Since I appear to be defending Yates against Dummett, I should probably say where I don’t think Yates got it right, about the tarot as hieroglyphs. Here is what she says about the Moon card.
The image called "Luna" shows two little doglike animals gazing at the moon: below them, an object rather like a crayfish crawls out of the water. Geblin offers some explanation of this image which he says is reported by Clement of Alexandria. The two dogs are, according to the Egyptians, guardians of the tropics, placed there to prevent the stars from wandering; the crayfish is the sign of the zodiac, Cancer, and refers to the inundations of the Nile, which occur when the sun and the moon leave that sign. This is exactly the kind of abstruse information provided by the pseudo-Egyptian hieroglyph, which always has a further reference to Egyptian teachings on the divine. In the Horapollo type of Egyptian hieroglyphic, dogs are prominent, with the general meaning of "sacred letters." though 1 have not found the Tarot image of Luna either in Horapollo or in Valeriano’s Hieroglyphica, the Renaissance encyclopedia on the subject. which Gebelin mentions. However there can be no doubt that the "Luna" Tarot image is what the Renaissance called a hieroglyph, a conveyor of Egyptian wisdom.
I do not wish to defend Yates here; her account is not nuanced enough. First, in the Renaissance a hieroglyph was not necessarily “a conveyor of Egyptian wisdom”. There were probably different ideas about what a hieroglyph was. In part their conceptions came from what their classical authors said about hieroglyphs; Boas, after his translation of Horapollo, has a bunch of quotations from them. Then there were the humanists themselves. For Alberti, rather famously, it was an enigmatic image conveying by means of a picture something sacred that could not quite be fully put into words, which the wise would understand and not the common folk. It was not necessarily Egyptian, or meant to be Egyptian. People in the 15th century were not even sure if the obelisks in Rome were Egyptian; they assumed they were Roman. By the same token, people could create hieroglyphs of their own and take credit for them, e.g. Alberti in his essay “Rings”. I think Pisanello’s 1430s medallions, some of which Alberti suggested, might count as hieroglyphs. They merge with what was called "emblemata" and "impresa". I would imagine that they even considered heraldics, i.e. the Visconti viper, with its red man in its mouth, as examples of hieroglyphs. How the 15th century understood hieroglyphs is discussed in some detail on THF in the thread "The Fifteenth Century Understanding of Hieroglyphs", starting at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=603&p=8820
. It was a while back, so I will try to add to it here, specifically in relation to Yates.
The Anonymous Discourse
of c. 1570 speaks of the tarot as hieroglyphs but mentions Egypt only once, in an anecdote about Antony and Cleopatra in relation to the Love card; even then, it is about love, not about the card. Here footnote 25 to that essay in Explaining the Tarot, ed. by Caldwell, Depaulis, and Ponzi, is on the right track but still misleading. They write (p. 67):
25, The term hieroglifice is used here as meaning “sacred and enigmatic images”. Egyptian hieroglyphs were the object of an extreme curiosity by Renaissance humanists. Re-discovered in 1422 the 5th century treatise Hieroglphica by one “Horapollo’ (Or Horus Apollo) was first printed in 1505 and reprinted many times in the following years, including an Italian translation (Oro Apolline Niliaco, Delli signi hierogliphici, Vence, 1547). Before their deciphering by Champollion (1822), hieroglyphs were thought to be an ancient symbolic language whose moral content anticipated the Christian message.
“Sacred and enigmatic image” is good. But two misleading things follow. First, one did not have to have a copy of Horapollo’s printed text to know what a hieroglyph was. That work circulated quickly in manuscript in all the cities of the early tarot. Alberti surely had it, and Filelfo in Milan as well, because of a citation of an image in it by Filarete in his book on architecture, which he said he got from his friend Filelfo. From these humanists others would have known about the book and its contents by word of mouth. Moreover, other ancient writers talked about hieroglyphs, notably Herodotus, Plutarch and Diodorus, in the works I have been citing, and in Latin there were Apuleius, in the famous Book XI of his Metamorphoses, printed 1469, and Ammianus Marcellinus (XVII, 4, 8-11), printed 1474 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammianus_Marcellinus
By the 16th century, probably the most authoritative account of hieroglyphs, because of its author, was that of Plotinus (quoted in Wittkower, "Hieroglyphics in the Early Renaissance,” p. 116 of his Allegory and the Migration of Symbols.
