0. O Crazy Fool

Poor man of little worth made nought
walks by quick stride:
a motleyed fool,
in well worn rags
rip torn and bejeweled
in bells and baubles.

With asses ears
the holy mule bears
his burdens, walks
with marotte stick,
one foot bare, one foot shoed,
passing through the years.

"Tarry till I come again",
echoes in his ciphered brain;

poor man of little worth made nought.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: The Fool

Robert has managed to post my favorite Fool cards, the d'Este and the Noblet. I can't let the opportunity go by to say something about them. I don't think the d'Este Fool is a court Fool, or buffone. These professional Fools were often very clever. Galeazzo Maria Sforza's buffone made enough money to have a wife and a sizable bank account, and he once traveled on his own to the duke's country residence when he had to go late for some reason (Lubkin, A Renaissance Court, p. 115, in Google Books). In contrast, the d'Este Fool is a simpleton; we would call him developmentally disabled, very disabled. He fell in that category of people who were considered not responsible for their actions (it included psychotics as well). There was a taboo against grown men letting little boys touch their penises, and that would have applied to buffone. But it didn't apply to the developmentally disabled.


For me the interesting question is, why are the little boys interested in touching his penis, and why, in the Noblet, does the animal want to grab the man's genitals? Along with that, what is the significance of the d'Este Fool's donkey-ears, and does that have any relationship to the to the bells in the Noblet Fool's hair?

Well, the Fool's penis is big compared to the little boys', big and powerful, a little scary, too. But the boys are going to have one like it someday. Touching it would remove some of the mystique--or maybe some of it will rub off on them. Little boys weren't supposed to touch men's penises any more than grown men were; that was an unsanctified use of the generative power. Only people who had gone through the proper ritual, such as "marriage," got to do that. [Added next day: In Judaism, there was the rite of circumcision, the power of the male God entering the small penis of the infant via the rabbi. In this case, it was the one whose penis was touched that was the recipient of the divine bond. Another example, unofficial and in the world of illusion, is the payment of money to a prostitute.]

Donkeys had big penises, too: that was part of the joke in the Roman novel ]i]The Golden Ass[/i], one of the Latin classics selected early on for that new invention, the printing press. So let us give the Fool a donkey's ears.

In the Renaissance, people were fascinated by old Roman artifacts. Some of them were "herms," statues of gods with erect penises. The ones that survived showed the penis in relief, hugging the pedestal, but others sticking out from their post were in profile on sarcophagi and written about in Latin poetry. Cartari quotes a famous poem by Horace (for ease of reading, I will put my reference here and elsewhere in this paragraph at the end of it):

Not long ago I was a useless piece
Of wood, a fig tree's trunk. A carpenter
Debated what to make of me. I might
Have been a stool; instead he fashioned me
A god, Priapus. Awesome now, a god,
I panic thieves and birds. No thief gets past
My raised right hand. My crotch is armed with this
Obscenely long and red protrusion. Birds
Don't bother me. A reed stuck in my head
Spooks the pests and keep them off this new
And lovely park...

The "raised right hand" probably refers to a sickle: another such poem cited by Cartari describes "the rustic child of Bacchus"--i.e. Priapus--as "the god who's armed with the curving hook." Since the statues--Roman scarecrows--were made of wood, all that would have survived in the Renaissance would have been words like the ones above. People also read in their Cartari, one of the main mythology handbooks, that brides were given first to the god "Mutino" as "the first fruits of their virginity." Cartari identifies this god with Priapus, son of Dionysus and Aphrodite. A Latin text says that Romans brides were brought to sit on the erect phallus of statues of "Mutinus Tutinus." Perhaps this is a remnant of an earlier custom, in which more was involved than just sitting( the "right of the first night'); but here, it is just a fertility charm. In Bosch's home town of 'Hertogenbosch, similarly, archeologists rummaging in the garbage dump found fertility charms like the one below. Similar charms are to be found in the 1647 edition of Cartari.


(References for preceding paragraph: Cartari: digitalized Italian version, http://www.bibliotecaitaliana.it/exist/ ... 20Vincenzo. Search "Dio Mutino." Mutinus Tutinus: Richard W. Hooper, Introduction to The Priapus Poems: Erotic Epigrams from Ancient Rome, p. 3. Poem: Horace, Satires 1.8, at http://www.stoa.org/diot.ima/anthology/horsat1.8.shtml. Another poem: by Tibulus, quoted in Cartari, digitalized version, Bosch image: Laurinda Dixon, Bosch, p. 230. Cartari image: Imagine deli dia de gli antica, Venice 1647, reprinted 1974, p. 231.)

