The Ur Tarot: the very beginning

#1
I've been looking at the order of the majors from a very slight shift in perception since a moment of supposed insight on the World thread.This prompted me to re-read a very long thread, which intimidated me for weeks, but re-reading the two essays in Explaining the Tarot has given me fresh heart, and although I'm not completely happy with what I have so far, I thought I'd post in the hope that it might trip a switch in someone with a better knowledge of history than I.

There is in fact very little change here from other attempts to work out an order. It's simply a slightly different starting point, the alteration of the title of The Chariot to War and emphasis on the key word: Power. I had hoped to be able to pair all the cards, but some refused to behave...

Please bear in mind that this is the Unicorn Terrace, but I'm not wedded to this idea, so feel free to pick holes. demolish if you will, or just explain to me why it can't be this simple.

Let’s make a few assumptions to begin with – none of them is daring.

1. That the game, recognisable to us today as tarot, is not the result of a gradual change from decks such as the so-called Mantegna Tarot, but was a definite step and a new idea (inspired by what had gone before) – the idea of a set of either narrative or hierarchical illustrated cards to use as trumps. That someone, somewhere in Europe around 1425 had this idea and sat down with the Renaissance equivalent of pencil and paper to work out the details.

2. That this person, after much thought and crossing out, took a new piece of paper and wrote a list of the triumphs. This list might or might not have been numbered, but it consisted of WORDS, and possibly an elucidation of these words. Perhaps there were notes too. This was the first Tarot Script. It may even exist somewhere, tucked into the binding of a book… If we could work out exactly what these words were we might be closer to the answer.

3. That this list/script was given to an artist/craftsman to illustrate.

4. That the hierarchy and the subjects of the trumps had to be obvious, as there were no numbers or titles. A note to this effect may have been included in the instructions to the artist/craftsman. (This idea is the biggest leap, as Bernard pointed out to me on the World thread that the game itself doesn't neccessarily need a hierarchy, but let's say for the sake of argument that the creator of the trumps wanted one, for reasons that will become obvious later.)

5. That the hand-painted cards commissioned by the nobility are in a class of their own and should be considered separately from the cards in common usage.

6. That the game was in common usage common prior to the existence of the hand-painted cards.

What might that list in #3 have looked like? Below is the latest in my attempts to work out the likliest possibility. The colours indicate strong pairings.

A Procession of Earthly, Supernatural and Celestial Power and the Final Triumph of Divinity

0. Fool: lowest of the figures that represent humanity. Without much intelligence or malice, without power, except to wander at will
1.Mountebank: One up from the Fool, but a pair with him, as they often work together. (Two representatives of the lower orders.)


2. Popess: Pope’s consort in some sense. Represents the church because the Pope is married to the church.
3. Empress: Emperor’s consort. (Two female consorts of powerful men)


4.Emperor:
5.Pope: (Two powerful men)


6.Love: conquers the Pope
7. War: a chariot driven by Mars. Conquers Love. (A pair of opposites)


8. Strength: conquers War
9. Fortune: good fortune can conquer Strength.

10. Traitor: powerful because he works undercover against man’s normal instincts to stay true to his family/tribe, which on a larger scale becomes his country. No one expects this sort of undercover deceit, which is why it’s difficult to detect and therefore more powerful than Strength or the Fortunes of War.
11. Justice: conquers the Traitor. Another pair.


12. Temperance: implies mercy.
13. Death: conquers all that comes before.

14. Devil: First supernatural entity. Conquers Death by condemning the sinner to burn in Hell.
15. Time: Father Time, second supernatural entity. Time will eventually conquer the Devil. (Two supernatural entities.)


16. Fire from Heaven: The first of the celestial phenomena. More powerful than the Devil as it is directed by God.
17. Stars: increase of power. Celestial bodies that order man’s existence on Earth.

18. Moon: 3rd celestial body. Power over the tides. Stronger astrological power.
19. Sun: Most powerful celestial body. Man's existence on Earth depends upon it. Even greater astrological Power. (A strong pair of opposites.)


