Re: Decker's new book

Hello Mike,
your post is about 10 pages long: I am sorry, but I found it too distressing to read entirely. My time is limited, and I cannot follow your reasoning, which seems to me to be based on non-existing or misinterpreted details, completely ignoring the essence. So I will likely not read your next posts, I am sorry.
I also see what look like obelisks (or big plants), a temple, and crocodiles on the shore of the lake ( ... detNot.jpg). One crocodile is holding something in his mouth
You are seeing things that are not there. Not only you are giving up the general meaning to follow fantasies based on irrelevant details, but you are making up details of your own. It's like attaching a tail to the allegory of the Church of Rome. I am sorry, by your misinterpretation of the basic elements of images makes it impossible to take seriously what you write: "ex falso quodlibet sequitur."
( ... erSeth.JPG) … Card designers probably would have known this image by the 17th century, even the 16th, although I have no direct evidence. It was on an above-ground causeway in Sakkara (sorry, I can't find the reference; maybe the library dumped the book; they do that); Sakkara is 30 km from Cairo
It would be much wiser to assume that card designers knew nothing of the sculptures in Sakkara, unless you can provide a solid evidence to the contrary. You are making things up.
At least a few of these Europeans must have been interested in the ancient Egyptian art all around them. 
I disagree. I don't remember seeing 16th centuries European copies of the Sakkara sculptures. This “must have” is wishful thinking.
Marco wrote, about my exposition of the Tower:
I am sorry, I don't follow you. I have no idea of what Egyptian-looking hats are, and Shoen's illustration of the 6th House seems to me completely unrelated to the Tower.
Sorry. I meant the "white crown" of the pharaoh, on reliefs all over Egypt (; if that's not enough, it was also Osiris's crown, minus some plumes, again a popular image (e.g. ... ris-statue),
Obviously, there are no such hats in any ancient tarot card.
Marco wrote
In the images you linked, Noblet has no bird, Dodal has a bird with closed wings, Chosson a bird with partially spread wings. In the Hypnerotomachia, the Phoenix appears with its typical attributes: the Sun and Fire: none of the two appears in the Tarot de Marseille. There is absolutely no reason to assume that this little black bird is a Phoenix.
I was only talking about the Chosson/Conver. It is just a little touch that they added, as part of the overall theme. Nobody could possibly put in the background of a woodcut card a bird like the engraved one you linked to. Black is just the easiest color for anything small on a woodcut; the stenciling process would mess up other colors. The phoenix was not always shown sitting on a fire. I linked to a well-known picture of one on the frontispiece of the French Hypnerotomachia, 1600, in the last sentence of the quote from me you are commenting on ( ... 300det.jpg).
Nice. You have cut the image you previously posted to hide the fire that is at the bottom of the page and linked to the Phoenix through the page. Of course I agree that “the phoenix was not always shown sitting on a fire”: I have also linked an image of the phoenix with the Sun and no fire. The phoenix must appear with a fire or a sun (or, in later images, it must have at least have a crest). Certainly, fire is more typical and usually both fire and the sun are present (as in the example you proposed). The bird in Tarot de Marseille Star cards is not a phoenix.
ph3.jpg (204.67 KiB) Viewed 14650 times
On the card you don't see the sun, but east is to the right and the bird is facing east,
The direction in which the bird is facing is completely irrelevant. By the way, in the Renaissance, East was conventionally to the left. But this does not make any difference to this discussion which is meaningless in any case.

Re: Decker's new book

Marco wrote,
You are seeing things that are not there. Not only you are giving up the general meaning to follow fantasies based on irrelevant details, but you are making up details of your own.
So what is all that stuff on the Cary Sheet, between the towers? And why? Just to fill up space? Everything in the "children of the moon" picture has meaning, including the towers. It is likely the same on the Cary Sheet image. Probably you also can't see the resemblance between the Cary Sheet Popess and the picture of Isis in the Borgia Apartments, which O'Neill saw. Here it is, although I have surreptitiously given a mirror-image, which is what the woodcutter would have cut.

I hope you can at least see that the Conver crayfish has something in its claws. Many people have seen that; it is not original with me.

I admit it is difficult to say that an artist intentionally put some small ambiguous detail in a card with such and such meaning. I still find the towers to be intentionally Middle Platonic, but if you can tell me what the Roman numerals on the "children of the moon" mean, maybe I will change my mind. In any case, what I am advocating is a Middle Platonic/Neoplatonic interpretation, with changes in the cards to accommodate that interpretation.

Marco, wrote, about my assertions that Europeans would have been interested in reliefs.
I disagree. I don't remember seeing 16th centuries European copies of the Sakkara sculptures. This “must have” is wishful thinking.
Cyriaco reportedly had a whole book of what he saw in Egypt. They were kept by Alessandro Sforza but burned in a fire. Mantegna did many pictures of monumental Roman scenes, with obelisks. He was a style-setter. The French, and Kircher, preferred Egypt. I myself have not done a thorough job of looking at 16th-17th century images of Egypt in French and English libraries and museums. I can't even find again the images I've seen 20th century libraries in Oregon. And I wouldn't know which were of Sakkara and which weren't. I doubt whether they were labeled as such. If you have and do, then I bow to your expertise. For me, Sakkara is a hypothesis I make in hopes that someone somewhere has, probably accidentally, noticed something. Anyway, we're talking about 1650 or so (the Noblet). People were making lots of studies of ancient Egypt by then. Kircher went in

Marco wrote,
Nice. You have cut the image you previously posted to hide the fire that is at the bottom of the page and linked to the Phoenix through the page.
It's been a while since I studied the whole image. If I'd remembered, I would have pointed out the fire at the bottom, as part of a vigilance I suppose I need to acquire in anticipating criticism. But it remains true that the bird is not sitting on a fire, just as the one you posted isn't. There is some sort of tube connecting him with it, a non-standard image. This does seem a rather pointless discussion.

Marco wrote, about the hats
Obviously, there are no such hats in any ancient tarot card.
I am not sure what you mean by "ancient". As I said, I see none in extant cards before Noblet--and even after, it's less evident. As I said, Noblet has them. Here is Flornoy's reconstruction. I have included the round things above the hats, so you can see the difference. These shapes are definitely in the original, although hard to see because of the faded colors ( ... -diev.html

Why are these blobs different from the others above them? To be sure, you can choose to see them as non-hats. Noblet doesn't force an Egyptianate interpretation on you; he's not like the Catholic Church with its images. But in the context of 17th century France, I think that Noblet was onto a good thing, for increasing sales and commissions among the aficianados of Egypt and the esoteric.

Marco wrote,
By the way, in the Renaissance, East was conventionally to the left.
The bird is in the context of the 17th century. Anyway, I have done quite a lot of pouring over the various maps done in late 15th century Italy. East is always on the right. ... y-ptolemy/ ... s_left.jpg ... linghieri/

And many more, over in the thread viewtopic.php?f=12&t=463&start=30, starting around p. 3.

But it just pertains to the bird, a small detail. It doesn't matter. The important thing is the Plutarch.

I have one more detail, and then I will be through with Egypt!

I have more on the "Gates", from Macrobius. That will be a good lead-in to discussing the dogs on the Tarot de Marseille. I know that the coloring suggests a dog and a wolf. That comes from the saying "between dog and the wolf", and that both dogs and wolves do barking and howling during full moons. In some early TdMs they are both the same color.

Macrobius says (beginning of Chapter XII):
At this point we shall discuss the order of the steps by which the soul descends from the sky to the infernal regions of this life. The Milky Way girdles the universe, so that it crosses it at the two tropical signs, Capricorn and Cancer. Natural philosophers named these the "portals of the Sun" because the solstices lie athwart the sun's path on either side, checking further progress and causing it to retrace its course across the belt beyond whose limits it never trespasses. Souls are believed to pass through these portals when going from the sky to the earth and returning him from the earth to the sky. For this reason one is called the portal of men and the other the portal of gods; Cancer, the portal of men, because through it descent is made to the infernal regions; Capricorn, the region of gods, because through it souls return to their rightful abode of immortality, to be reckoned among the gods. This is what Homer with his divine intelligence signifies in his description of the cave at Ithaca.
The "portals of the Sun" are the same as what Plutarch called the "Gates" on the Moon and Porphyry the gates in the Cave of the Nymphs.

After passing through the portals, the next step (or the previous one, on the way up) is the drinks. Speaking of the universe, he says (XII, 11):
The highest and purest part of it, upon which the heavenly realm depends for sustenance and existence, is called nectar and is believed to be the drink of the gods, whereas the lower and more turbid is believed the drink of souls; this is what the ancients cmeant by the river Lethe.
So it's right there in Latin, no need for Plutarch except for geographical purposes, to put one on the Moon and the other below it, in the "meads of Hades", and above, the Stars--of fate (the 5 planets, later changed, I think, to the group of seven stars mentioned as "sweet influences" at Job 38:31, the Vulgate's Hyades) and the one beyond fate.

Now for the dogs. That is in Clement of Alexandria, which I don't think was known until around 1500 or so. Cancer and Capricorn also refer to the Tropics thereof. Here is what Clement of Alexandria had to say about dogs and Tropics; it is in the same short section that discusses the nature of hieroglyphs, so there is no way the humanists would have missed this part ( He is talking about what the Egyptians meant by various symbols, such as the lion, the ox, the horse, etc. I have put in bold the most important part :
And in what is called among them the Komasiæ of the gods, they carry about golden images— two dogs, one hawk, and one ibis; and the four figures of the images they call four letters.For the dogs are symbols of the two hemispheres, which, as it were, go round and keep watch; the hawk, of the sun, for it is fiery and destructive (so they attribute pestilential diseases to the sun); the ibis, of the moon, likening the shady parts to that which is dark in plumage, and the luminous to the light. And some will have it that by the dogs are meant the tropics, which guard and watch the sun’s passage to the south and north. The hawk signifies the equinoctial line, which is high and parched with heat, as the ibis the ecliptic...
I think the idea is that if the sun went any further north in its mid-day course than the Tropic of Cancer, it would make the summer too hot. And if it went any further south at the tropic of Capricorn, the winters would be too cold. So the dogs keep the sun on course. From the Egyptianate perspective, they are guard-dogs. The gods did not want another Phaeton, whose erratic leading of the solar horses burned the land and led to the creation of the Sahara Desert. The card, while focusing on the moon, is on this view also about the sun. on the Noblet card, one disc is wholly inside the other, as in an eclipse. In the context of the card, the dogs could also serve to keep souls from going in or out who aren't supposed to.

I had never noticed those quotes by Macrobius. I'll have to read more of him.