The Egyptian sages...drew pictures and carved one picture for each thing in their temples, thus making manifest the description of that thing. Thus each picture was a kind of understanding and wisdom and substance and given all at once, and not discursive reasoning and deliberation.
This definition does not restrict hieroglyphs to Egypt, however.
The other misleading thing in footnote 25 is that to say something is a hieroglyph was not, in those years, to say it was an ancient symbol. If a hieroglyphs are "sacred and enigmatic images" they do not have to be ancient. However since "wisdom" and "ancient" went together--if something was wise, it was probably also ancient--people did justify the imagery they classified as "hieroglyphs" by referring to ancient sources, and not only those about Egypt but ancient sources generally. Valeriano has many examples where he doesn't use the word "Egypt" at all, as does the author of the Anonymous Discourse
. And even when Valeriano does refer to Egypt, it is never to actual hieroglyphs as seen on the obelisks in Rome, but rather to images as described in words in ancient sources (none Egyptian), for which his illustrator creates pictures without any attempt to make them look like what they knew from the obelisks.
I found an edition of Valierano online, https://books.google.com/books?id=LgNCA ... &q&f=false
. Peruse it yourself. It is rather late, 1685, so I don't know how old the illustrations (i.e. illustrations of the "hieroglyphs") are.
But the ancient sources, when explaining what hieroglyphs were, almost invariably referred to Egypt as using them. Egypt was also considered a main source of ancient wisdom. Egypt’s endurance over the millennia testified to its wisdom. Yet a hieroglyph was not necessarily a piece of wisdom. Horapollo’s sometimes are couched in terms of wisdom and sometimes not; however they are very much associated with Egypt, by all the ancient writers who talked about them. Some people might have assumed that hieroglyphs were necessarily Egyptian, but most wouldn’t. There’s room for different ideas, no set definition of “hieroglyph”, and no set group of sources. Also, we are not just dealing with the Renaissance; as I see it imagery relating to Egypt was added to the tarot over time, all the way up to the 1760s, and more later than earlier.
Regarding the dogs on the Moon card, de Gebelin is interpreting them in terms of an ancient source about Egypt. And what he says about the dogs makes sense in relation to the other imagery on the card, in relation to the Isis legend and also the inundation of the Nile.
De Gebelin, in referring to the dogs as representing the Tropics, has not offered a piece of wisdom in the sense of something useful for life; it is merely a metaphor for an astronomical truth. Perhaps something useful could be gleaned from it. If the dogs represent the instinctual, for example, it might mean that it is OK to take risks and go into dangerous areas, if you listen to warnings from your own instincts and other signs and people. In the sky the tropics do that for the sun and moon.
Wikipedia in its article on Valeriano, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierio_Valeriano_Bolzani
, gives a dog below the moon as its main example. It is his hieroglyph for "Adoratio", which shows a dog with its forelegs raised toward the moon,
Wikipedia does not say what edition the image comes from; I cannot find it, or even a reference to dogs (cane) in the entry for "adoratio" in the edition I linked to earlier. Perhaps those who know Latin will have better luck.
[Added next day: I found it at last, in the original 1556 edition, http://www.unz.org/Pub/ValerianoPierio-1556
, p. 46. It is supposed to be a Cynocephalus. Looking up that term in Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynocephaly
), I see the following, besides the sense of "dog-headed man":
The Greek word (Greek: κῠνοκέφᾰλοι) "dog-head" also identified a sacred Egyptian baboon with the face of a dog.
They give no reference. Perhaps one is not needed, but how did "dog-head" become "baboon"? Looking in Horapollo, I see that he has much to say about this baboon, which Boas says in his index is his translation for the Greek "cynocephalus" In I-14 he talks about the cynocephalus as sacred to the moon and engaging in various behaviors indicative of their honor to that goddess. Then in I-15 he continues:
When they wish to signify the rising of the moon, they draw a baboon again, but in this way: standing with its hands raised to heaven and a crown on its head. This figure they mean to represent moonrise, for the baboon is represented, so to speak, as if praying to the goddess. For both share in light.
Boas in a footnote adds that the figure of a baboon in this position appears in the Bembine Tablet, and that Lorenzo Pignoria in in his 1604 book on that tablet translated that image, with Horapollo as his authority, as an Egyptian hieroglyph meaning "moon rise". Another image of a baboon he translates as "filial devotion". The illustration in Valierano, however, has no features suggestive of a baboon rather than a dog that I can see. I will discuss this further in another post, with more pictures. End of addition.]
