man by raising from the ground his humbled face. (Book II, Verse I)

I (Fortune) turn my wheel that spins its circle fairly; I delight to make the lowest turn to the top, the highest to the bottom. (Book II, Prose II)

Cards: Temperance, Justice, Fortitude. Men should not rely on fortune but instead should lead a life of virtue to achieve happiness and seek the true good.
Keep the middle path of strength and virtue, lest you be overwhelmed by misfortune or corrupted by pleasant fortune. (Book IV, Prose VII)

mortal men ... strive to reach one end, which is happiness. And that good is that, to which if any man attain, he can desire nothing further ... For there is implanted by nature in the minds of men a desire for the true good (Book III, Prose II)

the essence of the good and of happiness is one and the same (Book III, Prose X)

good is the end of all things (Book III, Prose XI)

God, the Creator of all nature, directs and disposes all things for good (Book IV, Prose VI)
The Consolation fails here as a source for the imagery; traditional representations have been used. Boethius stresses unified virtues rather than separate ones.
happiness is a state which is made perfect by the union of all good things. (Book III, Prose II)

Card: Bagato. Philosophers should use reason to find their true good selves and discover the true nature of God.
(about philosophers) to oppose evil men is the chief aim we set before ourselves (Book I, Prose III)

Thus, therefore, mortal men have their freedom of judgment intact ... Turn therefore from vice: ensue virtue ... all you do is done before the eyes of an all-seeing Judge. (Book V, Prose VI)

Grant then, O Father, that this mind of ours may rise to Thy throne of majesty ... To see Thee clearly is the limit of our aim. (Book III, Verse IX)
It looks like there is a slot here for a card to provide a balance with the God card at the top. I've chosen the Magician/Bagato because of the depiction on the early Visconti-Sforza card rather than the later ones which always show a conjuror.


Here the character is shown sitting at a desk, holding a stick in the attitude of a pen, with a possible penknife and inkpot in front of him but no paper. Instead there is an object to the side which, as it is white, may have been a pile of paper or a book. The grandiose hat is a hint that this was a person of some importance and I'd suggest that it's Boethius himself, sitting in his cell awaiting execution, and having just completed the Consolatio, is holding his hand over the result as though to say "I've finished".
I was pondering thus in silence, and using my pen to set down so tearful a complaint (Book I, Prose I)
Al Craig

Re: Themes and Games

Just, a little late, to the situation of Filippo Maria arranging a present for Louis d'Orleans (I thought I posted it earlier, however, I later noted, that I forgot posting).
Al Craig wrote:
For the Boethius influence, there is the interesting detail
The date is very suggestive but Boethius' Consolatio was a widely known work. Supposedly, it was the most influential book in Christendom after the Bible.
In the concrete situation ... if we assume, that it is correct, that Filippo Maria arranged, that Louis of Orleans got a Boethius edition, then it has the dimension, that the Boethius text is prisoner literature (and Louis d'Orleans just had been 25 years English prisoner) and that Boethius had been prisoner in Pavia (and Filippo Maria once had be himself "prisoner in Pavia" in the time of Filippo Cane). So it's a lot of "private" biographical detail, that interferes the general analysis, that Boethius was just very common literature. It seems to say, that "me, Filippo Maria, once had been prisoner in Pavia, and now I'm mighty duke of Milan" and "you, Louis of Orleans, have been 25 years prisoner in England, but now you're back from this darkness and your light will shine brightly in your future as duke of Orleans" and "possibly you'll become also duke of Milan as my successor".

It was a general political tool of Filippo to play with the vacant dukedom Milan for the case, that he himself would die. It was a way to make others cooperative, hoping, speculating. Likely a lot of rich people play this Dagobert Duck (Scrooge McDuck) game.
In the final end there were 5 or more aspirants with hopes and "rights" etc.. The Ambrosian republic made this all for some time "impossible", after some time it became Francesco Sforza as husband of his single daughter, but actually he was only one between many.