Re: Decker's new book

I have a couple of additions to my previous post. First, on the phoenix: if Horapollo was the source of the Chosson/Conver bird, then it is to be expected that there would be no fire under it: Horapollo (I, 34, 35; II, 57), unlike most sources on the phoenix, makes absolutely no mention of any fire. Here is the account of its death and birth, which I quote in full (II, 57):
When they wish to indicate a long-enduring restoration, they draw the phoenix. For when this bird is born, there is a renewal of thins. And it is born in this way. When the phoenix is about to die, it casts itself upon the ground and is crushed. And from the ichor pouring out of the wound, another is born. And this one immediately sprouts wings and flies off with its sire to Heliopolis to Egypt and once there, at the rising of the sun, the sire does. And with the death of the sire, the young one returns to its own country. And the Egyptian priests bury the dead phoenix.
Added Sept. 22, 2014: Another possibility is the eagle, for which sources are quoted at One is Psalm 103:5:
Renovabitur sicut aquilae iuventus tua" (Your youth will be renewed like the eagle's)
The reference would appear to be a belief expressed in a 13th century Bestiary:
The eagle is the king of birds. When it is old it becomes young again in a very strange manner. When its eyes are darkened and its wings are heavy with age, it seeks out a fountain clear and pure, where the water bubbles up and shines in the clear sunlight. Above this fountain it rises high up into the air, and fixes its eyes upon the light of the sun and gazes upon it until the heat thereof sets on fire its eyes and wings. Then it descends down into the fountain where the water is clearest and brightest, and plunges and bathes three times, until it is fresh and renewed and healed of its old age.
The sun is then offstage right, and after flying into the sun it will dive into the pool. The allegory is much the same as with Horapollo's Phoenix.

Also, I have been reading more of Chapter XII of Macrobius, Commentary on the Dream of Scipio. I find one short passage that seems to me to fit all the cards in the sequence below Death. However the order fits the Steele Sermon, i.e. the B order, better than that of the C order. Since Macrobius was in Latin, more accessible in more places than Plutarch, I take that as some small evidence, against Decker, that the B order is older than the C. Macrobius says that the soul picks up different qualities of its nature from the difference planetary spheres as it passes through them in its descent. He lists them in order of the descent (XII, 13):
By the impulse of the first weight of the soul, having started on its downward course from the intersection of the zodiac and the Milky Way to the successive souls lying beneath, as it passes through these spheres, not only takes on the aforementioned envelopment in each sphere by approaching a luminous body, but also acquires each of the attributes which it will exercise later. In the sphere of Saturn it obtains reason and understanding, called logistikon and [/i]theoretikon[/i]; in Jupiter's sphere, the power to act, called practikon; in Mars' sphere, a bold spirit or thymikon; in the sun's sphere, sense-perception and imagination, aisthetikon and phantastikon; in Venus's sphere, the impulse of passion, epithemetikon; in Mercury's sphere, the ability to speak and interpret, hermeneutikon; and in the lunar sphere, the function of molding and increasing bodies, phytikon. This last function, being the furthest removed from the gods, is the first in us and all the earthly creation; inasmuch as our body represents the dregs of what is divine, it is therefore the first substance of the creature.
The translator here has a footnote indicating how prevalent this doctrine was in the Middle Ages: Servius, Proclus, Isadore of Seville, Bede, Dante, and others. He also has a footnote about the "intersection of the zodiac and the Mily Way". Macrobius, in his effort to interpret Homer, incorrectly made the points of transit as Capricorn and Cancer, Cancer in particular on the descent. "Actually, the points are Gemini and Sagitarius", he says (p. 133), adding that "A glossator of Bede De Natura Rerum xviii (Migne, Pat. Lat. XC, 234) calls attention to Macrobius's error". I take that as the principal explanation for why in Minchiate the order of the zodiac cards ends at Gemini and then goes to the Stars card; Gemini is the point of crossing between the zodiac and the Milky Way on the way up. Dante also follows this order in the Paradiso, although there the explanation is that it is his own sun-sign.

I think we can see here a structure in which to put the trumps below death. "Reason and Understanding" corresponds to the Hanged Man, inasmuch as he is Judas recognizing the enormity of his sin, and the Old Man. The lantern = light will emphasize the positive picture of the Old Man.

"The power to act" is represented negatively by the Wheel and positively by the virtues. In the A and B orders, the highest virtue, Justice, is allocated to the Divinity. In C, it is merely one of two virtues near the Chariot. On the Wheel there is upward striving and the power that comes from being on top. In Chapter X Macrobius had spoken of this image specifically:
They "hang outstretched on spokes of wheels" who are reckless about the future, who never govern their actions by reason nor solve their problems by recourse to the virtues.
In a sense, all the virtues are positive expressions of the power to act. On the Wheel, the "power to act" is expressed in the upward striving and exercise of power parts of the Wheel, while "reason and understanding" applies to the downward fall (similar to the Hanged Man) and the person at the bottom (similar to the Old Man0.

For Mars, we have specifically the virtue Fortitude, there is also the Chariot, with its man in armor.

For the Sun, we can see the Chariot as the Chariot of the Sun; later there will also be the sun-burst on the Love card.

For Venus, we have Love and the virtue of Temperance (in the B order, there, and I think also A, is where Love and Temperance are close together; in C, Temperance is elsewhere).

For Mercury, we have the Pope and the Popess, interpreting the true faith and the false faith, respectively, in the eyes of the preacher. It could also be the actual pope and the Church. They are closest together in B, but not far apart in A and C.

For the Moon, we have the Emperor and Empress, in their capacity of father and mother, to create the new generations represented by their shields, with the insignia of the Empire.

For the "dregs", the earth, we have the Bagat and the Fool. However Mecurius's word "hermeneutikon" also has the suggestion of "Hermes", i.e. Mercury. No clear positive meaning is suggested for the Fool.

Decker's Ch. 5, Pythagoreanism

I am ready now to turn to Decker's chapter 5, which deals with the historical significance of the numbers from one to ten, stemming from Pythagoreanism. The correspondences between the numbers and specific cards, one may infer, shapes the order of the trumps in the Tarot de Marseille, i.e. the C order. Decker in fact insists that since the correspondences apply only tothe C order, therefore the C order was the original one for the tarot. Another alternative, it seems to me, is that the C order was developed after the A and B for the express purpose of its numerological associations.

In listing the correspondences, Decker gives few references. He merely lists a few sources at the beginning. Most of these were in Latin and were indeed available before 1440 in Italy. However he does not always stick to that list, e.g. in the case of Philo of Alexandria; I don't know when he was available, nor does Decker say. Other Greek sources were definitelynot available until late in the century: the full text of the Theologumena Arithmeticae entered Italy after Bessarion arranged for its purchase in Greece and made it available to people first in his circle of friends in Rome, 1455-1467, and then as part of the library he willed to Venice. An early copy exists in the Laurentian in Florence and so must have been part of the Medici Library in the 15th century.

A Pythagorean interpretation of the tarot would seem to be on good grounds historically, since one of the few writings about the Tarot in the 16th century, namely the 1584 Numeralium Locorum Decas (The Ten Numeric Positions), puts it in just such a context. I will elaborate on that in another place.

Decker's account of how number philosophy (arithmology) applies to the cards divides into several parts, depending on his source. To get the full picture for each card in relation to what came before, I will try to combine the sources.

First is a discussion of Macrobius on the first seven numbers. For the One, he simply repeats what he said in the Introduction to the book, that One, corresponding to the Juggler, is the Agathodemon.

Later, in discussing the number Two, he says more. Now his source, he says, is Philo of Alexandria (p. 118):
Trump Two refers to God's Wisdom...The popess is a latter-day version of Sophia, the hypostasis of Wisdom. According to Philo (ca.20-BC-ca AD 50), the Monad (absolute Oneness) is assisted by the Dyad (absolute Twoness). He associates the Monad with God, the Dyad with Sophia. This context gives Wisdom a spiritual mystique, which may contribute to the ecclesiastical costume for the Popess.
I spent a good half hour in the library trying unsuccessfully to find where Philo said that the Monad was assisted by the Dyad. Looking in Dillon ({i]Middle Platonism[/i] pp. 155-166) Isee that he would very much like Philo to say that Sophia is the Dyad, but it is all inferences, contradicted by other inferences, e.g. where Philo says that the Dyad is two powers that are offspring of Sophia (Dillon p. 165). Also, I don't know if Philo's text was available in the 15th century.

But another Latin author, Martianus Capella, calls the 2 "Juno or Wife or Sister of the Monad" (Decker did not cite this information); with the 2 as "wife or sister of the Monad", humanists could have easily made the association to the Biblical Sophia without help from Philo. The exact relationship, sister or daughter or whatever, isn't important; nor is the apparent age difference between the Bagatto and the Popess; she is eternally old, just as he is eternally young. If Dante can address the Virgin Mary in Heaven as "figlia del suo figlio" ( ... iso033.htm), anything is possible. What is important is that Martianus makes the Dyad feminine, just as the nouns "Hochma", "Sophia", and "Sapientia" are.

The next time he discusses these same numbers, Decker does cite well known Latin sources, in fact, they were in most arithmetic books of the Middle Ages (for an example, click on the links ... annumA.jpg and ... solidA.jpg (from Heninger, Sweet Harmonies, p. 72f, originally from Joannes Martinus, Arithmetica, Paris 1526). Decker says that 1 is the number of the point, 2 of the line (the shortest path between two points), 3 the number of plane figures (requiring at least 3 numbers to specify a figure, the triangle) and 4 the number of the solid (requiring at least 4 numbers to determine, as in the tetrahedron).

Applied to the Bagat he says (p. 120):
The Tarot designer would have trouble indicating a dimensionless point, but it could be implied as the center of the ball or disc in the Juggler's hand. However the Tarot's designer may have felt no obligation to include an explicit symbol for Oneness in this card, because One is not a number.
Then for the two he says (p. 120):
A line can be a boundary producing two domains. Twoness allows for Discernment. That is a mental process, and mentation may be implied by the book that the Popess consults. Historically, the book had first belonged to personifications of Sophia (Wisdom) but later was transferred to Prudence, the Virtue that requires clear reasoning. {Footnote: For a dozen examples of Prudence with a book, see Adolf Katzenellenbogen, Allegories of the Virtues and Vices in Medieval Art (London: Warburg Institute, 1939).
Looking in Katzenellenbogen's index under "book", I see that Prudence does have a dozen entries, along with 3 for Sapientia. By comparison, "Fides" has a book once, for a "book casket", and "Pietas" just a book, once. It was an attribute for Prudence established in Carolingian times and reaffirmed by Hugh of St. Victor at Chartres. Still, it would be nice to have an Italian example closer to the time of the tarot. I checked Bartolomeo's 14th century "Song of the Virtues and Liberal arts"; both Justice and Prudence have books; Faith doesn't (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=862&p=12631&hilit= ... meo#p12612). For Prudence with a crown--although not a tiara--Decker cites Psalm 14:18, "The simple acquire folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge", and also the fresco of Good Government in Siena. There, however, all the virtues have crowns. Similarly I am sure others besides the prudent have crowns in the Bible. It is a common expression.

