Re: The Devil

I found another possible influence on the "bound captive" imagery on the Marseille Devil. It does not have to have, to be sure, but it would have appealed to the syncretism of the times. This is an Egyptian image reproduced by Brian Ines in his book on the tarot. It shows Seth on the upper level holding ropes that bind his captives on the lower level.


I don't know where Ines got his image, but I found it again in a book on Egypt whose name I will get and insert here. It is from a relief on a causeway leading to a small pyramid in the Sakkara complex near Cairo. Thus it would have been above ground in the 15th-17th centuries, just sitting there waiting for some enterprising Egyptian to sell rubbings of it to European merchant tourists. We know that even before 1450 Italian humanist merchants, i.e. Ciriaco da Ancona, were going as far as Sakkara and bringing back "antiquities," to show the great and not so great the spoils of their adventures into ancient history (my source: Brian Curran, The Egyptian Renaissance).

The god with the long ears would have been identified during the Renaissance and after as Typhon or Seth, the evil younger brother of the Osiris myth, as told by Plutarch, the one who slays Osiris not once but twice. The image on the relief would have been primarily seen--erroneously, to be sure--as an Egyptian expression of evil holding souls captive. Seth also was in Plutarch a god associated with fire, which likewise characterizes Satan's domain.

In actual fact, Seth in this 4th dynasty relief is a good god, with other good gods, taking captured Asiatic invaders to Pharoah. This Seth is evil only from the point of view of the captives. That interpretation may not have escaped all early interpreters. Some might have recognized the captives' non-Egyptian faces and seen the relief as another example of the "triumphal procession" theme of Greece and Rome. This would not have been its immediate association, however, but something discerned through examination and discussion as a polysemous image, of which the Renaissance considered Egypt and its hieroglyphs the master.

Re: The Devil

Another motif in the Marseille Devil card that has received some discussion is the matter of the antler-like horns. I want to discuss it now because of its bearing on the theme of the captives.

The horns in the "Marseille" versions are not the standard ram, goat, or bull horns usually seen on Medieval and Renaissance Devils. So where do they come from? It could be that they were picked at random from the various animal heads worn at Carnival. But I suspect they were picked for specific symbolic reasons. (Yes, I love to read lots of symbolism into the cards!) Ssuch antlers appear in other 16th-17th century engravings. Here is one from c. 1505-1516, by the master "I.S.," identified at the bottom by his initials followed by a bird (from Lambert, Les Premieres Gravures Italiennes , p. 424). The engraver is either Lombard or Bolognese, with some time in Rome, Lambert quotes various authorities as saying. It shows Actaeon being changed into a stag by Diana after he comes upon her and her nymphs while hunting.


A 17th century alchemical illustration also shows, in one corner, Actaeon beholding Diana.


For the whole illustration, see According to that website, it is from Daniel Mylius's Opus Medico-Chymicum, 1618. The scene depicts the nigredo stage of alchemy, it says.

Why would Actaeon be an association for these antlers on the card? One possibility: to symbolize the lust that Actaeon inevitably feels when viewing Diana and her nymphs, presumably a devilish inspiration; hence the exposed penis. But Actaeon, for thinkers like Giordiano Bruno, was also a symbol of the "intellect applied to hunting for divine wisdom" (quoted in i]Renaissance Skepticisms[/i], p. 248, at Google Books), and being turned into a stag was no punishment. So I think there is a double meaning here, by the time of the Marseille images, not just lust but, when acknowledged and arrested from enacting in the animal way, the beginning of its sublimation.

I think the female face on the abdomen of the Noblet devil (and many others in the 15th-17th century tarot) is more of the same. We know from numerous medieval depictions that the souls chewed up in the top mouth emerge terrified but unscathed from the bottom mouth, which functions as a kind of birth canal (i.e. below left, Florence c. 1480, from the first printed book that included engravings; my source is Lambert p. 91). Another example is in my previous post; below, notice the bound, collared captive to the left below Satan, another example of the "captive" motif.


It is again the involuntary pathos, suffering, of the soul on the road to wisdom. In Bosch's version, c. 1504 (from the Hell panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights), we even see the soul's blackness being squeezed out of its anus at the top, while other another soul greets its re-emergence through the Devil's anus--or the bottom of an alchemical apparatus--as a kind of miracle.

