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Teofilo Folengo 1527, Bologna 1750, Robert Place 2005

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DoctorArcanus  DoctorArcanus is offline
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Post Teofilo Folengo 1527, Bologna 1750, Robert Place 2005


I am reading the excellent "The Tarot, History, Symbolism and Divination" by Robert M. Place.

At page 25 I read:

While the game qualifies as as a type of divination, the best evidence that the Tarot's fifth suit was used for incontestably divinatory practices in the Renaissance appears in a work published in Venice in 1527, know as the "Merlini Cocai Sonnets". This set of five sonnets was authored by Teofilo Folengo writing under the pseudonym Merlini Cocai. The sonnets describe a scene in which trump cards are dealt and laid out then used to determine the fates of the story's main characters. In the library of the University of Bologna, historian Franco Pratesi discovered a document written in 1750 that describes a related method of divination utilizing the entire Tarot that was practiced in Bologna in that century. This evidence suggests that in Italiy there was an ongiong tradition of using the Tarot for divination at least form the ealy sixteenth century to the time that the Traot was dicovered by the occultists in the late eighteenth century.

I thought this statement deserved a little invastigation. I found a page where one of the sonnets by Folengo is quoted.
http://www.tarock.info/renier.htm
This aritcle is of the greatest interest. Here is an english translation of the sonnet where I inserted the number of the Trionfi when they are mentioned:


Love (6), under whose Empire (4) many deeds
go without Time (9) and without Fortune (10),
saw ugly and dark Death (13) on a Chariot (7),
going between the people it took away from the World (21).

Death said: no Pope (5) nor Papesse (2) was ever won
by you. Do you call this Justice (8)?
Love answered: Him who made the Sun (19) and the Moon (18)
defended them from my Strength (11).

You are a Fool (0), continued Love, my Fire (16),
that can appear as an Angel (20) or as a Devil (15),
can be Tempered (14) by those who live under my Star (17).

You are the Empress (3) of bodies. But you cannot kill hearts,
you only Suspend (12) them. You have a name of high Fame,
but you are nothing but a Trickster (1).



This skillfull composition mentions all the 22 Majors!
The other four Tarot sonnets by Folengo are each dedicated to a person. They were composed by distributing the Majors to four people (each one received 5 or 6 cards) and then interpreting the cards in relation to that person. I think these sonnets are even more interesting, but I could not find them on the internet. I read on ATF (Ross G Caldwell) that they are quoted in Kaplan II (http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread...hlight=folengo)

In my opinion, this and the other sonnets are examples of tarocchi appropriati: i.e. poetry based on tarot cards. For instance: http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread...993#post510993
Folengo seems to be talking about a kind of society game, where people meet to play with tarot and poetry. I agree with Michael J. Hurst http://www.geocities.com/cartedatrio...1539.html#1527

On ATF (same thread as above) there is a complete description by JMD of the Bologna document dating about 1750 found by Franco Pratesi: http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread...hlight=pratesi

I also found at http://www.geocities.com/cartedatrio...0-Present.html the following description of such document: "A single loose manuscript sheet giving cartomantic interpretations of the thirty-five cards of the Tarocco bolognese…”. Cards "are put down in five piles, making seven cards in each pile.”

Possibly, each pile was given to a different person. This process would be similar to Folengo's, and I think this similarity is of the greatest interest. I really appreciated that Rober Place undelined this similarity!

On the other hand, Place seems to be too absolute: he writes as if everything were perfectly clear, while we are still working on something that is not so well documented.

In particular, I think that the similarity between two documents one of which was written more than 200 years before the other cannot be taken as definite evidence of an "ongoing tradition".
I also disagree with Place's definition of Folengo's work as "incontestably divinatory practices". What I think is that this evidence points out the direct evolution from game playing to divination. The Bologna document descibes a kind of divination game in which the cards in a deck (a reduced deck of 35 cards, not the "entire Tarot") are distributed among the participants, just like a game of cards.

I would be interested in reading you opinions on this matter, and I hope you will enjoy Folengo's sonnet as much as I do

Marco
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Marco,

What a great thread. I enjoyed this very much, can't add anything, but look forward to what others contribute to the conversation.

best,
robert
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I'm delighted by that sonnet, Marco - grazie mille! I had a look at the page you flagged - my Italian is not really up to subtelties, but I enjoyed the original of the sonnet nonetheless, with my Visconti-Sforza as illustration!

