In the Introduction to his new (2013) book The Esoteric Tarot
Decker has some observations on the World card worth looking at. He introduces the subject by way of looking at a woodcut, which he says is by Hans Holbein in 1523, which shows souls entering the world at the bottom and proceeding upwards to Felicity at the top:.
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/--fu539Ipyog/U ... ker0-2.JPG
For a discussion of the old man holding a paper at the bottom, see my post at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=937&p=14102#p14102
. The version of Holbein's depiction that Decker uses, as well as another one that I found that is clearer, is called "Holbein D" and probably was made without Holbein's participation. When the differences between Holbein's version, "Holbein A", and Decker's version are relevant, I will point them out.
What Decker applies to the World card is one of the first temptations that the soul encounters on its journey, namely the allure of Fortuna, pictured as follows:
Holbein's own version (A) is the same, except that Fortuna's wings are drawn more realistically (see http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... ounger.jpg
, at the bottom).
Regarding this image, the text being illustrated, the Tabula Cebetis
, recounts the following dialogue. I give it in a 1616 English translation, which I have compared with a 1557 translation and indicated occasional differences in wording of key words in brackets (both reproduced in Cebes in England
ed. Vogel, as well as in Cebes'Tablet
, ed. Sider) I have modernized the spelling and punctuation (1618, pp. 116-119):
...but what woman is that, that stands upon that round stone, seeming as though she were blind, and carrying a semblance of madness in her gesture? That same (quoth he) is Fortune, her blindness is not single, but accompanied with madness and deafness. Why, what doth she there then? She wanders about, quoth he, taking from one, and giving to another, and by and by taketh that away which she gave but even now, and bestoweth it upon a third, without all reason or constancy; and therefore her [1557: that] token there speaketh her nature at full. Which is that, quoth I? Her standing upon that round stone, what is the meaning of that? That her gifts are never secure nor certain. For he that buildeth his trust upon them, shall be sure one day to pay dearly for his credulity. What names bear they? They are called Fools [1557: folk without judgment or consideration]. How chanceth it, that some of them weep, and some laugh? Why are they not all one form? They that laugh and rejoice are Fortune's favorites, and salute her by the title of Prosperous [1557: good Fortune]. But they that wring their hands and wail are such as she hath deprived of that which she had given them before, and they call her Adverse fortune [1557: ill Fortune]. What are her gifts then, that they should make the losers lament, and the receivers rejoice? Her gifts are Reputed goods. And what be those? Riches, Nobility, children, glory, sovereignty, Empire and such like. And I pray, sir, hold you these for good? Of that hereafter, quoth he; let us now make an end of the Table's exposition. With all my heart, sir.
Later he comes back to her (1618 pp. 149-152).
Then he, reaching forth his staff [1557: hand] again, pointed up saying: see you that blind Woman upon the round stone there, whom men now I told you hight [1557: even now is called] Fortune? Yes. The Genius bids them, never to give credence unto her, never to imagine any solidity in her bounties, never to hold her gifts as your proper goods: for that when she list, she will take them from one, & bestow them on another, mangre all contradiction, it is her ordinary practice. And therefore she warneth them, not to delight in her benevolence, nor to grieve at her forwardness... Thus (saith this Genius) must we stand affected to the benefits of fortune and to remember well, that it is one of her old tricks to give, and take again, and then to give one far more, and presently to take away all every jot, both what she gave last, and what she left before. He bids us therefore take her gifts, & having them, make haste with them to that firm and constant kind of bounty. Which is that? That which Instruction giveth to those that come safe to her Tower to take it...
There is of course false instruction, such as "Letters, Languages, and Disciplines, which Plato called the bridles of youth, keeping them out of worse employments" (p. 154). They are convenient--i.e. useful--but not necessary to virtue, which is the province of True Instruction.
It is a typical characterization of Fortune, much like that expressed in the PMB Wheel of Fortune, with one going up, one on top, one going down, one at the bottom, and a blindfolded female wheel-turner. Ehhard Schoen, in a 1531 depiction of the scene, in fact used the Wheel to represent this character in the Tabula Cebetis
, despite the text's reference to the lady on the round stone:
(For the whole Schoen engraving, see http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-R-nlU_s7h6w/U ... oenAll.JPG
Decker then identifies the Charles VI World card as this same goddess as depicted in the Holbein, Fortuna. He says:
In the Renaissance, her perch often becomes a world globe, symbolic of her power over the whole universe.