In the analysis of the Cary Yale and Charles VI it seems, that "Fortune" wasn't a figure (between the 16 known special cards of the Charles VI is NO wheel of fortune and in the analysis of the Cary-Yale the Wheel seems not necessary). Well, "Chess" isn't a game of luck and it's assumed (at least by me), that these were Chess Trionfi games, illustrating the 16 necessary figures.

A wheel of fortune seems to have accompanied constantly divination literature, lot books. As far I remember, there had been 5 wheels of fortune in Molitor's Fortune telling systems collection, collected between 1450-1473.

In the Echecs Amoureux of Evrart da Conty (ca. 1398) are used 16 gods and 32 "expanded elements" of the "Roman de la rose" to express the 32 Chess figures and Fortune is a figure in the opening, but not part of the game. "Nature" is another figure at this place, but also not part of the game. Juno appears (together with Fortune) and later Mercury together with Venus, Minerva and Juno (the Paris scene) and also present is the author. "Juno" stands likely for that, what the book is about, "wedding+marriage", Venus and Minerva are there as alternatives of the erotic life. Nature presents the force which drives the author to pair with the other gender. The author has the choice and strands in a chess game, which he loses ... :-)


from Alain's page ... ... all pictures, the first 4 reign the introduction.

The analysis of Cary-Yale and Charles give the result, that the pawns should have been used as virtues. In the Cary-Yale it's easy, there are (reconstructed) 7 virtues and an 8th factor is assumed to be "Love", likely the pawn before the Queen and possibly the standard opening move (if the analysis is true, then the game started with love ... naturally).

In the (probably) later Charles VI it seems, that 3 of the virtues of the earlier Cary-Yale model (the theological virtues) were replaced by Sun, Moon and Fool (the Charles VI has NO Star) ... but these seem to be connected to typically Florentine virtues (it's more or less generally assumed meanwhile, that the Charles VI is Florentine and not, as earlier suggested, from Ferrara). Also it is (more or less generally) assumed, that the deck was made earlier than 1470. No general agreement exists for the hypotheses, that the Charles VI had only 16 special cards (so a Chess Tarot) and that it probably was made in the year 1463, as I postulate.
I conclude that from the situation, that Lorenzo di Medici became 14 years old in this year, generally the year of adolescence. From other examples we assume, that playing cards were for "young people", so for brides to their wedding or for boys, when they are around 14/15 years old (another male example is Ladislaus posthumus, who is believed to have gotten his Hofämterspiel ca. 1455, then he was 15 years old). Actually it is assumed, that it was likely expected by male grown-ups (18 and older) to be interested in chess and not in cards. In Savoy we had the "strange law" in 1430, that card playing was prohibited usually, but not when playing with women ... so giving the impression, that it was not prohibited for women (likely women of the court), but usual accepted free time use. Card playing seems to have been an accepted tool, that different gender could do something with each other in an accepted social form, so the function was a "flirting ritual".

Lorenzo became 14 ... so assumes the theory, and the "3 Florentines virtues" present details, which appeared near to this date.

So it's assumed in the detailed research, that the two persons (astronomers) at the moon card present Regiomontanus and Toscanelli. Regiomontanus arrived 1461 in Italy and had at least letter contact to Toscanelli.


It's assumed, that the spindle women at the sun card refers to Florentine textile industry (Florence became rich by its textile industry).


It's also assumed, that the Fool presented "Morgante", a giant figure of Pulci's Orlando-work with the same name. Pulci has been house teacher for Lorenzo, and he got the commission for the work by Lorenzo's mother Lucrezia Tornabuoni in 1461 (Lorenzo 12). In 1463 (Lorenzo 14) the work was more than half ready, but its final edition was finished and printed near to Pulci's death in 1483.


The Florentine "Love" knows three pairs, it's possible, that it referred to Alberti's Philodoxus (Alberti wrote an educative work for Lorenzo around 1461 ... the Philodoxus, which is a play with 3 pairs of lovers, is from Alberti's own youth).


