Tarotica - 1584
The Quaternity of the Tarot between Mysticism and Game
Guilielmus Onciacius (Guillaume D'Oncieu), born in Chambéry in 1560, died in 1630, was a doctor of law, scholar and President of the Senate under the Duke of Savoy. He was the author of several legal and philosophical works including Quaestiones academicae (1579), Quaestiones iuris philosophicae
(1585), Traité des mainsmortes et conditions taillables
(1608), Traité de l'amortissement et abol des mains mortes
(1612), Colloquia mixta
(1620), and Colloquia mixta in quibus variae juris quaestiones et philosophicae
Our interest in this author is addressed to the treatise Numeralium locorum decas
, printed in Lyon in 1584, a work of extreme importance for the history of tarot in that, in the present state of research, it appears to be the first known document reporting information both on the game and its philosophical and mystical aspects (1). This is the full title of the book, dedicated to Carlo Emanuele, Duke of Savoy, with the place and year of publication: “Guilielmi Onciaci, Numeralium locorum decas: in omni ferè scientiarum genere mysticis referta propositionibus. Ad Serenissimum Carolum Emanuelem Sabaudiae Ducem, Lugduni, apud Carolym Pesnot, 1584”
In the work, not without a certain artificiality of expression and some obscure passages, D'Oncieu conducts a discussion on the numbers from One to Ten, illustrated through propositions that list the literary places, events, personages, and mythological and religious elements inherent to each of them.
One of the extraordinary things that can be found in the work is the term TAROTICA, attributed by the author not so much to the game of tarot itself, but to everything that pertains to it. It would seem that for the first time we come across in a word, completely unknown until now, a sort of hapax legomenon
, but at the time not otherwise known. The term feels to us very modern and consonant with other titles formulated for the purpose of grouping together various aspects of a given subject.
The analysis that the author makes of the Tarot is found in Chapter IV (2), where he deals with the Number Four. There are numerous propositions and figures, quadrilateral and triangular - explanations for which D'Oncieu cites Plato and Pythagoras - inserted to highlight the mathematical prerogatives of the four and its triplicity. Some propositions reported by the Author are these:
Quaternus fic binario suo medio cōgruit,
ut binario modo in se revolvatur
. [p. 238 in original Latin text, at http://books.google.it/books?id=6JJa8oe ... milarbooks]
The number four is a double binary number
in that it contains two identical binary parts.
Quaterna triplicitate divisum est saeculum [p. 239]
The order of the centuries is divided into four [four ages, four eras]
Quaterna triplicitas nominum Dei apud Hebraeos [p. 240]
A triplicity in groups of four [quaternities] are the names of God among the Jews.
Quaterna Apostolorum [p. 241]
Quaterna triplicitate distinctus seculi ordo: nēpe duodecim in coelo signis, seu quator signorum trigonis: quorum tria ignea Gemini, Cancer, Leo; tria aërea, Pisces, Aries, Taurus; tria aquea, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius; tria terrea, perhibētur, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio
. [p. 239]
The order of the centuries is divided into four groups of three: in fact there are twelve signs in the sky, four trigons of signs, of which three are of fire: Gemini, Cancer, Leo; three air: Pisces, Aries, Taurus; three water: Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius; three earth: Virgo, Libra, Scorpio.
Quator item in virtutibus: prudentia, iustitia, fortitude, temperantia ...[p. 255]
Four equally in the virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance...
Quatuor metaphisica: Esse, essentia, virtute, actione
Four in metaphysics: being, essence, virtue, action
Quaternario quoq; inclusae divinationum species……geomantia, hydromantia, pyromanthia, aëromantia: à terra, aqua, igne, aëre. [p. 260]
Four also; included in the species of divination ...... geomancy, hydromancy, pyromancy, aeromancy: from earth, water, fire, air.
Quaternū aeternae Fontem naturae, animiq ', parentem ... Quaternū Aeternae fontem naturae, animiq’, parentem [p. 244]
The quaternity would be the source of eternal nature and of its generating soul
Quaternis trinum unumq’, Deum inesse percipi posset [p. 249]
The one God is perceived as three in the quaternity.
Quatuor quaternae numeri pares 2, 4, 6, 8 ac impares 1,3,5,7 [p. 244, paribus]
Four even 1,3,5,7 and odd 2,4,6,8 numbers of the quaternity.
Below is the passage in the original work on the Tarot, whose division by four is considered by the author the most perfect and admirable that exists:
Since it is all in Latin, and Andrea repeats the Latin in what follows, sentence by sentence (but preceded by a summary of the whole), I omit his transcription of the whole here. It is in his essay for anyone interested. It is from pp. 261-265 of the printed Latin text.]
As we said above, the passage concerning the Tarot contains information of both a ludic and philosophical character. The ludic aspects, described in a somewhat obscure form, would be fully decipherable if the rules in force in section XVI were known.