A drawing of the Charles VI World interrupts Decker's narrative at this point (for the image see fig. 1 at http://www.letarot.it/page.aspx?id=133&lng=eng
). Then he continues:
Fortune's different attributes occur in different World trumps. In a fifteenth-century Tarot in the Bibliotheque Nationale, the lady wears a halo, indicating that Fortuna is a divine power (Figure 0.3). An archivist at the Bibliotheque long ago labeled this card as "Fortune." In the Minchiate (Florentine Tarot), Fortuna stands on the terrestrial globe and wears the wings visible in Holbein's print and many others. We find both the world globe and the sail in an Italian style of Tarot that traveled northward. It was familiar in France and Belgium (figure 0.4). In certain Italian versions of the Tarot de Marseille, as in nineteenth-century Turin and Novara, the woman has been given a globe at her feet. Card-makers must have recognized that the lady's pose was that of the balancing Fortuna, and they restored the identifying sphere. They may have erred, however, for this globe is absent from the oldest versions of the Tarot de Marseille.[Fotnote 8: The oldest example known to me is in the Bertarelli Collection in the Sforza Castle in Milan. The card's back design depicts Ruggerio and Angelica from Matteo Boiardo's romance Orlanda Innamorato (1506. But the face of the card is in an older style and must descend from a fifteenth-century pattern. For photographs, see Thierry Depaulis, Tarot:Jeu et Magie (Paris: Bibliotheque Nationale, 1984), 54]
There are two problems with calling the Charles VI "Fortune". First, there likely is another card by that name in the deck, around the middle; it just hasn't been preserved. Second, the octagonal halo is associated in this deck, and elsewhere (a Lo Scheggio "fortitude", probably by the same workshop), with virtues, not the sacred. If it connotes Fortune at all, it seems to me, it would be the Good Fortune earned by the exercise of the virtue of Prudence.
In Decker's fig. 0.4 (below) The young lady on the "Anonymous Parisian" (in color, fig. 8 at http://www.letarot.it/page.aspx?id=133&lng=eng
) has attributes of Fortune: young nude female with a sail on a globe. The Hautot has replaced the sail with a sash blowing in the wind, and has two of the tetramorphs. I suspect these are there because of the "Marseille" design, which has the full tetramorph and a smaller version of the billowing sash. Both these decks do have a Fortune card, the familiar one with the wheel.
The Sforza Castle card is a familiar one, like the Marseille design except that it is hard to say whether it is male or female. Andrea seems to take it as female (for a big view, see his fig. 10 at http://www.letarot.it/page.aspx?id=133&lng=eng
), Ross as male; Decker seems to be implying in his footnote that it is female. There might be a small beard on an angular jaw, both indications of masculinity. While the hair is feminine, it also could be that of a young man.
Later versions of this card vary: the Noblet's has female breasts, but with a stocky frame suggestive of a male. The Vieville is straightforwardly male.
Decker says that the World cards of his fig. 0.4 represent "Good Fortune":
The absence of the globe could indicate that the Marseille Fortuna is not capricious. She would be Good Fortune (Agatha Tyche), an appropriate companion for the Juggler as the Good Demon. During Egypt's Ptolemaic period, Agatha Tyche and Agathos Daimon shared temples. Our talents and personality traits, shaped by our demon, lead us to our accomplishments and circumstances, shaped by our fortune. "Character is destiny," said Heraclitus.
The Wheel assumedly represents Bad Fortune, not in the sense of adverse things happening, but in the sense of fortune that is capricious, undependable, the kind the Tabula Cebetis
rails against. But then what would Good Fortune be? What kind of Fortune is not capricious? Even prudent action, seemingly wise, can end up in disaster if one is unlucky.
An answer could have come from many Christian works in the "contempt for the world" tradition. It is the happiness that comes of knowing and practicing Christian virtue, ascending upwards toward union with God, a happiness unaffected by changes in Fortune.
