The original subject of this thread was: 'Lydgate's "Popess" and Wheel of Fortune'
mjhurst wrote: If we can accept that the Popess in Tarot is an allegorical personification closely related to the Roman Catholic Church, then the Tarot card becomes just another example of this large body of woodcuts, paintings, drawings, illuminations, engravings, coins, tapestries, ceramics, and sculptures. The question of her precise meaning remains unresolved.
This is where the sequential context is paramount. What do the lowest trumps, as a group, represent? If the trump cycle as a whole has a coherent meaning, then the Popess must be directly related to the adjacent cards in sequence, and at least indirectly related to the entire sequence of subjects. Taking her out of context and spinning tales about legendary, pseudo-historical figures (like the fictional Joan or semi-fictional modern version of Manfreda) tells us little about early Tarot. (It does tell us why early writers might confuse her with Pope Joan, but that's about all.) Both were good hunches, decades ago when they were new. Both are now modern folklore, but not viable explanations for the Popess card.
What is the gist of the lowest trumps, and what allegorical identification of the Popess can make sense of that? This is the meaning which can explain the designer's choice of subject matter, why a female figure with papal attributes was put into the sequence originally.
Hello Michael,mjhurst wrote: Different versions of De Remediis include extremely varied versions of the Wheel of Fortune and Ranks of Man motifs. All are significant parallels for Tarot, because the theme of Tarot and De Remediis are identical. Both detail the fickle turns of Fortune and the use of Virtue as a remedy for those circumstances.
taking together your last two posts, I think it would be interesting to consider an analogy with Lydgate's Dame Doctryne, since she appears in a Wheel of Fortune. Another interesting coincidence is the fact that Lydgate's works are contemporary to the invention of tarot.
From what I have found online, the Dame Doctryne illumination comes from a manuscript of “The Siege of Troy”, but the image seems to be based on the text of “The Assembly of Gods, or the accord of Reason and Sensuality in the fear of Death” (pag.44). The illumination (and the text) can be understood as you explained on pre-gebelin:
So the other crowned figures on the left of the illustration are not kings waiting to climb the Wheel of Fortune, but they are other allegories. But while Lydgate's allegories are about the interpretation of literary works, the context of the first trumps is that of a “ranks of men”. So the analogy can only be pushed to the hypothesis that both Lydgate's and tarot's allegories “put people on the Wheel of Fortune”. I think that accepting the Popess as an allegory implies that also the Empress is an allegory. The Fool also can be seen as allegorical. So possibly the first six cards could be taken as three couples representing powers that shape human life, with the ranks corresponding to a life based on such powers:The Wheel of Fortune is held/turned by the Quene of Fortune. On the left, Dame Doctryne is accompanyied by two male figures, Holy Texte and Scrypture, and two female figures, Glose and Moralyzacion. They are shown helping people rise on Fortune's Wheel because, Lydgate says, scripture is about that which shall fall. Nobles, clerics, and commoners are shown falling. Once again, the popess is an essentially and emphatically Christian allegory.
- * the Bagat (a person of little value) is the example of a life shaped by Foolishness (“Stultitia”, in Giotto's Scrovegni fresco)
- * the Emperor (a person of great temporal power) is the example of a life shaped by Authority (Potestas, the Empress)
- * the Pope (a person of great spiritual power) is the example of a life shaped by Faith (the Popess, Fides in Giotto's Scrovegni fresco)