Aside from the tiara, which is related to her name "Popess", however acquired, what makes the case to Prudence is the prominent book. There is also, not very visible, a cross on the end of her staff. I find in Katzenellenbogen only one reference to a cross-staff; it is to a Prudence with both a cross-staff and a book. The text it illustrates is from Proverbs Chapter 8, most of which is a speech by Wisdom, Sophia, urging people to be instructed by her teachings: hence the book. ("Accipite disciplinam meam, et non pecuniam; doctrinam magis quam aurum eligite". Douay-Rheims translation:
"Receive my instruction, and not money: choose knowledge rather than gold." It seems to me that "doctrinam" means "teaching" or even "doctrine" [as "doctrinam" is translated elsewhere in Proverbs] rather than "knowledge"; I am not sure about "disciplina"; maybe "discipline".) The cross, whether or not there was a tradition to that effect, emphasizes that what is being referred to is a Christian version of prudence, in which one's immortal soul is the primary concern, as opposed to those of the world.

In most Neopythagorean sources available in the Renaissance, 2 is associated with the material universe rather than Wisdom (in Macrobius, it is with "perceptible body" e.g. the planets; Martianus 732, "It is also the mother of the elements"; the Theologumena: "it...resembles matter" and "Each thing and the universe as a whole is one as regards the natural and constitutive monad in it, but again each is divisible, in so far as it necessarily partakes of the material dyad as well". Some tarot Popesses might reflect that. The Dodal's title for the Popess is "Pances", meaning "Belly", which of course is the location of the womb ( ... 701-tarot/). It could be a reference to the belly of the Virgin Mary, who provided the matter, as opposed to the form or spirit, of Jesus, and who was told of her pregnancy while reading Isaiah. But the Popess is an old lady, more suitable for Wisdom than for the Virgin, so I doubt if this latter interpretation was widespread.

In chapter 7, Decker revisits these issues. The One, now as the Bagat (as I have speculated myself), is illustrated by the Egyptian creator god Khnum, who made humans' souls on his potter's wheel (p. 165). I have discussed his argument earlier (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=937&p=14102).

Another place where the One and the Two apply for Decker is in the 11th, 12th, and 21st trumps. In the tarot, he says, the series simply repeats after 10 (p. 125). I was pleased to see that he recognized this principle, as the other does not fit the cards at all. While Martianus does recognize gemantria, i.e. the adding up of digits, as in 12 = 1 + 2 + 3, mostly the Pythagoreans do not resort to that. In the Greek way of writing numbers, 10 is the highest number written with one letter, the tenth letter iota; the next number is iota alpha.

For 11, Decker argues that the ladies on the Strength and World cards are female counterparts of the Bagat (p. 125):
Strength provides a new integrity comparable to the Juggler's. She is his female counterpart.
And (p. 129):
The Juggler supports the soul as it embarks for earth; Fortitude supports the soul in the midst of its earthly journey; the World supports the soul in its reunion with the World Soul. Each of these cards, in its own domain, embodies Unity.
I have no problem with these points.

For the 12, Decker invokes the 2's principle of separation from the One (p. 126):
The Hanged Man embodies the negative aspects of Two: division, separation, alienation, antagonism.
He gives no reference, but the source seems to be Martianus (p. 277):
Discord and adversity originate from it, inasmuch as it is the first to be able to separated from that which clings to it.
By "that which clings to it", he means the One. Again, I have no problem.

Let us move on to the 3 and 4. I have already mentioned that 3 was the number of two-dimensional figures and 4 of three-dimensional. From this Decker derives that 3 is another number of mentation, while 4 has to do with the realm of the senses, since that world has three dimensions, of which flatness is a mental abstraction (p. 126). He has another argument in this regard in Chapter 7. Decker assigns the Empress to "Intellectual Manifestation" and the Emperor to "Material Manifestation", corresponding to the Intelligible Realm and the Sensible Realm in Platonism (p. 165). He draws on Apuleius, in an essay I had never heard of, which although obscure was available throughout the 15th century.:
The distinction is found in the two aspects of God, transcendent and imminent. Apuleius is remarkably helpful in De Mundo, his Latin translation of the Greek Peri Kosmou (Concerning the Cosmos), incorrectly credited to Aristotle. In Apuleius's rendering of De Mundo, God's transcendent aspect becomes maiestas], while God's imminent aspect becomes potestas. Here is a perfect explanation for the imperial bearing of trumps Three and Four. Additionally, in the Tarot de Marseille, the Empress (as covert Majesty) is partially hidden by her shield, while the Emperor (as overt Power) is not at all hidden by his shield.
You can see what he means about the shields below:

I have some questions here. How did the transcendent become more covert than the imminent? The imminent divine is hidden behind appearances, in Platonic thought, while the transcendent is beyond them. When I look at the two cards, if the shield is to represent what is not hidden, I see the Emperor above his shield, and so transcendent, and the Empress at the same level, i.e. imminent. In any case, this distinction is not part of the original tarot; in the PMB, the Emperor has no shield, just an Imperial eagle on his hat.

However "potestas" would seem like a good name for the Emperor. And "majestas" suits the Empress. I don't quarrel with the idea that Apuleius's concepts might apply to the cards, just with how Decker makes the link.

Apuleius's analysis of the 3 and the 4 does correspond to what Philo says about the "Dyad" of two powers created by Sophia, who seems to be the second power after the Logos (or his imminent aspect), which in turn is the only-begotten of the Speaker. These two powers are the "creative" and the "royal". And from these are generated the "merciful" and the legislative or "punitive", which might correspond to Love and the Pope. However I would have to see a Renaissance exegisis of any of this before I would believe it was consciously applied to the tarot. What we have, I think, is the genesis in Philo of what would later be the Tree of Life. I will explain, although I can't make my explanation very clear, as the concepts are imbedded in Middle Platonic hypostases.

In Kabbalah, the En Sof is Philo's Speaker and tarot's Fool, in its positive sense; next is Kether, the Logos and Bagat, along with Hochma, Hebrew for Wisdom, as Popess. Then comes Binah as Intellect/Understanding, i.e. Decker's "intellectual manifestation" ("gates of intelligence" in Pico, 900 Theses, 13th of his "Hebrew" theses, as interpreted by the translator Farmer; "understanding" in Reuchlin). She is also called the source of what is below her (6th through 9th theses), as a kind of mother, and so Philo's "creative" power. Then the fourth sefira, Chesed, is the material expression of "loving kindness" (Reuchlin), expressed by Philo's "royal" (or 'merciful"), the planet Jupiter in Pico (number 48 of his "Cabalist" theses)--hence in the realm of the senses--and acted upon by Abraham (14th Thesis of his "Hebrew" theses, as interpreted by the translator (Farmer, Syncretism in the West). Binah, sefira 3, is represented, like trump 3, as female; and Chesed as male. And the Pope, of course, would be Philo's "punitive" and Kabbalah's "severity".

After Pico's 900 Theses in 1486, and especially after the new pope gave it his blessing in 1494, the Kabbalist version of the series of powers was very well known, although it would be too great a diversion to discuss them in more detail here (see my essay at for more.) Decker rejects this Kabbalist route, objecting that Pico, as well as Agrippa "makes no mention of Tarot cards" (p. 19). But of course Renaissance writings on ancient hieroglyphs and Platonism make no mention of tarot cards either, so I can't see this as a valid objection. I don't see any other way of making "intellect" feminine and "sensible manifestation" masculine, except by tortuous exegesis. But it is plain in Pico and Reuchlin.

The arithmology of 3 and 4 also applies to 13 and 14. For 13, Decker says (p. 126):
Whereas the Empress competes conception or gestation, Death completes decline or mortality.
Decker's idea here comes from the Pythagorean idea that threeness introduces the concept of things' having "a beginning, middle, and end" (e.g. Martianus 733). It is a good doctrine to apply: 3 pertains to the beginning of life, i.e. birth, 13 to the end. The application of the 3 to birth is especially good, although I prefer not to see the bird on the shield as a vulture, but rather as imitating the scenes of Horus (whose animal-form was a hawk) on Isis's lap. In the PMB, the Empress wears a green glove; green is the color of fertility (as in the song "Greensleeves"). 13 is then an appropriate complement to these symbols.

For 14, Decker continues the idea of 4 as the material world of four points needed to specify a solid, and of the four elements. He does not take 14 as pertaining to the world of material appetites, but rather to the transformation of the four elements, which is what medicine of the time tried to do. It seems to me that in this same vein he might have said that the card represents the transformation of the four elements of matter into spirit, as part of the ascent of the soul. On the descent, he does say that the card corresponds to reincarnation (p. 126). The Pythagorean term for transmigration was μεταγγισμος [metaggismos], he says, the pouring of water from one vessel (αγγος, aggos) to another. He gives no reference for that claim, and I have no idea how to check it. But certainly the image of pouring from one vessel to another is suggestive of the change of the spirit from one vessel, that of the soul, to another, that of the body.

For Five, Decker says that the five loaves of bread that fed 5000 people in the Gospels is an example of Christian Pythagoreanism (p 117). There were also five points associated to the Cross, the four extremities and the center; and the five stigmata. Decker sees the Pope's gesture of giving blessing on the card as an indicator of God's blessing the Universe, and of the "quintessence" i.e., "the spirit that unites the four elements". From Martianus's observation that "five pops out everywhere" he says also that Five, besides referring to the universality of this quintessence, refers to the universality of the Catholic (i.e. universal) Church (p. 121). So (p. 166)
The Creator blesses his creatures and confers a fifth element on the basic four and so unites them within a harmonious and organic universe.
Checking Martianus (735), I see that when he says "five is always cropping up", the context is that when five is multiplied by an odd number, the result is always five. That is not the same thing as saying that five is "everywhere": it only occurs one tenth of the time. However Martianus does say that five is the number of the universe, meaning that it includes Aristotle's fifth element. That element is aether, filling the space between celestial bodies, not the alchemists' quintessence. I would improve upon Decker here by noting that the Theologumena (p. 68) says that as such, the medium of the celestials, five represents that which is "without strife", i.e. eternal and unchanging. So it is like God. Another way in which 5 might be interpreted (although I have not seen this) is as the number halfway between the One and the Ten, and so as the mediator between God as creator and God as goal.

