A unified view

#11
Marco wrote,
Since the hanged man has nothing to do with “spiritual and celestial powers”, while “treason” is one of the accidents of human life, the Hanged Man belongs to the second group. But, indeed, if you cannot see meaning, you are left with only the evidence of the cards which didn't move in the different orderings.

The case with Death is different, because it is both the end of this life and the beginning of the after life. It belongs to both worlds.
It seems to me that the Hanged Man can also be seen as a kind of transitional figure. From the perspective of the one betrayed, he is a "condition of life". But if you take the card as being about what it depicts, namely the Hanged Man, he corresponds to a condition often depicted in association with Hell, which as you say was one of the four last things, the one you couldn't find depicted in the early "last trumps". Depictions of Hell in frescoes showed people hanged by one foot in Hell. This is possibly based on the Apocalypse of Peter, a non-heretical ancient Christian document which one source on the Internet (http://www.youall.com/HELL/dante.htm) thinks was also a source for some of Dante's imagery (my highlighting):
And there were also others, women, hanged by their hair over that mire that bubbled up: and these were they who adorned themselves for adultery; and the men who mingled with them in the defilement of adultery, were hanging by the feet and their heads in that mire. And I said: I did not believe that I should come into this place.
Dante, I notice at that site, portrayed Simoniacs--clergy who sold sacramental favors--as upside down with their feet burning. That may be one thing alluded to by the Charles VI card, since the man is clutching money bags.

Another possibility is that the Hanged Man represented, in Milan, Muzio Attendola Sforza, who had been depicted as a traitor by the anti-Pope John XXIII. This would have been seen by the Sforza family as an unjustified charge for a courageous action that helped to end the schism. In that case, shame is indeed simply an "accident of life" to be endured and overcome, as in fact the Sforza did. I see three signs of a positive interpretation of this card: first, his green legs, a color which elsewhere in the deck seems to connote fertility (the Empress and Batons courts). The hole (with perhaps water in it) underneath his head suggests the same thing, as a place to deposit a seed. And the wavy blond hair is like a halo around his head. However I don't see this interpretation fitting the cards of Florence.

If we describe the last part of the sequence as "increasing light" in a metaphorical as well as, in some cases, literal sense--it could also be described as "getting closer to God"--then the Hanged Man is at the bottom of that sequence, the one with no light, in Hell, the furthest from God. He is lower than the bottom of the Wheel, since all that happens there is a loss from fortune. Then Death is closer to God, in that at that point the soul at least is free from its earthly shell, the body. Then it meets the daemons in the air, the angels and demons that fight over the soul in various medieval depictions. Then it meets the purifying fire of Purgatory, at the end of which is Dante's Terrestrial Paradise, depicted, with its two streams, in the Star card (the stars being overhead, representing the strength of the light at that point and the hoped-for goal).

Here is an example of what I mean (upper part of an illumination for the manager of the Medici Bank in Geneva, later 15th century; the whole illumination is at http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-PRKkg1Y5dSk/U ... ssetti.JPG; Dante and Virgil are at the bottom, but it is not necessary, in a series of small images constructed for the viewer to put himself or herself in each scene, to put someone in the picture for the viewer to identify with)
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In the PMB, however, the Star card merely represents the goal as seen from afar, the soul's longed-for union with God.. In the Charles VI it is the same, but as the Star of Bethlehem. Whether the extant PMB version is a replacement for a similar card in Milan is an unanswered question. As I say, the Bembo "Adoration of the Magi" of 1463 has such an image in its background. Also, it is unknown whether there was a Devil and Fire in the PMB. If they weren't there, it wouldn't matter to the interpretation.

Then it attains the Moon and the Sun, the most prominent of the celestials, the light increasing the closer to God it gets. In the visible universe, which is what we see on the Charles VI, the increasing light from Fire to Sun presages the greater light of the Angel and finally the World of the New Jerusalem.

