Thanks Steve. I wanted to make sure I wasn't overlooking anything obvious before I posted my take on the Marseille-style Sun card. And you helped me to understand better the symbolism of Gemini as understood in the 15th-17th centuries.
Note also that the crucifixion of Christ is said by a variety of sources to have taken place under the consulship of the two Gemini at Rome. By which the sign Gemini by nature of a pun on the two consuls name comes to symbolise the end of Christ's passion.
According to Augustine:
"Christ died when the two Gemini were consuls."
According to Tertulian:
"The Passion was finished when Rubelius Geminus and Fusius Geminus were Consuls."
A great lead-in to what I wanted to say about the card, at least in its Marseille-style forms. We have three sets of twins: Fusius (or Fufius, or Rufus) and Rubelius, the consuls at Jesus's death; Remus and Romulus, founders of Rome; and Castor and Pollux, mortal and immortal sons of one of Jupiter's conquests. Fortunately they are all related.
I am writing this as a continuation of a recent post of mine on the "Pope" thread, itself a continuation of a post on the "Fool" thread. My way into the card is to think about what is puzzling in the image. There are several puzzling things on the Marseille-style Sun cards: the changing gender of the participants in different versions, the wall, the puddles of water (big and small), and above all, the sad expressions on the figures' faces.
The Waite-Smith, after all, has a happy child riding a horse. Happy children are historically justified, i.e. the Cary-Yale, the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo, the Vieville, probably the Cary Sheet. One 16th century card has a sun beaming down sunlight to energize the trees below. But that's not the Marseille's style.
About the wall, Daimonax (http://bacchos.org
) says it is the wall of the citadel of Rome, where Remus died, perhaps killed. That is not bad; the Gemini were not just Castor and Pollux, the word just means "twins." Wikipedia describes the myth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romulus_and_Remus
). Perhaps Remus's death wasn't just a misunderstanding or act of passion, but a deliberate sacrifice; that would explain the sad faces. Daimonax says that skeletons have been found under prehistoric walls in Italy, probably sacrifices to win the favor of the gods (likewise T.D. Wiseman, Remus, a Roman Myth
) at that site. So Remus's death makes the gods smile on Rome, the Eternal City.
To us that is a rather obscure interpretation of the card; but anybody in the 15th-17th centuries who read their Latin histories of Rome would know it. There is also a more obvious interpretation, pertaining to the more familiar Gemini, Castor and Pollux. Pollux is the immortal twin who did not want to be separated from his mortal brother Castor when Castor died. His father Zeus could grant only half of his wish: Pollux would have to surrender half of his immortality and give it to Castor. Both would spend half of their days in Hades and half in Olympus. Pollux agreed, and so it was.
There is a parallel here with Jesus. Jesus gave up his immortality temporarily to become mortal and suffer as a mortal--in fact, suffer one of the worst tortues known at the time--so that mortals could become immortal. Thus the sacrifice was performed, by members of the very race of mortals he was trying to save (and under the consulship of another set of Gemini, SteveM has pointed out!).
So on the card we have one twin sacrificing his immortality, and dying a mortal death, that the two may be together for eternity. In the Greek myth, the immortal one sacrifices himself. In Christianity, we have the immortal one sacrificing his immortality so as to live as a human, suffer, and die a human death, for the sake of his loved ones becoming as immortal as he will return to be. In the Dionysian rite, as we shall see, there was the goat, symbolically the young god, dying that Dionysus, and the spirit of Dionysus in his initiates, could rise from Hades.
There is an odd thing in the Chosson and Conver cards. What in the Noblet and Dodal were folds in the skin are here very much like a tail, as Daimonax points out (http://www.bacchos.org/tarothtm/15et16d ... ndieu.html
), following Camoin and Jodorowsky (lower right above). In the Chosson, if the image on http://tarotchoco.quebecblogue.com/Tarot de Marseille- ... s-majeurs/
is accurate, the tail is even outlined in a lighter color. The one to be sacrificed is the Dionysian-Jewish goat of atonement, whose representative we met on the Fool card.
[Added 4/21/10 by mikeh: the following couple of paragraphs, about the depictions of the constellation and the quotes from Isadore, I know thanks to SteveM's and Debra's later posts, needs more work. Skip it if you find it too confusing or objectionable, and go to the paragraph beginning "Another detail on the cards..."]
If you look at 15th-16th century representations of the Gemini sign of the zodiac, there is another odd thing: one of the twins has a sickle, shaped similarly to the sickle of the goat-sacrifice and the curved shape between the acolytes on the Pope card. What could that be about?
Why the sickle in this constellation? I don't claim that they were representing any Dionysian goat sacrifice. Actually, I didn't have a clue until today. On the Internet, thanks to SteveM's suggestion that I could look there for the source of bricks' connection to Gemini, I found a possible explanation for the sickle (http://www.constellationsofwords.com/Co ... emini.html
, although the author seems unaware of that image in relation to the constellation: the sickle was removed from illustrations of Gemini by the 18th century). The source quoted is one that would certainly have been available to the constellation-illustrators and card-designers, The Etymologies of Isadore of Seville
, 7th century. I have rearranged the citations so that they occur in the order they would in the source.