The triumphal chariot, standing for one of the Chess knights, carries Medici heraldic (the repeating 7 circular arranged dots). Likely it's meant that Lorenzo presents himself the youthful triumphing charioteer, who proudly became 14 years old.


The other 4 cards are virtues, World seems to be Fama or Prudentia, at least signified by a halo as the other virtues.


Could we associate the use of 7 virtues directly with Boethius ... in the case, that the general consideration is considered as relevant in the question ?
I don't know. The association of chess figures with soul forces or allegories was done in highly complex manner (actually much more complex than I assume or postulate it for the Tarot Chess model) by Evrart de Conty already in 1398. It was possible for people of the observed time to think in this way. And I would say, that it is - anyway - an interesting game of the mind ... :-)

There seems to be not much doubt in the question, that Boethius could have known chess ... :-) ... No, chess arrived much later.

Later corrected: one picture was wrong

Re: Themes and Games

mmfilesi wrote:why only one book for explain the tarot?
Two actually, Marcos, and I'm sticking with them. They get good results. :)

The Viscontis certainly had a taste for the arcane when it came to books.
Huck wrote:Filippo Maria arranged, that Louis of Orleans got a Boethius edition ... that interferes the general analysis, that Boethius was just very common literature.
Huck, 1440 is very early. Maybe the Tarot originated as a private commission and only went into wider circulation much later .
Could we associate the use of 7 virtues directly with Boethius
I can't even find evidence to associate 3 virtues with Boethius. He doesn't seem to distinguish individual virtues.
Al Craig

Re: Themes and Games

Al Craig wrote:
Huck wrote:Filippo Maria arranged, that Louis of Orleans got a Boethius edition ... that interferes the general analysis, that Boethius was just very common literature.
Huck, 1440 is very early. Maybe the Tarot originated as a private commission and only went into wider circulation much later .
Well ... "small distribution at the beginning", that's my own major assumption, as I already explained. Ross has the idea, that there was a larger distribution.
But Boethius is another theme ... :-) ... it's you, who announced an argumentation for a causal relation between Trionfi decks and Boethius. I just remembered the Boethius note of the earlier research.

... in research we generally observe all and everything, what happened to specific persons, especially around the critical dates and that's in this case 1441/1442.

We have
1.1.1441 ... 14 figure in the present of Bianca Maria (in Ferrara)
October 1441 ... possibly Cary-Yale-production (in Milan)
January 1442 ... first Trionfi cards noted in Ferrara
July 1442 ... relative cheap Trionfi cards bought for the boys )(in Ferrara)

The Ferrarese and Milanese court are especially close to each other in these years. We have notes only of a very limited circle of persons, which all knew each other.

Then we have a pause of Trionfi cards notes of nearly 7 years

We have a relative cheap Trionfi deck in a soldier camp around Milan, likely March/April 1449, observed by Jacopo Antonio Marcello. Marcello has no problems to regard the Michelino deck with 16 trumps (gods) also as a "Trionfi deck" in November 1449. After this time Trionfi cards notes are known more or less constantly (about 45-50 notes totally in 15th century), as far we know them.

The pause is interpreted by me as a time of increased playing card prohibition tendencies. Leonello married a daughter of Alfonso of Aragon ... Alfonso is presented in the biography of Bistecci as "against playing cards". In the time of the pause we've various production notes of Imperatori card notes in 1443 and then only 1 single note of a playing card production in 1446.
As playing card use was strongly connected to women, it might be, that the position of Leonello's wife reflected the position of her father Alfonso, so that she "also was against playing cards". In the general mood of the time we have, that Pope Eugen, after having big difficulties at his begin as pope, became definitely successful 1444/45. Eugen had a close relation to the Franciscans (San Bernardino, Capistranus), and these were definitely against playing cards. Bernardino died 1444 and became a saint already in 1450 ... that's very quick.
Also observable are increased prohibition tendencies in Florence and its surrounding cities in the 40's of 15th century.
Could we associate the use of 7 virtues directly with Boethius
I can't even find evidence to associate 3 virtues with Boethius. He doesn't seem to distinguish individual virtues.[/quote]

I recognize my error memory had it, that Boethius also had an appearance of the 7 virtues, and that's obviously wrong.