After the sphere of the Fixed Stars, on the cosmograph, comes the "Crystalline Sphere" where the gate to the Empyrean is. That part may not have been illustrated in medieval times, I don't know. As I have said, the "hierarchy of light" may have been conceived in retrospect at a time when the Judgment card was already in place, as suggested by the fact that none of those before it are extant in the CY and the various early documents suggested 13-16 cards. Since in Christianity there is a Last Judgment before the maximum light, it logically goes there in any case. The final card admits one to the Empyrean, above the cosmos. In this life, this is a journey in imagination, an allegorical representation of life after death. But it is not a matter of just imagining oneself there, as one might imagine oneself in another country. It is a willed receptivity to images from another source, more "being taken on" than "taking" a journey, as in Dante, with one's intellect evaluating what one sees, even interacting with the images. I don't know how these things would have been done; I am mainly generalizing from Dante, although what I read there fits with other writings such as pseudo-Dionysius and the Chaldean Oracles.

This is the journey mainly from the perspective of the Cosmograph. For meaningful imagery of this allegorical journey, the Last Days are a valid and fruitful source; these images would have been recognized as part of the soul's journey in the sense of preparing the soul and allowing it to experience in imagination what it might thus be able to avoid in reality, an important function of art.

In this regard Death is omnipresent in the Last Days' depiction. The devils are for some reason not described as flying, unlike in Augustine and numerous other depictions. Nonetheless they are abundantly illustrated in Revelation images. There are also plenty of "acts of God"--lightning, hail, earthquakes, floods, you name it. The moon and the sun are there, too, recapitulating the Bethlehem story, then superseded by the light of the Lamb of the 2nd Coming, which unlike the sun and the moon shines both day and night. The New Jerusalem is also a fruitful image, especially in the case of the PMB.

The Last Days are a likely source of imagery and its associated moral and spritual lessons. But no Last Days narrative is structured in the way that the tarot sequence is structured. And card designers felt free not to use the Last Days theme if they wished something else, as in the case of much of the B and C imagery on the lower halves of the cards. The cosmograph gives the structure, as a metaphorical journey to God culminating in the Empyrean. The "increasing light" theme is there no matter what.

So about which of the various alternatives you posed at the beginning of the thread, Marco, my answer is: all of them except the de Mellet/de Gebelin. Of them, the "journey of the soul" and "cosmograph" determine the structure (along with the general theme of increasing light), and the Last Days, among other sources (such as depictions of Hell and Dante's Commedia) much of the imagery. That's at the beginning, i.e. up to the time when all 22 were there, whenever that was. Classical pagan sources may play a role in the imagery later on, or simply be additional interpretations, not necessary but helpful to some. That is a matter for further discussion, in relation to particular decks.

There remains the issue of how the Hanged Man and Death can be in two sections at once. I do not know if that is a problem or not; maybe "transitional cards" is enough. I'll try to revisit this theme.

Note: I added the visual the next day.

Re: Cosmology and the last trumps

#12
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
For me the "hierarchy of light" is sufficiently explanatory for the ranking of the four cards Lightning, Star, Moon, and Sun. ….I think the tower in the Lightning card is a prop, something for the lightning to strike. Lightning strikes tall things, like towers, often with stunning effect. But the subject of the card, the reason for its place in the sequence, is lightning, a thunderbolt, a light in the sky, the lowest kind of fire in the heavens….I think the tower, the most common prop for the thunderbolt in the tradition, has misled interpreters over the centuries, moreso even than the other decorations or props under the other light-cards. I myself spent years with it, and worked out a very complex group of associations for it; but the "Tower" is a red herring.
Ross,
Usually your comments give me pause to reconsider certain views of my own, but this is not one of them. The tower is not merely something for the lightning to strike – occasionally humans are falling from the tower; the card is obviously indicating God’s wrath, with the background being the well-known biblical cognates of the tower of Babylon (a version of which is in the Sola Busca Nimrod card, complete with "fire")and destroying Sodom and Gemorrah. The comment that lightning can often be seen far away (made in a related thread) seems a particuarly misleading rationale for describing it as less bright than stars - the card clearly shows that the lightning striking the tower is close at hand (and again, striking people in some cards).
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God striking Sodom, Speculum humanæ salvationis , Chapter XXXI. MS lat 593.jpg
God striking Sodom, Speculum humanæ salvationis , Chapter XXXI. MS lat 593.jpg (27.7 KiB) Viewed 3242 times
Nimrod, Sola Busca
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The “moon, sun and stars” may seem like a common phrase to us but in a society obssessed with astrology, it would seem simplistic in the extreme (and again, a reason “the Star” is not that, but Venus). And there is no saying for 'lightning, moon, sun and stars.'

