Book review


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foolish  foolish is offline
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this problem with the story of a Cathar-tarot link won't go away unless someone comes up with actual evidence for the connection. On the other hand, I think a novel would be fun. Lemons to lemonade. I visualize a printer's apprentice as the main character.
Perhaps the story of a Cathar-tarot link won't go away because some people can see connections of a heretical theme within the images of the cards, and the circumstances of history make it possible.

The idea of a novel is a good one! A few people have made that suggestion to me when I was writing the book. Unfortunately, I don't have a story in mind, and I don't consider myself a great writer. I would look forward to hearing your ideas though.
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Originally Posted by foolish View Post
In general, people want to accept things that agree with what they already believe, and reject those that don't. This is just human nature. You said yourself that having to accept the fact of the Judgment card still troubles you. This shows the inherent resistence we all have to ideas which don't conform to our own. And this is likely why the greatest resistence of this theory has come from people who have preconcieved ideas of what the tarot is all about. I'm not trying to say that you're stuck on any particular theory - as you have previously made this clear - but this is the general response I've noticed. The book was not written to make the statement, "this is how it is," but rather, "this is how it could have been." Fortunately, most people have been able to make the distinction.
But thing is - people who have no prior knowledge of any of this will read this book - and they may read it as gospel truth. That's not a risk I think you should be taking. In a year or two you may get people coming here on the basis of your book and saying "no, Swiryn says this is where the TdM came from, and so that is how it is." Most people WHO ALREADY KNOW THEIR TAROT have been able to make the distinction, maybe - though I still think the "style" unfortunate. I kind of could anyway, given that I had seen your posts here before I'd read it. But that, too, is partly because of my reading in other areas.
I reviewed on the basis that not everyone has background, and so your book could seriously mislead anyone who read the "is" for what it suggest to the uninitiated.

My "resistance" to the Judgement card, by the way, comes from prior reading about the Cathars, not to your book. It still bugs me, but I can see you have your reasons for thinking it could hold up. I happen to disagree, and that's fine. I am DEEPLY unChristian, and my position has no dogma attached !
Quote:
The fact that some interpretations are only applicable to a particular deck introduces a potential problem, as you pointed out - not all the decks share the same imagery. Of course, two things are possible: 1) that only the images that all the various decks have in common should be considered valid, or 2) that various decks were altered or made slightly different due to the personal (religious, political, etc.) perspective of the artist... or 3) that none of the variations mean anything in particular, but are simply the result of random artistic expression. I'm assuming that the second case is true.
But see, if the TdM - as a genre - came from the Cathars, those discrepancies shouldn't have occurred.

ETA after your last. There were heretics within the mainstream Catholic church. Also, sure, no rattling good story ever goes away in a hurry. As I have said throughout - including in my review - it is one I would love to believe. So far - I just can't.
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foolish  foolish is offline
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But thing is - people who have no prior knowledge of any of this will read this book - and they may read it as gospel truth. That's not a risk I think you should be taking.
I've heard this argument earlier, in the history section. I have to say, I don't think people are that stupid, or that they have to be "protected" from potential misinformation. People who are not that knowledgeable in tarot history simply consider this a possibility, which is what it is.

Quote:
But see, if the TdM - as a genre - came from the Cathars, those discrepancies shouldn't have occurred.
Not so. It's not imperative that all artists who may agree on an underlying theme would have to express it exactly the same way. This may be why certain images are seen in one deck but not the other. Let's also keep in mind that, during the time these cards were being made, evidence of heresy could still be punishable by death. So, it may not have been a great idea for some card makers to place too many obvious signs of heresy in their cards.
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The very first tarot book I read, I believed it as fact. Who wouldn't ? People do do that, you know. It isn't a matter of protection, just human nature. (For the record I am excessively highly educated and a voracious reader. But it was the first thing I had read about the subject and it came over as very authoritative.)

