|"Fool" (click to enlarge)|
That's not to say that the more familiar "Major Arcana" images used for the Trumps do not have an historical or philosophical aspect. Carl Jung wrote extensively about their meaning and relevance to analytical psychology, tying them to his theory of archetypes. Catholic mystic Valentin Tomberg wrote an entire book, Meditations on the Tarot, that used their symbols as a point of departure for a series of meditations on Christianity. This is because symbols have power, and the images used in the Major Arcana evolved from a Catholic culture that was rich in symbolism. The Major Arcana are clearly derived from a mixture of folklore, courtly culture, and Christianity, and thus offer a kind of cross-section of the secular and religious world of the 15th century.
The word "tarot" comes from the Italian version of the cards, which are called "tarocchi." This in turn may be a reference to the Taro River, or may be derived from an Arabic word. The decks vary from region to region, but the most common deck consists of 78 cards: four suits numbered 1 to 10, 4 court cards in each suit, 1 fool, and the 21 illustrated trump cards.
|Valet and Dame (click to enlarge)|
Deck design can vary greatly, and as I begin rolling out a series on the French Tarot, you'll see just how the images were adapted for various times and cultures. The deck I plan to post is a standard Ducale French Tarot set, which are a complete departure from the more traditional Italian tarot. Based on the clothing and the utter lack of religious symbolism, these particular designs date from the 19th century or later. (Post-revolutionary France made a concerted effort to expunge religious symbolism from the culture. Oddly enough, they kept the courtly symbolism.)
Thus, the images on the Trumps are not the more familiar Arcana, but rather scenes taken from everyday life, showing peasants, laborers, members of the middle and upper classes, military, and typical bucolic scenes. I'm starting with the court cards today, but I'll post some art of the Trumps over the next few days.
|Cavalier and King (click to enlarge)|