My Ur -Tarot


In another forum this comment was made by Ross Caldwell
In other words, come up with an invention scenario, why the designer chose those cards, when, and what it means. An Ur-Tarot theory. Is it too boring?

So with a brief view of the Everyman in Italy I present my Ur-Tarot theory; with modern additions like Bob Dylan. It is not scholarly, I do not present screeds of quotes, book references or bow to gurus.

East meets West in cards at the Council of Florence 1437/1438

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

It would be over a hundred and fifty years before the Church would try again to resolve differences between Eastern and Western Catholicism at the Seventeenth Ecumenical Council (1438-1449). Although it is known as the Council of Florence, it was convened at Basel. It was moved to Ferrara, due to the Bubonic plague, and then to coastal Florence, for the sake of the Eastern emissaries, who arrived by ship. Meanwhile, to make matters more confusing, a rival Council persisted in Basel, claiming to be the true Ecumenical Council, against the pope's explicit wishes.

Oh Fool you are the Arabic Zero and the Italian Nothing.

The Pope by Bull demanded that all Merchants leave Basel and go to Ferrara/Florence or be excommunicated.
Merchants of all kinds, who have gone to Basel on account of the former council, shall depart under the same pain of excommunication. If there are some who ignore these orders of ours, daring perhaps to convey goods after the time-limit to those at Basel persisting in contumacy, since it is written that the righteous plundered the ungodly, such persons may be despoiled without penalty by any of the faithful and their goods shall be ceded to the first takers.
=The Bateleur Card 1
Mother Church was going to unite! = Papesse Card 2

Here is what we are going to discuss- our differences and Mother Church is going to win!
The Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Mass/Eucharist, Penance, Last Rites/Extreme Unction, Ordination and Marriage
The first 5 Sacraments are to secure the perfection of everyman individually, the last 2 are for the Governance and increase of the Church= Marriage is material increase, Ordination is spiritual increase.
So they get talked about first, along with another 'increase' issue =Annates(also 1)
The Pope, Ordination Card 5, Lovers, Marriage Card 6
Annates (Annates (Latin annatae) were the whole of the first year's profits of a benefice which were generally given to the papal treasury. They were also known as the "First Fruits"' (Latin primitiae), a concept which dates back to earlier Greek, Roman, and Hebrew religions.
Next who drives the Chariot Card 7 The Pope or the Council? Primacy was a huge question of the Council and was called The Roman question. Finally it was decided the Pope was the Head or Vicar of the Church.

Because of annates been abolished, now Eugenius The Pope has no money! So Cosimo Medici promises to pay the costs of the Council and John Paleologus and his huge entourage, and Joseph The Patriarch of Constantinople.

Justice Card 8: The sign of Florence Gonfaloniere of Justice (Gonfaloniere di Giustizia) was a post in the government of medieval and early Renaissance Florence One of the nine citizens selected by drawing lots every two months, who formed the government, or Signoria. The Gonfaloniere di Giustizia was the temporary standard-bearer of the Republic of Florence and custodian of the city's banner.
Hermit Card 9 who is old dies (Joseph Patriarch of Constantinople) but he leaves a document (now known as fraudulent) about acceptance of the all the discussed issues...
but who will reign now?
WOF Card 10
but it has been agreed, the Roman rite of Confirmation- Strength card card 11, Latins are able to confirm their Baptism when of age.
Penance=The Hanged Man card 12 (Penance x3 Resolution, orally, and restitution)
Last rites is the Death card card 13. Temperance card 14 is Baptism, which does not save you from the Devil -card 15
but you have a holding station called Purgatory = The Tower card 16. This Purgatory issue was the last issue before the Patriarch died- then the Filioque of Procession......
17, 18, 19, 20, World.(spoken about in Astrological considerations.
The cards appear to mimic with a sardonic eye the Council of Florence and healing of the split between East and West.
Needless to say it did not work. Wonderfully enough the co-joining of Eastern Suits and 22 images has, and for 600 years. Really quite remarkable.


Hullo Rosanne.

As a maker of wooden barrels, I make a trip to the port once each week to deliver my wares and collect my pay. Before purchasing wood for my next lot, I always stop at the tavern for a meal and some small conversation and some games of chance. Cards are my favorite, as I always gain a few extra sous. I stay away from the dice, as I think the innkeeper cheats.