In the Tabula Cebetis
, this course is described pictorially. After passing through the enclosure of fortune and vice, one is in the realm of "false instruction" meaning essentially the various Liberal Arts. Above them is another enclosure, at the entrance to which is a lady with a cup, paralleling the lady Imposture with the cup of Error and Ignorance that souls drank from at the beginning of life. Her name is "Instruction" (1557: Learning) (called earlier "True Instruction"), and with her are her daughters Truth and Persuasion. She stands on a "cubic" (1557: square) stone, in contrast to Fortune's round stone (pp. 132-133). The 1616 translation continues:
But why doth Instruction stand upon a square stone? To show that the path which leadeth unto her is fair and firm, and that her gifts to do bless the receiver with fruits of security. What doth she give? She giveth Confidence, Security, & Aquitance from troubles [1557: Boldness and Assuredness without fear]. And what use of those? By these man understandeth that his life is now to continue void of all perturbations. Oh glorious, oh gracious gifts, quoth I! But why doth she stand without the enclosure? To cure the travelers, and give them her drink before they enter, and then to admit them passage in, unto the virtues.
The drink is a purgative, to remove Error, Ignorance, Arrogance, Avarice, Desire, Incontinence, Anger, etc., which they had acquired in the first enclosure. Then the traveler encounters the virtues, all dressed simply without "paint" (p. 136):
What are their names? The foremost of them right knowledge, the rest are her sisters, called by the names of Fortitude, Justice, Integrity of life, Temperance, Modesty, Liberality, Continency & Clemency [1557: Strength of mind, Justice, Goodness, Liberality, Continence and Meekness].
These of course bear considerable resemblance to the virtues in the Tarot. We continue (pp. 137-138)
But whither do these virtues lead the man that enters? Unto their mother. What is she. Her name is Beatitude [1557: Felicity]. ... She crowneth him (quoth he) with delight adjoined unto all the other virtues, as they are crowned that are Victors in dangerous conflicts...
We have had occasion before to discuss the "mother of the virtues" (in the thread "Plato and Virtue(s), starting at viewtopic.php?f=12&t=826#p11764
). This candidate, in Latin Felicitas
, is one very close in time and place to Mantegna's 1502 "Pallas and the Vices" (http://wtfarthistory.com/post/813006713 ... -over-vice
Our artists of the moment, Holbein D and Schoen, do not hesitate to illustrate these personages. here is Holbein D:
And Schoen, who sticks to the description in the text better:
You will have noticed that in Holbein D the virtues are on the other side of the page. Souls would not necessarily encounter them on their way to Felicity. However I don't think it's Holbein's fault. In his version, Holbein A, the virtues are in between Instruction (here called Veradisplina) and Felicity (on the top right). There are seven of them, undifferentiated, in three groups. Here is the link again: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... ounger.jpg
. Click on the image to make it bigger. In contrast, Holbein D has them, in two groups of three and four, with characteristic attributes: one has a sword, another, looks up with hands folded (Hope), another carries a church (Faith?), another a spade; I can't make out the others. One seems to be male. The artist is trying to depict the seven traditional virtues; but only some of them are in the text. Then below them is another lady labeled "Fortitudo, Avdacia". That's a virtue worth having twice!
In all versions, Instruction or Veradisciplina stands on a square stone. "Square stone" vs. "round stone", at the time of the Tabula Cebetis's
publication (1497), is already a conventional image, whether stimulated by this work in manuscript or not. An example is a fresco in the Palazzo Ducale of Mantua. Edgar Wind, in Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance
says (p. 101 n. 15):
Paul Kristeller, Mantegna (1904), ascribes the execution of the badly retouched fresco to Antonio da Pavia (?)m but the invention may surely be regarded as Mantegna's".
It illustrates the maxim Festina lente
, make haste slowly
According to Wind this is Wisdom, standing on a square stone, slowing down a youth bent on seizing Chance, standing on a round stone--a chance at fortune, I would assume. Wind quotes Valariano's Hieroglyphica
, fol. 290r:" 'for as the ancients depicted Chance on a round stone, so they placed Wisdom on a square one", It is the same in the frontispiece to Bovillus, Liber de sapiente, 1510-11. Sometimes she is called Virtue. Others had Hermes on the block: e.g. Lomazzo's medal, with Fortuna on the sphere, and likewise in Alciati's Emblemata, edition of 1605, no. 98, following a work by Galen (all Wind 101-102 and n. 16). The round and square stones will be used by Etteilla in his "Temperance" card; the lady stands on both, to indicate the middle way between fast and slow (http://a-tarot.eu/p/2012/deu/spes-xy-2.jpg).