"Beavers (castor) are so called from 'castrating' (castrare). Their testicles are useful for medicines [castor oil?], on account of which, when they anticipate a hunter, they castrate themselves and amputate their own genitals with their teeth. Concerning them Cicero said in his Scaurian oration (2.7): "They ransom themselves with that part of their body for which they are most sought after." And Juvenal (Satires 12.34): (The beaver) who makes himself a eunuch, wishing to escape with the loss of his testicles. They are also called fibri, and also 'Pontic dogs.' (p.252.)
"The ancients called a town sited on a very high place a fort (castrum), as if it were a high 'cottage' (casa). The plural of this is 'camp' (castra), and its diminutive is 'fortress' (castellum), [translator's note "or because within it the freedom of the inhabitants would be 'cut off (castrare) lest the populace wandering here and there should expose the fort to the enemy"] (p.306.)
"Latin speakers name the chestnut (castanea) from a Greek term, for the Greeks call it ..., because its paired fruits are hidden in a small sack like testicles, and when they are ejected from it, it is as if they were castrated (castrare). As soon as this tree is cut down, it commonly sprouts again like a forest." (p.344.)
Hence, by analogy with the beaver, or "castor," self-sacrifice for the sake of continued life; but from "castrum" also applied to the protection of a community. Or so goes one possibility. "Pollux" and its Greek equivalent, Polydeuces, according to the web article, might be related to polis, Greek for "community." We are led back to the citadel and its wall.
Then there is the question of the lyre, held by the other twin. The lyre is associated with Apollo, although it was invented by Mercury. Apollo and Mercury were two other Gemini, and a common representation, the web article says, was the Herm, sometimes a statue with an erect phallus, sometimes just a pile of stones. Or perhaps stones in a wall, or bricks, if one builds a fort protecting the merchants, the followers of Mercury, in hostile territory. Mercury has since ancient times ruled the sign of Gemini. To be sure, I am getting into the the realm of loose association, but that is how images sometimes work.
[Added 4/21/10: This is the end of the part I know needs some major revision.]
Another detail on the cards (see below) is the placement of the hand of the twin on our left over the midsection of the twin on the right: below the breasts, if it is a woman, at the heart, if it is a man. Correspondingly, the twin on the right places a comforting arm around the one on the left. These are not boys playing! Something sad is going on.
There is a very similar scene on some Dionysian sarcophagi. Look at the far left of the procession, the end. Perhaps the lower of the two is meant to be equivalent to the goat that is to be sacrificed. At least that might have been surmised by 16th century interpreters.
Now to the water on the cards. Noblet has a pool of water between the two twins; Conver has a whole lake, and the twin on our right standing on a mound. Daimonax sees there, among other things, a reference to Pausanias, Travels in Greece
, describing the Alkyonian Lake, near Argos, small but so deep that no one could find the bottom. Pausanias says that it is believed to be an entrance to Hades, where Dionysus entered to rescue his mother Semele (Pausanias, Description of Greece
2.37.5, at http://www.theoi.com/Cult/DionysosCult.html
). That is one possible reference for the body of water on the Noblet Maison-Dieu card as well, as Daimonax says. At this lake, certain annual rites had to be performed, which Pausanias was not at liberty to describe. Plutarch said more: "They call him up out of the water by the sound of trumpets, at the same time casting into the depths a lamb as an offering to the Keeper of the Gate (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/R ... is*/B.html
). A representative of the god, his mortal likeness (a young goat would have been more in keeping with his myth, but he was also identified with the similar-looking young ram), is sacrificed so as to bring forth the god himself, that he might save his initiated ones. Both texts, Pausanias and Plutarch, were well known in the 15th-17th centuries
I think that the early "type C" Sun cards, the "Charles VI" and the Beaux-Arts-Rothschild, along with the Vieville Moon card, capture some of the feeling of this transcending of mortality, although with very different imagery. The woman on the card carries the spindle of Fate, spinning lives that will inevitably be cut; the all-giving (and burning) Sun overhead, the visible representative of the all-gracing (and condemning) God, represents the transcendence.
But why does Noblet (and the 16th century card before that) have a man and a woman? There is more than one possibility. The woman's hand on the man's heart echoes the same gesture on the Lover card, suggesting that she is his Bride, with whom he will be reunited after her death. Or perhaps Noblet thought of the sacrificer as a priestess rather than a priest, perhaps referring to the Popess. Or perhaps there was simply a 15th-17th century confusion about the gender of the Gemini, owing to images coming from Egypt. The Dendera Zodiac clearly shows a man and a woman, a depiction we also see in a 1496 zodiac.
16th century Europeans may have seen her as the sacrificing priestess, Isis consigning Seth to the Underworld or some such thing, also either knowing or not knowing that they were Shu and Tefnet, the first children of the Egyptian Sun-god. In that spirit, with the Sun as the visible image of God, some might also have seen them, and the Noblet couple as well, as Adam and Eve, an interpretation that has not been without champions for this card. There is no doubt an echo of that primal scene. But at card 19, we are not principally at the dawn of creation. They are the Gemini in all their classical connotations, applying now to the new Adam, Jesus. The result, in its new home, is the birth of the immortal spirit within and surviving the immortal shell--and so we are back to the the young, joyful child of the early cards.
For an invocation of Dionysus, the appropriate epithet begins with the 20th letter of the Greek alphabet, Chii, which is also the first letter of the word "Christos":
Accept, O Lord Charidotes, Merciful One, this sacrifice of myself, that mortality may know immortality.