How dogs helped Isis find the body parts of Osiris would be an example of such adoring service (even if they are not shown so on the card). Of course dogs are well known for adoring their masters, a major reason why people have them as pets today. They also are good at finding dead bodies, at least in the detective dramas on TV.
De Gebelin could have used other classical references about dogs besides that of the Tropics, but many of them don’t really fit the card. Some that do aren’t Egyptian, so I’ve ignored them. Horapollo does talk about dogs at 1-39; he says:
Again, when they wish to indicate a sacred scribe, or a prophet, or an embalmer, or the spleen, or odour, or laughter, or sneezing, or rule, or a judge, they draw a dog.
Yates says “sacred letters”; but what follows makes it clear that he means “scribe”. He goes on to explain each of these meanings. I suppose some could be dragged into service, but I didn’t find them useful. It is like with homonyms in spoken language; some meanings are excluded because they don’t fit the context.
As far as finding the tarot image of Luna in Horapollo, no, that particular image, with the dogs etc., is a product of the late 17th century. That combination is 17th century. But to get the meaning you have to understand the parts and their relationship, and the parts can be ancient. In the context of the rest of the cards, Luna as Isis is justified by the citations I gave in discussing the Popess.
Horapollo does give a meaning for a picture of the moon; in I-4 he says that it represents a month, if its horns are downward. About the full moon he says nothing. He says nothing about any crayfish. He does speak of the crab as a hieroglyph:
II-108: A MAN CARELESS OF HIS WELFARE
When they wish to indicate a father or a man careless of his welfare, but who is provided by his household, they draw an oyster and a crab. For the crab remains stuck to the shell of the oyster and is called an oyster-guard for this reason. Accordingly, the oyster opens wide in its shell when it is hungry. When it has opened up to let in a tiny fish, the oyster crab pinches the oyster with its claws, feeling which the oyster closes its shell and thus catches the little fish.
He is saying of the crab that it lives with the oyster and pinches it when the oyster has a fish in its mouth, thereby enabling the oyster to capture the fish. That would work for a crayfish as much as a crab (with certain dubious zoological assumptions). For Horapollo it is a metaphor for a foolish man (the oyster) who is cared for by his household (the crab). I cannot relate that metaphor to the card, or the zodiacal sign, and I see nothing equivalent to the oyster to which the crab might attach.
Horapollo says nothing about zodiacal signs that I can find, but the Egyptians would have been thought to have had standard astrology, and the rising of the dog-star is precisely at the beginning of the month ruled by Cancer and the moon, also the beginning of the inundation. The inundation can be frightening and one must be on guard against it, so as to reap its benefits, for example creating artificial lakes. That works nicely.
There is wisdom in hieroglyphs all over the place, if you know how to find, or imagine, it. No Rosetta stone is needed.
So while it is true that that Gebelin’s interpretations of the tarot cards as Egyptian images (even hieroglyphs, as de Mellet and calls them) are “spurious” and without any basis “at all”, as Dummett says (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1981/05 ... -of-tarot/
), in seeing them as hieroglyphs, in the Renaissance sense--even though it is de Mellet and not Gebelin who uses the term—Gebelin is on firmer ground. Gebelin’s interpretation of the dogs, as part of a hieroglyph in that sense, is not without any basis, because (a) there are indeed dogs on the Moon card, and (b) Clement of Alexandria did say what Gebelin says he says. As a proposed interpretation, i.e. solution to the enigma of the dogs (hieroglyphs as enigmas), within an Egyptian context, no further foundation is needed. In contrast, to say that dogs bark at the moon is not a solution at all, because it is too obvious, if hieroglyphs are enigmatic and hide their meaning from the vulgar. (It is not obvious why a dog would put its forelegs up to the moon, in Valerieno's image.) As a reasonable hypothesis—but not proof--about why the dogs were put there, what Gebelin says is enough of a foundation, since the passage in Clement was well known when the dogs were added. Yet this foundation is not evidence for what Gebelin thinks it is, that the tarot is Egyptian. He has a confused argument, based on a confused notion of what hieroglyphs were thought to be, a confusion that lingers to this day. Hieroglyphs, in the Renaissance sense, were quintessentially ancient Egyptian, but not necessarily Egyptian or even ancient.