Re: Themes and Games

A short summary

I've made some changes since the original post so I'll restate the current situation briefly.

It is suggested here that the Tarot trumps were divided into three main groups representing sets of trump cards of different sizes and each decorated with it's own theme:


Popess, Empress, Emperor, Pope


Lovers, Hanged Man, Death, Chariot, Hermit, World


Magician, Temperance, Justice, Fortitude, Wheel, Tower, Star, Moon, Sun, Judgement

Additionally a card was provided which, when used with three others already used, could have been used to play the German game of Karnöffel.



The final card, because of it's subject, was more likely to have been a wildcard for use in card-combination games rather than a trump card.



I've just got one last post to make to express my views on the Fool card.
Al Craig

Re: Themes and Games

Well, Karnöffel ...

... of course, there was a devil in this game, and, of course, there is a devil in Tarot.
However, was it the same devil?

Studying Master Ingold, living in Karnöffel's early time, we learn, that he describes (to our regret) only two decks, both with 4x13-structure:

The first has a King and a Queen ... and third court card, which has raised the irritation of Ingold, is a junkfraw,
in other word a second female, and Ingold's mind, open to prohibition of all kind, realizes his "work of the devil": That's a representation of a king with a queen and a second wife for his immoral desires.
Well, and that's the devil.

In the second deck Ingold realizes 8 professions (though likely a copyist made an error, cause the first row has only 7)

Row 1 (7 figures):
* ackerman
* edelman
* wuchrer
* pfaffen
* toypel (female)
* riffian
* wirt

Row 2 (8 figures, the missing weinman is added)
* edelman
* wuchrer
* pfaff
* täppelweib (female)
* riffian
* wirt
* weinman
* pauman der den wein pauwen soll
"Nun sind auf dem kartenspil fier küng mit iren wauppen, und hat ieglicher under im XIII karten, das macht an ainer sum LII, und hat ieglichü das zaychen irs küngs. Etlich kartenspil hat dar zu fier küngin und fier junkfrawen, etlich haben den ackerman, den edelman, den wuchrer, den pfaffen, die toypel, den riffian, den wirt; und gewint ie ains dem andern ab: dem edelman der wuchrer, dem wuchrer der pfaff, dem pfaffen das täppelweib, dem täppelweib der riffian, dem riffian der wirt, dem wirt der weinman, dem weinman wider umb der pauman der den wein pauwen sol, der nimpt das gelt wider von dem wirt."

Well, from these 8 professions 7 are male nd one is female, and this reminds me on the chess game, in which is one Queen and 7 other guys presenting the chess officer row:

Rook - male
Knight - male
Bishop - male
Queen - female
King - male
Bishop - male
Knight - male
Rook - male.

The Queen has the fourth position, and in the row of Ingold's game, the Toypelweib (that's translated a "prostitute"), has also the position, and the following 5th position, in chess the noble king,is in Ingold's game connected to the Riffian (and the Riffian is translated a "pimp").

So, a morally "very wrong world", and we have to suspect in the real producer of this deck form a man with some satiric ambitions and that, what he presents, is really funny, a social critique of his time. Oh, well, of course, that's again the devil.
I don't follow this into detail, but's it's to recognize, that we have here the oldest known "funny deck" ... surely there were others before it, and it's not surprizing, that we have the touch of some erotic in it (as in the case of the 4 Kings and there 8 female counterparts).


The erotic deck has is traditions as the Tarot cards have one and the satirical deck also.


Well, playing cards were perhaps the first everyday pictures for the small man, and they had some Pin-Up-girl function. So, there's the devil, how Ingold saw it, Belial's daughters, as he calls them.

