Now I want to put on the table a hypothesis connecting tarot and goose. It has no doubt occurred to others but not mentioned due to lack of direct evidence. The hypothesis is that the tarot trumps might have started out in a board game, perhaps not of the chess but of the "Monopoly" variety, by which I mean, one where pieces travel from a starting point to a finishing point, with a reward at that point, and then repeat, until there is a winner. Goose is an example of that type.
In the tarot, as a trick-taking sequence in a game suitable for children, it doesn't make ideological sense for the Hanged Man, the Devil, and the Arrow to be more powerful than one or more of the virtues (however true it may be in real life), when it comes to capturing "counting cards" in tricks. Virtue is what gets one to the goal of life, i.e. heaven. So in the game, positive cards ought to contribute to the goal and negative ones work against it. (Another might be Fortune, as a temptation. Death, to be sure, is unavoidable; still, it shouldn't triumph over virtue. Time likewise. By the same token, I'm not sure that virtue should triumph over the Pope and the Emperor; the official line was that these personnages were virtuous.) Also, even the idea of a sequence, in the sense of progress toward a soteriological or eschatological goal, is obscured in trick-taking (although I realize that some don't see the tarot sequence in such terms; but it is plausible). In a board game, however, the sequence is clear, and it is perfectly normal for there to be helpers, obstacles and temptations in the path. I know of no direct evidence for such a hypothesis. However it may be that no one has looked carefully enough. Or it may be a matter of accumulating indirect evidence, such as the considerations I have just mentioned.
There is also the question of whether, if it was a children's game, we should even expect there to be evidence in the sense of documents or other records. That it would not have survived after the invention of tarot can be explained: if the two games used the same sequence, there was now no point to the board game, unless it was altered.
The game of goose is a Monopoly-type game with good and bad squares. Marco has given us an example, with sayings instead of geese, sent by Francesco de' Medici to Philip II of Spain. 1588: viewtopic.php?f=12&t=913#p13332. The game has 63 squares. but only 26 of them have something on them, in Marco's list. 9 of them are very similar, on the theme of "work" (in goose, they would have geese on them). Is it possible that goose in an earlier form was the proto-tarot; or another of that type?
That goose existed a century earlier than 1588 is argued cogently in the interesting piece cited by Huck, (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=754&p=10880), to which I add my attempt at a translation:
Andrea has another version of this, from Rabelais, and he translates the French and Latin, at http://www.letarot.it/page.aspx?id=281&lng=ENG. What follows is a translation arrived at between Andrea and myself:‘Bridoye et le jeu de l’oie’
"On joue beaucoup aux dés chez Rabelais. Gargantua s’y exerce dès l’enfance, Panurge ne saurait vivre sans. Mais à quoi? Au jeu de l’oie? L’épisode de Bridoye y invite mais les historiens sérieux de ce jeu, ceux qui ne le croient ni renouvelé des Grecs, ni égyptien semblent formels. Aucun jeu de l’oie antérieur aux dernières années du seizième siècle n’est conservé. Pourtant, le dominicain italien Barletta (= 1480), dans un sermon pour le quatrième dimanche de l’Avent, parle du jeu de l’oie à cette période de Noël, plus même, il y faut des gros et des petits dés afi n de remédier aux imperfections de la vue dues à la sénescence. Ce texte est, on le sait, paraphrasé par Rabelais: “Sed dicunt quidam. Si vult venire in domum meam in istis festis, paravi plura. Si voluerit ludere at triomphos (tarot) sunt in domo, ad thesseras habeo plura tabulatia, ad aucam habeo taxillos grossos et minutos. Grossos ut si forte male videret, qui a deus senuit”.
Le texte est édité à Brescia en 1497-1498, à Lyon dès 1502, 1507, 1524…
(Bridoye and game of goose
"A lot of dice is played in Rabelais. Gargantua practices it from childhood, Panurge cannot live without it. But why? In the game of goose? The episode of Bridoye invites but serious historians of the game, those who believe it is certainly neither renewed Greek nor Egyptian. No board game prior to the last years of the sixteenth century is preserved. However, the Italian Dominican Barletta ( = 1480), in a sermon for the fourth Sunday of Advent speaks of board games for this Christmas season, even more,here must be both large and small dice so as to remedy the imperfections of sight due to senescence. This text is known, paraphrased by Rabelais : " Sed dicunt quidam. Si vult venire in domum meam in istis festis, paravi plura. Si voluerit ludere at triomphos (tarot) sunt in domo, ad thesseras habeo plura tabulatia, ad aucam habeo taxillos grossos et minutos. Grossos ut si forte male videret, qui a deus senuit”.
The text is edited in Brescia in 1497-1498 in Lyon from 1502 , 1507 , 1524 ...
