Some interesting information pertaining to Tarot


To quote Adam MacLean's question... "So could it not be that our present day tarot cards should perhaps be seen as arising out of the hermetic ideas at the foundation of the Renaissance, rather then from the Jewish Kaballah?"

The hermetic ideas at the foundation of the Renaissance were influenced by *and* influenced the development of tarot, alchemy, and the Jewish Kaballah. None of it evolved in a vacuum. A number of underlying ideas regarding polarization of opposites, transfiguration, the archetypes of the 7 planets, etc., can be found throughout the various esoteric arts.

I think its possible, even highly possible, that the the Tarocchi of Mantegna had an influence on the development of the tarot ~if~ those prints were accessible and inspirational as 'the archetypal forms for some of the later and more familar tarot'. However, my guess is that it was the very same sources that inspired those prints that inspired the other artists.

Further, I don't think its universally accepted that the original tarot are derived from the Jewish Kabbalah. The *Rider-Waite* and all other Golden Dawn-influenced decks are derived from the GD's bastardized form of Kabbalah, based on their belief that Levi was right. Evidence of an earlier connection is dubious and relates far more to the Cabala of the Renaissance Alchemists, which was derived from Jewish Kabbalah itself.

... eh, but I'm not an expert. I just read and think a lot :)


Good point Laurel

However for further reflection I would like to quote from Gareth Knight in his book The Magickal World of the Tarot - Fourfold Mirror of the Universe;

".....The Hermit, the Chariot, the Lovers and the Wheel of Fortunes were originally Father Time and the three Godesses of Victory, Love and Fortune.......the figure in the Chariot was once Winged Victory, familiar to the classical worlds of Greece and Rome.....the lovers showed a procession of lovers overshadowed by Cupid, the son of Venus. And the Wheel had the figure of the Godess Fortuna..."

This sounds familiar to the Mantegna Tarot. Regardless of the claims of Kabbalah connections to the Tarot. (I myself am still questioning the validity of this connection at this time). The point is IMO there was a classical Greek influence within the Tarot which precedes the Italian Renaissance period of the 15th century.

Now I am not saying the Tarot is originally Greek, but the opportunity that the cards (or perhaps the concept of their use) predates our ideas of the originality of the Italian Renaissance period.

True the modern Tarot as we understand it is a 78 card system, my point here is that the concept of such a system must have been eminent prior to this.....


Dante Algheri wrote of the celestial spheres, heavenly bodies and Greco-Roman astrology and legends as far as the Roman translations were known in the late 1270s. Paradiso directly sets a pattern that you can see in the Tarots of the Mantegna. Roman divinities and some Greek philosophers/heroes and villiams walk among Christian and Biblical heroes in his written universe.
By the 1470's, the dukes of Ferrera were accepting poets and painters tributes that the enlightened patronage of the dukes could be equalled to classical heroes. I don't know if they accepted this propogranda, but you can see samples of the paintings and astrological symbology in online art galleries of the Hall of Months, Schifanoia, at Ferrrara. Cosme Tura would be one name to look for under searches. Ercole I and II (Hercules) and Ippolita (Hippolyta) are names of D'Este family members derived from Greco Roman mythology.
Poetry examples include Maria Matteo Boiardo's tarocchi poem probably before his epic work Bordering on Love.
Have fun with this---it's not widely discussed as far as I can tell and I've been trying to find an English-speaking expert on Ferrera for ages. I've been only able to locate books that hint about the culture of the time.
Mari H.


With specific regards to the Montegna deck, I have often pondered on the question of its relation to Tarot, and both sites originally mentioned make, to my mind, very good use of the current state of research and add useful original material.

Personally, I seriously doubt that the Tarot descended from the Montegna. If these did not arise independently, then I suspect that the Montegna probably descended from the Tarot, the illustrator seeking to more clearly codify what may have been speculated to have been contained within the Major Arcana of the Tarot.


Interesting point JMD, in a way I can see what you are saying. It does almost seem the Mantegna Deck is a "broadening" of the Major Arcanum, perhaps an attempt to further expand on the 22 Major cards.

On one of those sites it mentions the parallels to the Tree of Life and how these cards correspond to it, but I suspect that is only another attempt to quantify yet another Hermetic persective of Tarot to the Qabalah.

However, and I'm not sure where I read this perhaps someone else here can clarify this point further, I remember during my research reading that the Minor Arcanum wasn't always an included part of the Tarot, but infact incorporated later on so to attach an association to the elemental prospect to the cards.

The interesting thing here is the timing of these two systems. Both were conceived at around the same time...Mantegna and Visconti around 1450. One account is that the 78 card system of the Tarot was infact generated as a game commissioned by the Visconti family and the Majors incorporated images of members of the family. This infact indicated the Visconti deck as not being created purposefully for divination. The esoteric purpose of the 78 card system was, in theory, not recognised until the 1920's when the Golden Dawn (and eventually Rider/Waite/Smith) illustrated the Minor pip cards for this purpose.

The suggestion here is the Mantegna Deck may have originated purposefully as an esoteric system.

Now this is only one theory I have discovered in my research and I am not agreeing one way or the other. But it is interesting food for thought.....


I don't know trumps or bridge very well, but that as a game might suggest correlations to the 22 trumps. I don't know about board games such as chess in terms of age, but it's feudal roots might also point to correlations with the "Mantegna". Certainly the medieval mind tried to jostle their current understandings with unearthed past knowledge, as far as they could surmise. That is documented in the Dantesque universe of the late 1200s in literature: the cathedral universities starting in the 1300s throughout the 1600s show art/sculpture portrayals and church art that remind historians how various historical periods would revive and reinterpret various Roman/Greek periods
Andy's playing cards suggest regional patterns with good historical documentation and maps. He also talks about numbering of various card games.
Some surmise the Mantegna's hiearchy shows it was a court pastime. Of interest also is Andy's playing cards showing the early German pattern and various trades. That particular card deck is about the time of the Visconti.


It may not relate to the Mantegna deck directly, but another site I am known to haunt had this story about "rithmomachy," an ancient game practised in renaissance Italy that apparently had to do with Pythagorean mathematics. I found this intriguing and new, as it suggests the sort of interests that were common among Renaissance courtiers of the period.


history nerd notes re:Renaissance

The Renaissance was perceived as a rebirth (that's actually what the name means). But a rebirth of what? Well, to the minds of those involved in the Renaissance, it was a rebirth of Greco-Roman antiquity. With the fall of Constntinople in 1453 and refugees streaming into Italy, Roman and Greek (mostly Greek) texts that had been lost to Western Europe were rediscovered. Thus, the heavy classical influence in Renaissance art/writing/etc.

:) Kes, historian at large


Your point Keslyn is pertinent.

Indeed the renaissance was a period where artists and scholars alike were "grabbing" these antiquities. One reason was because they were made so available to the people of this time.

As a result of this there was a "rebirth" in the interest of Greek/Roman culture and beliefs. The peoples of the renaissance sought after acquiring further knowledge of the esoteric arts. This of course leads us to the creation of the Tarot where this discussion begins....