20. The Angel: Divine messenger, therefore closest to the Divine.
21. Triumph of Divinity. Power over all.

Pen
He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy...

Re: The Ur Tarot: the very beginning

#2
Dear Pen, thanks for this very interesting development. %%- %%- %%-

Its a good starting point for many interesting reflections. I need think about your exposure before responding, but I have some doubts.

7. War: a chariot <- why not the fame?

8. Fortune: <- why not the "vanitas"? (thats mind, the Fortune in the sense of Boecio and Petrarca: the absurdity of pursuing material goods).

16. Fire from Heaven. <- why not the Hell?

The Angel: <- why not the Final Judgement?
When a man has a theory // Can’t keep his mind on nothing else (By Ross)

Re: The Ur Tarot: the very beginning

#3
Hi Marcos,
I chose those words/titles because I felt/feel sure that the inventor of the triumphs intended them to be a sequence of increasing something, with each subsequent card stronger than the one before, and hoped that if one hit on the exact original title of each card that the sequence would fall into place.

War conquers Love, and is also its opposite, making a pair. This wouldn't have worked with Love and Fame.

Fortune has to conquer Strength for the same reason, so has to mean luck rather than refer to the absurdity of pursuing material goods.

Fire from Heaven - again, it fits the progression better than Hell.

And to think of The Angel rather than Judgement (although this is the Angel of the Last Judgement), allows one to see the overall picture (or intention?) more clearly for what I think it is - a procession of Power.

If the early cards had no titles printed on them, people would have known what they were but would almost certainly have called them different names in different places and at different times. This is why I feel that if only we could work out exactly what was on that original list, all might become clear.

Pen

Edited to add: It would also explain why all the Virtues are not present. It's because (according to this theory) this is a triumph of power rather than a number of sets of things, as seems to be more the case with the minchiate.
He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy...

Re: The Ur Tarot: the very beginning

#5
Well... assume these points are true.

1. That the game...

2. That this person... [Can I named him the "Ur-cartolaio"? :) ]

4. That the hierarchy and the subjects of the trumps had to be obvious...

OK. Now we can imagine Ur-cartolaio in her house. Sure, it seems a person creative, intelligent and cultured, as shown the tarot, a sophisticated game with complex allegories.

Ur-cartolaio has one very importan reference to start their new game of cards: Petrarca's trionfi. OK?

That is:

humanity < love < pudicitia (chastity) < death < fame < tempus < eternita (god)

Then, Ur-Cartolaio divides the first concept humanity

civil authority: Emperor - Empire (Empress)
religious authority: Pope - Church (Popess)

Its not important the order for this 4 triumphs now. (in facts, they can changed some times). Well, he starts to have a hierarchical ladder...

[Humanity]
Emperor - Empire
Pope - Church
Love... <-

But, what is love? It is a human feeling. Well. Let's ask ourselves, what are Ur-cartolaio feelings? He is a man of quatroccento who read Petrarch. Thus, we can imagine that the human feelings may include:

the love of fame (military): Chariot
the love for material goods: Fortuna

From a medieval Christian perspective, what happens when you love earthly things more than the divine things?

Time is unstoppable and everything on Earth will arrive her Death. And if you have not been a good Christian, you go to the Hell (the Devils domain, as the Popess and the Empress are the domain of the Pope and the Emperor).

OK. Ur-Cartolaio can now re-made her ladder:

[Humanity]
Emperor - Empire
Pope - Church
[Humanity earth-feelings]
Love
Chariot
Fortune
[The inevitable end]
Time
Death
[The punishment]
Devil (lord of humanity earth-feelings)
Hell

But, and this is very important, In Christianity its very important the God's ultimate forgiveness (hope). The greatest sin of all is losing hope of being forgiven (St. Augustine, Petrarca, Piscina). Is a God treason. Well, think Ur-Cartolaio, then put before the Death the God treason.