The Devil in this interpretation is an alchemist, who makes his substances suffer in the fire that they may be purified. He is like, Haephestos, the blacksmith of the gods, tempering his metals with his anvil (on view in our card) and making them stronger by his art. So, too, are the faithful tested by suffering, in this world in which all are captives, that their virtue, like Job's, will shine all the brighter. So likewise the captives in the triumphal processions, by their virtue, could escape their fate, here or in the next world, by the nobility of their death or the virtues they displayed as slaves.

Re: The Devil

Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:That's absolutely the best Devil re-creation for the Visconti-Sforza that has ever been done, Marcos!
I definitely agree to that - I don't have a single idea about what it looked like but this is far better than all the ugliness which were sold as a re-creation of this card.


Re: The Devil

Thanks friends :) !

Some considerations

Why is the green face? > Codex Gigas ... _devil.jpg

Why red?

In general, in the East there is a conflict between the red and white. It is the same as the conflict in the West between black and white.

During the Middle Ages, the color contrast between the colors dull (the poor) and colors bright (the rich). But, as Michael Pastoreaux said, red became the color of evil (so Judas usually red face).

Why is dedicated to Ross?

Overall, I am very grateful to my friends forum.tarothistory: Huck, Ross, Marco, Pen, Robert, Steve, Mikeh, Cadla... I am very happy to share opinions with you. I hope to write a post dedicated to each, but with the Devil, of course, could only be for Ross :) :

(I think, I I bring this here very important article)
When a man has a theory // Can’t keep his mind on nothing else (By Ross)

Re: The Devil

Ross G Caldwell said


Some new documentary discoveries of magical or "superstitious" use of cards from the earliest centuries deserve to be shared with the IPCS. These are not isolated or unexpected uses, when understood in the context of the early use of printed images. The material can be divided into two broad areas - devotional use and magic, and divination. While this is an arbitrary distinction, since divination is a category of magic, it helps me present the material.

I. Jean Jordain

The title for my talk comes from the following story about Jean Jordain. Jean Jordain was a young man who was tried in 1614 for witchcraft and sacrilege, part of which was making a pact with the Devil on two playing cards, a two and a four of hearts.

The trial of Jean Jordain took place in Blaye, on the Gironde north of Bordeaux in 1614. An account of the events was related by Pierre de l'Ancre in 1622, in his book "L'incredulite et mescréance du sortilège, plainement convaincue" (The disbelief and misbelief in witchcraft, plainly convinced).

Pierre de l'Ancre was born in Bordeaux in 1553. He studied law and philosophy in France, Bohemia and Turin. He became councilor to the Bordeaux parliment at the age of 29 in 1582, and in 1588 he married Michel de Montaigne's grand-niece. He was well acquainted with the leading intellectuals and political figures of his day. Because of his familiarity with the region, in 1609 Henri IV sent him to find and prosecute witches in the district of Labourd, in the extreme south-west of France. Travelling with another judge, de l'Ancre found the region completely infected with witches, and by the end of their inquisition, about 500 people had been burned at the stake for it.

The context of the period is described by Joseph McCabe, in his 1948 book "A History of Satanism". It should be remembered that at this time witchcraft was seen as a vast and unified movement of Devil-worship, an anti-religion.

"[The prominent jurist] Boguet condemned the use of torture, and L'Ancre and his colleague, another eminent judge and royal counsellor, used it only in two or three out of many hundreds of cases. At first they encountered a baffling silence. The priests, who wore swords and picturesque costumes and drank and danced with the villagers and townsfolk, were—it transpired—in the movement and instructed folk to say nothing. Large numbers of the women took to the sea in their husbands' boats or went on pilgrimage to Spain; where the cult was even stronger. At last, by torture or more amiable means, the judges won the confidence of a 17-year-old and fiery beggar girl—she danced the witch-dances for them—and they broke the conspiracy of silence. Here we have a competent lay judge reporting, without using torture, just the same chief phenomena as the Inquisitors. Some of the highest nobles and most of the priests attended the Sabbaths, and the priests said Black Masses. At one place there was a gathering of 12,000 witches. Educated women in their later 20's told how Satanism was the best religion, and they would rather go to the Sabbath, the "real Paradise," than to the Mass. It was a foretaste of their joy in the next life. This referred to the usual orgy of promiscuity. The Sabbaths, to which they took about 2,000 children to be initiated, were held nearly every night and sometimes during the day. As the trials proceeded the large fleets of fishing boats came in from the Atlantic, and the anger of the men at the prosecution seems to have forced the judges to close it prematurely. But, says L'Ancre, "an infinite number (really about 500, including several priests) were burned at Bordeaux and in Brittany"—which suggests that the cult spread along the coast. In fact, there were almost simultaneous persecutions on a large scale all over France. At Macon the jails were full, and there were trials at Orleans and other places."


