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reconsidering a cathar connection

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foolish  foolish is offline
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reconsidering a cathar connection - copy


some tarot historians have alluded to the connection between the cathars and the origins of the tarot trumps. o'neill has published his arguments on the subject on tarot.com and seems to conclude that, although there appears to be a connection between the two, there is no definitive convincing evidence and that it will remain a mystery.
one of the major problems is the apparent time line involved. the cathars were attacked by the pope and the king of france during the albigensian crusade (1209-1229) and by the subsequent establishment of the inquisition. most people accept the fact that they were wiped out. however, we know that many survivors fled to northern italy and found shelter in more tollerant communities and may have been supported by powerful families such as the viscontis of milan and the d'estes of ferrara. this in and of itself should raise our attention. after all, this is where the tarot trumps were initially created in the early 1400's.
we know that the inquistion was actively pursuing fugitive cathars well into the 14th century, which puts the survivors only a few generations away from this development. in addition, we should consider the possibility that the tarot trumps were created not necessarily by the cathars themselves, but by other sympathizers who may have decided to preserve their story.
it is quite reasonalble that in the time between the final demise of the cathars and the early development of the tarot in italy, the stories of the tragedies that occured in languedoc during the cathar extermination and the spiritual messages of those people could have been handed down by word of mouth, as was the custom at the time.
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I agree it's probable that Cathars had some influence in the area of Milan, however all the images are common throughout Northern Italy during the early 15th century and they follow solid traditions including Dante, Petrarch, the triumphal marches, the Book of Revelations, etc. that don't require any additions from the Cathars. I'm curious what information you see in the cards that can't be more adequately accounted for and historically substantiated within the general themes of the time—without any Cathar additions?
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Elsewhere Foolish has suggested the reading of this book.
"THE SECRET OF THE TAROT: How The Story of The Cathars Was Concealed in The Tarot of Marseilles"
This book is about to be published.
Foolish is a new member.
In adding two and two- this sounds like a lead up to a promotion, not a discussion.

If I am right- it really hacks me off. I realise a Forum was a market place in ancient Rome-but it is meeting place for discussion as well- a public one to boot. If I am right, and Foolish is somehow connected to the Book-then discussion is moot and TeHeuti's enquiry is kind of pointless. The hypothesis is in print already.
Then it just comes down to advertising.
Tsk Tsk.

I like openness....
~Rosanne
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If an author hasn't "come out" - then he probably fears he'll be castigated for doing so. Plus, he'll be castigated for not doing so once the "truth" is out. So a person is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't - which doesn't seem very fair. And everyone looses out because we don't get to talk to an author about their new book.

People are always excited about projects they've been working on for a long time. If Foolish did write a book and this is a lead-in for its publication, then I say great. It belongs here more than in the advertisement section—in terms of discussion.

This could be a great opportunity to speak to an author who has put a lot of effort into the subject. As long as the promotion is on-topic, I say, go for it and congratulations.

Of course, I won't hesitate to say so if I disagree with an idea or don't feel it is sufficiently documented so as to make it history versus a nice idea.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teheuti
This could be a great opportunity to speak to an author who has put a lot of effort into the subject. As long as the promotion is on-topic, I say, go for it and congratulations.

Of course, I won't hesitate to say so if I disagree with an idea or don't feel it is sufficiently documented so as to make it history versus a nice idea.
Oh I could not agree more.
I would most likely buy the book anyway- as I do with anything with the word Tarot in it. Which part of the Bookcase it goes in would remain to be seen.
If you are comfortable and confident enough to have your work published- then explaining your ideas should not be a problem. I just do not like, what seems to be an agenda- creeping in under another hat.
If I am right- congratulations and it would be nice to have a discussion from you, the author's point of view.
If I am wrong I apologise.
Begin the Beguine!
~Rosanne
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foolish  foolish is offline
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thank you both for posting a reply to my thread. yes, i am the author of the book, the secret of the tarot. i am not trying to hide anything, otherwise i would not have mentioned the book iteself.
i must admit (and apologize) that i am new to this site. therefore, i am not familiar with your rules and traditions. however, i was lead to this discusion by someone who recommended that i open a discusion of the topic in this forum. i have spent the past few years researching this topic and would be glad to continue a discussion with you regarding the connection of the tarot to the cathars. however, please let me know if this is not appropriate, as i would of course respect your policies.
as far as your idea, teheuti, that the images in the cards were already in existence and do not necessarily reflect original cathars symbology, you are correct. in fact, most artists of the day relied on common themes and images to portray their works. this may be the very vehicle that was necessary to help disguise the cathar messages, which as we know were quite sensitive at the time, as the association to cathars or their ideas were still not tollerated by the church authorities. therefore, a system needed to be used which could on the one hand be somewhat neutral and on the other hand still contain the underlying messages which were known to those of an "inner circle".
obviously, i have written an entire book about this subject, so i could go on and on. however, i will leave it to you to send in your thoughts and questions, and i will hopefully be able to respond.
this is a very exciting process for me, as i have just now entered into these discussions with people like yourselves, who are knowledgable about the tarot and can offer me some very valuable feedback and even challenge me to investigate the topic further.
thanks for your comments.
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So, Foolish, which card is the most overtly Cathar?
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Thank you for clearing up authorship.

I am curious about two things and wonder if you have been successfully able to answer them in your book.

1.Tarot is a set of images and this seems very unlikely given the Cathar belief system, therefore transferring belief this way seems rather anti Cathar. So does having a Pope card.