Luckily it was Alfred Douglas, so not too much damage was done. NOW I take issue with the odd bit of it ! But there are a lot of people who "know" the tarot came from Egypt - because so many books state that as fact - even now.
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I understand your point, G. I just can't say I agree with you 100%. Of course, there may be some people who may take this as the absolute truth, but I think that's just a minority of readers. It's like writing a book about UFO's - is the author responsible for whether the reader believes everything in it as fact? Should the book be evaluated (or even read) solely upon its level of proof or ablity to provide evidence? Or, does a book have value as a story which appeals to one's sense of wonder? If we only support the former class of books, we might be missing the beauty of the latter.
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No; readers have a responsibility too. But I don't think much of most books on UFOs for that reason. How is a reader looking for information in an area they want to learn about, rather than theories about it, supposed to be able to tell, if they are actually looking for facts ? I had this argument with someone else on another forum. "Study," he said. "Which books should I try to study ?" "Study to find out..." If you have no prior knowledge, how do you know where to start, if you want to learn, not to read speculation till you have enough knowledge to evaluate that ?

Some unfortunates believe what they read in wikipedia. And I have often edited BASIC errors of fact in there myself - even in areas where my expertise is minimal, I have found some shockers.

If a book is written as opinion, I would prefer it to say so. If a writer knows s/he is presenting a theory rather than a fact, I think a lot more of them for making that CRYSTAL clear. If a book is a story - for which read "fiction" - it should be presented as fiction. As debra says - this would all make a great novel. There is an ESSENTIAL difference between fiction and non-fiction.
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The problem with a book like this is that it is neither purely fact nor fiction. It is a theory which remains a possibility, as it has been built upon a historical background. Your point - that the book could be misleading to some - is well taken though. I'll have to live with that possibility, but I'm incouraged by the general response I've seen, which is a bit more realistic. Thank you for your feedback. I appreciate the fact that you've taken the time to express your opinion.
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Corinthians 15:51-55: "Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall all indeed rise again: but we shall not all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall rise again incorruptible. And we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption: and this mortal must put on
immortality. And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?"

True - no mention of sun, moon and stars, but neither are these obscured in the tarot cards as they are in the Cathar text. It's great that the Cathars believed in a last judgment and one that will cause the stars to fall from the sky, but such statements don't make the deck into a Cathar deck. They show a parallel to Biblical writings such as those found at:
http://bible.cc/revelation/6-12.htm

Also, I don't believe that when people have said the Cathars didn't use pictures (which we don't know for sure) that they meant that Cathars never mentioned physical objects (trumpets, coffins, etc.), nor that they didn't see earthly things as symbolic. That's a big misapprehension.
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I believe it was O'neill who brought up the argument that the Cathars would not have used a deck of cards because of their abhorance of the material world. There were some towns in Northern Italy in the 14th and 15th centuries which were known to be predominantly populated by heretics. It would seem likely that, for the artisans of these towns, their work may have influenced by their beliefs - including painters. No, this does not prove that there were any heretics involved in the production of tarot cards. I'm just saying that there was a possibility that some of these folk COULD have been involved.

The passage from Corinthians shows us that The Judgment card could be seen both from the traditional Catholic point of view AND the Cathar point of view. This is what I have been trying to say all along - that, just because there is a traditional Catholic explanation of the symbology of the cards, this doesn't mean that it is the ONLY way it has to be seen. The argument that it may be the most obvious representation does NOT mean it's the only one - only that it may have been the most popular one. This fits in well with the element of disguise, which was necessary to avoid detection from the eyes of the Inquisition.
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One of the characteristics of outsider groups/philosophies is that they view/interpret common cultural images and symbols differently than the norm. Furthermore, if you were to give pretty much any intelligent, insightful human a set of anything and ask him or her to come up with a 'story' about how those things relate, they can probably do that (some people are better at this than others).

Give a group of Cathars or people interested in their ideas a set of images and it's probable that someone among them can devise a great story that link those images in a way that relates to their interests.

Did an actual Cathar or Cathar sympathizer actually do this before the 18th century? There is not one shred of evidence to even suggest that anyone did. Could one of them have done so? Sure (we can't know what goes on in people's heads if they don't tell us). And, as we see from all the cultural tarots that modern people have devised (Celtic, Japanese, Hawaiian, Native American, Buddhist, Pagan, etc., etc.,), lots of modern people have done so in light of their favorite worldviews, too, and told us about it.

Could someone have modified the design of a tarot deck to reflect Cathar ideas more clearly in their own mind? What makes this more likely than any other of myriad possible cultural scenarios of the period in question? I don't see a single piece of evidence that makes it more probable than a hundred (or even a thousand) other stories I could come up with.
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