"Whole communities of nuns were said to have been surrendered to the Devil. From Marseilles in 1611, the year after L'Ancre's inquiry, it was announced that the Ursuline nuns in one of the most respectable convents were dealing with the devil, and a number of them were "possessed.""[End]

Religious hatred was also in the air. By this time, the Edict of Nantes in 1598 had only recently stopped the bloodshed and destruction of the Hugenot wars, which had ravaged relations between Protestants and Catholics since 1562. Tensions were still rife, and both sides considered the other in league with the Devil.

It is this paranoid context that the trial of Jean Jordain took place. (the italicized text was summarized)

Pierre de l'Ancre devotes 20 pages to the story in his book - here are the essential details.

Jordain was born around 1589 in the small village of Moras near Agen. In March of 1614, at the age of 25, he was working as chamberlain to the lord of Castanet, Monsieur de Barastre. Jordain fell in love with the children's nanny, and proposed marriage to her, swearing, according to de l'Ancre, that the "Devil could take him if he didn't fulfill his promise to marry her". De l'Ancre takes this a darkly prophetic. The girl accepted and they consummated their love. But Jordain's affections seem to have changed, when the girl believed she had become pregnant. She entreated him to marry her immediately, but he continually urged her to have patience.

She soon realize that Jordain had no intention of marrying her, and in tears and rage appealed to Monsieur de Barastre to intervene. Sensing that he would be severly punished, Jordain fled to his family, and then, still feeling in danger, he went to Blaye, where he had earlier served the prior of the Church of the Holy Saviour, a Pierre de l'Espine.

His conscience continued to torment him, however, and he took long walks alone to clear his mind. About three weeks after his arrival in Blaye, during one of his pensive walks, he was suddenly afflicted with a massive head-ache, and saw a thick black fog in front of him.

Out of this fog walked "a man who appeared all hunched over, dressed in a robe of black silk, of medium height and sturdy, having a long beard and black hair, which like straps, blowing across his shoulders and face. He seemed blind in the right eye, without a cloak, a sword at his side, with bare feet." It was the Devil, Satan himself.

On this first meeting, which lasted about an hour, the Devil cajoled Jean with promises and finally presented a pact for him to sign, which Jean, being illiterate, could not read. The Devil said he could help him learn to read and write, but it would be enough for him to copy the pact letter by letter. Jean wouldn't do it, and finally, he began to go away, and finally, with a terrible smell - Jean said "Jesus Maria, you stink something awful!" - the Devil departed, promising to come back next Saturday at the same time.

He had several more meetings with the Devil, and it is interesting to see the rewards Jordain was supposed to obtain from his relationship with the Devil, as well as what he was expected to do for him. According to Jean's testimony, at least three times the Devil promised him money, and success in games. This gives a context for the later pact itself, written on playing cards.

For his part, Jordain agreed to steal some consecrated host from the Ciborium, which he was to break in pieces, wrap in a white napkin, and place in a pocket on his left side; he was then to take it to a place near Agen, where he would meet a man named Orpheure Huguenot, who would buy it from him; by doing this, the Devil promised, he would be fortunate in games and love. But he was caught on his way upriver to Agen, since one of the monks of the Church suspected him, and brought back to Blaye.

During questioning, not under torture, he gave a very long confession, and also told the judges where the pact that he had finally made was. Only the two of hearts was ever found, torn in two and buried in a field with sprouting grains.

On the card was written in blood, "I promise you to do everything I tell you, Jean Jordain, Jean Jordain, all for you." Despite the fact that the Four of Hearts was never found, both cards intrigued Pierre de l'Ancre enough for him to suggest that the Devil chose them for their symbolic value, and he speculated what that might be.