I'm proud of my recently acquired ability to write my name, and I can read numbers and several words pertaining to barrel making.

I'm afraid none of my gaming friends know what you're talking about, and few of us are concerned with such things. We do our work. We go to church. They tell us what we need to know.

May the Lord bless you, and keep you safe from the sickness.


Hullo Onepotato.
Ahh the simple but hardworking life!
I wonder where those games of chance came from?
The Port, the Tavern, some traveling man?

Someone else has always made the decision about what images you look at, and what you needed to know. They sure made them interesting tho! That Queen looks like she is important, I heard that her name was Esther. Strange name but I saw someone like her at the parade we had to go and down tools for when those coal skinned men rode into town.
It sure ticked me off I had to stop work. They were pretty amazing those devil men.
Never seen the likes of them before. I heard tell there is this new game with those men. I heard tell also they played games just like I do. I wonder what pictures were on their games?

I thank you for your Hortative (new word for me) post.( Edited for appalling spelling)
with Love, my mark, I here put


Well I think, on reflection I made a @$*%!- $# of this thread.

What I mean to say is this.
No matter what the populace made of these pictures and newish game is beside the point.
The biggest event in the area, at the time of Tarot's beginning was the arrival of Council to Ferrara and Florence from Basel.
There were obviously card games around, but the biggest talking points were these Eastern Gentlemen and the Church, the ongoing plague outbreaks, and the political machinations, and doctrinal differences. It was an exciting time. Everybody was fighting for position, everybody was taking different sides. The event left a lasting impression on Florence at least.

One of the most enigmatic images is, as has been discussed many times, is The Hanged Man.
It is a most appropriate image for the Sacrament of Penance.(Confession and forgiveness) So is its position at 12. Before Death and the Devil. It is also the Age of Knowledge at 12 years old.
It was not private, it was conducted in the pews of the Church with all around privy to the spoken confession, and the forgiveness, and the price or Penance you would have to do.
For they who inhabit the earth and make their abode there are entrusted with the administration of things which are in Heaven, and have received an authority which God has not given to angels or archangels. For it has not been said to them, 'Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.' They who rule on earth have indeed authority to bind, but only the body: whereas this binding lays hold of the soul and penetrates the heavens; and what priests do here below God ratifies above, and the Master confirms the sentence of his servants. For indeed what is it but all manner of heavenly authority which He has given them when He says, 'Whose sins ye remit they are remitted, and whose sins ye retain they are retained?' What authority could be greater than this? 'The Father hath committed all judgment to the Son?' But I see it all put into the hands of these men by the Son."
Chrysostom: The Priesthood
In Eastern Catholics not every priest was a confessor, Latin Catholics every priest had the authority.
So it was a legalistic dialogue.
I am not saying that Tarot is some sort of Salvation sequence, but a description of the points discussed at the Council of Basel/Ferrera/Florence to bring Eastern and Western Catholics together.
It is like to me, a pictorial program, a parade of the issues, in image form.
How it was received as a sequence, for a game, was more about the shape and easy recognition of the cards
I have no doubt that the Hanged Man, would have been seen not as a shame painting but Confession/Penance/Forgiveness.



Not every priest in the Latin rite has faculties to hear confessions or to pronounce the sacramental formula for absolution. Until some time after 1960 a strange beast called a "Mass Priest" of a "Priest in Simple Orders" existed widely in the west. These boys were allowed, nay encouraged, to celebrate the Mass but they were most definitely not allowed to preach or to hear confessions.

Rosanne, thanks for your enthusiasm for this!!! Where did that quote come from?

Happy Feast!



Hi Conversus!
Not warbling in a vaccum-I am pleased to note.
The Quote is from
St. John Chrysostom: Six Books on the Priesthood- Archbishop of Constantinople (I think book one???) Early Church Father as you will know.
Happy Feast! right back at you.


An interesting question is was the Hermit Card first created to represent the fallen Patriarch of Constantinople, or was a particular Hermit Card designed to represent His Holiness and the collapse of the great project?

In your theory these cards are made by Florentines to underscore the role of Florence in the great Council. I get that, i resonate with that.