Five also determines card 15, the Devil. Here is Decker (p. 128):
The fifth trump personifies universal blessings. The fifteenth trump personifies universal testing.
People have often noticed the parallel composition of the two Tarot de Marseille cards: one figure at the top, two smaller figures below. This is actually the structure of many cards: Love (before the third person was added), Chariot, Justice (blade and scales), Wheel, Death (two heads), Star (two jugs), Moon (two dogs), Sun (two people), Judgment (two people facing us). It is as though two figures were going through an initiation, starting with the Pope as Hierophant and the Hermit as the one who leads them through. So in that sense he might be giving a blessing: not to the universe, but to human beings in particular. On the Tarot de Marseille card, the Pope has two monks below him; most early cards don't have these people, but one can just as well imagine that he is blessing us all. As initiation-master, God gives us his blessing as we enter life as an adult, saying: If you play my game in the world I have set up for you (i.e. life), you have a chance of becoming like me, godly. God in blessing humanity approves human beings as candidates for such a transforming initiation.

Decker's overall schema for the sequence is three groups of seven. He gets that number from two Pythagorean considerations. First, Macrobius discusses the numbers as pairs of numbers where each pair adds up to 7. Second, in discussing the number seven, the sources pointed out how human life develops in groups of seven: "Macrobius relates Seven to stages of human getation, maturation, and time cycles in general" (p. 117).

In terms of the tarot, the first group of seven he calls the "descent of the soul". I will report what he says with my own views in parentheses. From the One of 1 we go to the Wisdom of , the teachings of which it is our job to recall on earth; then to the Intellectual Manifestation of the world's mother in 3 (I'd call that Binah, or simply birth and life in the home) to the sensory world of 4 (I'd call that Chesed = Love, Goodness, or one's relationship to the world outside the home), the divine blessing of 5 (I would say Gevurah = Severity, or the beginning of initiation), and so on, through the chariot; I'll talk about them later. Then comes what he call's the soul's "probation", i.e. trials in life, through 14, regeneration (although I would say that 13 and 14 seem to initiate a new phase). Then, with 15, comes the "ascent", ending in 21. He considers the Fool to be outside the sequence, or, what comes to the same thing, a way of seeing all the trumps, any of whose place in the game it can take. Andrea has given an amusing interpretation of the sequence in such terms at ... 88&lng=ENG.

I see another Pythagorean way of making the division, more in keeping both with the imagery on the cards. That is, the soul's descent, which includes before birth and part of life, goes to card 10, the Wheel, and then reverses. So there are 10 before and 10 after this card, if the Fool is counted as 0 (likewise, in Pythagoreanism it is the first 10 numbers that are of concern, and the others merely repetitions). These are not descent and ascent in the sense of before birth and after death, but rather a steady movement toward engagement in this world in the cards before 10, and then away from the world in the cards after that.

But there are two cards for which this schema is rather strained, in the C order. One is the Old Man, who reminds us that our time is short (in early versions, which had an hourglass) and to think of the afterlife (as we see from the suns in his Tarot de Marseille robe, a symbol of God). That would seem to be a this-worldly reminder to attend to the life to come. The other bad fit, in terms of imagery, is Temperance, which looks more like an admonition to moderation, and so for this world, than a suggestion that the transition between life and the afterlife is like being poured from one vessel to another. As it happens, in the earliest listings, which are A or C, Temperance appears before the Wheel, while the Old Man appears after it. To me these misfits in the C order suggests that it was not the original one. The first indication of the C order is Alciato 1544, well after some A and C listings. Making that switch entails a renumbering of many of the cards,including all from 15 on. To me that is a reason for supposing that the cards were not originally ordered in a Pythagorean manner. Decker would rather accept the awkwardness of Temperance and the Old Man's positions and make them part of the same group of seven.

At this point I am halfway through the Pythagorean numbers, with 6 through 10 to go, plus the Fool. This is a good place to break.

Note added 9/16/13: I rewrote slightly my discussion of Philo and Apuleius, making it more complicated but also more complete and accurate.

Trumps 6-10 and 16-20 in a Pythagorean lens

On trump 6, Decker observes that the "Hercules at the Crossroads" theme that he sees in the Tarot de Marseille trump 6 was known at the time as "the Pythagorean Y", the two diagonals of the Y being the two choices, Virtue and Pleasure. For the Cupid at the top, he shows us his drawing of a c. 1500 painting by Girolomo di Benvenuto of "Hercules at the Crossroads" topped by a the Good Genius, a robed youth holding a torch ( ... A09524.jpg, given there as "first half of 16th century"). If you think the upper figure is not very close to a nude boy with a bow and arrows, Decker cites a Cristofano Robetta print on the same theme that has a winged Cupid in the same role. Looking on the Web, I find by him an "Allegory of Carnal Love", as the Chicago Art Institute calls it, c. 1530, ( ... ys=robetta). It is not clear to me that this Cupid is a "Good Genius", nor that either of the maidens qualifies as Virtue; and there is no choice, because each of the two maidens has her own male companion. The boy at the top is simply Cupid. Yet it remains true that the "Choice of Hercules" was a Pythagorean theme.

There is also a problem of how this "choice" fits into Decker's division into three groups of seven. He calls the first seven "descent of the soul" and the middle seven "probation". "Probation" suggests tests of one's mettle, whatever that might be. If anything is a test, it is this "choice of Hercules". Yet Decker has it on the "descent". How is it part of the soul's descent? It seems to me that we have already left the first group and entered the second.

What saves Decker's 7-7-7 schema here is another attribute of the 6, namely, that it is a perfect number, defined as one whose factors added together equal the number, i.e. 1+2+3 = 6. This suggests to him the perfection of reuniting with one's other half. Decker says (p. 121):
Marriage could be regarded as the restoration of the soul's perfection. The soul, when created, was perfect and was spherical (infinitely symmetrical). But events in the world's Creation divided the unisex soul into a male and a female with contrasting bodies. Thus all humans search for completion by union with a mate.
He is drawing on Plato's Symposium, a familiar enough text in the late 15th century. However Plato there put this idea of the original "spherical" body--which might include two males or two females, not just a male and a female--in the mouth of the comedian Aristophanes and did not mean it as the soul's true yearning, which was higher. A better image, which Decker's language also suggests, is that of Adam's perfection before the creation of Eve from one of his ribs, Adam as a being made in God's androgynous image in a world of the senses that is unblemished and so not quite our own, a "terrestrial paradise" created by God on the 6th day, after which, his work perfected, he rested. But after that, we know, things got worse, and God made some adjustments. So in the 6, the soul is still descending.

God creates woman originally as a helpmate to man, so that he will not be alone. Decker points out correctly that 6 is dedicated to Venus and as such is dedicated to marriage. He offers no references; perhaps it is Martianus (736):
The number six is assigned to Venus, for it is formed of a union of the sexes; that is, of the triad, which is male because it is an odd number, and the dyad, which is female because it is even; and twice three makes six.
But Plutarch, On the E at Delphi VIII (, says that 5 is the number of marriage. The Theologumena says that both are numbers of marriage, one by addition and the other by multiplication (Waterfield trans. p. 75). I'll go with that.

Marriage is clearly a theme of the early Milan cards, extending into the 16th century with the Shoen Horoscope's House of Marriage, which is very close to the 1650 Vieville ( ... eville.jpg). In fact it looks to me that the figure that Decker calls "Virtue" in the Tarot de Marseille is the marrying priest with a sex change; it could even be a priestess, as Ricci suggests in his 17th century Dionysian take on the card ( ... hosson.jpg).

16 relates to the 6 as being "perfection, disagreeably obtained", in comparison to the work of purification through suffering. My only quarrel is that I have never seen correlations of this type in Pythagorean documents, nor 16 as 10 + 6. Usually it is analyzed as 4 x 4, the square of the first square.

7 is the number of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, also a warrior-goddess, a "manish goddess", because it is not generated by multiplication of other numbers within the decad and does not by multiplication generate any other number in the decad. Similarly, Minerva is born of no parents (except the One, he should have said, i.e. Jupiter: "it is called Pallas because it is born only from the multiplication of the Monad", says Macrobius at VI.11); nor does she have any children. She is the patroness of strategic warfare, he says. Appropriately the charioteer in the Tarot de Marseille wears armor. I would add that in the CY and PMB it is even a female charioteer.

Also, Decker says, 7 is 3 plus 4, for the three parts of the soul plus the four elements of the body which is what we see n the Chariot. This is a correlation that the Pythagorean texts do not make as far as I can see. However this doctrine appears many times in medieval Christian writings. Albertus Magnus (quoted in Hopper, Medieval Number Philosophy, p. 112):
For the human body is composed of 4 humours, and varies through the 4 seasons of the year, and it is composed of 4 elements. On the part of the soul, on the other hand, are 3 powers or forces by which the spiritual life of man is ruled. [Hopper's footnote: Commentary on Psalm 6, ed. by Borgnet, XIV, 72.]

There is also Honorius of Autun, explaining why the 10 commandments divide into one group of 3 and another of 7 (Hopper p. 114):
The other, of 7, concerns the love of neighbor. It is 7-fold, to signify the 3-fold soul added to the 4-fold body. [Hopper's footnote: Ecclesia, P. O. 172, 873.]

Decker's point is that the Chariot marks the end of the descent of the soul. It is now on the level of material reality, with the chariot as an allegory of the body (hence the four elements, and the 2 lower parts of the soul). It is the space in which Macrobius says that there are seven directions of motion: right, left, up, down, forward, back, and rotational. It is also that world in which development happens, i.e. growth. "Macrobius relates Seven to stages of human gestation, maturation, and time cycles in general" (Deckerp. 117). So in the tarot there are three cycles of seven.

17 is the number of the Star card, with its seven small stars on it. It is that by which the soul "ascends to its repose in heaven". It seems to me that such a statement is a bit premature, since there are four more cards. I would say rather that it is the first triumph of the disembodied soul over that which would pull it down from its ascent.

8 is Macrobius's number of Justice (I found it at V.17); and Nichomachus' number of "the law" (reference unknown). Although there are other numbers of Justice in Pythagoreanism (2, 4, and 5 in the Theologumena), 8 is the one that the tarot designer apparently chose, according to Decker. I notice that 8 is identified with Judgment by Albertus Magnus (quoted in Hopper, p. 112):
From this it follows that the day of Judgment will be 8. Or better, it is called 8, because it is the consequence of this life which runs the circuit of 7 days. [Hopper's footnote: Commentary on Psalm 6, ed. by Borgnet, XIV, 72.]
18 then draws on Eight as the number of "untimely birth", as it was believed that seven month and nine month foetuses would survive outside the mother's womb, but not eight months. Decker compares the crayfish in is lake with a fetus in the womb.

