Re: The World

mmfilesi wrote:I think in the past as the present, people ask what mean the images of their favorite game. This can explain, for example, the triumph of Gebellin-Eteilla.
Well from the current perspectve, it seems that the interest in Tarot and its possible meanings was born from Court de Gébelin success, not the other way round. CdG' Monde Primitif had indeed quite a success - especially considering how expensive his initiative was - and so did Egypt at the times, while Tarot was forgotten in Paris, as CdG explains - meanwhile where Tarot was still used as a game no one cared about the cards meaning, as they had no mistery aura surrounging them.


Re: The World

I suppose we will never come to agreement about whether people would have been interested in interpreting the cards in the pre-de Gebelin era. To me it seems obvious that they would, given the interest then in emblems (whose meaning was mysterious until they were explained in the verse), the pictorial symbolism that people were accustomed to in the churches and cathedrals, the pagan symbolism added by the Renaissance artists, etc. etc. Even in the highly realistic Dutch still-lifes, of which there were hundreds or thousands, the particular foods represented had a symbolic, moralizing Calvinist meaning. For the common people, there were the pageants of Carnival and other times, loaded with symbolic costumes and floats. Literature was filled with symbolism, too. And there are the 16th and 17th century essays recently translated into English by Caldwell et al, giving their interpretations of the tarot cards, long before de Gebelin.

mmfilesi wrote
And the people didn't understand the complicated codes related with the Kabbalah, alchemy and Neoplatonism, but yes the Christian processions, the Christian churches, the Bible....
Well, yes, in general I agree. There was a basic Christian message being conveyed by the sequence. People who understood it had an easier time remembering the order of the sequence, for sure. There was likewise a basic Christian message conveyed by Dante's Divine Comedy and Petrarch's Trionfi. But these works also had pagan symbolism, used for a Christian purpose. People who didn't know the symbolism just wouldn't get the point in that particular instance; but they could still enjoy what they did understand. The tarot cards were in the same milieu (also the milieu of da Vinci, Georgione, Michelangelo, etc., not all of whose images were understandable by the masses). If the popular tarot cards came after the cards for the courts or university students (e.g. in Bologna), the card designers would not have removed a detail or image just because it was obscure to the masses. They would have just made sure there was enough that the masses could understand, so that the cards remained interesting to them and in general not condemned by the local clergy. And by the 17th century the card designers surely did add or change details not there in the 15th century--e,g, the figure in the middle of the World card, as represented in the Tarot de Marseille 2. These changes are not necessarily in Christian terms. (So even if she does represent divine mercy, the image itself may not be from the Christian repertory: for example, the Virgin Mary, who often represented Mercy in religious art, was not usually portrayed nude, even in the Renaissance.)

The example of Minchiate shows that even in the 15th century, pagan and Christian symbolism could co-exist in one sequence. The zodiac is not Christian, but it is in the Minchiate. Most people knew the zodiac and its role in astrology; it is an example where non-Christian imagery was common knowledge.

Moreover, when I read de Mellet's account of the number cards (as opposed to his fanciful explication of the trumps), it seems like he is believably describing what people before him actually called the cards--how they interpreted them, jokingly. These nicknames are often from Greco-Roman or Egyptian mythology. I am thinking especially of de Mellet's section III:)
III Names of various Cards, preserved by the Spaniards.
The names of several of these cards have been preserved by the Spaniards, by which we can discern something of their character. These names are seven. The three of deniers, mysterious number, called the Lord, the Master, devoted to supreme God, Great Jove. Three of cups, called the Lady, devoted to the Queen of the Heaven. The One-eyed one or the Ace of Coins, Phoebe 'lampadis instar', devoted to Apollo. The Cow or two of cups, devoted to Apis or Isis. The Grand Last Nine, the Nine of Cups; devoted to the Destiny. The Small Last Nine of Coins, devoted to Mercury. The Snake or the Ace of Batons (Ophion), a symbol famous & sacred among the Egyptians.

It is believable to me that he is describing what some Spaniards actually called the cards in his time (Master, lampadis instar, cow, destiny, small last nine, snake), prior to his essay ( ... les_Tarots). He did not make up these names, and his interpretation of them in terms of Greco-Roman mythology is not unreasonable. But perhaps someone knows better than me about Spanish terms fir the cards in the pre-de Mellet 18th century.

