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venicebard  venicebard is offline
Join Date: 31 Mar 2005
Location: California, USA
Posts: 935

Originally Posted by Ross G Caldwell
I tend to see the trumps as being a kind of moralization on the regular pack, added to it as even higher than Kings. This is why the series has Emperors and Popes, but no Kings.
Good point . . . the only ‘king’ being the crowned beasty in X LaRoue deFortune, the crown itself destabilized in XVI LaMaisonDieu.

Moralization of the regular pack had already been done, and the fourfoldness had already been understood as the "four kingdoms" of the world - from Brother John we know that the pack had been explained as an allegory of the European world, with four kingdoms. I see the trumps as following that tradition with an added layer of allegory, showing how everything - the four kingdoms, the Empire, the Papacy, human life, fate and chance, hell and the heavens are all under God's authority.
God, whose Armageddon victory laurels are portrayed in XXI LeMonde. Your view here is truly profound, a dimension I hadn’t really connected with, so busy was I with the individual trees. It does seem to explain how trumps came about, with the sequence gradually ‘trumping’ conventional reality, as you (I believe) said.

Wow, thanks. I tend to agree that the earliest surviving packs have Arthurian overtones, even in the court cards - this is because the Visconti and Este families, among others, considered themselves the heirs of those traditions of Lancelot, Galahad, Roland and Charlemagne; and for the Visconti, the Lombard kingdom. The city of Tortona, a little south of Pavia, has a strong tradition that the Holy Grail was kept there for nearly a thousand years, until (IIRC) the time of Frederick II.
Did they have it on loan from the Ethiopians all that time? (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.) While I am still skeptical of (though not closed to) an Italian origin, links to Arthur and the Grail would suggest why tarot might have spread first to their particular neck o’ the woods.

About your theory in general, yes, it is probably a fact that the pips came west. Perhaps Europeans added the courts, then bardic (essentially Gnostic) mages did them one better by adding trumps.

The Grail romances are courtly and chivalrous, and the Visconti and Este certainly attempted to live in the chivalrous spirit.

But I haven't been able to see the trump series in this light. The regular pack certainly, but the trumps appear to be something else, a moralization about Fortune, constrained by the number 21.
. . . ordinally, 22 cardinally.

I think it has a Goliard feeling, which is well expressed in the "O Fortuna" song of the "Carmina Burana".

Provencal poets don't need to actually be in Provence for their spirit to have affected the sensibilities of late 14th century Italians, and thence to the trumps. It is a medieval sensibility, through and through. I find the TdM to contain less of it than the Minchiate and Bolognese trumps. I think the TdM designs were in part "translations" of the original Italian designs, like replacing two astronomers in the Moon with two dogs.
While I would not ‘put it past them’ to have been able to adapt already existing trumps to a system as profound as that of TdM, it seems to me much more likely that TdM was the original. Having said that, I would not put it past them, either, to have instituted improvements in individual trumps’ designs, though most changes will have been degenerations, such as the very one you mention, since the original bardic meaning is refuge from the hounds (Diana’s, or hell’s, not that these are synonymous). True about ‘Provence poets’, whose spirit was largely broken by the destruction of the Languedoc, I gather, but whose influence on European literature was certainly strong. The question for me is where did the underlying bardic corpus concerning letters survive, for there will be where the trumps arose.

The spirit behind the trumps involves the details of the Grail. From outer rim, or horizon, to inner rim or horizon, they go: XII LePendu (inverted image on back of eye), XI LaForce (what approaches within earshot), VIIII L’Hermite (what is within reach that can be tasted), XV LeDiable (contact with earth through touch and smell), X LaRoue DeFortune (desire), VII LeChariot (mysteries, the ‘Work of the Chariot’ [Merkavah]), V LePape (blessing, being cleansed of outer, since this points straight in, towards self-responsibility). Trumps portray the symbolic structure of the alphabet, understood at the time only by insular Keltic minstrels with Irish learning, some in Wales, whence it evidently ‘emigrated’ to the Continent through Breton sponsorship or (more likely) that of Eleanor of Aquitaine, not being accepted at the courts of most Welsh princes at the time. The sponsorship of Arthurian romance by Eleanor’s daughters ended up in places other than the ‘Midi’, which suggests that the bardic corpus did as well.

Just thinking out loud there ;-)
Thank you for doing so.
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