9 is near the end of the sequence from 1 to 10; so it is fitting that an Old Man be there. For 19, the Sun is the close of the soul's celestial life, Decker says. My only quarrel is that Decker has not related the Sun with the end of the soul's celestial life in any Pythagorean-inspired document. I think it can be argued in terms of Plutarch's On the Face that Appears in the Orb of the Moon, as I have explained above.

10 is the end of a cycle, appropriately pictured by a Wheel. It is the number of "mundane changes", whereas 20 is the number of "miraculous changes". My only quarrel is that if it is the end of a cycle, then the sequence should be seen as 1-10-10-1, not 7-7-7.

With 21, we are back to the One, this time envisioned as female and as goal instead of beginning; it is "reunion with the world-soul".


Decker maintains not only that Pythagoreanism of the first ten numbers fits the tarot in the C order, but that its designers had Pythagorean number theory in their minds when they created it. Unlike the actual look of the cards, the order of the cards in Milan is not contra-indicated by known facts. Nobody knows the order of the first Milanese decks. There were no numbers on the cards, or even titles, and no lists in consecutive order until Alciato in 1544. So by default, the facts do not suggest anything different for Milan decks.

The only facts to suggest otherwise pertain to other regions: The first known list was in the Ferrara area is somewhat different: the Popess is at 4, Temperance is early, and Justice is at the end. Other lists, and numbers written on cards, were similar, except that they the Popess sometimes was number 2. Justice was always last or next to last.

Decker, however, insists that the Milan order was the original one. What chance is there that such a claim is true?

The Milan order certainly fits Pythagorean philosophy the best, at least for the first 10. After that, Pythagorean teachings are less clear. I find no doctrine of anti-types or complementary types in the Pythagorean writings; if numbers over 10 are discussed, it is in relation to the first 10. If 12 is of interest, it is as the product of 4 and 3, and almost never as 10 + 2. If 27, it is as the cube of 3, and so on. But it is easy enough to make the numbers 11-21 repetitions of the cycle of the first ten.

But there are many variations in Pythagoreanism. The number of justice is variously 2, 4, 6, and 8. Even the 1 pertains to justice, according to Macrobius, in that it is God. Thus 21 is also a possibility, the number of Justice in the A and B orders. The number of marriage is 5 or 6. 5 is the number of the Lover card in some decks. The number of wisdom, which Decker assigns to 2, is in the Theologumena 3. But neither of these is that of the Popess in the B order, where she is 4. But at least both the Popess and the Empress, 4 and 2, have feminine numbers, since even numbers are feminine.

It thus remains a realistic possibility that Pythagoreanism as such figured into the ordering of the tarot, or at least in people's interpretations of this ordering, if only because arithmology was applied to almost everything, not only by pagan writers but even more by Christian ones (as amply documented in Hopper, Medieval Number Philosophy). All the same, for Decker's interpretations it seems to me that we should look at when, where, and with whom in 15th century Italy Pythagoreanism as such was popular, and what was said. Here Decker is not much help. He does not concern himself with the historical setting of Pythagoreanism in Italy, beyond verifying that at least the ones in Latin (which he by no means restricts himself to) were extant by the 1430s.

So I did a little reading on the subject, not nearly as much as there is, even in English, but at least something. In Pythagoras and Renaissance Europe: Finding Heaven, Christiane l. Joost-Gaugier discusses who the champions of Pythagoreanism were in 15th century Italy. They include most of the same people who would have had copies of Horapollo at that time: Filelfo, Cyriaco da Ancona, Gemistos Plethon, Pogio, Alberti. There were also others, starting in Florence with Salutati, the admirer of Petrarch and great Chancellor Florence in the early 15th century. His successor Leonardo Bruni, was so as well; after him came Pogio, whom I've already mentioned. In Padua in Salutati's time there was Vergerio, editor of Petrarch; there was much interaction between Salutati and Vergerio. It would perhaps not be correct to say that these people were Pythagoreans; but they at least thought that Pythagoras had things to say worth studying.

Salutati is surprisingly specific in his account of Pythagoreanism, discussing not merely the scientific and moral qualities of Pythagoras but the numbers themselves, which is what we want to see. Although he does not name Pythagoras, when anyone talks of 1 as the number of the point, 2 of the line, etc., the reference is to Pythagoras. In a letter couched in such terms, we see a detailed discussion of 1, 3 and 6 (see Humanism and tyranny: Studies in the Italian trecento, by Emerton, pp. 363-365, at ... up;seq=379). 3 stands out in particular because it expresses the Trinity. This doctrine was stated by many theologians. Roger Bacon, for instance (Hopper p. 107):
For unity multiplied into itself cubically, that is, thrice, as once one taken once, does not multiply essence, but remains the same although it is produced equally in 3 directions. And so by a familiar example theologians designate the blessed Trinity. [Hopper's footnote: Opus majus,, Burke, I, 245.]
That is one of Salutati's points, that the three dimensions of the cube show how one thing can also be three. He also uses the sides of the triangle to the same effect.

There was also the good Dominican Thomas Aquinas, repeating the Pythagorean litany: his rising on the third day, the perfection of the number 3 is commended, which is the number of everything, as having beginning, middle, and end.
In addition, we can see Pythagorean ideas reflected in the art and architecture of the time. Art became intensely mathematical starting in the 1420s, with Brunelleschi's rediscovery of the techniques of perspective around 1415 and the resulting need for geometry in laying out a painting. One of the first to put Bruneleschi's ideas in practice was Masaccio. After that, Alberti simplified the procedure in his On Painting, developing what is now called one-point perspective. He then wrote on architecture, following Pythagorean ratios that were founded in musical theory (for details see the links at Filarete in Milan and Palladio in Padua in their writings followed in Alberti's footsteps.

In relation to the tarot, there is also Sigismundo Malatesta, the recipient of the thus far first recorded tarot deck, made for him in 1440 Florence. In around 1450, judging from a medal of the design made in that year, he commissioned Alberti to remodel an existing Gothic church. Rudolf Wittkower (Architectural principles in the age of Humanism, 1952) discusses the innovations that Alberti applied to the exterior of that Church, which remained unfinished at Malatesta's death in 1466, concluding (p. 41):
No later architect has come nearer to the spirit of Roman architecture, as found, say, in the inner arcades of the Colisseum. [footnote: Alberti may have been influenced by arcades of Theodoric's Tomb at Ravenna wwhich he calls a 'mobile delubrum' (Bk I, ch. 8). Nor had any earlier architect so thoughtfully welded together an entire bulding by the flawless application of Pythagorean proportions. [Footnote: The Pythagorean theme was convincingly demonstrated by Gerda Soerge, Untersuchungen ueber den theoretischen Architekturentwurf von 1450-1550 in Italien, Munich, 1958 (Dissertation), p. 11, and, abbreviated in Kunschronix, XIII, 1960, p. 349f.]
I might add that the 1450 medal was done by de Pasti, who also supervised the work in Rimini. De Pasti is known to tarot researchers for his 1440 letter to Piero de' Medici about his work on cassoni paintings of Petrarch's Triofi.

Although Wittkower's book is on architecture, he doesn't confine his remarks to that field. He begins his discussion on "Religious Symbolism of Centrally Planned Churches" as follows (p. 27):
Renaissance artists firmly adhered to the Pythagorean concept 'All is Number' and, guided by Plato and the neo-Platonists and supported by a long chain of theologians from Augustine onwards, they were convinced of the mathematical and harmonic structure of the universe and all creation.
Later in the book he discusses this point in relation to Brunelleschi (p. 117), Leonardo (p. 118), Michelangelo (p. 119), Agostino Carracci (p. 119), Raphael (p. 125), and a host of architects and architects' consultants. Earlier he had discussed Giovanni Bernini's drawings (p. 15). He could have included Mantegna, Piero della Francesco, and many others.


I want to expand on the above with particular reference to Masaccio, in part because he was so early--he died in 1428--but also because of connections to the tarot. First, his fresco of the expulsion from Eden seems to be the model for the Minchiate "Tower" card, with its woman fleeing in fear. Why that is so is a mystery. It might simply be that the image was admired and thus copied by others for a different purpose. Another connection is that his younger brother, known as "Lo Scheggio", is a known painter of playing cards, probably including tarot, in the early 1450s or 1460s.

The most mathematical of his works, and the most influential as well, is his Holy Trinity of c. 1425-1427, the first known work to employ Brunelleschi's perspective techniques, combined with the use of shading--chiaroscuro--to create naturalistic depth. I could find no satisfactory online reproductions, as they all lose either the color or the bottom of the painting; the best is probably at ... %C3%A0.jpg), although the colors are too dark; Mary's robe should be blue, for example.

To me its geometry suggests Pythagorean influence, especially as stated in Salutati's explanation of the "inexpressable Trinity" in terms of the triangle and cube (see the whole long paragraph at p. 365 of ... up;seq=381). This is a point made in passing by Joost-Gaugier (p. 172), expanded on by Bruskewietch, ... ithin)--to an extreme I am not prepared to follow.

First, there is the circle formed by the hemispherical vault, with the forehead of God the Father as its center--the mind of God. This serves to fix one of the apexes of the triangles formed starting at that point. The circle does not correspond to any of the numbers as far as I can tell, except that if "God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere," as Cusa unoriginally said (Wittkower, p. 28), it is related to God. In Ptolemaic astronomy, for another example, the planets were held to follow circular orbits due to the perfection of that figure. Wittkower adds that
The geometrical definition of God through the symbol or sphere has a pedigree reaching back to the Orphic poets.
He then cites Plato, Plotinus, and pseudo-Dionysus. So the circle became the dominant organizing principle of sacred architecture, a striking contrast to the middle ages, with its organization around the shape of a Latin cross and an emphasis on the vertical, away from this world. The circle, in contrast, puts God everywhere, including the human soul, as Wittkower points out; it exemplifies the correspondence of microcosm to macrocosm.

Salutati, it will be recalled (again, here is the link: p. 365 at ... up;seq=381), uses the triangle to illustrate the three in one principle of the Trinity. In the painting, one triangle is formed if you go from the forehead of God the Father down to the heads of the Virgin and the Evangelist. You can also go up in a straight line from the heads of the lower figures to the apex of a triangle at the level of the heart of Christ.In Pythagorean terms--although this is not necessary to appreciate the theme of the Trinity--the Virgin represents his beginning, the Evangelist his middle--i.e. his period of teaching--and the crucifixion his earthly end. Another triangle is made by the nails in Christ's hands and feet.These two triangles overlap to form a 6-pointed star; this is one of the 6s in the painting. Another 6 comes if you add the two donors and the skeleton to the pair of the Virgin and the Evangelist plus Christ; it forms a large triangle similar to that showing 6 as a triangular number in the arithmetic textbooks, i.e.
x ___x___x
or two triangles, formed by the two donors and the skeleton beneath, along with its mirror image, the upper triangle of Christ with the Virgin and the Evangelist, the lower a kind of mundane reflection of the upper:
There is also the 3 of the Trinity, of course: the Son, the Father, and the white dove of the Holy Spirit (between the Father's beard and the Son's head), each on its own plane as a single One. And at the bottom, the tomb on which the skeleton sits has three vertical bars.