And Andrea's note 5:C'est ainsi qu'il [Barlette] fait le portrait d'un impie qui au lieu de nétoyer sa conscience pour recevoir son Sauveur, & loger son Dieu, dit: Si vult venire in domum meam in istis festis paravi plura. Si voluerit ludere ad triumphos sunt in domo; ad tesseras, habeo plura tabularia. Ad Occam, habeo taxillos grossos, & minutos: grossos ut si fortè male videret, Quia Deus senuit: quelle impertinence! Ou plutôt quelle impiété”
(So he [Barlette] paints the portrait of a godless person who instead of cleansing his consciousness [or conscience] to receive his Saviour and host his God, says: "If he wants to come to my house during this holiday season, I have prepared quite a lot of things. If he wants to play triumphs, they are at the house; [If he want to play] at board games I have many (1). For the game of Occam (2) I have big and small dice: big if he sees very poorly". So God fainted: what impertinence! Or rather what wickedness)
(1) The author here speaks about board games to play with “tessere” (in Italian). Tessere were little rectangular things, but we do not know what kind.
(2) Occam = it is probably a game, now unknown, invented or inspired by William of Occam, or Ockham (1288-1349), theologian, philosopher and an English Franciscan (See note 5).)
So it seems that the game of goose was known in c. 1480, or at least before 1497.5. Lothar Teikemeier informs us that Claude Gaignebet of the University of Nice in 2006 reported, in a symposium on Gambling and Providence, the text presumed to be the original, containing some variations in comparison to that reported in the Paris document : "Sed dicunt quidam. Si vult venire in domum meam in istis festis, paravi plura. Si voluerit ludere at triomphos sunt in domo, ad thesseras habeo plura tabulatia, ad aucam habeo taxillos grossos et minutos. Grossos ut si forte male videret, qui a deus senuit". Assuming the originality of this text (Brescia, 1497), the term “Occam” should be replaced with “aucam,” which Gaignebet reports to be a game of goose, and the final sentence should be replaced with "For the game of goose I have large and small dice. Large if he sees very poorly, given the senescence of God”.
To be sure, there is no evidence of such games as I describe before the time of the tarot's invention. But how many inventories of games suitable for children--and senescent gods--do we know of? How many children's board games of the Monopoly type from pre-1440 are preserved in any form? Simple board game layouts were duplicated in the dust, I learn on a website about games. Wood rots, of course, except in the tombs of Egypt, where, if getting on and off the board count as moves, a 32 space Monopoly-type game is often found; in Mesopotamia there were 20 squares on the board. If a game with such a structure existed once, it could exist again. Is it possible that such games never died out at all, but kept being played in the dust by generations of children, recorded if at all in ephemera not deemed important enough to save as their families, perhaps Jewish, moved west? There is also the "Phaistos Disc" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phaistos_Disc) of ancient Crete. It looks much like a goose board and has 45 spaces. Does it represent a game that somehow survived as goose? We need not go that far.
It does not seem to me that the possibility of tarot's earlier life as a board game can be brushed aside as a Russellian teapot floating in space between earth and Mars, logically possible but not a real possibility, because there is a reason for thinking it might be true, namely, the problems I mentioned at the beginning, of negative cards triumphing over positive ones and the obscuration of what seems like a goal-directed sequence by the trick-taking form of play.
In particular, it is worth investigating games that in some way were like such a game. Chess, as Huck has shown, has some similarity, namely, in its pieces and as a game of instruction, as an emulation of war. Another didactic game was "the philosophers' game" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rithmomachy), which taught Boethian arithmetical ratios and principles of musical harmony. But both these games are of the "capturing" type, as opposed to a progress through a sequence. Goose, as I have said, like the tarot sequence has a start, finishing line, and good and bad squares in between; it's what I think is called a "racing"-type game..
It might be said that if tarot was derived from goose, someone then would surely have pointed that out. Against that, I ask, how many people in a position to know said anything at all about the origin of tarot? None. How many statements even describing tarot do we have from people before, say, 1447? None. Even after that in the 15th century, all we have are condottiere and preachers. If it was originally a children's game to teach the way to salvation, neither type is about to say that.
It seems to me that it is not necessary to prove the hypothesis for it to be on the table; it is something that needs to be disproved in order to take it off. An example of a disproof would be persuasive evidence for an origin of the tarot sequence that reasonably accounts for the anomaly I have pointed out, e.g. that the tarot didn't originally have those cards in question. Or, perhaps enough can be known about medieval games suitable for children to exclude such a possibility, just as we can exclude the possibility of tarot being already known when cards were first imported into Europe. Until then, it is a possibility worth thinking about and investigating.
I notice that Marco is investigating other board games as well as goose. I applaud such efforts. Even ones known after the establishment of the tarot might tell us something about the situation earlier.
added next day: I changed the wording of my parenthetical remark about Death and Fortune above.