Re: The World

Regarding the names
In fact those names (which in reality were Monsieur, Madame, le Borgne, Grand Neuf, Petit Neuf, Deux de Chêne, Deux d'écrit which can be approximately translated to Mister, Madam, One-eyed, Big Nine, Small Nine, Two of Oak, Two of written - no Lord nor Master, nor Lady, nor latin sentences involvin Phœbœa, nor Apis, nor Mercury, nor Snake) are not Spanish but French, and were used in the local game of Aluette (anciently Luette, played with a spanish suited pack), which is not, if I remember correctly, played in Spain, and seem to have appeared in the XVIth century.


Re: The World

I can't help but think that from the very start people would have found amusement in the relationships of the cards. Seeing a pope and justice swept away by the devil would certainly have made more than one person smile a little. When playing the game and a handsome knight was played by a young woman, surely there would be a small laugh or giggle, the men might have smiled at the star and wondered who their lucky lady was, or frowned when fortune's wheel turned against them. The cards and how they fell would have sparked even the dullest of imaginations.

That said, I doubt that too many people looked too far beyond the cards and the rather familiar images on them any more than they would have questioned the dozens or hundreds or superstitions, sayings and charms that filled their daily lives.

Magic is ordinary.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: The World

Well, dear friends. Sorry, I cant explain well in English, you know, but I try... :)

Premise 1: In the Tarot luxuries such as PMB, CY, Medici... the artists can include complex codes: are object private. Botticelli painted for the Medici, Michelangelo and Raphael to the intellectual elite of the Church: Not for the people.

Premise 2: French cardsmarkers made the ​​cards to the people, and the people are not idiots. The people like understand what see every day, like a naked woman in the triumph of the World

So, astrology can be in the tarot, because in the XV, XVI and XVII centurys everyone believed in astrology (less Petrarch, Boccaccio and Francesco Sforza xD). But not everyone knew the cabala or the texts of Ficino et. alter.
When a man has a theory // Can’t keep his mind on nothing else (By Ross)

Re: The World

Thanks for the information on Aluette (Goose?), Bertrand. I suspect de Mellet is not a reliable observer. Yet he might still have been commenting on something different. Since I don't know either way, I withdraw my citation of him.

mmfelesi: if the common people knew astrology, perhaps they also knew a little Greco-Roman mythology; and some of them, the literate city-dwellers, Egyptian mythology as well. Paris was in the throes of Egyptomania by the 17th century, according to the historians of Egyptomania.

I don't disagree that the later decks were made for the common people--if by that you mean 17th century Parisians with a little money and some leisure, and 18th century Marseillaise (Marseillards?) of various classes--as opposed to the erudites and members of secret societies (which in those days included lots of people). It is certainly a worthwhile endeavor to discuss what the details in the cards might have meant to such people, based on what they would have known.

However that is no reason to exclude other meanings; the card-makers might have had various audiences in mind, and a few might have fancied themselves mystical visionaries whose work would be talked about for centuries. In high art, everyone could admire a Botticelli, a Bosch, or a Michelangelo, for its sensuous qualities and overt meaning. A few could appreciate the subtleties as well, or simply enjoy the feeling of mysteriousness (as I think is still what attracts us to the Mona Lisa). People could also find there things that the designer might never have thought about. The understanding of a work of art is not limited to its creator. I think all of it, including esoteric readings, in terms of the esotericisms of the time, is a part of tarot history.

Or the designer may have intentionally wanted to foster an air of mystery, to emulate the great artists and the emblemists.

So what about the naked lady on the Tarot de Marseille World card? The Virgin Mary wasn't portrayed nude. I can't think of any saints that fit. Do you know of any representations of "Mercy" that were portrayed that way? And conceptually, I associate the concept of mercy with the Judgment card rather than the World.

Could it be that the designer was a fan of Durer, the greatest engraver/woodblocker ever? Could it be that he admired Durer's "Urania" (meaning "heaven") and was inspired to put something like her on the card, regardless of whether the masses knew what he was doing?

That still doesn't account for the wisp of fabric around her, or what she is holding in her hands. The designer could have taken these things from other obscure images floating around in his milieu: for the objects, Cartari's Isis (Cartari was a popular source for artists then). For the fabric, perhaps he was inspired by the snake winding around the body of Phanes in the well-known (at that time) Orphic medallion (

The result is suitably mysterious for the masses, yet also appropriate, to one who knows, and more appealing than the beefy guy with prominent tits on the Tarot de Marseille I, or the disturbingly androgynous "Sforza Castle." Why do the masses have to be able to understand where the image comes from? They are just playing a card game, or (this is not excluded) having their fortune told by someone who they surmise knows what the card means. It is enough that they see a sexy figure welcoming those who follow the four evangelists. There is always the chance that someone will see the Durer sometime and draw a connection. Or perhaps the inspiration was something entirely different, lost to history forever.