Now, about the animal in the Noblet. I say "animal," because it looks deliberately ambiguous, somewhere between a dog and a cat, but with webbed feet. It is unclassifiable: people in those days loved to draw pictures of imaginary animals. [Added next day: Here are some examples, mixed in with real animals; i reproduce 16 out of 24 "Roundels of Animals," c. 1460's Florence according to Zucker (Illustrated Bartsch, Vol. 24 Part 2, p. 135f).


Whatever he is, why is he attracted? Well, I know that male dogs are attracted to women's private parts, but I've never seen any dogs go after men's. What is going on?


Dummett (Game of Tarot, 1980, Plate 17) has a picture of a 2 of Swords that reminds me of the animal's quest. It shows a fox reaching for grapes. I think it's a reference to Song of Songs 2:15: "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes," or the Vulgate's "Catch us the little foxes that destroy the vines: for our vineyard hath flourished." Like the little boys, the foxes are not sanctioned to grab the globules of generation and spirit. In the Song, the foxes might be a metaphor for unsanctioned men who come over the hills to woo her brothers' little sister, from she must be protected, as indicated in Song of Songs 8:5 and 8:8: forbidden fruit, But her brothers effort is in vain, as indicated in 1:5: "...the sons of my mother have fought against me, they have made me the keeper in the vineyards: my vineyard I have not kept." In a similar vein, the grape-plant might be seen as a version of the Tree of Knowledge, from which Adam and Eve were not sanctioned to eat, although they nonetheless did. Then they were banned from the sacred grove of Eden. They fell from the world of immortality into our world of death.

The widely read Roman poet Virgil had written of the animals' crime in Book II of his Georgics. In winter the goats and other animals would eat the tender bark of the vines, and:

..For no offence but this to Bacchus bleeds
The goat at every altar...
Therefore to Bacchus duly will we sing
Meet honour with ancestral hymns, and cakes
And dishes bear him; and the doomed goat
Led by the horn shall at the altar stand,
Whose entrails rich on hazel-spits we'll roast.
(Virgil: http://classics.mit.edu/Virgil/georgics.2.ii.html)

The goat to be sacrificed probably was not even one of those that committed the crime. The Greek Bacchus, or Dionysus (called Liber by the Romans), was above all the god of wine. In Sicily, there was a well-preserved statue of a young goat climbing Dionysus's leg (formerly in the Getty, Malibu, where this picture was taken). Surely such statues were known by the 17th century. What is he after? The grapes, no doubt, now transferred to another set of round forbidden fruit.


"The virilia of Dionysus," as Clement of Alexandria called them (Exhortation to the Greeks 2.15, http://www.theoi.com/Georgikos/Zagreus.html), were well known to his readers in 15th-17th century Europe. The "virilia" were kept in a chest, to be shown and perhaps touched at the right moment, with the right ritual. Clement divulged the secret so as to show how ridiculous the pagans were. Perhaps they were trying to ritually endow a wooden phallus with power, so that, as wood, it would escape the prohibition against being touched.

Dionysus was said to have been transformed into a young goat to hide from his stepmother Hera, who hated all the extra-Marital offspring of (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3: 29, at http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/DionysosMyths.html#Birth). So the goat ritually sacrificed was also the god whose sacred precinct had been violated.

The goat sacrifice, to these 15th-17th century Christian lovers of the "Ancient Mysteries," was one of the many precursors in paganism to Christ's sacrifice. The sacrifice of a ritually sanctified goat atoned for all goats. So likewise Christ dies to atone for Adam and Eve's sin. [Added next day: And in Judaism, on the Day of Atonement, one goat was sacrificed and another driven out, to remove the sins of the people (http://www.tedmontgomery.com/bblovrvw/C_5b.html). In Cartari, the Dionysian goat is shown standing as a willing sacrifice, sanctified by one god with an erect member and to be killed by another equipped the same way.