I agree with you on your assessment of Place's use of the word divination to describe such games and tarocchi appropriati. They are delightful, and grew in that refreshing area of freedom that mingled parlour game, imagination, wit, flirtation, learned and mystical discussion and divination in the Renaissance court and which our age, so literal, so attached to boxed categories (one thing is either a game or divination or mysticism, etc.) has trouble imagining. We might try and rediscover this way of thinking and acting - to our great joy - as a remedy against our mal du siècle...
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Marco,

Thanks for the infomation. I really like that verse.
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I am glad you enjoyed Folengo's sonnet

It seems to me that two interesting hypotheses can be made:

1) There really is a connection between Folengo's work and the Bologna 1750 document. In this case, divination is a direct derivation of tarocchi appropriati. I agree with Helvetica: for the learned aristocrats that were the first Tarocchi aficionados in the Renaissence, there were no fixed boxes. Still I think this hypotesis is not very likely, since the time gap between the two documents is too wide.

2) Folengo's procedure for writing Tarot sonnets and the Bologna divination procedure are similar because they both derive from card playing. Bologna is a place where tarocchi are still used for playing. I guess in 1750 playing tarocchi was quite common in Bologna.


If one of these hypotheses is true, and we can assume that the first known tarot divination procedure required the presence of five person each of which received seven cards, the original practice included more than a reader and a questioner. I assume the spirit of it was quite informal, with people discussing about each other's cards. Probably it all felt very much like a game, nothing to do with the serious, occult, initiated approach of post-De Gebelin tarot!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Helvetica
We might try and rediscover this way of thinking and acting - to our great joy - as a remedy against our mal du siècle...
Helvetica, I don't think I am up to this, but if you have tarocchi appropriati with your friends, please let me know the results of it!

Marco
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Teofilo Folengo 1527


I found a page where one of the sonnets by Folengo is quoted.
http://www.tarock.info/renier.htm
This aritcle is of the greatest interest. Here is an english translation of the sonnet where I inserted the number of the Trionfi when they are mentioned:


Love (6), under whose Empire (4) many deeds
go without Time (9) and without Fortune (10),
saw ugly and dark Death (13) on a Chariot (7),
going between the people it took away from the World (21).

Death said: no Pope (5) nor Papesse (2) was ever won
by you. Do you call this Justice (8)?
Love answered: Him who made the Sun (19) and the Moon (18)
defended them from my Strength (11).

You are a Fool (0), continued Love, my Fire (16),
that can appear as an Angel (20) or as a Devil (15),
can be Tempered (14) by those who live under my Star (17).

Your are the Empress (3) of bodies. But you cannot kill hearts,
you only Suspend (12) them. You have a name of high Fame,
but you are nothing but a Trickster (1).

Thank you for this intriguing, significant Petrachan sonnet. Important to this is the incorporating of all the major arcana into a philosophical, meditative poem -- the images are obviously taken profoundly seriously as they support a dialogue between Love and Death. The use of Temperance as symbol of the balance between angelic love and devilish love is notable. Most importantly, here all the major arcana are metaphors for spiritual ideas that hold together in the poem's integrating pattern of meaning. Again, thanks for the research and the translation.
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Another interesting balance is the Angel and the Devil. In early references, Judgement is often refered to as the Angel card. It may be worth reconsidering that card with the emphasis on the Angel rather than the scene below, and to think of it as a balance to the Devil card.

robert
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Stuart Kaplan offered translations of 4 of the 5 sonnets by Folengo in volume II of the "Encyclopedia of Tarot", pp. 8-9.

His translation of the last one differs from Marco's in some respects.

"Love, under whose reign many enterprises
are made vain by Time and shattered by Fortune,
saw Death on the Chariot, horrendous and dark,
wending his way among the captives from the World.
By what Justice, said Love, have you never returned to us Pope or Popess?
Death answered, He who separated the Sun from the Moon
took away their defenses against my Strength.
And I know now what that Fire is, said Love,
that seems now Angel, now Demon, and how
one can become Tempered against it under my Star.
You, the Empress, hold sway over the body, but a heart that,
though suspended, does not fall, has the renown of the Sun,
whose noble Fame would tempt a Juggler."

I think Marco's translation is better on the whole (in a literal sense), but I am puzzled about who speaks first - maybe Kaplan is right that Love speaks to Death.

I don't know how Kaplan gets "I know" from "sciocco". Does he think it is the verb "scioccare" (to shock)? But according to my Zanichelli dictionary, this word, borrowed from English, only entered the language in 1963! Anyway, it doesn't mean "to know".
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I like the evidence of poetry creativity and the game...


I gave away my Robert Place book copy as a gift and only glanced through it. The Bologna poetry portion is interesting from the late period of 1750. I explain what I mean by "late" after the paraphrase...