[The inevitable end]
Time
-----------> Traitor
Death

And, think Ur-cartolaio, what is the end of all this? What is the most powerful in the Universe? The sense of the Universe? Sure, the last-Judgement and the triumph of God (eternitas). But if we want think the tarot was born with 22 triumphs, we can think Ur-Cartolaio wanted to reflect the ascent to heaven (as reflecting the human feelings before the Death and the Hell). Well, sure in his library was the Divine Comedy. So, we can put another piece.

[ascension]
Star (as Morning Star)
Moon
Sun
[eternitas]
Last Judgement
The World (the triumph of God).

Well, now Ur-Cartolaio, for some reason, decided to start this hierarchical ladder with the opposite of the triumph of God (World), that is, with the hoax of the senses: the Magician.

But now he have a big problem, because he want put the Death in 13 position. And besides, Ur-Cartolaio want her game is like the Apocalypse of St. John: Last Judgement in 20 position (chapter 20 in the Bible), and The World in the 21(Heavenly Jerusalem, chapter 21 in the Bible). [Or another reason, as de Cabala... its not important in this jocke-hipotesis).


Magician
[Humanity]
Emperor - Empire
Pope - Church
[Humanity earth-feelings]
Love
Chariot
Fortune
[The inevitable end]
Time
--> Traitor
Death -----------------------------------> necesarily in 13.
[The punishment]
Devil (lord of humanity earth-feelings)
Hell
[ascension]
Star (as Morning Star)
Moon
Sun
[eternitas]
Last Judgement -----------------------------------> necesarily in 20.
The World (the triumph of God) -----------------------------------> necesarily in 21.

But Ur-Cartolaio is a lucky man! Petrarch also spoke of virtues. So, he can include some virtues in this ladder. He can take three virtues to adjust her schedule. So, he can think:

Justice near of Judgement
Temperance (the domain of feelings) near of Love
And Fortress near the Chariot (military).

Magician (senses hoax)
[Humanity]
Emperor - Empire
Pope - Church
[Humanity earth-feelings]
Love
--> Temperance
Chariot
--> Fortress
Fortune
[The inevitable end]
Time
--> Traitor
Death
[The punishment]
Devil (lord of humanity earth-feelings)
Hell
[ascension]
Star
Moon
Sun
[eternitas]
Last Judgement
--> Justice
The World (the triumph of God)

:) :) :) :) ...

Well, it's just a game. I think exists many experiments first arrives to 22 triumphs (8, 14, 16...) and dont think the narrative scheme of the tarot was 100 x 100 consistent. But these exercises are very healthy. Thank you very much, Pen.
When a man has a theory // Can’t keep his mind on nothing else (By Ross)

Re: The Ur Tarot: the very beginning

#6
Marcos, thanks for the detailed reply. A question though. Are you saying that because Ur-Cartolaio was a Renaissance man that his thinking and invention would have been confined within the limits of what he read in Petrach, Dante and the Bible with no room for manoeuvre?

Because if this were so surely one might reasonably expect the two essays in Explaining the Tarot to agree with one another far more closely than they do. It's also revealing that both Piscina and the anonymous writer of the other essay felt that there was a need to explain the tarot relatively soon (to us, at least), after its appearance.

But I'm not arguing for this order, or any other. It was an exercise in simplicity and lateral thinking that changed the way I look at the trumps and the game of tarot (the game of life?) itself.

Pen
He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy...

Re: The Ur Tarot: the very beginning

#7
Hi Pen,

Please forgive the fleeting thoughts... but wanted to share my gut reaction to your post, and hopefully will have more developed thoughts to add later.

Fool and Mountebank. I feel these two are a strong pair, their unique play in early rules in Bologna adds to the liklihood, and as you say... we see them paired in art of the period.

Some combination of the Popess, Pope, Empress and Emperor, either by sex or by role.

Love and War. Yes, I agree.

Strength and Fortune - Harder for me.

Traitor and Justice - Yes, very sensible.

Temperance and Death - Hmmmmm.

Devil and Time - Not sure about this one either. Supernatural... ? Okay... but such different roles and mythologies.

