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MikeH  MikeH is offline
Join Date: 03 Nov 2007
Location: Oregon USA
Posts: 443
birdwatching in Lombardy

My computer may be fast, but its operator processes rather slowly. Except for looking at some pretty coins, I am still stuck back at Huck's post about Shakespeare's turtle.

Huck, I found your reference to “The Turtle and the Phoenix” inspired and inspiring. I may be a minority of one, but I see the poem as an expression of the mystical ascent through reason into that which is beyond words and beyond logic. Read the poem for yourself with that idea in mind. The poem speaks of the two different birds loving each other so much that they become one, yet are also not one: “either neither,” as the poem says. That is not possible, Reason says, and declares them dead. But they have merely gone up to the non-conceptual, as everyone from Pseudo-Dionysus to Cusa to Pico would have known.

There may also be allusions to the alchemical marriage, which resulted in death and rebirth, e.g. the Rosarium Philosophorum and the works of George Ripley. In the late 16th century, Ripley was re-issued with illustrations. The illustrated Rosarium was published in Frankfurt (1550); however it would have been available in England. One source could have been the engraver Theodor de Bry, the head of what would become the leading alchemical publishing house in Europe; he worked in the circle around Sir Philip Sydney in London 1585-1588, and then set up shop in Frankfurt (; on the de Bry family, Klossowsky de Rola, The Golden Game, p. 14ff). To say more would be to stray too far from the topic, although not from the tarot.

There may well be topical references to various luminaries of the Elizabethan court as well. But I do not think we would get much of relevance here going that route.

Why did Shakespeare pick those birds? Let us look at Wikipedia on "dove" and "turtledove." They are symbolically different creatures. The dove is symbolic of peace, love, and regeneration (as in Noah, or Christ's birth and baptism). The turtledove is an emblem of faithful love, as it was thought to form inseparable lifelong pairs.

It is the turtledove that fits Shakespeare's poem, for faithfulness; he has the phoenix for death and regeneration. Faithfulness is also the theme of virginity and chastity: faithfulness to one's internal lover, God the Father, Jupiter the Father (of Pallas and Artemis), the refusal to submit to male desire (Daphne, and later Lucretia) and the eternal longing for the unattainable (Apollo’s love for Daphne). It is fixity to the phoenix's volatility, and their union a union of opposites.

The eagle and the dove are also opposites, as is spelled out plainly in the Michelino schema: virtue vs. pleasure, the choice of Hercules, as in countless Renaissance depictions (although not the 15th century Love card).

In the CY, the Eagle is the bird of the Emperor, who in my set of correspondences, which I went through in an earlier post in this thread, is equivalent in the Michelino to Jupiter.

But if the Emperor has the eagle, then so must the Empress. Sohe can’t get the appropriate bird, i.e. the phoenix, for her lead position (as Juno) in the second row of the Michelino. The honor goes to the third member of the “Riches” suit, Mars. In my grid of correspondences (which I hoped people would draw, as I don’t know how to do it here), Michelino’s Mars corresponds to CY Chariot. So we have the phoenix on the lady’s coin, or so I like to think was the thinking.

Some would say it is a dove. Kaplan, for example, identifies it as the dove of a traditional heraldic device of the Viscontis. So let us explore heraldic devices a bit.


An early example of the Visconti dove is in a miniature done of the coronation of Giangaleazzo, first Duke of Milan (Kaplan vol 2, p. 73).

For the CY, Kaplan illustrates, the dove lookslike this (vol 2 p. 49):

Since the lady in the Chariot card has just such a bird as the one on the right, it must be a dove.

But I do not think the issue is that clear cut. If it is necessary to make a distinction between doves and phoenices, as applying the Michelino would require, one way to do it would be by color and the rays suggesting a solar bird. Phoenices, doves, and turtledoves all look pretty much alike in illustrations (see the bird photos on Wikipedia, and bestiary pictures of phoenices). How to tell them apart? Here is one way: if they’re white or carrying an olive branch, they’re doves. And if they’re yellow, they’re phoenices--especially sitting on a nest with rays shooting out in all directions. I don’t know how turtledoves were conventionally represented. The examples above with rays could pass for a phoenix any day. If either bird or rays were yellow, the inference would be even stronger.