It is interesting that de l'Ancre interpreted the two of hearts in a way most of us would agree with. He suggests that the Devil "wanted the promise to be made on cards with two hearts shown, making a baneful alliance and joining together of his (heart) with that of the unfortunate (Jean Jordain)."

As for the Four of Hearts, de l'Ancre says that despite the fact that its contents are unknown, "it is well assured that it had these words, renouncing his Baptism, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Mary Magdalene, and his Godfather and Godmother." The four hearts thus symbolized, in de l'Ancre's interpretation, Jordain's Christian identity, and his pact on the card symbolized his renunciation of that identity.

But two hearts can suggest another interpretation, that of indecision. De l'Ancre himself offers this interpretation of the card in his general introduction to the book, when he alludes to the story and suggests that the card was chosen by the Devil to remind Jordain that he could not serve two masters.

The Two of Hearts was torn, shredded and burned, and the pact declared null and void. The gravity of Jean Jordain's crimes to the sensibilities of the era is shown by his sentence: Jordain was to renounce and abjure his pact publicly, in the presence of the Curé of the parish and his Vicar, and before the church of the Holy Savior, he was to make honorable amend by begging pardon of God, the King and Justice; he had his fist (poing) cut off, was hanged and strangled, then burned; additionally, he had to pay 120 pounds (livres) in fines, of which 30 went to the King, 30 to the church of the Holy Savior, 30 to the convent of the Minimes, and 30 to the Hospital.

Note that de l'Ancre does not consider playing cards an evil in themselves, which was the normal Catholic position, unlike their reputation among some Protestants, such as Calvinists or philosophers like Pierre de la Primaudaye, who thought that the devil had invented them.

A further interesting point for historians of magic is that, given the legendary desperation of gamblers, this is surely the only known pact with the Devil ever written on playing cards. Surviving pacts, such as Urbain Grandier's (1590-1634), and instructions for making them, as found in some 16th and 17th century grimoires or magical textbooks such as "The Red Dragon", are made on clean parchment or papyrus. I know of no pact or instruction for making it that allows for anything else - although the details of the blood for Jean's signature are in perfect accord with tradition.

II. Corona and Isabella Bellochio

In roughly the same period, from 1589, the city of Venice gives two instances in which playing cards, in particular tarot cards, were used in magical rituals.

They come from the investigations of Ruth Martin published in her 1989 book, "Witchcraft and the Inquisition in Venice, 1550-1650" (Oxford, Blackwell, 1989). Martin's discovery was brought to the notice of tarot enthusiasts in 2000 by prolific internet tarot enthusiast Jess Karlin.

Ruth Martin demonstrates that the Inquisition's interest was in heresy, not magic. The latter was mortally sinful and criminal, but not heretical. The heresy, when it is noted, consists in worshipping the Devil, or profaning the sacraments. Magical rituals are only incidentally described.

The first account in which tarot cards are mentioned in connection with a love magical ritual comes from January of 1589. Isabella Bellochio was found guilty of being "formally apostate from God, having with works shown herself to believe that it was permissible to offer reverence to the devil, burning him lamps for several months continuously, and praying to him that he should make (her) lover come, and having a pact, if not explicit, at least tacit with that same devil" (Martin, 163-164). What that worship consisted of was given in a deposition by Bellochio's housemaid Marina, who testified that Bellochio "had worshipped an image of the devil by kneeling before it, with her hair loose, while maintaining a lantern alight before it day and night. '(She had)... a light (cesendello) which burned continuously in the kitchen in front of a devil and the tarots...'" (Martin, 163).

It is startling and incongruous to see "the tarots" mentioned in this context, and we wonder what exactly it might mean. Did she worship the image of the Devil from a tarot pack (which might or might not have resembled this 16th century tarot card, the only surviving one of cardmaker Agnolo Hebreo),
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or was the image a homemade statue, and the tarot pack simply an accoutrement with an unstated purpose? We don't know, and I have been unsuccessful in finding Martin to ask her for more details.

In any case, whatever the purpose of the tarots in this instance, what interested the inquisitors was Bellochio's use of the cesendello lamp, which was the lamp normally kept burning in front of the reserved host, the very body of Christ. This worship, and the tacit pact it implied in the theology of the witch hunters, made her a heretic.