Of course there is no quattrocento source or visual cognate for this “hierarchy of light” but I am guessing you are thinking of your own translation of the 16th century tract of Piscino’s Discorso where he seems to suggest a hierarchy of brightness – “those things at night are less worthy than the day” (Explaining the Tarot, 2010: tr. Caldwell, Depaulis, Ponzi, 2010: 24); yet Piscino contradicts his own criteria by stating the sun’s primacy is “because it is placed in a higher sky” (25), which would then mean the correct order of the cards should be the geocentric one of moon-sun-stars, with fire completely irrelevant for it had no place in astrology (its one of the four elements), unless one is talking about the ‘ether’ that pervaded all spheres.

At all events the Tower – called early on La sagitta(arrow) is Jupiter- at least as a classicizing aspect of God’s wrath, a metaphor that was popular in humanist circles. The arrow is Jove’s lightning bolts, often found in medieval depictions of planetary Jupiter as arrows, as in the fresco of the planets in Palazzo Trinci in Foligno (c. 1410), or even in the later “Mantegna tarot” clearly labled Jupiter and striking humans with his wrathful arrow:
Jupiter in Palazzo Trinci.jpg
Jupiter in Palazzo Trinci cycle of planets
Jupiter in Palazzo Trinci.jpg (33.95 KiB) Viewed 3242 times
"Mantegna tarot" Jupiter
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Phaeded

PS Yes, I am tardy on my tarot literary source post; hopefully by weeks’ end.

Re: Cosmology and the last trumps

#13
Phaeded wrote:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
For me the "hierarchy of light" is sufficiently explanatory for the ranking of the four cards Lightning, Star, Moon, and Sun. ….I think the tower in the Lightning card is a prop, something for the lightning to strike. Lightning strikes tall things, like towers, often with stunning effect. But the subject of the card, the reason for its place in the sequence, is lightning, a thunderbolt, a light in the sky, the lowest kind of fire in the heavens….I think the tower, the most common prop for the thunderbolt in the tradition, has misled interpreters over the centuries, moreso even than the other decorations or props under the other light-cards. I myself spent years with it, and worked out a very complex group of associations for it; but the "Tower" is a red herring.
Ross,
Usually your comments give me pause to reconsider certain views of my own, but this is not one of them.
The tower is not merely something for the lightning to strike – occasionally humans are falling from the tower; the card is obviously indicating God’s wrath, with the background being the well-known biblical cognates of the tower of Babylon (a version of which is in the Sola Busca Nimrod card, complete with "fire")and destroying Sodom and Gemorrah. The comment that lightning can often be seen far away (made in a related thread) seems a particuarly misleading rationale for describing it as less bright than stars - the card clearly shows that the lightning striking the tower is close at hand (and again, striking people in some cards).
Really... in a hierarchy of lights where the Star is less bright than the Moon, and the Moon than the Sun, then (NOT a cosmograph, however sketchy), what light would you put in the sky that is both lower and is easily distinguishable from any other "star" iconographically?

A meteor shower, perhaps? Some artists seem to have decorated their cards with those balls of fire, that might be meteors... but they may be sparks from lightning as well - but even if it were a meteor shower instead of lightning, it still wouldn't change the "meaning", which is a hierarchy of lights in the sky - a VISUAL hierarchy, not a cosmographical one. The Star is the only one out of place for such a scheme, were it intended, in the trump sequence, but its being out of place is fatal to all cosmographical arguments. Everybody knows Venus, all the other planets, and the fixed stars, are all "higher" (further away) than the Moon. But it doesn't always look that way, hence a "hierarchy of lights". Lightning always looks, and really is, lower than any celestial object.
The “moon, sun and stars” may seem like a common phrase to us but in a society obssessed with astrology, it would seem simplistic in the extreme (and again, a reason “the Star” is not that, but Venus). And there is no saying for 'lightning, moon, sun and stars.'
Actually the phrase is in the order "sun, moon and stars". I'm not sure why you put the stars at the end in your version. I'm sure you remember, among other things, that obscure text I Corinthians 15:41, so I'm going to give you a pass on that apparently unfinished thought. It's such a commonplace that I didn't even think it needed proving, or bothered to collect examples.

