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Christine  Christine is offline
Join Date: 30 Aug 2003
Location: Oregon USA
Posts: 80
Gnostic/MM Tarot

Hello and thank you for the welcomes!

Taking a fly-on-the-wall point of view of all the _Holy Blood, Holy Grail_ inspired doucmentaries, books, arguments and counterarguments, it seems like the spirit of the Feminine Deity is rising in our times! This matches with the times wherein Tarot first appeared, though the movers and shakers would never have found themselves talking about "the Goddess" per se...

Clues to a Gnostic spiritual alignment in the era of Tarot would point towards the adoration of the Soul of the World, a vision of Nature as divine and feminine, much like the image of The World in the Marseilles-style cards. Increased contact with the Moslem and Eastern Orthodox world from the 1100's onwards brought the writings of the Alexandrian Philosophers and Hermetists back to the West where they could provide an alternative to the Genesis narrative given in the Bible. That's where the concept of Nature as Feminine Divine, the Soul of the World, (Gnostic) Sophia and the (Jewish) Shekhina began to seed western thinking. "She" began to take on some qualities of a "fourth term" for the Trinity, grounding some of the energy that the Church refused to embrace. Naturally, officialdom became hostile to this stream of mysticism and considered it heretical, which then sent these movements "underground". The Church rightly recognized that devotion to the Divine Feminine easily steps-down into adoration to some *particular* Feminine incarnation (Mother Mary, MM), and this was, for Catholicism, an apostasy.

The book has not yet been written that would summarize the magical, religious, literary, cultural, and esoteric themes centering on the Soul of the World in Europe, but we find the idea strongly expressed in works of Alchemy, theurgy and visionary theology. Astrologers, magicians, and other esoterists found uses for the World Soul in their explanations of how Macrocosmic forces carried their power into the Microcosm. Raphael Patai gives MM a chapter in his excellent _The Jewish Alchemists_, demonstrating that "Maria the Jewess" was thought to have brought Alchemy to Europe and invented many of the tools and vessels now used in the distillation arts. The Eastern Orthodox churches and Moslems never ceased venerating a Divine Feminine figure under the name of St. Sophia. She is truly everywhere, but Tarot researchers are just beginning to identify which veil to lift.

One thing that is true and cannot be denied: the people present for the first few centuries of Tarot *did* believe that MM had come to Marseilles, did celebrate her festival of arrival in Europe, and did have a special feeling for the Black Madonnas connected with the MM Cult. For those people, there was some ~content~ there. Moderns can quibble over the factuality of that myth, but for those contemporary with the first Tarots, it was not controversial to have that belief, though the Church might express disapproval. It is for this reason that I presently see MM as another Sophia figure for the people of the Middle Ages, a viewpoint that is misunderstood by factual historians as being a *false historical belief* rather than what it was -- a great longing to have a Feminine reference for the Unmanifest Divine.

Ultimately, I would say the state of the research is "preliminary". We need to fill in the backstory on the Eastern influences upon the place/time of Tarot's appearance before we can do justice to this topic. I have opinions, and have collected a bunch of references, but it is my style to wish I had a "team" to work in, so I dogpaddle around in it, along with all the other stuff that makes the earliest Tarot so interesting.... Meanwhile we can still be asking questions like these -- who is the Priestess? and who Prudence? Why are the Emperor and the Hierophant so low on the totem pole? Who made the four suits into "elements"? Who assembled these disparate elements into the pack of Trumps? Why did the Trumps finally fall into Marseilles order? I think all of these questions could lead to clues to the Gnostic subtext of the Tarot.

blessings, Christine
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