The second mention of tarot cards was recorded in a trial from the same year, in October 1589. In this case, a witch named Angela had apparently "told her client Corona that '... you need to adore the devil if you want to get help', and had suggested getting hold of a tarot card." (Martin, 162). In light of the greater detail preserved in the first case above, it is hard not to think that this card would have been the Devil.

Unless the Inquisition had recorded these incidental mentions of tarot cards, we would have no idea that such things were done with them in the context of folk magic rituals. Martin makes the point that for Christians of the time, the Devil was seen as a recourse for less-than-noble magical aims, while prayer to God was reserved for higher aims. Given the harsh penalties for being discovered invoking the Devil for magical purposes, it is not surprising we don't have more testimonies of it.

III. Leland

These Inquisition accounts from the 16th century have a curious echo in the only other folk magical use of tarot cards that I have found, that comes from much later, the nineteenth century, in a magical spell recorded by Charles Godfrey Leland in "Roman Etruscan Remains in Popular Tradition" (New York, Scribner, 1892
<>). He writes "Jano is a spirit with two heads, one of a Christian, and one of an animal, and yet he hath a good heart, especially that of the animal, and whoever desires a favour from them should invoke (deve pregarle) both, and to do this he must take two cards of a tarocco pack, generally the Wheel of Fortune and the 'diavolo indiavolato', and put them on the iron (frame) of the bed, and say - 'Thou Devil who art chief of all the fiends! I will crush thy head until the the spirit of Jano Thou callest for me!' (Leland, 130).

"Diavolo indiavolato" means "bedeviled devil"; I'm not sure what that indicates, but I imagine it could mean that the Devil card was covered by the Fortune card, or perhaps it was turned upsidedown. Or perhaps, Leland has garbled his informant's words, and the spell itself is the bedevilment of the Devil.

This practice illustrates the attitude of a witch to the Devil, and might reflect what was being done in secret three centuries earlier. Although Leland's account was written long after tarot cards had become the subject of esoteric speculation (Leland's work must be used with caution in any case, at least for Aradia), this magical use seems to me to represent genuine folk-magic untainted by occult doctrines invented in the 18th century or later. It has a folkloric ring of truth to it.


IV. Pierre Grégoire

Even if we did not have actual descriptions of the use of cards in folk magic in the 16th century, a juridicial text published in 1594 by Pierre Grégoire alludes to it.
You can see they are a four of Clubs, a Jack of Clubs and (in the middle) apparently a Jack of Diamonds. The cards were together, behind part of the fresco. Crippa speculates that a mason who didn't want to get caught playing cards quickly plastered them into his work. My hunch is that they had a "magical" function, to bring good luck or remembrance to the masons of the restoration.
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In a gloss on article XII of the first council of Rome in 722, which reads "If anyone has observed or consulted diviners, soothsayers, or enchanters, or used phylacteries, let him be anathema", Grégoire explains "by 'observing' they mean characters, cards, or carrying other things for amulets, whether for averting evil, or when used any other way superstitiously". Since characters were generally written on paper, Grégoire's use of the term "chartas" plausibly refers to playing cards here. This identification is more secure because such a use is demonstrated for the 16th century.

But besides these scattered remnants, preserved from the silence of history concerning folk magical practices, how can begin to build a coherent picture of why playing cards were sometimes used in such a way?

V. Woodcuts

Light can be cast on the use of images such as the Devil of the tarot in worship and magical rituals by recent studies on the use of early printed images, which show that sometimes they were regarded as what anthropologists generally call "fetishes" - charms, amulets, magical items of that sort, generally small items considered, by virtue of the innate or acquired power within them, or the figure depicted upon them, to possess magical power.