And now I want to go further: even if we knew the image's inspiration, and its aesthetic motivation, we might still not have its meaning, as shaped by its details. That is something else, of only vague and approximate interest to most viewers of the card in these years, and perhaps even to the designers themselves. Getting a more precise meaning, then as now, was something of concern to the few, the intellectuals and the fortune-tellers, working in the various traditions of scholarship, art appreciation, exoteric religion, or esoteric teachings. Some of these traditions would have been quiet alien to the card's designers, yet still contribute to the meaning of the card.

Re: The World

Do you know of any representations of "Mercy" that were portrayed that way? And conceptually, I associate the concept of mercy with the Judgment card rather than the World.
Hi friend, I think the process are more or less this:

a) An iconographic trend tended to place the Fortune in the world:

Paris + Vanderborre
mf_01.jpg (71.59 KiB) Viewed 5024 times
And we know this is the Fortune; women nude, over the world, in relationship with the winds, etc. For example:

Emblema Ars naturam adiuvans from Alciato
mf_03.jpg (53.47 KiB) Viewed 5024 times
Dürer. Némesis
mf_02.jpg (45.33 KiB) Viewed 5024 times
b) In the XV and XVI century, the concept of Fortuna was combined with the concept of Divine Providence. For example:

Niccolò Machiavelli. The Prince (chapter XXV).

"No se me oculta que muchos creyeron y creen que la fortuna, es decir Dios, gobierna de tal modo las cosas de este mundo que los hombres con su prudencia no pueden corregir lo que ellas tienen de adverso, y aun que no hay remedio ninguno que oponerles".

Google translation:

"I am not unaware that many believed and believe that fortune, that is God, rules so the things of this world that men with their wisdom can not correct what they have to side, and yet there is no remedy that oppose them"

c) In the family Marseilles, mixed: Divine Providence with the iconography of Fortuna and also included the usual elements of the French tradition of representing the Tetramorph.
When a man has a theory // Can’t keep his mind on nothing else (By Ross)

Re: The World

Pen wrote:Surely before the cards were numbered, people must have had the knowledge to see what the images represented in order to know their sequence/value and to play the game. It's logical to suppose that the numbers appeared because they were needed - the images had become less recognisable, either because they'd mutated or because the players had lost touch with what they represented and the order had become unclear.

Order would be a matter of gaming convention - it is not necessary at all to have an understanding of some underlying narrative to establish an order for gaming purposes - unnumbered trumps were used in some types of Italian decks up to the 17th/18th* century - there is nothing to indicate that players of such understood the ordering beyond anything other than that as established by gaming conventions.

* The Bolognese pattern is numbered from the late 18th century, but even from then only partially (5-Love to 16-Star).
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 World

mmfilesi: Your Durer Nemesis and Alciato Fortuna are not standing on Worlds. They are standing on spheres. Spheres in this context represent swiftness. It is in contrast to, say, standing on a cube, which represents slowness: cubes move slowly. Fortune is fleeting, and Nemesis is swift. I get this view of the image from Wind, Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance, who discusses it in connection with the saying "festina lente." His most vivid example is a drawing from the school of Mantegna, in which a youth strains after Opportunity, a lady dashing by on a sphere, while Wisdom, standing on a cube, restrains him.

Your suggestion that the Tarot de Marseille artist was inspired by the naked lady on e.g. the "Tarot of Paris" is as possible as anything. She wasn't naked on the Charles VI, which resembles the "Tarot of Paris" to the extent that it has a woman standing on a representation of a world. At some point she lost her clothes and gained a sail, probably to associate her with Fortuna, as you say. So the Tarot de Marseille 2 artist spiced up the card, by borrowing from another deck. Why not? It certainly improved sales for the Tarot de Marseille designs. But this explanation for the Tarot de Marseille 2 designer's inspiration doesn't explain what she means, on a card which has no world and does have a tetramorph, among other things, and comes out of a different tradition than the cards you showed. I see nothing to be gained by appealing to what the masses would have understood her as, either. Did the people buying the cards care more about what she meant or how she looked? Anyway, on the Tarot de Marseille card, there is nothing to indicate that she means "Fortune" (no sphere, no sails), even in the sense of "God." There were plenty of symbolic naked ladies who didn't represent Fortune. And I have never seen God pictured that way in the 17th-18th centuries. Nobody would have thought of that lady as God the all-powerful (as in Machiavelli), except maybe some intellectual.

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