Fire from heaven (thunderbolts! bethyls!), Star, Moon and Sun... yup. okay, even as pairs.

Angel and Divinity - Yes, I'm especially fond of World = Eternity.

Overall I like many of the pairings, although you could always go with Angel and Devil as a good pair, leaving Time and Eternity?

cheers, thanks for the start of a nice thread.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: The Ur Tarot: the very beginning

#8
Are you saying that because Ur-Cartolaio was a Renaissance man that his thinking and invention would have been confined within the limits of what he read in Petrach, Dante and the Bible with no room for manoeuvre?
Hi friend! :)

No, sorry. I resume. I think in the century XV exists many authors who influenced in the tarot: Petrach, Dante and the Bible, sure, but also Cicerón, Boccaccio, St. Agustín, St. Tomasso d'Aquino, Boecio...

Two very interesting articles in trionfi:

D'Este-Library
http://trionfi.com/0/l/12/

The Library of Filippo Visconti
http://trionfi.com/0/l/11/
When a man has a theory // Can’t keep his mind on nothing else (By Ross)

Re: The Ur Tarot: the very beginning

#9
Pen wrote: Please bear in mind that this is the Unicorn Terrace, but I'm not wedded to this idea, so feel free to pick holes. demolish if you will, or just explain to me why it can't be this simple.
....

1. That the game, recognisable to us today as tarot, is not the result of a gradual change from decks such as the so-called Mantegna Tarot, but was a definite step and a new idea (inspired by what had gone before) – the idea of a set of either narrative or hierarchical illustrated cards to use as trumps. That someone, somewhere in Europe around 1425 had this idea and sat down with the Renaissance equivalent of pencil and paper to work out the details.
... :-) ... well, it's a fiction placed in a manner, as if we hadn't done a lot of other work in the past years to fix that, what "one could safely say" about the origin of Tarot. Naturally it's the right of everybody to place such a fiction, wherever he/she desires. My personally preferred version of Ur-Tarot the "nearly Egyptian origin" of c. 2400 BC, when the Egyptians decided to part "upper Egypt" in 22 regions or districts, and each district got an animal as a quasi-heraldic element and these were as pictures painted either at the front or backsides of temples. ... :-) ... in contrary to your fiction/hypothesis this fiction/hypothesis of mine has real evidence.

Well, I'm not really disturbed that these signs do not really look like common Tarot motifs.
Naturally this had been an Animal Tarot - long ago. A little bit younger seem to be the 22 letters of the Phoenicians alphabet. If we can agree, that that these are abstractions of other "higher ideas" we again would have 22 paintings and naturally that would be a rather important Tarot, very important for the development of Western culture.
Well ... more near to the relevant time I would consider as a sort of Ur-Tarot the chess order of Cessolis c. 1300 AD ... I personally favor a deep influence of general chess culture on the younger medium playing cards.

Your missing evidence:

1. 1425 ... that might be the date of the Michelino deck. It had 16 gods, and the suits were birds. It indeed had some similarity to the game Tarot in its rules, the gods were definitely trumps and it had a hierarchical row ... and as it is the oldest, what we know of, it's somehow the "real" Ur-Tarot of the moment.

2. There's no evidence for any real card game with 4x14+22-structure before the Boiardo Tarocchi poem. This is estimated by us to have its origin in 1487. Well, it hadn't a big similarity to usual Tarot.

3. The word Tarot didn't (likely) exist ... the first note (Taroch) is from 1505, though words like Tarochus seem to have been used in the 1490's.

4. The row of motifs you refer to seems to be rather late ... possibly 1557 by Geofroy Catelin. Although, I personally would calculate, that at least part of this row is much older.

Naturally the factor "missing evidence" can't be used to exclude the possibilities of "clouds of the unknown far in heaven". Definitely there are lots of such clouds in the reality of true history and certainly one as to calculate their possible existence, when studying the facts which are really known ... :-) ... But anyway, talking too much about "nothing real" is like driving without street map or navigation system.

Well, I know, that Ross assumes something similar ... and a lot of "authorities" have assumed a realization of the "Standard Tarot" in the time of "c. 1450".