For instance, Bennett Gilbert, curator of the exhibition "The Art of the Woodcut in the Italian Renaissance Book"
in Los Angeles in 1995, wrote "A part of the belief [in the power of sacred images] was fetishism. Much of Italian popular devotion was derived from pagan customs. It transferred this folklore to monotheism. Church reforms, such as that under Pope Gregory, and urban Christian culture did not erase the older beliefs but made the interpenetration of doctrinal and popular religion more and more complex and difficult, a dialectic of unity and conflict. The tremblors of this faultline deeply affected imagery as popular devotion grew in force. A fetish in pagan belief is an object having a direct and decisive influence on life. It has power as an emanation of the supernatural, often transferred by impression upon or into it. Fetishes were made and employed throughout Italy in those days and indeed today. Thus a Christian benediction could be thought of as a fetish - i.e. as creating sacred presence in an ordinary object. In the case of a woodcut on paper fetish of St. Francis of Assisi giving a benediction, his thought is impressed in the picture of him blessing, by which the paper acquires a virtue from the image upon it."

Thinking this way, it is easy to see why the Devil card might be thought of as a fetish object, or one to be adored like a Saint's image, except for base purposes rather than holy ones.

Bennett continues: "When we ask why woodcuts were first printed in books, we can find one answer by asking why woodcuts were put into other objects. Why were single-leaf woodcuts 'pasted, tacked, and sewn to all sorts of objects and surfaces?' (quoting Richard Fields, "Fifteenth Century Woodcuts and Other Relief Prints" (NY, 1975)). After all, they were ultimately pasted into books, as in the books of the lawyer Jacopo Rubieri that yielded the largest trove (now in the Bibliotheca Classense of Ravenna). One group of fragments, now at the Museum Dahlem in Berlin, was found on the walls and doors of a house in Bassano as it was being demolished; others are found on the covers or sides of chests or even sewn into garments. Even the Paduan humanistic lawyer Marco Benavides tacked them onto the walls of his studietto in 1532. What were the uses of these woodcuts?

"There are two closely related uses. First, there are the uses suggested by the 'cult of images', with its strong spiritual and fetishistic features, that formed in this period: 'they were often viewed as quasi-magical objects with protective powers', and 'they added a note of divine presence to even the most humble dwelling.' Second, these images may be based on the cycles of frescoes that taught the unlettered the truths of religion and stimulated their devotional sentiment. Since the woodcuts were more widely distributed than paintings, they developed a new didactic or 'speaking' function in the changing devotional environment. Thus, these woodcuts were not fine but applied art. They taught, reminded, inspired, and protected."

VI. Sistine Chapel, Castello Sforzesco and Kunsthistorisches Museum card

One of the most interesting things Gilbert and his quoted sources relate is the variety of places that these "fetish" prints were found.

Reading this immediately brought to mind for me Giuliano Crippa's 2005 article in The Playing Card (_Carte da giuoco del '700 nella Cappella Sistina_, "The Playing Card" vol. 34 no. 1 (Jul-Sept 2005) pp. 58-59), concerning the 1980s discovery of four playing cards in the Sistine Chapel in the Azor-Sadoch (Hazor-Zadok) lunette.

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You can see they are a four of Clubs, a Jack of Clubs and (in the middle) apparently a Jack of Diamonds. The cards were together, behind part of the fresco. Crippa speculates that a mason who didn't want to get caught playing cards quickly plastered them into his work. My hunch is that they had a "magical" function, to bring good luck or remembrance to the masons of the restoration.
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Along with this, I began to wonder if the cards found in the early part of this century, in a well in the Castello Sforzesco, might have also been put there deliberately. My hunch has been that it might have been like a wishing-well, and the cards perhaps symbolizing wishes of various kinds (statistical work on the remains).

If these suggestions seem far-fetched, there might be some support found in another, less publicized discovery that I only know second-hand. In February of this year, a correspondent in Germany (Catlin at
wrote to an email group that she had just seen a program on the 3sat channel, concerning the Kunsthistorisches museum in Vienna (she thought it was the Natural History Museum, but we clarified this afterwards). One part of that program talked about a bronze sculpture that had once been mistakenly thought to be from ancient Rome. But in the 1980s it was found to be a copy dating from the 16th century when during studies of the sculpture a playing card, which she quoted the commentator as calling a "Valet of Swords", was found inside the cast body of the figure.

On inquiring of her with this image, she said that was the sculpture.
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"Jüngling vom Magdalensberg" - "Young Man (or Youth) of Magdalensberg", 16th century.

There is nothing about this card at the Museum's website, however, and I learned the identity too late to get in touch with the museum.

