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Hebrew Alphabet & Tarot

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View Poll Results: Do you believe Tarot was originally based on the Hebrew alphabet?
Yes 5 5.68%
No 68 77.27%
It seems likely, even if unproven 4 4.55%
I don't know 11 12.50%
Voters: 88. You may not vote on this poll

 
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Hebrew Alphabet & Tarot


This question is about whether you believe the tarot and Hebrew alphabet were linked from the beginning of tarot. It doesn't matter whether you think the Fool or Magician (or whatever) equals Aleph, nor is it important where the cards originated.
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I voted no. I believe Tarot and the Hebrew Alphabet were two totally independent systems- linked only by the fact they were communication symbols and both groups coincidentally were 22 in number. The Hebrew Alphabet is far older than Tarot and was about sound and the recording of it for language, especially when the speakers were not present.Tarot was about communicating ideas. When I first joined AT I believed that maybe the Phoenicians had a Tarot almanac - but they actually had the Alphabet to use for directions, counting etc for trade- to pass messages on.
~Rosanne
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I voted "I don't Know" because I don't ; and it seemed rude to just vote no!

As an armchair enthusiast, I'm very excited by the possibility of such a connection. But, you have pointed out that just because one can walk among 21 pylons out in Egypt-land, it doesn't automatically follow that there is a connection with 21 tarot-type trumps [plus the Fool, of course!].

I am quite fascinated by the work and brute labor of Mark Fillipas in this regard. I am neither a linguist nor a student of the Hebrew Talmud or Torah so I cannot speak to the accuracy of his findings but they seem really compelling to me, not to mention rather elegant!

On the other hand, just because one can find words beginning with alef for every item appearing on a particular card, it doesn't mean that one could not also find words beginning with gimel to describe the same objects on the same card.

I imagine that scores of tarot decks have been purpose built with a connection to the Hebrew Alef-bet, and hundreds of their clones too! But was the first deck, or first several decks? I just don't think so.

I do think that this is the perfect forum to ask and explore these questions. I also know that other theories are strongly held, and evidence often shared.

Thank you, Mary, for giving us this opportunity to share our opinions on this topic.

CED
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Quote:
Originally Posted by conversus
I am quite fascinated by the work and brute labor of Mark Fillipas in this regard.
I agree that Mark did a masterful study, which I don't believe is available on the net anymore (great loss).

However, I believe that even Mark found that the closest analogies were with a 19th century tarot deck of the Della Rocca/Gumppenberg type (in which the Bagatto is a cobbler) rather than with the 15th century decks.

His work on an alephbet-base for the tarot is intriguing, but I surmise someone could find an equal number of items starting with other letters of the alephbet for at least some of the cards.
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I don't see any connection between the Hebrew alphabet and tarot -- except in the 20th-century esoteric reinterpretations of tarot.

First of all, the Jewish culture around the time Tarot emerged in Europe did not have a tradition of visual art. Most Rabbinical authorities believed that the 2nd Commandment forbids visual art -- especially graven images. Jewish art is rare and only began to emerge in Europe in the 18th century when Jews began to be assimilated into the culture. An authentic Jewish tarot has yet to emerge.

Secondly, considering the rich history of Jewish religious and secular writing that has been handed down to us, you would think that if there was a connection it would have been documented. Alas, no such documents have been discovered.

I suppose one could theorize that early Christian Kabbalists created the tarot. The problem with this theory is we have never uncovered any evidence that the Kabbalah was an influence on European art or culture -- at least not until the late 18th century.

I should also point out that the trump imagery isn't Jewish, and most certainly does not reflect Jewish belief. The Pope, Judgement, etc, are all Christian images. The tarot really does seem to have sprung from Christian neo-Platonism. If you want to graft an alphabetical system onto the cards, try the Greek alphabet (wrong number of letters tho).
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Stanton
I

First of all, the Jewish culture around the time Tarot emerged in Europe did not have a tradition of visual art. Most Rabbinical authorities believed that the 2nd Commandment forbids visual art -- especially graven images. Jewish art is rare and only began to emerge in Europe in the 18th century when Jews began to be assimilated into the culture. An authentic Jewish tarot has yet to emerge.
I used to think that also until I received a gift last year of Hebrew Manuscript painting Book. Here is a quote from the introduction.
Quote:
Ever since Muhammad spoke of the Jews as a 'People of the Book' the idea has persisted that these inheritors of a sensitive and intense literary tradition have a psychic blind spot where visual receptivity is concerned. it is asserted that to the Jews belonged the splendours and raptures of the word. They excelled in the realm of ethics, not aesthetics............Even today scholarly opinion holds that Judaism, constrained by an all embracing Biblical anti-iconism, has always denied image
Then the intro goes on to explain how this is blatantly not true, and gives many many examples to prove the point from 1200 onwards. The work is beautiful especially the illustrations along side texts. These did not relate to the texts though- the images were not about the text- so it was not a problem.

~Rosanne
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I am with the 7.14% of voters who choose 'yes'
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moderndayruth
I am with the 7.14% of voters who choose 'yes'
Would you like to say something about your reason? I know it's scary when you might get jumped all over, but I'd really like to hear your thinking on this.
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Rosanne, I didn't say that early Jewish visual art doesn't exist, just that it is very, very rare. I don't believe 15th century Jews would have, or even could have, produced a tarot. It simply wasn't in line with their culture at the time.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Stanton
Rosanne, I didn't say that early Jewish visual art doesn't exist, just that it is very, very rare. I don't believe 15th century Jews would have, or even could have, produced a tarot. It simply wasn't in line with their culture at the time.
There were Christians who had learned Hebrew and thought of it as a God-inspired language. The earliest mention I've found of Kabbalah in Italy was for the later 1400s. However, I did find one reference, in a footnote, of a Jewish astrologer at the Visconti court in the early 1400s (see below).

Here's from my notes:
1387 - Gian Galeazzo Visconti began granting Jews many privileges in the Duchy of Milan, where their conditions were good and resembled those of "Firenze, Ferrara, Mantova, Padova, etc." Filippo Maria Visconti's personal physician and astrologer was Elia di Sabato da Fermo, who seems to have been a famous and well-respected personage. He was also appointed "giudice generale" which I take to mean a high judge. from Laura Moneta at www.morasha.it/tesi/mnta/mnta01.html

1447, Aug 14: Filippo Maria Visconti (3rd and last Visconti Duke of Milan) dies (b. 1392). According to Burckhardt, Visconti never undertook anything without consulting his astrologers, and he employed a Jewish astrologer named Helias at his court.

All of this is not to say that I believe there were Hebrew letter correspondences to the Tarot - I don't. I agree with Greg that it doesn't make sense in terms of the culture. But, I still collect whatever evidence I can find.
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