Another complication is that when we get to the PMB and related decks, the image of the "dove" changes. Perhaps when Francesco took over the Visconti heraldic devices, he assumed he had liberty to do so. Now Kaplan doesn't even call it a dove. He says, referring only to the device and not to any card, "...a bird, probably a pelican, faces to the front and is seen with young birds in the nest" (vol. 2p. 49). Here are the "heraldic devices" in question.

The birds on the top left and bottom right look more like doves (as in the Holy Spirit descending upon Mary or Jesus) than pelicans. Pelicans, when shown biting their breasts and dripping blood to revive their young, are well-known symbols of Christ. But no such activity is going on here. And since when did the Viscontis or the Sforzas ever have a pelican as a heraldic device?

Unfortunately Kaplan does not identify the cards where these devices appear, except for two versions the King of Staves, the PMB (Vol. 1, p. 76) and the Lombardy 1 (Vol. 2 p. 18)--the latter a dubious deck, according to Kaplan, as it might simply be engravings of the PMB with some changes added. You can see them yourself, below. Kaplan says of the Lombardy 1 (at right), "On his robe is a bird with spread wings. Below his waist belt is the heraldic device of a nested bird, probably a pelican, phoenix or dove." It is nice to know that he allows phoenices," but I don't see anything. In the PMB, I may see a frontal view of a bird with outspread wings below the belt. I shall pursue this matter further at the end of my next post.

Let us turn to doves. In the CY, are there any doves, apart from the yellow birds in Coins? Kaplan’s index to Vol. 2 says there are some doves in the Love card (a bold print reference to a page means it’s in the illustration, I think; but I can’t find it anywhere else on the page, either). I can’t find them, so I don’t know what color they are. The Love card, sacred to Venus and Cupid, would certainly be a good place for them to hide out, based on my grid of correspondences.

One place, it seems to me, where there might be a dove is as the winged creature flying above the lovers--Cupid, as seen with Renaissance eyes. For example, here is an alchemical illustration of the Lovers, brother and sister or son and mother, in the Rosarium:

Then there is as well the so-called "nesting bird" not nesting but flapping its wings, in the manner of the Holy Spirit, which Kaplan says appears in the PMB. I have found two, I think. One is where we would expect it, on the King of Coins--very indeterminate bird (below).

All I see is sunbursts on the other Coins court cards.


Another place where a nester might be present is on the King of Swords.
Here are the two versions. I see nothing in the PMB, even after I lighten the image so as to bring out the squiggles. But there is a more bird-like squiggle in the Lombardy I's groin area. I have enlarged the detail.

If this is a bird, it is closer to a phoenix than a dove, as befitting the Martial pose; Mars, you will recall, is found in the Michelino suit of riches/phoenices.


There should, if the fourth Michelino suit is like the other three, be a turtledove somewhere in the early cards of the CY deck. I said the Pope was the equivalent of Pallas, but that was just my hypothesis. Maybe I am wrong and it is the Popess. In any case, we have neither of these cards to view. I see no turtledoves anywhere in the CY that we have. I’m not sure I’d know one if I saw it.

And now once more to pairs of opposites: The Boiardo poem likewise has two pairs of opposites in its suits: fear vs. hope, and jealousy vs. love. Even a couple of the gods are identical: we have the Queen of Jealousy, Juno, who heads the “Riches” suit in Michelino, and we have Boiardo’s Page of Love, Cupid, in the corresponding place of the Michelino.

These double pairs of opposites were not invented by C. G. Jung (who called them “quaternities”). The Renaissance loved them. The four humors are the most common example: Choleric (volatile) vs. Phlegmatic (calm), and Sanguine (optimistic) vs. Melancholic (pessimistic). Below, Phlegmatic is upper left, opposing Choleric, lower left. Sanguine is upper right, opposing Melancholic, lower right.

There's also hot/cold and dry/moist, generating the humors. (I refrain from mentioning the four elements, for fear of provoking a plethora of associations derived from the Golden Dawn, out of their element, so to speak, here.) Also the "pairing marriage" (an anthropological term) popular there then and earlier, in which a brother and sister of one family marry the sister and brother of another.
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