My correspondent Caitlin said that the narrator of the television show had speculated that the card was meant to illustrate that the statue had been "born of fire". However, I think I have a better explanation.
In 1534, when Peter Apian published "Inscriptiones sacrosanctae vetustatis", he included a depiction of this sculpture (clearly identified by the inscription on its right thigh). This sculpture is the original, since the copy must have been made after 1551. It is clear that Apian's sculpture had an axe and a shield, which makes it highly probable that he was a depiction of the Gaulish god known in Roman sources as "Mars-Latrobius", worshipped in the area. Whether the local people could have known this or not, it seems to me probable that the artist who made the cast (Abguss) copy of the original sculpture inserted the Valet of Swords as an indication of the sculpture's identity. Perhaps it was because the Valet in this particular pack looked like the statue, or was holding an axe, or maybe it means that there was an artisanal tradition of signing one's work with a card.
[note - after the talk someone noted that an article had been written on the subject of the card found in the Jüngling]

While speculative, I think that the possibility that the Sistine Chapel cards, and the Sforza Well cards, had some deliberate significance cannot be simply dismissed. Especially as we know now much better, that printed images are known to have been used in such contexts.

VII. Chinese cross-cultural perspective

Playing cards have been used in religo-magical contexts by people of other cultures as well. According to Stuart Culin, writing in "The Game of Ma-Jong" in 1924, "the Chinese in America" regard the Red Flower, White Flower, and Old Thousand cards

[note - after the talk someone noted that an article had been written on the subject of the card found in the Jüngling]

While speculative, I think that the possibility that the Sistine Chapel cards, and the Sforza Well cards, had some deliberate significance cannot be simply dismissed. Especially as we know now much better, that printed images are known to have been used in such contexts.

VII. Chinese cross-cultural perspective

Playing cards have been used in religo-magical contexts by people of other cultures as well. According to Stuart Culin, writing in "The Game of Ma-Jong" in 1924, "the Chinese in America" regard the Red Flower, White Flower, and Old Thousand cards
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rom what we call the "money" pack as a "powerful charm and as such place them upon coffins when they transport the dead from place to place." (Culin, 158)
< ... index.html>

I am sure that with study, more such occasional examples of the talismanic use of playing cards can be found.

VIII. Divination

The second category of discoveries is documentary references to divination with cards.

The earliest text I have found alluding to divination with cards occurs in a text written by Francesco Pico della Mirandola, the nephew of the better known Giovanni. "De rerum praenotione" - On the Foreknowledge of Things - was first published in 1507, whereas the copy I have was printed in a collected works compendium of both authors in 1601.
The book supports the ability of divinely appointed prophets to know the future, while attacking all other forms of divination, including astrology, geomancy, palmistry and all kinds of sortilege. In the section on sorts or lots,
he explains: "There are many kinds of lots, as in casting bones, in throwing dice, in the figures depicted in a pack of cards; and in the expectation of whatever first should arrive, in picking the longer husk, or in casting the eyes on a page.

The methods Francesco Pico describes appear to be astragals, dice, playing cards, drawing lots, and bibliomancy. What strikes me about the phrase "figuris chartaceo ludo pictis" - in the figures depicted in 'chartaceo ludo' - is the emphasis on the figures. This suggests to me that Pico is not referring to Losbucher or Lot-book divination, in which the figures on the cards were irrelevant, but a more immediate kind of cartomancy dependent on interpreting the figures depicted on the cards.

I discovered a more explicit allusion to divination with cards in a Confessor's Manual written by the Spanish jurist and priest Martin de Azpilcueta (1493-1586), better known as Doctor Navarro, with the edition I consulted having been published in 1620 ("Enchiridion sive Manuale Confessariorum et Poenitentium", François Huby, Paris, 1620; chapter XI, note 30 (p. 191)).

The first edition was published in 1575, which I have not been able to check. A Confessor's Manual is a book that details sins and gives techniques, not only penances but methods for changing habits of life, for how to lead the sinner away from it. He writes: "He commits a mortal sin who asks, or even purposes to ask, charlatans or diviners about a stolen object or any other secret: or else tries to know the same thing by lots, rolling dice, cards, books, a sieve or an astrolabe...".

The Pierre Grégoire text noted beforehand, dating to at least 1612 (the copy available to me was a 1612 edition; the first edition was 1594), may also be taken as referring to divination.