True, the Fool's penis is not shown erect in the d'Este or Noblet. Well, this was Christian Europe. Noblet would have been shut down in an instant. Showing the penis and testicles was itself dangerous; Conver in 1760, and others before him, had more respect for decency. But it doesn't matter. It is still the sacred fruit of the sacred tree, equally off-limits without the proper ritualistic qualifications.

What, then, in the tarot corresponds to the sacrifice that allows us the return to Paradise? To say would be to get ahead of our story, which proceeds step by step to 21. The Fool is unnumbered early on, except in the Sola-Busca and another early deck where he is 0. In the game of tarot, he is the lowest of the trumps, unable to take any trick. Perhaps he is unnumbered simply because there is no 0 in Roman numerals. In any case, I give him that rank. The goat's sin corresponds to the sin of the first Adam, to be atoned for later by the second Adam, in the tarot a sanctified member of the same species as the first.

The Noblet Fool is called "Le Mat," a word that, Dummett says, means nothing in French except "mate" in chess. A similar association (i am not saying derivation), for the tarot's devotees, would have been the "mat" of the Spanish "matador," from the Arabic for "death": The "Mat" is the one to die, in his guise as the god-animal. The Noblet Fool's stick and sack resemble an ax. His hair resembles the horns of an animal. The young bull and goat were his most common animal forms.

The PMB Fool actually has the same ambiguity as the d'Este and the Noblet, but without the motif of the forbidden fruit. I think it was Moakley who said that he is the Beggar King of Carnival and has in his hair seven feathers, one for each of the seven weeks of Lent. The seven are like the rays that painters sometimes showed emanating from Jesus's head. He is a descendant of Giotto's "Folly" of 1305 Padua. Giotto showed him blessing the crowds in the same fashion as the Pope. Then when Carnival is over, all will adopt Folly's meager apparel and Folly will be left to his own devices. The ritual done, his sacred status evaporates.

Some (Frazier, perhaps, among others) say that Carnival King is a leftover from the days when a man would be sacrificed as a substitute for the King, who in still older days was sacrificed after ruling for a year. I don't know if that legend was current in 15th century Italy, but I do know that the oldest rules, from 1637, say that the Fool can be played at any time to substitute for a more valuable card that would have to be played otherwise (e.g. a king), as one had to play a card in the suit led if one had one. (See http://jducoeur.org/game-hist/wicksontarot.html.) In other words, it acted like the man sacrificed as a substitute for the year-king. He is the innocent sacrifice that takes another's place, just as Christ did for the descendants of Adam. It is totally without power, never winning a trick, but it magically comes back to the one who played it, able to rack up many points for its owner at the end of the hand. As I have argued elsewhere, I think this rule existed as long as the card itself; in the beginning, I think even trump cards belonged to suits, except for the Fool, and had to be played if in the suit led, unless the Fool could be played instead (see viewtopic.php?f=12&t=334&start=230#p5812 and preceding). The Fool was thus of great value to the player who was dealt it.

The idea of the "foolishness of God" vs. "the wisdom of this world," which is really foolishness, was stated in I Cor. 1:25 and 2:6. That text was expanded upon in the 16th century. Erasmus wrote his In Praise of Folly, first printed 1512, contrasting the laughable ignorance of the great ones of his day with the simple and noble ignorance of Christ and the disciples; it ended with an account of the "madness" of divine inspiration (http://www.fullbooks.com/The-Praise-of-Folly2.html; search "madness"). Cornelius Agrippa said more: "It happens also sometimes, that not only they that are asleep, but also they that are watchful do with a kind of instigation of mind, divine, which divination Aristotle calls ravishment or a kind of madness..." So begins his Book One, Chapter LX, "On Madness," and he goes on to distinguish four distinct types of such madness, by which, the ancient writers said, "celestial spirits are sometimes drawn into men's bodies" (http://www.esotericarchives.com/agrippa/agripp1c.htm). The tarot Fool in many of his representations has a touch of this madness; he is not of this world. The "Chosson" Fool is even shown crossing a stream (below left). Streams were a symbol of the separation of worlds, and bridges the means across. An example is Bosch's Wayfarer (detail below right), where the man looks down at the bones of those who preceded him, headed towards a rickety board over a stream.


[Added next day: The Tree of Knowledge, like the Fool, is a similar symbolic bridge. To those who transgressed its sanctity, it was an involuntary passage from the world of being to the world of becoming. Then later, as the Cross and the Tree of Life, it was a bridge the other way.]

