Let’s set the atmosphere for the Birth of Tarot!
I was struck in my too short visit to Italy, that The Holy Roman Catholic Church was a museum and places like Ireland were more ‘Catholic’ in many senses than Italy. The Medieval God- the male rigidity of Christianity had moved on- in fact there is a strong sense of return to ancient Pagan ways is very apparent today in lots of small but significant ways.
As an example I was in a small walled town when the feast of Corpus Christi was celebrated. The children had made their floral carpet and as sun set, the procession wound its way through the town. There were these little brides in their white dresses and smartly dressed lads all following the clergy and the large candle lit Seri and Christ on his cross and the Madonna on her throne held on high. The procession wound its way to the main piazza and the clergy and the icons went on up to the Church and the children stayed to party in the square. Gone was the devoutness of my youth when we also went to the Church for mass and Holy Communion. The Children danced and threw flowers and romped around in great fun and laughter. It was surreal and very non- Catholic.
In Siena, there was a Baptism for babies that was a completely secular affair. Every tiny district of Siena had a name, like the district of the Caterpillar or Owl or Green Dragon (there were 16) and the babies were baptized into their district for life. This was a taking over of the Baptism into the Church. In fact when talking to some mothers- many children were not Church Baptised- but it was VERY IMPORTANT to have the district Baptism. This was their allegiance- to the town not the Church.
It appears that the Renaissance was a great renewal of Man’s vitality and spirituality, but one which took place outside the Medieval way of life and the outside the Church. Christ on the cross, ceased to be a symbol of a distant male God, and became a symbol of ordinary suffering and the triumphant human being. The population remained essentially Christian- but at the same time became God and Goddesses of Nature.
This appears to be result of various things. The enormous wealth generated in Italy, a discomfort with Christian Death orientated existence, The plague and all its results, the search for new meanings to life, the declining spiritual credibility of the Papacy, the Schism, the confusion of many Popes (four at one time), increasing trade and influences from other cultures. Mostly there was this underground stream of what we would call Paganism now, which never was extinguished and can in many ways be called Etruscan in Italy.
As trade grew, more and more personal freedom from old restraining religious and feudal laws was grasped. This weakened the Church and its power, and Merchants became replacement power. These Merchants had the money to investigate traces of the Ancient World and took many ideas of reform into their lives. The greater majority of local Churches became known as ‘reform’ churches and became the de facto authority and the Merchants fought against ’simony’- the selling of Church favours and indulgences.
So we have forces in opposition- the new commercial drive was outward and materialistic and the Church was conservative, rigid and protective. Both needed each other and it seems largely ignored the ‘sins’ of each other unless it interfered with their respective power. Money was that power. Art was purchased by that power on both sides- each with it’s own agenda. The Merchants went back to their Etruscan roots- they loved Art, food and wine, music and dancing, the Gods, pastimes and religion, (in an abstract way) ritual, Processions and public spectacle, mental games and numbers, rhetoric and philosophy.
In walks Tarot!
Ps. Please remove to Unicorn Forum if this is too ummmm.....un-scholarly