So who is the lady on the Tarot de Marseille World card (which Decker sees as a reflection of the "original Tarot)"? He passes by the Tabula Cebetis's answer, Instruction, without a look, as well as its variants Prudence and Wisdom. Instead, he says its the "Good" Fortune in Apuleius, the 2nd century Platonist. Apuleius does discuss Beatitude, but Decker (p. 131) rejects that on the grounds that since "Beatitudo" is masculine in Latin, it is more appropriate for the Pope card (Wikipedia says that it is an adjective; as such it can have any gender; I don't know what it is in Apuleius'). However I would think, like the translator of the Tabula Cebetis, that Beatitude is higher up the ladder than step 5.) Decker chooses Apuleius's account of the Mysteries of Isis. He says that it would have been natural for humanists to read this account when designing a game, once they had read Plato's account of Thoth, inventor of games (I will get back to that point). In Book XI of the Metamorphoses, the protagonist Lucius, who has led a miserable life after inadvertently being changed into a donkey by his most recent sex partner, has a vision of Isis, who tells him to eat the spring roses sacred to her, that will be part of a procession the next day in the nearby town. He does so and regains his human form. He is given a gown to cover his nakedness, and a priest, who by some inspiration knows something of his former life, lectures him. Here I will quote the speech in full from a modern translation (which I have compared with others) rather than give Decker's truncated version in an 1840 translation in which he interpolates what is necessary from what the priest has said earlier and will say later. I will put the most important parts in bold print (Lindsay trans. p. 243f).
"At last, Lucius, after the long days of disaster and the heavy storms of fortune you have reached the haven of peace and the altar of mercy. Neither your high lineage, nor your pride of place, nor your learning, profited you one jot. You give yourself to the slavery of pleasure in the lewdness of hot-blooded youth; and you have reaped the reward of your unprospering curiosity. Neverhtheless, blind Fortune, persecuting you with horrors and snares, has led you in her shortsighted malice to this beatitude of release. Let her go now and rage as madly as she will; but let her seek another object for her hate. For terror and calamity have no power over him whose life the majesty of one Goddess has claimed for her service.
"What benefit has furying Fortune gained from the robbers, from the wild beasts, from the servitude, from the unending hardships of the way, from the daily fears of death? You are now received into the protection of Fortune, but of Fortune who is open-eyed and who lightens even the other gods with the splendours of her light. Let your face be joyous therefore. Let it be such a face as accords with the white gown you wear. Follow in the train of the Goddess your Saviour with steps of triumph. Let the scoffer behold. Let him behold and be shamed, saying in his heart:
"'Lo, here is Lucius who rejoices in the providence of mighty Isis. Lo, he is loosed from the bonds of misery and victorious over his fate.'
"Yet, that you may be the safer and surer, enroll your name in this army of holiness, to which you were but a short time past pledged by oath. Dedicate yourself to the service of true religion, and voluntarily bend you neck to the yoke of this ministry. For when ou have begun to serve the Goddess you will feel the full fruitfulness of your liberty."
Another translation (Walsh 1994) has "victorious over his fortune" instead of "victorious over his fate." I don't think it makes much difference.
This second Fortune, open-eyed instead of blind, besides being Isis, it seems to me, could just as easily, in the Renaissance, have been Christ (as well as the Tabula Cebetis's Instruction). What is attained thereby is a happiness not of this world, a peace that while not ensuring prosperity gives the kind of settledness of mind and integrity of action that can serve one well in this world.
Then there is the tetramorph [four creatures] around the corners of the card. In a Christian interpretation, these would be symbols of the four evangelists, whose writings lead one to the state of acceptance of and oneness with Christ. In the Platonic/Egyptian interpretation, they would be the four elements (to which indeed the evangelists were assigned, in various ways), the center signifying a transcendence of all four, leaving the world behind. In Apuleius, that message is conveyed in an initiation he experiences into her Mysteries (Lindsay trans. p. 249):
I approached the confines of death. I trod the threshold of Proserpine; and borne through the elements I returned...