But really there's a bunch of cards, maybe 300 for 15th century in different as "fragmented" interpreted positions, and around 50 relevant documents, which use the term of ludus triumphorum, Trionfi or similar. In the evaluation of the earlier "authorities" the different appearances of these were interpreted as "always talking of the same type of deck" ... though we know of a lot creativity in matters of Trionfi similar decks. In reality we have:

1. Only once a real relation between object, structure and name ... well, that's just the Michelino deck and it's just a deck with many differences to usual Tarot: 16 gods, totally 60 cards, birds as suits.

2. Only once a deck, which looks "nearly complete" (in the sense of the 4x14+22-stucture from begin on) ... and just this deck is "painted by two different artists". And one of the artists painted just 14 cards ... and this fits with the 5x14-theory (14 Bembo trumps - Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo Tarocchi).

3. Only once we have a clear statement, how many cards were produced for a deck ... and just this information does not talk of 78 cards, but of 70 ... and just this number fits with the 5x14-theory (document of 1457 Ferrara)

4. Only once we have a second deck with relative much trumps with the Charles VI. deck, which curiously knows totally 17 cards and from this 16 are trumps. ... and just 16 as number of the trumps had already appeared with the Michelino deck and 16 is also plausible number for the unclear state of Cary-Yale Tarocchi, which uses 16 cards in each suit (and has as a "fragmented state" and 11 trumps, from which 3-4 don't fill in the assumed standard pattern.

5. Twice we have more or less real complete information (Boiardo Tarocchi + Sola-Busca) and in both cases the structure is really 4x14+22, but just these decks are rather different (no standard motifs, differences in the suits). Unluckily just these both don't belong to the very early decks (Boiardo assumed for 1487 + Sola Busca for 1491) and other decks with similar clear appearance (Rosenwald, the preacher's list).

So you have the paradox experience, that reality somehow avoids to give clear confirmation for the theory of an existence of the standard Tarot in 1450 ... but just in the few cases, which are useful in the much "not speaking" information, it talks, as if nobody knew, that the decks should have had 4x14+22 - structure (as modern mind seems to expect this).
Huck
http://trionfi.com

Re: The Ur Tarot: the very beginning

#10
Robert, Huck, thanks for the replies.

Quotes =Huck
... ... well, it's a fiction placed in a manner, as if we hadn't done a lot of other work in the past years to fix that, what "one could safely say" about the origin of Tarot.
I’m not in any way trying to belittle the work you and others have done in the past, but surely “what one could safely say” is also fiction until it has been proved beyond doubt? I simply wanted to work forwards from the idea of an Ur-Cartalaio. Those seeming pairs invite some re-arrangement.
Your missing evidence:

1. 1425 ... that might be the date of the Michelino deck. It had 16 gods, and the suits were birds. It indeed had some similarity to the game Tarot in its rules, the gods were definitely trumps and it had a hierarchical row ... and as it is the oldest, what we know of, it's somehow the "real" Ur-Tarot of the moment.
The existence of the Michelino deck doesn’t rule out the possibility of a more tarot-like (as we recognise it today) deck coming into being at around this time.
2. There's no evidence for any real card game with 4x14+22-structure before the Boiardo Tarocchi poem. This is estimated by us to have its origin in 1487. Well, it hadn't a big similarity to usual Tarot.
Lack of evidence is not evidence for the historical non-existence of such.
3. The word Tarot didn't (likely) exist ... the first note (Taroch) is from 1505, though words like Tarochus seem to have been used in the 1490's.
The word Tarot itself is not important – the game could have begun with a quite different name and ended up with what could be a common or slang name.