1. Paraphrase:

"The best evidence that the Tarot's fifth suit was used for incontestably divinatory practices in the Renaissance appears in a work published in Venice in 1527, know as the "Merlini Cocai Sonnets". This set of five sonnets was authored by Teofilo Folengo writing under the pseudonym Merlini Cocai. The sonnets describe a scene in which trump cards are dealt and laid out then used to determine the fates of the story's main characters.

Cerulean Mari notes:
I'm only convinced that I don't know half of what I liked to about such things!
I'm rereading a good translation of the Divine Comedy. Inpractically every part of Purgatory I'm seeing 'trumplike' descriptions and references. Dante Algheri talks to so many classically styled shades and angels in each canto, every personification can touch on general allegories. I form silly lists of alleged trumps--as misguided people have done in the past. (BTW it's my silliness, not anyone elses). So I see trumplike poetry descriptions back from the 1300s in Italian vernacular poetry, at least among courtly circles. Guarino, Boiardo, Aristo (Ferarra), Petrach and Boccaccio, even Lorenzo di Medici (Florence) of later times echoed the haunting sweetness of how Dante wrote into the vernacular. I've read some of all their poetry--and saw, perhaps in error, a similar allegory that were similar to some trumps?

But the courtly circles who did tarocchi poetry were usually centered around Northern Italy from 1440 through the early 1520s. The courtly circle from Ferarra that would have gamed and written such poetry were involved in the time of the 'Italian civil wars' throughout the 1500s...although Aristo's Orlando
Furioso as late as the 1530s still harkened back to using similar allegory (I've got to read it in detail to confirm how closely). I've read a little of the Lorenzo di Medici poetry. I can tell you his Triumph poem is a bit mocking of
such classical allegories.

Dante's staging of love allegory in semi-serious tones of the 1300s became something that poets made into joking adventures by Boiardo's time of the 1450s-70s...By di Medici's time, the Triumph poem could also be an elevated bawdy silliness. Do you think that Mr. Place is writing from the understanding that the use of tarocchi/triumph allegory in poetry was ongoing
from the first appearance of courtly cards? Maybe suggesting that the lingering tradition was known as late as the 1750s?

Perhaps Mr. Place was suggesting that there was already a known tradition of gaming with cards and poetry. What he might be making it known is that you could trace it further than the courts of Northern Italy, after the 1500s. I'll see if I can pick up a copy this weekend and check all your wonderful thoughts out...

Another comment of the use of the five suits of tarot...

2. Another paraphrase:
"In the library of the University of Bologna, historian Franco Pratesi discovered a document written in 1750 that describes a related method of divination utilizing the entire Tarot that was practiced in Bologna in that century. This evidence suggests that in Italiy there was an ongoing tradition of using the Tarot for divination at least from the ealy sixteenth century to the time that the Tarot was discovered by the occultists in the late eighteenth century."

While I realize that the use of the so-called Mantegna is only showing a cousin of the tarocchi, the use of five suits of ten cards each is from the 1470s at the very least if this a pattern for cards and gaming. (And sometimes I have read slight reference to Paradiso as well).

Perhaps also pertinent, from Ferarra...although also the 78-card tarocchi poem from MM Boiardo was supposed to be a game with trumps and four suits in the 1470s. There were 22 trumps, just not the allegorical ones set in the more established later French pattern. Still, even in later Boiardo's poetical works of Orlando Immorato up through the 1490s, I see bits of the tarocchi or trump allegories and characterizations...through all the foolish exploits there was the soft-spoken thread implied that 'Love conquers all'.

Maybe this is not new but a sentimental fantasy...thank you for inspiring me in my looks backward.

Cerulean

P.S. Excuse me if I am not clear--I can try to edit again. My slant seems to be biased on how common trumplike historical poetry might be in the cultural context of the poetry that I prefer? And likely all my art looks have been favoring courtly or tarocchi-appropriate likenesses, so I'm starting to see tarot all over the place...apologies if this is not appropriate.
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Rules of the Bologna Tarot game circa 1750s...


http://www.pbm.com/pipermail/hist-ga...98/000309.html

and the term 'tarocchi' is also explained.

It confirms some of the information that I'm reading in more detail.

While the Robert Place book is excellent as a survey, Paul Huson's Mystical Origins of the Tarot focuses more on the time periods I enjoy, the Italianate roots.

I'm currently slouching (slowly working through) the Antici Tarocchi Bolognesi: La Storia, Il Gioco, La Divinazione from Girodano Berti, Marisa Chisa and Giuliano Crippa. Berti and Chisa also had worked on the translated-to-English Sola Busca book together. Both books are from Lo Scarabeo publishers.

Hope this is of interest to the thread. Or if you like, I can start another related thread on nonstandard Bologonese Tarocchi circa 1450-1750 as an adjunct to these fascinating-to-me bits.

Regards,

Cerulean
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