It is the same four elements that are on the Bagatella card at the beginning of the sequence; what was taken is now returned. In the game, the cards' points are added up, returned to the deck, and shuffled for a new hand. As if to emphasize the parallel, at least in the 18th century, there are wand-like scepters in the Tarot de Marseille-lady's hands (see http://www.letarot.it/page.aspx?id=133&lng=eng fig. 11); Isis is the second magician, after her father Thoth (as said in On Plutarch's Isis and Osiris).
As further support, at least for the 18th century, is the Besancon version of the card, in which Decker (p. 194) points out two little pyramids or obelisks I never noticed before (my image from http://www.tarotistas.com/secciones/tar ... t_Besancon). (This is an argument that Decker himself does not use in this context; he uses it, quite justifiably, in explaining Etteilla's version of the card.)
Notice here the sexual ambiguity: breasts, but a masculine, Christlike face. Decker says that in his Egyptianate/Platonic interpretation, for the Tarot de Marseille and the "original tarot" sequence which was like it, the World card has Isis in the center. Of course there remains the evaluation of this interpretation for the sequence as a whole.That is something he says he will do later.
If Isis in Apuleius plays the same role as Jesus in Christianity, it would be no wonder that tarot-designers would have wanted to make the figure ambiguous in gender. Decker's thesis is that the designers put up images with both conventional and hidden meanings, in the sense of hidden from the uneducated but not from the erudite, who would have no trouble breaking the code. The designers are assumed to be "Christian Platonists (possibly Hermetists) with an interest in Egyptian Platonism (essentially Hermetism)" (p. 28). So in this card there have to be two interpretations, which happen to be Jesus and Isis. Hence the feminine-looking figure on the Sforza Castle card, but with the possibility of a masculine face and beard, and the stocky figure with breasts of the Noblet, and the male figure on the Vieville but female in the Conver.
It might be argued that this ambiguity is because of an uncertainty as to whether the figure should be Good Fortune, as in the Anonymous Parisian, or Jesus, or that they wanted to convey a mixture of the two, Providence. Regarding the former, it certainly looks as though the lady's sash in the Tarot de Marseille is taken from the sail of Good Fortune of the Anonymous Parisian, or the sash of the Hautot. But Good Fortune as such, pictured on a globe, means fortune in a worldly sense; it is not on the same spiritual level as Isis. I have trouble imagining that the designers would miss the point, although it is possible. Regarding the latter, Providence, is that which directs one to salvation, not the end, which is that of being welcomed into its domain. Even if they are the same entity (Isis or some member of the Trinity), Providence belongs at the beginning of the sequence rather than the end (as indeed I will maintain it is, in my next post in the "Meaning of the first six trumps" thread).
There are other possibilities, such as an uncertainty about whether to picture her as feminine Wisdom, Prudence, Felicitas, etc., or even about whether it should be Jesus or Mary. But if what is wanted is an interpretation in Egyptian terms, Isis makes sense.
Why Egyptian interpretations? Decker says simply that it is a natural way to turn once one has read about Thoth as the inventor of games and a practitioner of divination. But why bother? Aren't the obvious Christian interpretations enough?
I can think of three reasons why humanists, who shaped intellectual culture in the Renaissance courts, might have bothered. One is simply the entertainment value of such interpretations while playing the game. They add novelty and show off the erudition of those making them.
Another is more serious, a desire to recover not only Greco-Roman thought and literature, but to recover the prisca theologia, the ancient theology that was before Christianity and Judaism. The Church Fathers said that Egypt, in the Hermetica was a precursor. The writings by Apuleius and Plutarch about the Egyptian religion were certainly consistent with the Hermetica (not surprising, because in fact they were written in the same time-period). So in seeing tarot images in such terms, they might be getting closer to the origins, conveyed by God to Adam, of which the earliest would have been the writings of Zoroaster. Already in 1429 Florence this seems to have been a general view among Greek-reading humanists. Filelfo (before coming to Milan in 1438) talked about Zoroaster in an Oration of 1429 (Stausberg, Faszination Zarathushtra: Zoroaster und die Europäische, Vol. 1 p. 136, at note 281, http://books.google.com.tr/books?id=gBz ... &q&f=false; I owe this reference to Huck, in the 2011 "Plethon" thread on Aeclectic Tarot Forum; the translation is my own).
