The "synoptic" view of the tarot recognizes Michael Dummett's discovery that all the various orders, around 20, can be reduced to three families, which largely observe a threefold division of structure. His deductive arrangement is confirmed empirically by the fact that each family is identified with different geographical regions. With these observations he was able to identify three specific cities for each of the three families, which he called A, B and C. A for Bologna
and everywhere south; B for Ferrara
and everywhere east; C for Milan
and everywhere west (and the rest of the European continent). Tom Tadfor Little coined the more descriptive terms Southern
respectively for the families.
My own term, "synoptic", comes from seeing the trumps as a narrative, and likening the three families to the three synoptic gospels - the same basic form (the three parts), using the same sources (22 subjects of the cards) is presented in different ways, with different details (designs and orders) but still observing the same three overall divisions of subject matter.
I characterize these three divisions in the most general terms as -1) present state of the world (hierarchical or disordered); 2) moral example (or generalized as morality of active life until death); 3) the world to come (eschatological/apocalyptic).
These three divisions are expressed with three Petrarchan triumphs - triumphs of Love
Here is an interpretation of the Bolognese sequence.
(Bolognese cards have been double-headed since the late 18th century, so our contemporary images are less informative than earlier ones. The images here are the earliest printed images for the Bolognese cards I know of - the Beaux-Arts and Rothschild sheets (c. 1500), a 17th century pack in the Bibliotheque national in Paris, and for Fortitude, an 18th century pack (around 1750).
The so-called Charles VI pack is very similar to the earliest printed Bolognese images, and is clearly of the A or Southern family, but lately opinion is leaning towards the cards being painted in Florence. However, please look at them as well, as the earliest examples of the Southern cards, perhaps as early as the 1450s.
) http://www.rosscaldwell.com/images/taro ... ries01.jpg
Triumph of Love - the Current State of the WorldLove
(concupiscible appetite, desire) triumphs over the whole world below - Popes, Emperors, the players of the game (Bagattino), Kings, and everyone below (the whole pack). Note that the Popes and Emperors are not ordered in listing the sequence - their "order" is determined in each round of play, thus illustrating the game of power in the current state of the world
.http://www.rosscaldwell.com/images/taro ... ries02.jpg
Triumph of Death - a Moral Example (in de casibus
triumphs over everyone too, even those with the greatest virtue - the example of Caesar
is shown. Although possessing all virtue
and highly favored by Fortune
, he imprudently
ignored the oracles and signs and at an appointed Time
he was Betrayed
.http://www.rosscaldwell.com/images/taro ... ries03.jpg
Triumph of Eternity - the World to ComeEternity
triumphs over death and hell
(Apocalypse 20:14). An apocalyptic scenario is shown in the final cards (each specific to the three families - in the Bolognese it is the Last Emperor
The game is called “triumph(s)” because of the specific triumphs in it: Love triumphs over the unstable world (unordered Papi); Caesar triumphed (Chariot), but Fortune, at an appointed Time (Ides of March) betrayed him (Traitor, triumph of Death); finally the last Emperor will really triumph (World), and usher in the millennial age, before the resurrection (the ultimate triumph, over death and hell).
The game is in three parts – the present
, the past
(a famous exemplum
), and the future
. (This resembles the symbolism of three dice that Isidore attributes to dice players - the three dice represent present, past and future (Etymologies
18, lxiv ("The figurative sense of dicing")).
Game is a moral game with a political message. The rulers of the world (Papi), along with all of us, are playing a silly game (Bagattino – trifle
). This is the confused state of the present world, and everyone is in servitude to Love (concupiscence).
An example is shown – Caesar the triumphator. He had all virtues – temperate, just, and courageous, but “he trusted in Fortune rather than Prudence” (Appian, Civil Wars
2,58) – so Fortune appears where we expect Prudence to complete the Cardinal Virtues (this is why they are grouped together - to make us anticipate the "missing" one). A specific Time
, is uniquely famous in connection with his downfall (Ides of March (March 15) was prophesied to him (Plutarch Julius Caesar
63; Suetonius, Julius Caesar
, 81), but he imprudently ignored it and was betrayed. Death ends the example (this is a moral example, not just a history lesson, so we should read it as a warning about trusting in fickle Fortune).
Then the next world is shown, and the world that is coming. Satan eats the damned (including Cassius, Brutus and Judas, the exemplary traitors). Satan
will have power, but will be destroyed
(Apocalypse 20:7-10; Gog and Magog). A new Emperor is coming, shown by the Morning Star
, and signs in the heavens
)). Everything under the Sun
is appointed a time by destiny
(the Spinner symbolizes Fate); this Emperor
will establish peace over the World
. After that will come the end of time, at the Resurrection