It is not an astrological phrase or convention, and it makes no appeal to astrological/astronomical doctrine. It is a simple hierarchy of light, or magnitude. And lightning and falling stars (meteors) are very much less intrinsically bright than the celestial stars, then as now.

And "brightness" isn't the only consideration, but it is just that it is the first "light in the sky" upward. "Hierarchy of lights" is just our term of convenience. I actually just think of these four cards as the "lights", and I think the original players, and the designer, intended them to be thought of this way, in so far as they were "thought of" at all. Their intuitive order, and the fact that the tradition never varies in order here, makes it clear that the order was so easily and quickly grasped that it was never questioned or altered to make some kind of "better" narrative.
(and again, a reason “the Star” is not that, but Venus)
And "in a society obsessed with astrology" they would put Venus lower than the Moon?

The funny thing about explaining common sense, arguing why it is common sense, makes it seem like special pleading. It's like how having to explain why a joke is funny, makes it not funny.

Lightning comes before the Star, for various reasons which shouldn't need explaining, and it can't go anywhere else - case demonstrated, and closed.
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Re: Cosmology and the last trumps

#14
In the description of Jove in the Michelino deck (by Martiano da Tortona) we have 4 lights in the corners, the last of them is a thunderbolt.
JOVE

Jove, who was the King of Athens while antiquity was still rough and wild. For the race of man, there was yet no justice, and man followed savage rites; Jupiter established the first laws. And he instituted matrimony, and banished the abominable feasts on human flesh, and forbade them by strict rigour. He induced the first society and friendship, and taught to men what is most necessary.
He commanded the first temples and altars to the immortal gods to be built, and to venerate them with the highest dignity. And the men asked the gods anything of the good that they desired. And if he deemed it worthy he would himself fulfil what they had prayed for. The inventor of wars, he overcame the Giants, mockers of the gods, and afflicted them with onerous punishment. Therefore on account of his outstanding virtue, the former age venerated him, and he was esteemed by the people as a god. And he was called Good Jove, and temples were dedicated to him, to the perpetual memory of his glory. Thus holding the divine honour, his name was received by posterity in the highest veneration. He is seated on a starry throne, with regal emblems. Four stars appearing above, attend him, while by the right part a splendour of right reason of the conduct of humanity, in which customs he instructed ingnorant men, the first leaders of the state. At the left that light by which he published the inviolable laws and he decreed the society which would be cherished by humankind, being guarded by equality. On the lower right side appears a burning star like Mars, which he lets loose frightfully if scorned, but especially so that the republic may be preserved. How the illustrious example of Jupiter shines for men! Who for the sake of sacred worship happily defeated the blaspheming Giants by war. To the left, a thunderbolt, which at one time he often used to protect his sacred laws against so many lustful and violent men.
http://trionfi.com/martiano-da-tortona- ... -16-heroum
Huck
http://trionfi.com

Re: Cosmology and the last trumps

#15
Ah, that's right Huck. I had forgotten that one (I should slap myself). But now, we'll get theories about how the Tarot lights are a doctrine about Jove...





Here is a transcription...

Sedet throno si
derco, regijs insignibus. eique assistunt quatuor si-
derum
aspectus superiori quidem parte a dex
tris splendor rectae racionis
agibilium humano-
rum, quo ignaros homines, politicos primius
[8r]
mores instruxit. A sinistris uno lux illa qua
sanctissimas leges aedidit societatem que homini
bus colendam iussit. aequalitate seruata. In
feriori uno parte ad dexterum emicat ardens sidus si-
millimum Marti
, quod si contemptis ter-
ribilibus cum expedit pro seruanda re .p.
maxime in uiris elucet, quanto clarius in Io
ue qui deorum blasfemos Gigantes, pro
religiosa ueneratione fortiter, et
feliciter bello deuicit. Ad
sinistrum fulgor
quondam
quem & si sacris legi
bus suis plurimum
commendarit in
eum tantum cupido
uiolentus
ob tex it

