Many aspects of the Star card can be found in alchemy. O'Neill associates the young person holding the water jugs--a motif going back to the 15th century Cary Sheet--with the albedo, the whitening, a process of repeated washings. So we have illustrations of women pouring hot liquid into a washtub and drying the clothes afterwards: Maier's 1617 Atalanta Fugiens
emblem III (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... em_03.jpeg
), for which the motto is "Go to the woman washing sheets, do thou likewise"; and Mylius's 1622 Philosophia Reformata
emblem 22 (out of 28 in the series), shown below. However there are never two jugs.
O'Neill also refers us to the Splendor Solis
; a lady with a star on her head is shown about to clean off a dark man (Emblem 8, which I reproduce from Transformation of the Psyche
, p. 84). There are no jugs, just the lady and her star.
This perspective, seeing the card as about cleansing, is consistent with the ritual of washing and anointing as presented both in the Bible and in Homer's Odyssey. For examples from the Odyssey
, see my post at http://www.tarotforum.net/showpost.php? ... stcount=67
, where I also talk about the a possible pun from "LE TOILE" as the word is seen on some cards, to "LA TOILLE", meaning cloth, and "LA TOILETTE," washing. And there is also "LE TOULE," Marseille dialect for "spring," another place for washing, which the Conver title looks a lot like, especially in the mutilated form in which we have it.
Here I have just reproduced the bottoms of the cards (further down, you can see the wholes from which they are taken); there is no suggestion of "LE TOULE" in the Chosson; it is most evident in the 1760 Conver (middle image).
But my subject here is washing and anointing. not possible puns. I will give some biblical examples (the ones in Homer are similar). In a diatribe chastising Israel as a harlot, Ezekiel (16:9) counts being washed and anointed as one of the blessings that God has given his ungrateful people. Ezeikiel has God say: "And I washed thee with water, and cleansed away thy blood from thee and I anointed thee with oil." (Et lavi te aqua et emundavi sanguinem tuum ex te et unxi te oleo; at http://vulgate.org/ot/ezekiel_16.htm
Similarly, Moses has Aaron and his sons washed, and then Aaron, as high priest, anointed (Lev. 8:6-12). In the New Testament, John the Baptist washes Jesus in the Jordan, while the Holy Spirit anoints him (Acts 10:38). Then at the end of Jesus's life, Mary Magdalene washes his feet with her tears and anoints them with oil (John 13:2).
Then there is King David. Upon hearing of the death of his newborn son, he first washes and then anoints himself, and finally breaks the fast he had been on in hopes of winning God's pardon (II Sam. 12:20). His first sin had been to have sex with Bathsheba and beget a child. His second was to have her husband killed in battle, so that David could marry the widow and claim the child. Appropriately, the figure on the Budapest card (16th century, below right, Kaplan vol. 2)) looks down as though contrite. After the bath and anointing, David apparently is cleansed of guilt, because the next thing we hear is that Bathsheba is pregnant again, this time with Solomon (II Sam. 12:24).
On this Budapest Museum card, the young man, with a six-pointed star above him, is reminiscent of Michelangelo's David. During the 15th-16th centuries such a star was known as the "shield of David" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_of_David)--and
a symbol of Christ's reputed ancestor. David is the prototypical "anointed one," (Psalm 89:20), the meaning of "Christos" in Greek. Perhaps our 16th century card player, in seeing the naked man on the card and the six-pointed star, would have thought of a popular statue recently completed in Florence.
My guess is that the meaning is that washing was meant to purify one, while anointing made one holy. It is thus like the two steams in Dante, needed for him to pass from Purgatory into Paradise. There, in drinking the one, Lethe, one forgets one's sins. Drinking the other, Eunoia. one remembers one's good deeds and so prepares for Paradise. Here one is cleansed by the water and made a man of God by the oil.
Comparing other images on the card to images in alchemy, we can see this washing as the culmination of a long process. In Mylius's Anatomia auri
, 1628, near the end, six small stars appear with one large one, with the sun and moon above them. De Rola says that they symbolize "the seven Sublimations."