With the dove, there would be 7 living figures in the painting, a sacred number in both pagan Pythagoreanism ("they give it reverence" says the Theologumena) and Christianity (i.e. seven days of creation, seven sacraments, etc.) The addition of the skeleton makes 8.

In the vault, there are 7 rows. 8 deep, of coffers on the vault (the dark rectangles), each of which is a square when seen as the surface of a solid rather than on the plane of a photograph. Besides that, there are 9 lines in the vault forming the boundaries of the coffers. 9, besides being the square of 3, is the number before 10, i.e. the number that ends the cycle begun at 1. It is also the number of choirs of angels in pseudo-Dionysus, etc.

These numbers are not so clear in photographs of the painting, due to damage, including cutting off the top border of the fresco. I invite people to consult the reconstruction of the original paintings as proposed by Ursula Schlegel (and reproduced enthusiastically by Janson):

Joost-Gaugier (p. 172) suggests that the 8 coffers represent Justice, as 8 is the number of Justice in Macrobius. But what does the scene have to do with Justice? The 8 could be merely a consequence of being between the 9 lines that serve to create the illusion of depth. 9 is significant as 3 squared. On the other hand, 8 as Albertus Magnus's number of Judgment might possibly work.

The number 5 (of the 5 loaves for 5000 people) is also present, in the number of cornices on the two outside columns; this may be mere coincidence, as I don't see 5 elsewhere. The same may be true for the instances of 7 and 8 that I have identified.

The floor and sides of the painting are dominated by the number 4. This point has been emphasized by Jenson in his essay "Ground Plan and Elevation in Masaccio's Trinity" (in Essays Presented to Rudolf Wittkower). With its architectural structure clearly influenced by Brunelleschi, the painting is an early example of how the square was of central importance in Renaissance architecture. Janson notes (footnote 6, p. 84):
On the pervading importance of the square as a perfect figure in Renaissance religious architecture, see Rudolf Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, London 1952, passim.

The fresco is a series of rectangles and squares: the tomb, the three floors on which the various figures hang, stand, kneel, or lie. There is also the vault, with a square floor, with 4 columns that perhaps form a cube. The coffers on the vault are also squares (rectangular only if not imagined in a space defined by the laws of perspective).

This goes to confirm 4 as the number of material reality, I think. As Schlegel says (Art Bulletin 45:1, March 1963, p. 27):
Although God's throne is in heaven, the scene depicted by Masaccio has nothing to do with the heavenly realm, but rather as a sacred space on earth.

Yet the three-dimensionality also reflects the Trinity.

The members of the Trinity are above, each alone its own plane, as opposed to the 2 male-female pairs below them, while counterbalancing the one skeleton beneath them.

Janson continues:
What could be the purpose--or better, purposes--of the numerical relationships pervading the Trinity? They bring to mind, of course, the Pythagorean tradition of harmonious numbers, whose significance for Renaissance architecture has been pointed out by Rudolf Wittkower [footnote 15: op. cit.

Janson gives two other reasons: to correlate ground plan and elevation, and surface and depth; and also to transfer the design easily and quickly from small preparatory drawings to the large fresco. These are not negligible; but the first is omnipresent and appears much more abundantly in the painting than is needed for the practical purposes Janson mentions.

There may be other things in the painting. Not only did Masaccio die mysteriously in Rome at the age of 26 or so, but the painting itself was completely covered over by an altar that Vasari installed in 1570--after first praising it to the skies in his book! Why was a painting generally considered to be the pioneering work in the new Renaissance style suddenly hidden from view? The only explanation I have seen is "modernization". I read that as a shift in values marked by the Council of Trent. As a sign of the times, Wittkower (p. 31f) cites Cardinal Carlo Borromeo's c. 1572 application of the Council's edicts to church building; he recommended a return to the "formam crucis" of the Latin cross and called the circular form "pagan". That might indicate that the principle of "the macrocosm in the microcosm" was now out of favor. Either that or, as Bruskewietch proposes, too many 6s were interpreted by someone as an unfortunate number.

One other consideration: Mary has an unusual facial expression in the painting, rather unique, not only imperious but with her eyes on the viewer rather than her son ( ... lio_01.jpg). Rona Goffen (Masaccio's Trinity, p. 18) interprets Mary here as a symbol of the Church, in effect repeating her words at Cana (John 2:3), "Do whatever he tells you", directed now at the viewer. So another reason for covering up the painting might be that the Church now, in the fight against Protestantism, preferred a gentler image for itself. I will discuss this image of Mary further on the Popess thread.

I conclude that although the precise Pythagorean correspondences needed for the tarot are not present in the art and art theory of the Renaissance, the omnipresence of Pythagorean arithmology suggests that such application would likely have taken place. Decker's correspondences by and large do reflect writings available and in use at the time. I see nothing so far to indicate that the C order was the original one. But the research is still at a primitive level.

My own prior contribution to these issues, from 2010, is at viewtopic.php?f=12&t=530&p=8518#p8518. It is not bad, but Decker has certainly moved things forward.

I also have a more extended application of Pythagoreanism to all 78 of the cards, at

Decker ch. 6: astrology

Decker maintains that one particular part of one astrological text influenced the original designer of the tarot, namely, the part on "lots" in the Astronomica of Manilius. This is a text that Poggio found, documented in a letter to him of 1417 (Decker. p. 38). Decker sees a correspondence between the 12 lots, a variation on the idea of houses, and 12 of the first 14 trumps of the Tarot de Marseille. Unlike Houses, however, these lots are calculated in terms of the positions of the Sun and the Moon in a person's natal horoscopes.

For the other 2 cards, he assigns two of the "cardinal points" of the natal chart, the western horizon, called the "horoscope", and the midheaven. Here is the picture of the cardinal points and their assignments that Goold, the translator, gives in his Introduction:

These are not dependent on the positions of the Sun and Moon, but for Decker they fit two tarot cards. "Horoscopos" (abbreciated "HOR" above) is a term he has already associated with horoscopos = hour-marker and assigned to the Old Man as personified Time. The other, the midheaven, Manilius characterizes as follows (Goold translation, p. 147):
...enthroned on high this post is occupied by Glory (truly a fit warden for heaven's supreme station); so that she may clam all that is pre-eminent, arrogate all distinction, and reign by awarding honours of every kind. Hence comes applause, splendour, and every form of popular favour; hence the power to dispense justice in the courts, to bring the world under the rule of law, to make alliances with foreign nations one one's own terms, and to win fame relative to one's station.
Since this description includes the power to dispense justice. Decker assigns the midheaven to the Justice card, in 8th place.

For the other 12, some of these relate well enough to tarot cards: Others are a strain.
Here is Decker's picture of the 12 lots and their meanings.

This is a modified version of Goold's picture of the Lots, which Manilius also calls athla.

Decker has changed some of the words, but justifying each in the text; sometimes it is a bit of a stretch. Lot 1, relating to Home, has as an alternate name "Fortune", because one calculates it first in order to determine the rest of the circle. Thus Decker says the designer would have seen it as the Wheel of Fortune, a circle pertaining to fortune p. 140). Lot 2 has to do with warfare. Decker assigns it to the chariot, as the symbol of military triumph. Lot 3 has to do with the business of the city, "a kind of warfare, one made of civil engagements"; it "contains ties dependent on trust" and "reveals the size of rewards for devotion" (these are my quotes from Manilius, Goold p. 171). Devotion and trust is associated for Decker with the Pope. Lot 4 has to do with the law-courts, accusers and defendants, and the eloquence required in this and in advocating for legislation. Decker assigns this to the Hanged Man, as the object of legal action. Lot 6 has to do with marriage, so Love. Lot 7 determines the "abundance of means" in an undertaking, and the "duration of one's resources". Decker says this is what determines the end of a process, thus Death. 8 is "grim with Danger dire, if the planets are located in the signs of ill accord". Decker says that periculum also means "risk", hence the Juggler. Then come three that make fair sense: Children (Decker's Parenthod) to the Empress, Character to the Popess, and Health to Temperance. Lot 12 has to do with "the attainment of our ends" in Manilius, whether our efforts will meet with success. Decker says that since it has to do with effort, it would be associated with Strength.

Of these, perhaps six actually fit the card in question. The others seem to me quite strained, too much for us to say whether these Lots have anything to do with the cards. Since five of the six or so that do fit also characterize the standard Renaissance Houses (fortune, marriage, social position, health, family tradition), there are other more conventional possibilities, equally strained.

For the last seven trumps, Decker refers to another section of the Astronomica, in which Manilius associates the six of the planets (probably meaning to associate all seven) with six out of twelves "temples", which are the same as Houses in standard Renaissance astrology, except that Manilius does not always follow the usual characterizations. The application to the planets is only occasionally strained. For the Devil card, he associates Manilius's Saturn, parents, and "Daemonium", a word that Goold has not found elsewhere. Decker decides that the tarot inventor would have seen it as a devil. (I would think anyone reading Manilius would see Saturn here as an older parent.) For the Tower, what Decker sees is Mars (not mentioned by Manilius, but assigned there by Goold) and Manilius's "House of Toil", which Decker says is the same as suffering. For the Star, Decker has Venus, which Manilius assigns to "Fortune" and marriage. For the Moon, it is Manilius's "brothers", "human mortality" and "Goddess"; this last is close enough for Decker. For the Sun Manilius has "God" and bodily ups and downs; Decker says that good health and God are both associated with the sun. For Judgment he has Mercury, Manilius's "Stilbon" (which Goold p. 157 says means "Glistener", a common name for Mercury)and children; Decker interprets this as "Ascendant" (Mercury as the morning star, I imagine), and people are ascending on the card. For the World he has Manilius's Jupiter, Good Fortune and what Decker says is achievement (Manilius has "consummation", even better).

Decker also draws on the "children of the planets" series of illustrations that were popular in the 1460s (I don't know any from before 1440, but the characterizations were quite standard) to support his assignments. Thus the Devil is associated with Saturn, because of its unwholesome "children"), the Tower with Mars, for the ruined towers on the "children" illustrations, the Moon card with the Moon, with its crayfish, etc., the Sun card, which has two "children" whom Decker identifies as wrestlers, with the Sun. For the higher two he goes to mythology without referring to the "children" series : Judgment with Mercury (as the conveyer of souls) and children; and the World as Jupiter (the highest god, with a scepter) and Greater Fortune.