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Re: Cosmology and the last trumps

#16
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: Lightning comes before the Star, for various reasons which shouldn't need explaining, and it can't go anywhere else - case demonstrated, and closed.
The real difficulty is not why a thunderbolt should be lower than the Star - which is too simple to even need commenting - but to get people to even see that Thunderbolt is the subject of the card, not its dramatic prop, a tower.
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Re: Cosmology and the last trumps

#17
In a German dictionary about Christian iconography, that I have, I once found a note, that "Superbia" was presented by a man falling from a Tower or a horse, by a king with an eagle and or a women with bat wings. It was also thought, that Superbia was the root of all other vices.
The Tower (Tower of Babel) is generally seen as a symbol of "Superbia".

I remember to have seen also a relation between Jupiter and Superbia, I don't know, where.
At least Zeus killed Salmoneus, who imitated Zeus, for his vice "Superbia".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salmoneus

'It's an old suggestion of mine,that, cause Jupiter has been the highest trump in the Michelino (so No. 16), that his 4 lights later were changed to Sun-Moon-Star-Lightning (Nos. 19-18-17-16).
And actually the style of Jupiter in the Michelino deck (with four "figures" in the 4 corners) preceded the style of World, the "highest trump" in later times.
Huck
http://trionfi.com

Re: Cosmology and the last trumps

#18
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: Lightning comes before the Star, for various reasons which shouldn't need explaining, and it can't go anywhere else - case demonstrated, and closed.
The real difficulty is not why a thunderbolt should be lower than the Star - which is too simple to even need commenting - but to get people to even see that Thunderbolt is the subject of the card, not its dramatic prop, a tower.
Hello Ross, personally I agree with your point of view about the role of the Tower as a prop for lightning: the images and the names of the card varied so much that only "fire from heaven" can be safely recognized as the meaning.
But I also tend to e see lightning in this context as the wrath of god: being after Death, between the Devil and Judgement, I think it might well be related to the reward for one's actions (as the Devil and Judgment are). On the other hand, it is not easy to make sense of the complete "light" sequence from Lightning to Sun in terms of a specific narrative: the only thing that is really clear (and that is confirmed by ancient commentators) is that the order is based on increasing light.

Re: Cosmology and the last trumps

#19
marco wrote:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: Hello Ross, personally I agree with your point of view about the role of the Tower as a prop for lightning: the images and the names of the card varied so much that only "fire from heaven" can be safely recognized as the meaning.
But I also tend to e see lightning in this context as the wrath of god: being after Death, between the Devil and Judgement, I think it might well be related to the reward for one's actions (as the Devil and Judgment are). On the other hand, it is not easy to make sense of the complete "light" sequence from Lightning to Sun in terms of a specific narrative: the only thing that is really clear (and that is confirmed by ancient commentators) is that the order is based on increasing light.
I don't think there is a narrative, Marco. There is just a group to be memorized, that iconographically makes sense, because the iconography provides the information about the hierarchy, not numbers. In the case of these subjects, the term "increasing lights" makes the most sense. I don't think there is any difficulty with it, and no other information is being conveyed.

My own opinion is that it is probable that the designer himself probably said to the artist, "Make the lightning striking a tower". But that is unprovable, and unimportant really, since the reason for what it is and where it is, is clear. A tree, like in Vieville, or a person, like in Mitelli, is just as good.

I don't believe, when a person sat down to the table to play for the first time, not knowing the sequence of trumps, that they were told a story of the soul's salvation or ascent, or eschatological signs, or Christ's epiphanies, or anything else. They surely didn't need to be, or want to be, taught or reminded of something like this at the table.
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Re: Cosmology and the last trumps

#20
You might like this passage from Thomas de Cantimpré's Liber de natura rerum (13th century), Marco. At least for its historical curiosity. It's the only place I have come across - yet - where a medieval author writes about being struck by lightning as a blessing devoutly to be wished because a righteous person consumed by lightning is taken to heaven in the blink of an eye!

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