The sublimations are what occur when the Subject is put into a gaseous state. It condenses on the walls of the retort as tiny specks (first below), similar to the globules seen on the Maison-Dieu card, or it falls inside the retort like raindrops (second below). Here are two examples; in each case we see star imagery as part of the process. The first is from Mylius's Anatomia auri
Above, the left beaker would seem to correspond to the Devil card, the middle the Maison-Dieu, and then the Star. Next in this sequence come Luna and Sol.
Here is another version of the process, from Barchusen's Elementa chemiae
, 1718. According to Fabricius (Alchemy
p. 235), these are engraved versions of watercolorillustrations in the early 17th century "Crowne of Nature."
Here the stage corresponding to the Star card is a star with a sun and a moon inside it. Its allegorical equivalent, Fabricius tells us, is Latona, mother of Apollo and Diana. Maier shows her and her children in Emblem XI of Atalanta Fugiens, being washed by the alchemist. I suspect that the Splendor Solis's
image of a lady with a star on her head also represents the same result, the albedo, from which the new Luna and the new Sol will emerge.
The other part of the emblem, of the philosopher tearing a book to pieces, is not related to the tarot.
The alchemical interpretation, when extended to include a second jug, comes to much the same thing as Dante's purification so as to enter Paradise from Purgatory: he is dipped in one steam for cleansing of sin, and the other to make one suitable for the gods. The alchemical version as given, with only one jug, is less developed than the tarot version, which--like the Odyssey
, the Bible
, and the Divine Comedy
, uses two.
On the Marseille II versions (e.g. above), there is a bird in a tree with outstretched wings, facing the sun about to rise, or perhaps the largest star. This bird has its alchemical equivalent. The frontispiece to the French translation of the Hypnerotomachia
shows a phoenix facing the sun with its wings outstretched.
The rest of the page puts the image into an alchemical context. Here I can do no better than to quote from Gerhart B. Ladner, Images and Ideas in the Middle Ages
(in Google Books, but without many of the images)
The phoenix on the tree of life appears, for instance, in a late Renaissance pictorial synthesis of alchemistic renewal symbols: the frontispiece of Francois Beroalde de Verville's translation (published in the year 1600) of the famous allegorical novel Hynnoerotiomachia Polifili by Fra Francesco Colonna, O.P. (first published 1499), which in the sixteenth century had greatly influenced hieroglyphics and emblematics, but now was interpreted by Beroalde de Verville from the "stenographic", that is to say, esoteric point of view of alchemy. ...In Beroalde de Verville's image the fountain, the new sprig from the old trunk, the phoenix, the tree of life, and the other symbols of renewal are all connected by the curve of a strong branch which holds this symbolic universe together; the composition is supported furthermore by a vegetative background network formed by a ramifying myrtle tree, which we are told symbolizes the all-pervading power of love. (p. 759f)
Ladner explains that the phoenix signified the "mercurial" power of the spirit which the alchemist reached in the final and highest stage of his "work":
...in such alchemistic imagery (cf. Fig. 16) the symbolism is no longer that of the Resurrection but of the "highest mercury"; the quasi-mystical matter-transforming and life-renewing core of alchemy (related, of course to ancient Hermetism).
Here is Ladner’s illustration, along with a close-up of the relevant detail.
Jesus was often put in a tree in a similar place, at its top. He is another symbol of regeneration and resurrection. So the bird in the tree, which would have been seen as a phoenix, is another symbol of the regeneration, from this alchemical perspective, which the washing and anointing by the two jugs symbolize.
The motif of a bird next to a a new shoot coming out of a cut-off tree appears elsewhere at that time. Here is another image, from 1633 (from Roberta Albrecht, The Virgin Mary as alchemical and Lullian Reference in Donne
, p. 62, at Google Books):
The accompanying poem says:
Behold how Death aymes [aims] with his mortal dart,
And wounds a Phoenix with a twin-like hart.[heart].
These are the harts [hearts] of Jesus and his Mother
So linkt [linked] in one, that one without the other
Is not entire...
This is from England, written in the shadow of Shakespeare's famous "The Turtle and the Phoenix," in which there was a similar linking of hearts in death (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Phoenix_and_the_Turtle
So they lov'd, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.
After that there was John Donne's "Love's Alchemy." These poems may or may not be overtly alchemical, but they are very much in a culture which mined alchemy for poetical purposes suggesting transformation and renewal.