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Tarot Trumps as Mediaeval Teaching Emblems

By Frater Barrabbas

I have previously discussed how other alphabetic systems, which have more than 22 letters, could be accommodated by an expanded Tree of Life glyph and a Tarot deck with more than 22 Trumps. How one might go about adding additional trumps to the Tarot would be a fairly difficult operation if weren’t for the wonderful set of tables and commentaries provided by Stephen Skinner’s book “The Complete Magicians Tables.” According to Mr. Skinner, the various themes for the 22 trump cards of the Tarot were obviously taken from teaching emblems as originally derived in the middle ages.

Since literacy was something of a novelty (perhaps even to be equated with supposed magical abilities), much of the world functioned through the use of emblems, often painted on wooden signs or walls. These signs would denote the characteristics and services of various merchants, public houses, inns, and other social gathering places. Pictures brightly painted on signs placed in front of various cottages and buildings indicated what was being offered within to those who might not be intimately familiar with the local neighborhood. Emblems were used to indicate many things to a populace that was largely unlettered, and this also extended to the teaching of Christian theology and related concepts. We have in our art museums, special collections and universities many examples of these kind of teaching emblems, and in fact, there is an entire sub-genre of Italian and European art to facilitate the study and examination of these various paintings. Some of the earliest Tarot decks seemed to have made use of a variable number of these emblems, dressed up as the Tarot trumps, and they appeared to be related to at least six distinct emblem categories, although there may have been even more.

Read the original article at: Talking About Ritual Magick

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