The philosophical content has a better fate; we find that 78, the total number of cards, iis the same as "in the reckoning" of the universe, and that the number of sides (four) of the same cards, leads them to "enter" into the Universe (consider the four seasons, the four cardinal points, etc., concepts reported by the author in his propositions),
We find also that the division of the cards into the suits, 21 Triumphs, and the Fool card makes the quaternity [i.e. the group of four suits] triune, just as God is triune in the quaternity, the concept expressed in the proposition “Quaternis Trinum unumq', Deum Inesse percipi posset”
(The one God is perceived as three in the quaternity), considering that "the quaternity is three due to the threefold nature of this quaternity," according to the philosophical thought that knows God as One and Triune
, one God and three distinct persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
We find further that the seven (septenary), by which the 21 Triumphs are divided into three equal parts (as we have seen, the Fool is considered in its own right), expresses a value of completeness meaning "all", the sacred number to the Hebrews, who used it especially in their apocalyptic [writing] with its seven heavens, seven rivers, that of mountains, and in the liturgy with seven altars, seven sacred sources, seven branches of the candlestick, the seven anointings with oil, seven pairs of clean animals entering Noah’s ark, also a highly symbolic number for Christianity with its seven sacraments and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. And further, in the division by five of the quaternity, the quintenary brings almost a form of the Quinta Essentia to the triple and quadruple.
In short, the conformation of a tarot deck to numerology reflects the order of the universe in the total number of cards, in its division into four (the four suits, but also the entire deck, the number cards, the triumphs and the Fool), while the aspect of triplicity (suits, triumphs and Fool) connected to the quadruple (the entire deck) is to be related to the threefold nature of the Divine, which is triple in the quadruple as described above. Tarot cards become therefore the representation of a man who "lives his life in the theater of the world" while the numerological aspects that characterize the deck are to be interpreted according to a philosophical-mystical key, "the mutual correspondence of numbers being great", as we have repeatedly stressed in several of our essays (3).
Since the passage contains several obscure aspects, at this time we also provide a literal translation, reserving, through a more detailed analysis, to modify it according to a precise understanding of the different concepts:
Quadrata figura qua sors ludit in humanis Tessera dicta.
Quadrata quoque in cartis, inde cartae dictae: hoc idem quod
Quadruplici personarum distinctione constent, & in famosa earum trituratione quam primeriam vocant.
The four-sided figure with which fate plays among men is called the Tessera. [Tessera is the Greek name that in Latin means one of a pair of dice, one die].
Four-sided is also in cards, as these are called four-sided. The same thing is why there consists a fourfold distinction of persons [single cards] in the popular and destructive practice of those cards they call Premiera.
Quaternis paribus, quaternis imparibus, & quaternis sequacibus: quaterna autem haec omnia, terna.
Four in the even [para, also meaning “equal”]
, four in the odd [impara, also meaning “unequal’]
, and four in what remains: on the other hand all this quaternity is also a triad.
Quaterna distinctio perfectior imó mirabilior Tarotica: nam quadrata cum sit figura, tùm quaterna personarum distinctio in universum inest; & singularim quaternae cuilibet quaternum figurae genus. sed
However, the distinction by four is the most perfect, even the most admirable, in the Tarotica [i.e. what pertains to the Tarot]
: from the moment that the figure is made four, the distinction by four of the figures [personae]
enters into the universe, and singularly in any quaternity corresponds a fourfold typology of the figures.
Quaternum illud uniforme in suo quaterno duabus admixtis diversis partibus, scilicet altera, quae sit triumphorum. 21 postrema unius tātum figurae fatui sub effigie, videtur eo quaternum ternum: at quidem.
But this is uniform in its four elements with the addition of two different parts: namely the one that consists of 21 Triumphs and last only a single figure under the species of Fool; so the quaternity certainly seems trinitary.
Quaternum ternum à triplici quaterna rei natura, tum enim triplex cartarum est distinctio ut diximus, secundò terne extrà reponuntur, tertiò ternis lusoribus experiendum,
The quaternity is triple because of the threefold nature of this quaternity, then in fact the distinction of the cards is threefold as we have said, and second are given three by three, and thirdly, is experienced with three players.
Quartò à terna divisione quid lucri quídue dāni obtigerit cuiq’;, agnositur certò. atqui addendum quinaria distributione quina, velut quinta quadam essentia formam dari terno quaternoq’;, magna eorum numerorum inter se cohaerentia.
Fourth, from the division by three is known for certain what gain or loss happens to anyone, and there needs to be added the distributions by five, the quintinary as if bestowing a certain form of the Fifth Essence to the trinary and quaternary the mutual correspondence of the numbers being great.
1 - Some information about the aspects of the game were reported by Flavio Alberto Lollius and Vincenzo Imperiali in their works of the XVIth century. See the essay Tarot in Literature I.
2 – Pp. 261-265. [Three copies of the book are online, of which the easiest to read is at at http://books.google.it/books?id=6JJa8oe ... milarbooks
3 - Read the section entitled "Celestial Harmony" in the essay The History of Tarot