In other words, at least the old German cards connected women to the devil - which seems to have been a far spread view of the world, at least in the mind of medieval men, who are mostly responsible for the most, what we are able to detect in "old sources". Women had been rare writers, as we know.

Now to the rules of Karnöffel, as they are knon from 1537 ...

the 7 is connected to the devil
the 6 is connected to the pope
the 2-5s are connected to the 4 Emperors
... but the Karnöffel beats them all

In Tarot rather constantly the Pope had Number 5, and number 6 belonged to the card "Love", this are other numbers. However, German decks of this time had no Aces, no number 1. So naturally the row was raised with "+ 1" and then we have

Tarot Pope 5 (+ 1) = Karnöffel Pope 6
Tarot Love 6 (+1) = Karnöffel Devil 7

and then we have it, that the German devil (rather connected to erotic intentions) was transformed to an Italian "Amore".

For the "4-Emperors" (2-5) we have then with the (+1)-condition in Tarot

4 - Emperor ... developed from "King"
3 - Empress ... developed from "Queen"
2 - Papessa ... developed from Junkfraw, but also from "Knight" or Ober or upper marshall
1 - Magician ... developed from Unter or from lower Marshall

... in other words "Emperor + family .. ", so the plural of Emperor. Imperatori.

We have to realize, that in many modern games points are used, likely going back to very old traditions ...
... a card-King counts 4
... a card-Queen counts 3
... a card-Jack counts 2

and in Tarot rules
... a card-King counts 4 or 5
... a card-Queen counts 3 or 4
... a card-Knight counts 2 or 3
... a card-Jack counts 1 or 2

It's easy to see, though the things differ slightly cause some inner developments, that's all one family, well, rather simple, cause the Karnöffel/Imperatori - game (and the very normal card deck without additional trumps) is the father of the later Tarot cards. In other words ... the natural origin of Tarot in many small evolutionary steps.

No deep riddles about the Papessa ... it's the Junkfraw, and it has its first appearance to our eyes in the manuscript of Johannes of Rheinfelden (1377), then as the maiden of the playing card queen. It's very old.


What do we see? A queen and a junkfraw ...

Going back from 1537 we have to study Meisner's Karnöffel poem, likely written around 1450, possibly a little earlier:


Well, it's different from that, what is known from the later Karnöffel version. We have to assume, that Karnöffel developed and changed as Tarot or Trionfi developed and changed.

... :-) ... there is no chance to describe all and everything, what happened at all the billions of card tables and in the mind of the players ... one can only paint this "picture of playing card development" in rough lines based on that, what we definitely know. And simple ideas should be preferred against too complex ideas ... .-) ... and the very simple line says, that Tarot developed from the usual card deck. And it likely didn't develop in one stormy night or one man's single ideas, but in a heavy competition of many ideas, from which most are lost and some survived and it's not accidently so, that the "most successful" survived. Well, and its logical, that, when many runners start a marathon race, that finally some runners really reach the goal and are the first, or the second or are "simply successful".
This victory doesn't prove, that they've been really the best playing card ideas, that history has ever seen ... .-)

Re: Themes and Games

Thanks, Huck, that's a nice exposition of your thoughts on the origins of Karnöffel and the relation of the Tarot to normal cards.
Karnöffel/Imperatori - game is the father of the later Tarot cards
That's what I've been implying here.
Tarot developed from the usual card deck
Karnöffel ... there was a devil in this game ... there is a devil in Tarot ... was it the same devil?
It's odd that a German game should be represented in an Italian pack of cards. The suggested scheme of four cards doesn't match perfectly with the later descriptions of the game. I'd assume that it was an earlier, simpler version of the game and a variation of Kaiserspiel.

I was hoping that I could match all 22 cards to the three main groups but I've not been able to do it. I've been left with the Devil, and now the Fool, to explain separately. Currently I can't see any other way to explain the Devil other than to associate it with Karnöffel but in explaining all five groups in card gaming terms at least I've been consistent.
Al Craig

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 16 guests