From Wikipedia
Slapjack, also known as Slaps, is a simple card game, generally played among children. It can often be a child's first introduction to playing cards. The game is related to Egyptian Ratscrew and is also sometimes known as Heart Attack.
4. The row of motifs you refer to seems to be rather late ... possibly 1557 by Geofroy Catelin. Although, I personally would calculate, that at least part of this row is much older.
It was simply an exercise in thinking differently, in working from the idea of an Ur-Cartalaio.
Naturally the factor "missing evidence" can't be used to exclude the possibilities of "clouds of the unknown far in heaven". Definitely there are lots of such clouds in the reality of true history and certainly one as to calculate their possible existence, when studying the facts which are really known ... ... But anyway, talking too much about "nothing real" is like driving without street map or navigation system.
Huck, this is the Unicorn Terrace, remember? And sometimes these things do prompt others with more historical knowledge than yours truly to come up with something of value. Marco’s investigation and great discovery regarding the girl's girdle on the Visconti Moon card is one example.
Well, I know, that Ross assumes something similar ... and a lot of "authorities" have assumed a realization of the "Standard Tarot" in the time of "c. 1450".

But really there's a bunch of cards, maybe 300 for 15th century in different as "fragmented" interpreted positions, and around 50 relevant documents, which use the term of ludus triumphorum, Trionfi or similar. In the evaluation of the earlier "authorities" the different appearances of these were interpreted as "always talking of the same type of deck" ... though we know of a lot creativity in matters of Trionfi similar decks. In reality we have:

1. Only once a real relation between object, structure and name ... well, that's just the Michelino deck and it's just a deck with many differences to usual Tarot: 16 gods, totally 60 cards, birds as suits.
If the earliest tarot cards had no titles, how can this be determined? It’s the reason I believe those first words written by Ur-Cartalaio (if he existed) are so important. If we could work out what they might have been, a coherent and fitting pattern could possibly be found. It’s a bit like One Potato’s clock mechanism. There we all were, completely flummoxed, dashing around trying to find out what Father Time had on his back. Then OP arrives with the missing piece of the puzzle and Eureka! All become clear, true and without room for doubt.
2. Only once a deck, which looks "nearly complete" (in the sense of the 4x14+22-stucture from begin on) ... and just this deck is "painted by two different artists". And one of the artists painted just 14 cards ... and this fits with the 5x14-theory (14 Bembo trumps - Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo Tarocchi).
The hand-painted decks were (for convenience) excluded as being too idiosyncratic. Historians don’t all agree on the structural theories. And as I said, this was an exercise in…
3. Only once we have a clear statement, how many cards were produced for a deck ... and just this information does not talk of 78 cards, but of 70 ... and just this number fits with the 5x14-theory (document of 1457 Ferrara)
See above.
4. Only once we have a second deck with relative much trumps with the Charles VI. deck, which curiously knows totally 17 cards and from this 16 are trumps. ... and just 16 as number of the trumps had already appeared with the Michelino deck and 16 is also plausible number for the unclear state of Cary-Yale Tarocchi, which uses 16 cards in each suit (and has as a "fragmented state" and 11 trumps, from which 3-4 don't fill in the assumed standard pattern.
My exercise didn’t take into account the specially commissioned hand-painted decks, but worked from the assumptions at the beginning of my post.
5. Twice we have more or less real complete information (Boiardo Tarocchi + Sola-Busca) and in both cases the structure is really 4x14+22, but just these decks are rather different (no standard motifs, differences in the suits). Unluckily just these both don't belong to the very early decks (Boiardo assumed for 1487 + Sola Busca for 1491) and other decks with similar clear appearance (Rosenwald, the preacher's list).
I think the Sola Busca is probably too different from tarot to be offered as evidence. And 'more or less complete information' is, well, more or less incomplete...
So you have the paradox experience, that reality somehow avoids to give clear confirmation for the theory of an existence of the standard Tarot in 1450 ... but just in the few cases, which are useful in the much "not speaking" information, it talks, as if nobody knew, that the decks should have had 4x14+22 - structure (as modern mind seems to expect this).
Huck, I can’t quite get my head around what you’re saying here. But I’m happy to throw my idea in the bin if you think it’s beyond the bounds of possibility, even though I’m now rather fond of Ur-Cartalaio… And thanks again for your reply - 'twas better than being ignored... @};-

Pen
He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy...

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