In einer Oratio aus dem Jahre 1429 (!), in der Zoroaster bereits als Fürst der Mager bei den Persen erwähnt wird, legt sich Filelfo noch nicht auf eine Reihenfolge fest,..
(In an Oration pf the year 1429 (!), in which Zoroaster is already mentioned as a prince of the Persian Magi, Filelfo does not commit himself yet to a sequence...).
Admittedly, this only says that in 1429 Filelfo considered Zoroaster part of the Magi in Persia. It does not make him part of a sequence of philosophers/theologians that ends in Plato. But Strausberg says, of a Greek scholar who came to Florence and was Ficino's teacher (http://www.tarotforum.net/showpost.php? ... tcount=104):
Auch bei Johannes Argyropoulos gerät Zoroaster als erster der "Alten Philosophen" in den Blick, als deren Charakteristikum Argyropoulos (wie Ficino) herausstreicht, daß sie ihre Philosophie in Gesängen vortrugen.
(Also with John Argyropoulos, Zoroaster is put as the first of the "old philosophers" in the view when of their characteristics Argyropoulos stresses (like Ficino) that they reported their philosophy in hymns.)
I apologize for my poor literal translation. So there seems to have been a general orientation to make Zoroaster the first theologian/philosoher, a lineage that passes through Egypt to Plato.
This doctrine was also expressed by Gemistos Plathon in his edition of the Chaldean Oracles, Ficino's likely source (Hankins p. 201, in Google Books). With Ficino, 1470s, we get the term "prisca theologia", the ancient theology, for the theology emanating from Zoroaster; Filelfo in Milan says much the same as early as 1464 (both from Hankins Plato in the Italian Renaissance vol 1 p. 93); and it is implicit in Pico's 900 Theses,1786, which put together ideas from a wide variety of sources. For more on this topic see post 3 (as listed on the side at the top) of my blog "Tarot and the Chaldean Oracles" , http://tarotandchaldean.blogspot.com/2012/05/blank.html, which is an extract from a discussion on ATF.
A third reason for Isis is that humanists like Ficino and Filelfo would have seen her featured in the type of ancient philosophy they most identified with, the current of Platonism in the Imperial period, essentially Platonic but including elements of Aristotelianism, Stoicism, Neopythagoreanism, Orphism, etc.. from Plutarch and Apuleius through Plotinus and his followers, including the Latin Macrobius. Macrobious called Isis the world-soul in the Saturnalia (I c 20-21), according to Andrea Vitali at http://www.associazioneletarot.it/page. ... 33&lng=ENG. In that way she merges with the Greco-Roman Muse Urania, about whom the Roman-era Diodorus wrote ( Library of History 4.7.4, at http://www.theoi.com/Text/DiodorusSiculus4A.html).that this Muse is called Urania because
...men who have been instructed by her she raises aloft to heaven (ouranos), for it is a fact that imagination and the power of thought lift men’s thoughts to heavenly heights.
Thought and imagination are the stuff of imaginally and rhetorically powerful philosophy, such as we see expressed by Apuleius, Plutarch, and indeed Plato himself, as opposed ot the dry analytic logic of an Aristotle or St. Thomas Aquinas.
As mistress of the cosmos, I see a visual connection between Durer's "Urania" and the Marseille World card (image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/zeevveez/2900531631/)
This Urania could as well be Isis as world-soul. It is a role also expressed mythologically by Apuleius in the Metamorphoses, Book XI, when Isis appears to the protagonist in a dream (Lindsay trans. p. 237):
"Behold, Lucius," she said, "moved by your prayer I come to you--I, the natural mother of all life, the mistress of the elements, the first child of time, the supreme divinity, the queen of those in hell, the first among those in heaven, the uniform manifestation of all the gods and goddesses...
In that way she merges with the Mind and Logos of the Hermetica, as the divine Providence guiding all things. We are again sent to the beginning of the sequence. I will continue this argument, returning to the Bagatella and another frontispiece, on the "The First Six Trumps" thread.