2. Cathars did not believe in the resurrection of the Body- what do you make of the Judgement card?

It is great to have a book published- as I said in my 2nd post Congratulations! and welcome to the forum.

~Rosanne
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foolish  foolish is offline
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thank you for your interest. i can assure you that, although it would great to sell a whole lot of books, this has been a facsination of mine over the last few years and i have been motivated simply by my growing interest in the subject.
reagarding your question, teheuti, the answer has to do with the underlying condition - that is, it would have been very foolish (no pun intended) to create anything overtly catharistic in those days. during the time that the tarot trumps were first being used in the courts of italy, the pope and the inquisition were still persecuting heretics. therefore, declaring your ideas through a deck of cards could be suicidal. what was necessary was to develop a system of images which could be added to the existing deck of playing cards which could be both a secret set of messages and yet also a seemingly innocent array of pictures commonly found in medieval art. in this way, the heretical messages could be "hidden".
however, not to avoid your question, i can say that the change in the hermit from the visconti decks to the marseilles style seems to be conspicuous, as the figure referred to as father time has dropped his hourglass and is now holding up a lantern as if becoming a true wandering hermit - perhaps similar to those wandering in languedoc in the 12th century like henry the monk or peter of bruys, both of whom influenced many to leave their normal lives and become cathar perfects. the stories of these "heroes" of heresy would have been good stuff to recall in the telling of the tarot story.
also, in the next card, the wheel of fortune, the human figures on the wheel have been replaced by animalistic ones. not coincidenatally, the cathars believed in transmigration, where dead souls would be united with god or come back in the form of animals, depending on how they lived their lives. so we can see from these two cards (which both use seemingly insignificant themes from common medieval art sources) that some clues as to their meaning can be determined by how they wer changed when the marseilles deck was created. it was in the french tarot that the real connection to the cathar debacle can be seen.
rosanne - you have made two very good points. as we can see from the articles by robert o'neill on the cathars, posted on tarot.com in 2002, an argument can be made that some of the images like the pope card and judgement are contrary to the cathar belief system and therfore disprove the connection. in fact, having a deck of cards seems to run against the cathar belief in material items and wouldn't be used by any solid card-carrying heretic. however, let me point out a few things:
1) although the cathars belief in dualism denied material things as the work of the devil, only a few of the "elite" perfects really lived a life of severe austerity. most went about their lives as they needed to - eating, working, using material things and living in houses. many went on to become prominent business people in towns like toulouse. even perfects were known to have carried copies of the bible or the book of john which were used in their 'consolamentum' ceremonies. so, although there was a theological understanding about material items, it didn't prevent most cathars from living normally in the real world.
2) even if we concede the idea that cathars would not have used a deck of playing cards to transfer their messages, we must consider the likelihood that the tarot was actually developed, not by the surviving cathars themselves, but by sympathizers in italy who carried on the stories that these fugitives brought with them when they fled languedoc in the 13th to 14th centuries. after all, it was in italy that the tarot most likely started. we have ample evidence of communities in northern italy where cathars had been taken in. it was probably a group of people from this area who first came up with the idea to conceal their stories in the symbolic images which became the tarot trumps.
3) regarding the unlikely images of the pope and judgement, i refer again to the nature of disguise which the creators of the tarot had to use. most images had to be common to the art of the time - which was mainly religious in nature (roman catholic that is). that doesn't mean that the most obvious meaning of the image was the only one used. there were other implications of the pope, for example. pope nicetas, for one, was an important figure who came to languedoc from constantinople in the 12th century to establish the foru cathar diocese. and even if we admit that the pope card could only be the catholic pope, we must aslo admit that he (innocent III) had a significant part in the story of the albigensian crusade. in fact, it is more than likely that many of the tarot cards had more than one meaning or reference, and could be changed according to the story teller or even by who was listening. many had both historical significance and spiritual messages. the important key is that the cards acted like medieval "flash cards" - allowing the reader to bring out his story from memory. (i think i'm begining to ramble now)
4) let me add one more thing at this time: we should look for clues to the meaning of the entire set of tarot cards not just by what they appear to show us, but also by what is peculiarly lacking. in this case, there are no images of jesus or references to the cruxifiction - both central themes in the religious art of the middle ages. so if we are to interpret any of the cards on a spiritual level or imply that they have any spiritual meaning, then one must ask why those two important images are missing. unless, of course, they are not an important part of the message, as in the case of catharism.
looking forward to more of our conversation!
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The problem as I see it with your approach is that it requires that all kinds of assumptions be made and convoluted thinking be proposed that are totally unnecessary otherwise for explaining the cards. If I get you right, you are saying that the Cathars could have devised secret meanings for images that were already common within the non-Cathar culture. However, you don't have proof of even one example where any images were used this way among the Cathars in either France or Italy.

The changes you mention for the Hermit and the Wheel are common alternate motifs for these figures in other contexts—there are plenty of examples in this section of the forum and elsewhere. For instance, the exact hermit image with a lamp and staff appears on the oldest European woodcut - in the background of an illustration of the St. Christopher story.

You also assume that if there are cards with religious symbols then the cards must be spiritual. However, there was no such thing as a mundane versus religious dichotomy as we know it at that time. But that doesn't mean that the cards were created for a religious or spiritual purpose (despite the fact that I personally believe that the original deck creator did see the trumps as some kind of philosophical machine).

Why create a very convoluted explanation (with nothing to historically substantiate it) when much simpler explanations abound with plenty of historical evidence?

I'm not saying this to be mean, but because in the 'historical research' section of the forum, we reserve the right to ask that theories be backed up, at least to some degree, with facts.
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