In the case of these last 7 cards, the associations to an astrology text are fairly close. One objection, again, might be the non-standard nature of Manilius's system. It seems to me again that for people interested in the astrological associations of the tarot, the designer would have picked a more conventional system.

More importantly, it is not clear to me why anyone would want to design a sequence of cards to conform to either Lots or Houses. Manilius's Lots, like conventional Houses, are incomplete prognosticators. They require to be filled in with planets and zodiacal signs that are in those houses. If cards are assigned to lots/houses, then there are no zodiacal signs left for the interpretation, which in any case is going to be complex, involving either a spread, i.e. 12 places to put cards assigned to planets and zodiacal signs, or a series of cards, the first indicating the lot and the next the sign or planet associated with that lot. Decker rightly eschews such complexity with regard to the 15th century use of the cards.

In general, the Platonist, Pythagorean, and Hermetic texts had no interest in astrology except for the ethical-psychological meanings, both positive and negative, of the elements, planets and signs of the zodiac. These can readily be associated with various cards, either systematically or by visual/conceptual resemblances card by card. For the latter, the Moon card has associations with both the Moon and Cancer, Justice with Libra (visual), Strength with Leo (visual to the lion), Mercury with the Bagat (conceptual, as trickster god), the Old Man to Saturn (visual and by the traditional Chronos/Cronos equivalence), the Fool also to Saturn (visual and association to god of Judaism), Love with Venus (as Love-goddess), Empress with Venus (as mother), etc.

For a systematic one-to-one correspondence, there was the standard system of ascent and descent through the planetary spheres and the fixed stars, as in Macrobius. Dante used it in the Paradiso, going from the "terrestrial paradise" on earth to the Moon up to Saturn, through the zodiac signs, then ascending to the ninth sphere. Dante's entrance door to the zodiacfrom the planets is at Cancer, the same in Macrobius. Correspondingly, the Moon card has Cancer. The door to the gods in Macrobius is at Capricorn. However Dante has to go through all the other signs of the zodiac before he can ascend further; so he exits in Gemini. Correspondingly, the Tarot de Marseille Sun card has Gemini. In Minchiate, the last sign is also Gemini (although unaccountably its first zodiac sign is Libra). In his poem, Dante's explanation is the euhemeristic one that it is his personal sign; but on the allegorical level, it seems to me, it is his replacement for Capricorn, as the doorway to the gods, or in this case, God.

All this makes perfect sense to me, and has the advantage of being a very well known sequence, from the planets to the stars, Decker's application of astrology, however, has the zodiac first, then the planets above them. That only works if you interpret the sequence as a whole as a descent, from God at 1 to the moon at 21. But Decker, correctly I think, sees at least the last 7 cards as an ascent. Putting the planets on top, then, goes against tradition.

I have already indicated one way of applying Macrobius's descent (counting backwards from 13) through the planetary cards cards from Death on down to the planets, with some planets taking more than one card (see viewtopic.php?f=12&t=971&p=14238#p14194). In astrology, individual planets (except the Sun and the Moon) in fact take three positions, governing three zodiac signs: thus one planet can be interpreted in more than one way. Above Death, some cards (Star, Moon, Sun) can be associated with zodiac signs just as easily as with planets. Perhaps these three serve to represent the entire zodiac. Then above them, Judgment would be the 9th sphere, the Primum Mobile (first moved), and the World the 10th sphere, the Empyrian.The cards below the Star could represent water (Temperance), air (Devil, the place of demons in Platonism), and fire (Tower). This seems to work nicely.

Another system that might have been available, including all of the signs, planets, and the same three elements, is that of the Sefer Yetsirah. That text was surely available, even in translation by the fourth quarter of the 15th century, as Pico refers to the "32 paths" of Cabala in his 900 Theses, a phrase that as far as I know occurs only there among major Kabbalist texts. It is not necessary to know this text's assignments; they could be made by visual and conceptual associations. I just don't know of any humanist discussion of such a thing as assigning astrological entities to Hebrew letters or 22 of anything.

It seems to me that from Decker's general Platonist orientation (which I accept) any other astrological associations (such as lots, houses, and cardinal points) would have been an afterthought, not part of the original structure. Even then, imagery in the tarot associated with the zodiac and planets doesn't appear before the Cary Sheet. There is no Aquarius-like (or Venus-like) figure on the Star card, or Crab-like figure on the Moon card, until the Cary Sheet; there is no Gemini-like couple on the Sun card until the Tarot de Marseille itself. For the other cards with astrological entities on them--Justice, Strength, maybe Temperance (as Aquarius)--the astrological entities (scales, lion, vessels) on these cards better fit their occurrence in other standard medieval contexts.

At the end of the chapter Decker associates the top seven trumps with particular images in the Picatrix, an Arab astrological text that had been translated into Latin. Out of the many images in that text, seven can indeed be so connected, in a more or less strained sort of way, attaching to one detail in both and ignoring others; but if anyone did it, it could just as well, and more likely, have been as an afterthought. And there probably other ways of making associations. I see no indication at the time that any special importance was attached to those seven. If, for example, they were also ones used in the Schifanoia "Hall of the Months" in Ferrara, c. 1470, that would be interesting,. But Decker does not attempt such a connection.

In conclusion: I think a vaguely astrological orientation can be sustained for the tarot at least by the time of the Cary Sheet, which actually has astrological symbolism on some of the later cards. It is possible that such an orientation occurred earlier, whenever it was a full 22 cards. I have not worked out whether it would work for a smaller group, 16 or fewer, as I don't know what the cards would have been. However I think Macrobius rather than Manilius would have been the basic source.

In defense of Decker it might be said that planets, or stars, obviously are on at least three of the last cards, namely the Star, (Venus as the water-pourer on the Cary Sheet), the Moon, and the Sun, just as he interprets them to be. My reply is in part that their obvious appearance there relates to the literal meaning of the cards, namely, as Morning Star, Moon, and Sun in the book of Revelation. The allegorical meaning, although not unrelated to the literal, relates more to another part of the cards, as Aquarius, Cancer, and Gemini. For this distinction, see my post at viewtopic.php?f=23&t=385&start=100#p14234. I haven't mentioned Aquarius at all in this post. Its allegorical meaning, as I see it, is not as Aquarius, but as the two streams at the end of Dante's Purgatorio, corresponding to the two gates of Porphyry's On the Cave of the Nymphs and the "Gates" of Plutarch's On the Face in the Orb of the Moon. In that way the Sun and the Moon do play a role on the allegorical level. I discussed these allegories earlier in this thread, in the second half of viewtopic.php?f=12&t=971#p14188.

Re: Decker's new book

I think, that the new found Manilius text influenced the court of Filippo Maria Visconti, which was full of astrologers.

A new "old" astrological concept found in a German library must have alarmed the astrologers. The new elected pope Martin, accompanied by Poggio (who found the text), visited, when back in Italy, first Visconti, though he didn't stay long. But surely there was time enough to learn about the text and to get some details.

I don't know references to the hypothetical reaction of the astrologers, but I interpret the Michelino deck as a negative reaction. The Manilius text used the concept of the "12 Olympian gods", and also the Michelino deck clearly used the 12 Olympian gods (the first 12 gods). But the concept of both systems in matters of the 12 Olympian gods is not the same, and the 12 chosen god figures are not identical - Vulcanus (Manilius) is exchanged by Bacchus (Michelino). Variations of the 12 gods were already known in antique times.

We've as responsible for the Michelino deck Martiano da Tortano, who is presented as an astrologer. We've from Decembrio a very huge sum of ducats, which was paid for this deck. It's not really explainable by just the value of the cards (the highest otherwise paid money were 40 ducats in Ferrara around the same time, this in contrast to 1500 ducats is nothing, just a little less than 3 %), there must have been something different in the background of the cards. Logical would have been a complex research commission to Martiano da Tortona, a commission to "find the truth" about Greek-Roman gods.
Specific works of scholars could reach such a high sum, for instance in the case of pope Niccolo and George of Trabezund (again a case with a similar astronomical topic).

Filippo Maria had been very obsessed with astrology, something, which attacked his central believe, could cause such an operation.
We only know of the accompanying text to the Michelino deck. This hardly could be all. There must be other texts in the background, texts, which perhaps never were "published" and never gained importance outside of the rather secret court of Filippo Maria.

Long after, when Filippo was already dead about 20 years, the court of Ferrara, then rather obsessed with astrological and astronomical details, produced the Schifanoia cycle as an interpretation of the Manilius text. Again much money was spend, now in defense of the Manilius system. A few years later a book was produced (it was the time of the first printed books), first in Ferrara and nearly contemporary by Regiomontanus in Nuremberg. The topic was hot then.


I found the Sherburne edition from 1675 ... ... us&f=false

... funny ... :-) ... some little Manilius text surrounded by lots of commentaries. Difficult to read.

So I don't know enough about the content. Transferring clear data from a poem might be generally difficult. 'I think, Decker is right, when he gives Manilius some attention. But correlating it to specific Tarot cards, just, cause some of the objects on one side look like objects on the other side, isn't enough. Some objects look ALWAYS similar in
such systems. A good example is the recently discussed (AT) star picture symbolism, which was claimed to be the origin of the Tarot cards.


Just for this ...
For the latter, the Moon card has associations with both the Moon and Cancer, Justice with Libra (visual), Strength with Leo (visual to the lion), Mercury with the Bagat (conceptual, as trickster god), the Old Man to Saturn (visual and by the traditional Chronos/Cronos equivalence), the Fool also to Saturn (visual and association to god of Judaism), Love with Venus (as Love-goddess), Empress with Venus (as mother), etc.
... once in another post with another context I noted, that ....

Temperantia .... with her "water symbols" (her jars) looks like a presentation of CANCER (sign of water in astrology)
Fortitudo ... with her "fire symbol" of lion looks like a presentation of of LEO (sign of fire in astrology)
Prudentia ... with a viper as of "earth" looks like a presentation of VIRGO (sign of earth in astrology)
Justice ... with her scales (air ?) looks like a presentation (sign of air in astrology)

If this is based on a "true" relationship ("true" in the sense somebody earlier had really this idea and then really influenced the iconography of the 4 virtue, which we know by many examples), then the date of this invention should be very early, at least far before the invention of Tarot or Trionfi decks.

How would an astrology look like, which puts the 4 cardinal virtues in the time, which we mainly call "summer"?

Well, this is the best time of the year, usually.
We may expect of such a system, that we know just only in parts by a little bit of iconography suspicions, that (likely) Vices got the months Scorpio, Sagitarius, Capricorn till Aquarius. And for the missing third part we might expect a more promising name than "vices", but not as good as the name "virtues".