Recently Thierry Depaulis has found references to 18th century cartomancy in a newly published book, previously unknown to playing card historians. He has given me the pleasure of sharing them with you.

Murielle Brulé published "Le jeu à Metz sous l'Ancien Régime" just last year, in 2005. She notes two instances of punishments for cartomancy, one undated, and one in 1772.

Brulé responded to Thierry's letter of enquiry with a detailed response to her allusive reference to the first account - she had not noted the date. She writes "A police record of March 17, 1759, condemns two women to eight days in prison because they had 'taken advantage of the simple-mindedness of several people and took money from them under the pretext of finding for them things stolen or lost, by the means of some packs of cards.'"

With this, 1759 becomes the earliest known account of cartomancy.

Thierry tracked down the source of Brulé's second reference, in 1772. In communicating this to me, he noted "... the facts took place in Marseille, and not in Metz! (I think Brulé was aware of that but she couldn't resist reporting the story!). The story is interesting though."

The story is interesting, not only for its reference to cartomancy but also for the editorial attitude it expresses, so I will simply quote the record from the "Précis des dernières nouvelles" (Synopsis of the latest news) from the Affiches des Trois-Evêchés for August 1st, 1772 (in translation of course): "Despite the progress of philosophy, its beams do not yet illuminate every class of citizen; there are still those who hold to the ancient errors, and who are the dupes of those who have the blameworthy skill of profiting from their simplicity, whom they abuse with their pretended secrets. Although for a long time sorcerers and diviners have lost all credibility in Europe, one still finds in our countryside and even in our towns these so-called diviners who play on the credulity of the people for profit.

The town of Marseille gives and example of it; a dressmaker of this town had long preferred the profession of so-called witchcraft to that of sewing; but unfortunately for her, one of her dupes, having been undeceived, went to denounce her to the tribunal, and the diviner, not having divined the fate that awaited her, was led to prison without having time to even recognize herself; she was judged on the 4th of last month (July 4, 1772), by the Parlement de Provence, and her arrest was entered into the Affiche of Aix on the 19th of the same month; we believe we are obliged to recount it to serve as an example to others like her, and as a lesson to their dupes.

"'Arrest of the 4th of last month, which condemns her named Anne Cauvin, widow of Joseph Magalon, manager of fishermen, native of Roumoule, to be exposed in shackles during three consecutive market days, having her head covered with a bonnet surrounded by tarots, and a sieve around her neck, and to stay in this condition for one hour each time, after which the tarots will be torn up and the sieve broken by the executioner of the sentence; accused, at the request of the Substitute in the seat of Marseille, of having put into use practices superstitious in both deed and word, in order to procure for herself illegitimate profits abusing the false confidence of the people.'"

These additional references to card divination throughout the centuries do not directly challenge the consensus on the development of cartomancy expressed by Michael Dummet in 1980 (Chapter 5 of Game of Tarot) or in "A Wicked Pack of Cards", but they do add nuance and detail to the overall picture.

When a man has a theory // Can’t keep his mind on nothing else (By Ross)

Re: The Devil


Ok. To start with a small question:
....Did she worship the image of the Devil from a tarot pack (which might or might not have resembled this 16th century tarot card, the only surviving one of cardmaker Agnolo Hebreo)...
do you find any particular significance in using as an illustration a card by what I assume is a Jewish manufacturer?

Re: The Devil

That was a very intereting report, Ross.

I am back on the "bound captives' theme. I happened to notice something on the "Fama" engraving by the "Master of 1466," as Lambert calls him.


Hercules is at the lower left, with his club. I had thought at first that what was behind him was his lion skin. But on closer inspection it appears to be a devil of some sort, standing behind Hercules. If so, that is another connection between "Fame" and the Devil card. What I see is furry arms and legs.

I still haven't found out how the two captives, named Spendio" and "Machio" on the engraving, might connect to Hercules. The twins that challenged Hercules, and were killed by him, were Polygonus and Telegonus, twin sons of Circe and Odysseus ( [Smith, Dictionary of Ancient Roman Biography and Mythology vol. 3 p. 466]. Smith's reference is Apollodorus II.5.9.) They challenged him to a wrestling match. Both sets of twins sought glory and died for their arrogance.