Gerbert, Otto, and Tarot, circa 1000 Anno Domino


First, from 'What is Tarot?' in Newspaper
jmd said:
I do not think any historian would assume that what is currently public is all there is - quite the contrary, and part of their work, I would suggest, is similar to the archaeologist's: uncovering materials that remain to be uncovered, and presenting them contextually.

It is this contextuality that new finds also, with time, transforms. Not that long ago, it was indeed even believed by some historians that playing cards arose from tarot, or that perhaps 'gypsies' (or other migrating group) brought tarot to Europe from easternly sources.

Due to the uncovering of various texts, documents, and cards, those who have delved in history have clarified some points. This does not mean that all that is to be known about early tarot is complete - far from it, as both you and I realise.

Historians, however, bring to our attention important relevant materials that continue to form the basis of our historical understanding. This does not negate any spiritual undertones, nor the manner in which the spiritual may be reflected in tarot's rich imagery, containing echoes of still former times.
Now, let us begin with a quote from this website:
Silvester II (c. 950 – May 12, 1003), born Gerbert d'Aurillac, was a prolific scholar of the 10th century. He introduced Arab knowledge of arithmetic and astronomy/astrology to Europe. He was the first French Pope, reigning from 999 until his death.
And include the reference of Gerbert's relationship with Otto III
continued from elsewhere in Wikipedia:
Here his main advisors were two of the main characters of this age, his tutor Gerbert of Aurillac and the bishop Adalbert of Prague. Together with these two visionary men, influenced by the Roman ruins and perhaps by his Byzantine mother, Otto devised a dream of restoration of a universal Empire formed by the union of the Papacy, Byzantium and Rome. He also introduced some court customs in Greek.
And with now a passage from the works of the famous
Madame Blavatsky: ( )
Pope Sylvester II was publicly accused by Cardinal Benno of sorcery, on account of his "Brazen Oracular Head." These heads and other talking statues, trophies of the magical skill of monks and bishops, were facsimiles of the animated gods of the ancient temples. Benedict IX, John XX, and the Sixth and Seventh, Popes Gregory are all known in history as sorcerers and magicians.
May I ask, were the animated statues actually Tarot cards,
brought from Macedonia by the Rom peoples (aka Gypsies),
indicated by the unique relationship of Gerbert and Otto III,
viz Tarot's design and features clearly pointing to Germany,
and to the point... have any historians looked for evidence?


Why does the title read "Gebrert" when I typed Gerbert?
I did ;) How on earth could anyone get Gerbert wrong...
[Note: Kindly updated spelling courtesy our fine friends!]


Anyway, half or more of Western Civilsation
thought the world was coming to an end~
the approach of the year 1000 saw people
giving up on life... fatalistic and uninspired.

Gerbert and Otto III were intellectual Giants
and strove to forge a better life and future.

Something to think about... the future... ;)
could it be they saw it in their Tarot cards?


The animated statues, in their description at least, were relatively well known through the Hermetic text Asclepius, at times included or appended to the Greek Corpus Hermeticum.

Not only that, but the important (though later than mentioned above, but probably very relevant to the times tarot appears to arise) text was translated and made use of by people like Pico, Camillo and Ficino.

The talking statues were Egyptian in reference, and deemed infused with pneuma of breath, and make to 'talk' or reveal.


animated "statues" on the road

Tarot Passages said:
"Our walk down the history road takes us to Egypt,
Fez Morocco and Atlantis before we get to Europe
and the earliest cards."
Gerbert & Otto travelled widely, and studied
with many scholars, artists, and...magicians.

John Meador

Mirrorsmoke & Zardoz

Well, I haven't had this much fun exploring a subject in quite some time!

"Towards the close of the 10th century Gerbert (Pope Silvester II.) constructed (says William of Malmesbury) a brazen head which answered questions..."

"The magical and Egyptian elements from the Asclepius, to which Augustine objected in De civitate Dei VIII, exerted a great appeal on thinkers like Ficino and Giordano Bruno. It is this very passage and the following apocalyptic complaint that have survived in the gnostic library of Nag Hammadi. (VI, 8; see illus. 1a). In the crucial passage Hermes says that although God is the creator of the inferior gods, including the planets, man is the maker of the gods in the temples, animated statues (statuas animatas), which are inspired with the breath of life (spiritus, pneuma): statues possessing knowledge, which may heal and can predict the future.

Philosophers who adopted a moderate view concerning magic considered this passage to be a fabrication of Apuleius.

...Cusa alludes to the Asclepius amongst others in De berillo VI, when he says that according to Hermes Trismegistus, man is the second God. "

" Lazarelli explains the animation of statues as an act of creation through the Word - with reference to the Kabbala - and he compares the animation of statues by demons with Christ's inspiration of the apostles: a rebirth which the master brings about in the disciple, who as a result comes to self-knowledge and the knowledge of God."

re: "telestics"

A Brief History of Automata:
also: page.htm<511:HAICTA>2.0.CO;2-5&size=LARGE

Philon (or Philo third century BCE) of Byzantium a lost volume of his nine volume treatise Mechanica was entitled On Automatic Theatres.
"These devices were miniature theaters in which stories were told through the actions of automated figures and settings."

re: "neurospasta"

An Unhurried View of Automata

re: fourteenth century figures of men called "Jacquemarts" -

“Heine elaborated an idea . . . that after the trumph of Christianity the deities did not simply vanish; instead, they went into exile (an idea that appealed to Heine, the political exile), assuming the shape of animals (e.g., in Egypt) or retresting in the statues that represent them. The statues therefor represent a state of sleep, not a stony death”

re: "mahakumpabhiseka"
"The Divine Image in Contemporary South India: The Renaissance of a Once Maligned Tradition" in Made on Earth, Born in Heaven: Making the Cult Image in the Ancient Mediterranean and Contemporary India, ed. Michael B. Dick. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1998.
"which documents the Hindu ritual mahakumpabhiseka, by which a statue is animated.

"In this tale I am a fake god by occupation, and a magician by inclination. Merlin is my hero! I am the puppet master. I manipulate many of the characters and events you will see. But I am invented too for your entertainment and amusement. And you, poor creatures, who conjured you out of the clay? Is God in showbusiness too? "