Hadn't the old Greek a system, which operated with 3 seasons instead of 4? Which somehow appeared also in the researches about the "pope and the donkey" lot book, if I remember correctly?

Normal astrology filled the months Cancer till Libra with the more friendly "planets" Moon-Sun-Mercury-Venus, the assumed Vices months Scorpio-Aquarius with Mars-Jupiter-Saturn-Saturn (3 of them "not friendly) and the 3rd part with Jupiter-Mars-Venus-Mercury (only 1 of them "not friendly"), following the rule, that Mars and Saturn are hostile planets.

If somebody has problems to associate the jars of Temperance with Cancer ... the animal cancer has impressive claws, with which it plays in the water. And the moon, which is associated to Cancer, presents itself not always full, but occasionally with a right or a left "claw", others say "crescent" .


Re: Decker's new book


This Manilius scheme is an interesting system.

1 Home - 5 Marriage - 9 Children makes a clear triad (I interpret "home" as "self", which somehow is also "birth") Birth - Marriage - Children looks logical ... so the other 9 should also fall in triads

This would make ...

2 Warfare - 6 Means - 10 Character

3 Business - 7 Dangers - 11 Health

4 Law - 8 Class - 12 Success

According astrology these fields should be friendly to each other.


If I put it in groups of 4 (not friendly fields to each other in astrology, risky)

1 (Home) - 4 Law - 7 Dangers - Character

2 Warfare - 5 Marriage - 8 Class - 11 Health

3 Business - 6 Means - 9 Children - 12 Success


In the common houses astrology it seems, as if the meaning of the houses had developed from the zodiac circle starting with Aries, so Aries is related to house 1, Taurus is related to house 2, Gemini is related to house 3 ... etc.

When in Manilius teachings the zodiac year starts? Is that also with Aries, or is it another month. The Palazzo Schifanoia pictures seem to have started with Aries. But was this also with Manilius?

Old Rome said "December" and meant the 10th month. So March was the first, which would be rather similar to starting the astrological year around 21st of March. Plausibly this was so also for Manilius.

Otherwise I see, that Julius Caesar in his calendar reform (around 45 BC) took the first of January as the first day, but I find no solid information to this point in the moment. Somewhere I read, that Rome had 1st of January already 153 BC as begin of the year, and 1st of March was used before.

But the "astrological year" of Manilius might have used another date.

Re: Decker's new book

Thanks for your comments, Huck: Unfortunately I had to check the Manilius back in; the library didn't allow renewals. It's on the other end of town. I'll get there at some point, maybe tomorrow.

Thanks for the additional information about him. I hadn't noticed the "Olympian gods" schema in Manilius. So I'll have to see what he says and compare it to Marziano. Do you have any other basis for thinking that the court used Manilius? I looked in the index to the Visconti-Sforza library bibliography; he's not listed. Martianus Capella and Macrobius' Commentary are both there, as well as some astrology: Guilhelmes de Conchis and someone named Arzachel, plus some tables without authors given.

I didn't know the Schifonoia was based on Manilius. I thought it was just the Picatrix. What is your reference?

That Manilius would have been discussed in Milan, Florence, and Ferrara does make a difference to the credibility of Decker's associations. Strained associations were the rule rather than the exception in making allegorical interpretations. It is different from attributing a text as a cause of the tarot just because it fits: if it's something that was part of the milieu at the right time and place, it makes a big difference, I think.

On earth, water, air, and fire: my preference now is: Death (earth), Temperance (water), Devil (air, because Hades for Middle Platonists was located in the upper air between earth and moon), and Tower (fire). Andrea has one of these, the Tower as fire. But he apparently doesn't know about Hades being in the air, and doesn't put Temperance after Death.

Your assignment to the virtues is nonetheless quite interesting; I don't quite know what to do with them .I'll have to think about it: Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra; Water, Fire, Earth, Air; Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice; spring, summer, autumn, winter. Temperance is usually associated with spring, I think, the nicest time in the Italy. Summer is not so nice, fiery. Autumn is the time to store your crops prudently. Winter is the time to deal with the law, because there's time for it. In Minchiate the order is Fire, water, Earth, and Air, which makes no sense to me, unless it is the order someone saw in Genesis.

In Greece, according do, traditionally there were three seasons, named Peace, Good Order (or Lawfulness), and Justice. When Greece became dominated by Rome, then some writers, even in Greek, had four seasons, while others continued with three. There is one 7th century b.c. Greek source that had four, the fourth, spring, being a time when "things grow but there is not enough to eat"

Re: Decker's new book

mikeh wrote:Egypt had three seasons. I hadn't heard that about Greece.
I know "three seasons in Greece" globally as an information of old time, not precise. Looking in the web ... I found this confirmation:
... a connection to the Horae, but this can't be all.

When I took up the theme "The pope and the donkey" (based on a 15th century German lot book), the book became in analysis a matter, which was based on an old Greece calendar system with 13 zodiac signs instead of 12, and it was used in Persia in Greece c. 500 BC till first century AD.
In the analysis suddenly something like "three seasons" appeared.

It was here ...
... and type "seasons" in the thread search engine

... and my thoughts in the matter had become so complicated, that likely nobody understood, what I was speaking about.
1. Mercury - Libra
2. Mercury - Aries
3. Jupiter - Taurus
4. Jupiter - Cancer
5. Mercury - Leo
6. Mercury - Raven
7. Jupiter - Virgo
8. Venus - Pisces
9. Mars - Aquarius
10. Jupiter - Gemini
11. Mars - Sagitarius
12. Mars - Scorpio
13. Mars - Capricornus
I observed in this "strange reign of planets in the zodiac" (of the used "astrological" system in the book), that Mars reigned a third of the year, from Scorpio-Sagitarius-Capricornus till Aquarius (that period, that I called "vices" in the last post).
Then peace-making Venus followed in Pisces, and the rest of the year was given to Mercury and Jupiter.

From this I found as an explanation, that Greece once possibly followed a "simple" three-seasons-model, which was modified by "mythological actions" (ideas of poets or astronomers) and found to the given form as presented in the book (and presented as detail above).
mikeh wrote:
I hadn't noticed the "Olympian gods" schema in Manilius. So I'll have to see what he says and compare it to Marziano. Do you have any other basis for thinking that the court used Manilius? I looked in the index to the Visconti-Sforza library bibliography; he's not listed. Martianus Capella and Macrobius' Commentary are both there, as well as some astrology: Guilhelmes de Conchis and someone named Arzachel, plus some tables without authors given.

I didn't know the Schifonoia was based on Manilius. I thought it was just the Picatrix. What is your reference?
Try google with "manilius schifanoia" ... .-) ... not all given texts are my texts. ... 0gWX0IGwBA

You didn't report the Manilius connection between Greek/Roman gods and months. Can it be, that Decker didn't talk about it? Well, this row seems more important for Manilius' system than that, what you described in your observation. It was used in the Palazzo Schifanoia with Minerva in March, Venus in April, Apollo in Gemini etc.

That's a forerunner of the now common "Planets rule in zodiac signs" with "Mars reigns in Aries, Venus in Taurus, Mercury in Gemini etc". This rule is said to have been settled around 100 AD, so in the time of Manilius (c. 20 AD) a general row didn't exist and the system was still in an experimental stage. Dorotheos had a version, Ptolemy another.
mikeh wrote:
That Manilius would have been discussed in Milan, Florence, and Ferrara does make a difference to the credibility of Decker's associations. Strained associations were the rule rather than the exception in making allegorical interpretations. It is different from attributing a text as a cause of the tarot just because it fits: if it's something that was part of the milieu at the right time and place, it makes a big difference, I think.
Yes, of course, and that Decker sees Manilius as a relevant factor of the time, is naturally good. The general astronomical discussion of the time is of high importance and had a high rank in the given social contexts.

The question, which pictures should be made on playing cards, is just not at the same intensive level.
On earth, water, air, and fire: my preference now is: Death (earth), Temperance (water), Devil (air, because Hades was located in the upper air between earth and moon), and Tower (fire). Andrea has one of these, the Tower as fire. But he apparently doesn't know about Hades being in the air, and doesn't put Temperance after Death.

Your assignment to the virtues is nonetheless quite interesting, as I don't quite know what to do with them .I'll have to think about it: Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra; Water, Fire, Earth, Air; Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice; spring, summer, autumn, winter. Temperance is usually associated with spring, I think, the nicest time in the Mediterranean. Summer is not so nice, as you know, fiery. Autumn is the time to store your crops prudently. Winter is the time to deal with the law, because there's time for it.

For the Greek time Hades had been in "earth", not in air between earth an moon.

Elements weren't settled in the early time, mirrored in the philosophical statements before Sokrates. In the Olympian development we have the trio heaven (Uranos), Earth (Gaia) and Pontos for the ocean (water), which is then mirrored by ...

Zeus on a mountain ... fire/air? ... high
Hades in the earth ... earth ... middle
Poseidon in the water ... below

Thales had the idea, that earth swims on the water, likely a way to explain earthquakes. So the mythological "below" for water is "correct" (in the philosophical concept of the time).

In the mythological world Gaia had children with Pontos, after her children with Uranos. These are 5. Some attributes to the figure make me assume, that this meant an early 5-elements idea.

Nereus, a man... water ... with his daughters, the 50 Nereides
Thaumas, a man ... air ... his children had wings
Keto and Phorkys ... ????? fire/earth ???? .... who married and their children became monsters
Eurybia, a woman ... ????? aither ???? ... who married a son of Uranos/Gaia (Krios, a Titan of 12) and had 3 sons of him.

About the weather problem ... possibly the weather feelings from Florence and more Southern regions are not deciding in this question, and there have been climatic changes to consider in the last 2000 years. Generally there are regions, in which summer is perceived as good, and winter is bad. If the virtues were located for July - October, then it likely was such a region, as virtues are positive.


I don't know, when the specific suspicious iconography of the 4 cardinal virtues developed. I'm just sure, that it was "before Trionfi and Tarot cards". The Trionfi designers likely were blind for this earlier system, just followed the contemporary tradition, I would assume.
The 4 cardinal virtues are said to have developed in Platon's time, but I haven't researched that.

As a complex model "7 virtues" and "7 vices" it developed with the Psychomachia (around 400 AD), in which the common 4 cardinal virtues and 3 theological virtues are NOT used.
(German wiki)

Another German wiki talks about Pope Clemens II, who has his burial place in Bamberg. His tomb has 4 cardinal virtues. I find no confirmation, if the 4 presented cardinal virtues are similar early (Clemens died 1047). Bamberg had around this time capital function for the Empire.


The 3 other pictures are here:

The article "Kardinaltugend" refers to the same object, possibly based on the background, that these are the oldest, perhaps only in Germany ... but no confirmation to this.

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