I don't know what if anything the above analysis has to do with the card post-Marseille or in other decks contemporaneous with the Marseille. I am just looking at the Fool card in particular decks, and interpreting the puzzling details in terms of the main publically and widely available symbol systems, classical and Christian, popular among educated people (knowing a little Greek as well as Latin) during those times, mid-15th to mid-17th centuries, in Italy first and then France, It is among this class of people that I imagine these details were developed, for their apprecition primarily but not excluding the common people on some level of understanding.

[Added 4/11/10: Dionysus had hundreds of one-word epithets, beginning with all 24 letters of the Greek alphabet except two. There is a certain ritual resonance to assigning each card with an epithet starting with a different letter of the alphabet, in order. I decided to start with the Fool as Alpha, and assign the epithet "Aigobolos," Slayer of Goats, to him Going in order that way, with the Magician as Beta, etc., an appropriate epithet fits each card. I might also have gone the other way and given the Fool Omega, and his epithet "Omadios", God of the Raw Feast, but I haven't seen whether all 22 make sense that way.

"O Dionysos Aigobolos, Slayer of Goats, may we not profane your mysteries."

From the perspective of this narrow historical inquiry into puzzling details, I think that in the context of a reading, if this card came up, the question to ask would be what in the world of the sacred are we profaning by our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. Have we or someone we know disrespected a sacred precinct, or not appreciated the epiphanies of ordinary life? Are we failing to receive properly a divine madness, or to find a divine calm within the frantic madness of this world?

Re: The Fool

Sex and fouls
sexo_y_loco2.jpg (112.92 KiB) Viewed 7996 times
The Sins. Luxury. Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish, active by 1551, died 1569)

sexo_y_loco1.jpg (76.65 KiB) Viewed 7996 times
The fouls sound
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When a man has a theory // Can’t keep his mind on nothing else (By Ross)

Re: The Fool


I am just a piece of wood
that has no feeling:
trunk of the Tree of Life with
seventy seven branches.

Freed from the bonds of this world
I laugh at its prince:
drink his wine, dance his tunes,
for they mean nothing to me.

Let the Devil play his trump:
I shall play the Fool for Christ.


Note: In reference to tarocch's possible meaning of both a fool, block-headed dunce and a piece of wood in the Milanese dialect, we may note also that the description of being nothing more than 'a piece of wood without feeling' was a common sentiment made by 'fools of christ' in the hagiographies of the period (for example, Symeon, St. Andrew).
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: The Fool

The tarot Fool in many of his representations has a touch of this madness; he is not of this world. The "Chosson" Fool is even shown crossing a stream (below left). Streams were a symbol of the separation of worlds, and bridges the means across. An example is Bosch's Wayfarer (detail below right), where the man looks down at the bones of those who preceded him, headed towards a rickety board over a stream.
In Pierpont and "Charles VI" the fool its stop. Then he begin to walk or have a staff of the road. In general, the fool its relation with the movement. For example, the verge (or crown wheel) escapement of watches, also in France receive the name of Foilot (by the movement).
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But where they go?

a) They move because they are expelled from the places (Foucault)?

b) They go to Cockaigne. ? See too this poem.

In Sebastian Brandt and in Bosch, the fools go to Cockaigne (narrland).

But what is exactly this country of Cocaigne?

In The Cheese and the Worms(great essays), Carlo Ginzburg tells of a peasant utopia (pp. 155) relating to the land of Cockaigne. Thus, this mythical place is a place of no social hierarchies and a lot of food and sex...

Anyway ... Where go our poor fool?
When a man has a theory // Can’t keep his mind on nothing else (By Ross)

Re: The Fool

Yes, a good map xD ...

Yes, each fool is different, but generally speaking, its interesting the relationship between movement, fool and the land of milk and honey.

Why the fool travel in "new" tarot cards (s. XVI)? (Also in the Cary sheet the fool is in motion).

Exist a clear connection between sin and madness in century XVI. And exist a link between madness and narrland. I think its not risky said that fool go to narrland, the country of Cocaigne.

But perhaps narrland hide something deeper. Ginzburg explains that there was, at least in northern Italy, in s. XVI, a current of peasant resistance (ideological), linking the land of the Cocaigne, narrland, the new world, a utopia.
When a man has a theory // Can’t keep his mind on nothing else (By Ross)

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