My question is, given the perceived victory of the Latin Patriarchate and the representation of the Pope in his own card and his victory over the conciliar movement in the Chariot, why does the Ecumenical Patriarch (The Hermit)--who lost-- trump the boy who won?

Roseanne, I wish i knew what you know about all of this!!!



My question is, given the perceived victory of the Latin Patriarchate and the representation of the Pope in his own card and his victory over the conciliar movement in the Chariot, why does the Ecumenical Patriarch (The Hermit)--who lost-- trump the boy who won?

Well, I guess I was thinking that the order of trumping merit came from the order the topics were covered by the Council. So, some sacraments were covered before Florence, Ordination= The Pope, Marriage= Lovers, next came Primacy= The Chariot etc.Thence to Florence= Justice Baptism=Temperance Purgatory= The Tower was before the Filioque= 3 Celestials. If, as some think, the cards were 16 and ended at Temperance- that also makes sense as further cards were added at Florence as the Council progressed. Maybe. You have the players...The emperor (have no idea about the Empress, unless it was the archetype Jezabel) The Patriarch- whom all seem to be seated on thrones- The Hermit Eastern in the PMB- I cannot see him pictured in art at time at the Council. I do not think the cards show winning over Eastern and Western- so I do not think The boy lol won or the Hermit lost.


If anyone is wondering why the Visconti Tarots did not have the Devil or Tower here is part of Eugenius's diatribe in Bull form: from session 9 23 March 1440. Council against Felix V The Savoy.

The leader and prince of these men and the architect of the whole nefarious deed was that first-born son of Satan, the most unfortunate Amadeus, once duke and prince of Savoy. He meditated this scheme for long. Several years ago, as is widely said, he was seduced by the trickery, soothsayings and phantoms of certain unfortunate men and women of low reputation (commonly called wizards or witches or Waldensians and said to be very numerous in his country), who had forsaken their Saviour to turn backwards to Satan and be deceived by demonic illusions, to have himself raised up to be a monstrous head in God's church. He adopted the cloak of a hermit, or rather of a most false hypocrite, so that in sheep's clothing, like a lamb he might assume the ferocity of a wolf. Eventually he joined the people at Basel. By force, fraud, bribery, promises and threats he prevailed on the majority of those at Basel, who were subject to his sway and tyranny, to proclaim him as an idol and Beelzebub, the prince of these new demons, in opposition to your holiness, the true vicar of Christ and the undoubted successor of Peter in God's church.

Thus that most ill-starred Amadeus, a man of insatiable and unheard of greed, whom avarice (which, according to the Apostle, is the service of idols) has always blinded, was set up as an idol and like a statue of Nebuchadnezzar in God's church by that most wicked synagogue, those offscourings of forsaken men, that shameful cesspool of all Christianity, from among whom certain heinous men, or rather demons hiding under the form of men, had been deputed as electors or rather as profaners. He himself, agitated by the furies of his own crimes and sinking into the depth of all evils, said after the manner of Lucifer: I will set my throne in the north and I shall be like the most High. He grasped with avid and detestable greed at the above-mentioned election, or rather profanation made of him, which he had earlier sought with intense fever of mind and anguish of heart. He did not shrink from adopting and wearing papal robes, ornaments and insignia, from behaving, holding himself and acting as Roman and supreme pontiff, and from having himself venerated as such by the people. Further, he was not afraid to write and despatch to many parts of the world letters which were sealed with a leaden seal after the manner of the Roman pontiffs. By these letters, in which he calls himself Felix even though he is the most unhappy of mortals, he tries to spread the poisons of his faction among the people of Christ.
Why would a Visconti put an image of a Savoy as Satan in the Tarot pack?



IF... The Visconti card designers were loathe to to include Felix V's image as Satan, might they also be loathe to include Felix' image as card 2, like this
and therefore change it to suit their sensibilities for a card game?
I have asked why what we accept today the Papesse/Popess is card 2? when it appears low scoring.
Well Felix V or Armadeus of Savoy was considered by Eugenius as a low life (made anti- pope in 1439)
So, it seems quite possible to me that Felix V became an untarnished triple crowned female in the Visconti Tarots.