Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tarot History Blogs

In this blog I summarize and give links to various blog essays of mine. The other general subject areas are in the menu at the top right of this page.  

In the field of tarot history I have written original essays, translated the work of others, and transcribed works in English that are now hard to get. In this blog post I provide links and brief descriptions of tarot essays I have put on the Internet as blogs, the latest first. In most cases, you read the blog itself like a book, from the top down, ignoring the sequence of dates, or else go to the post you are interested in.

July 2020: "Cartomancy in 18th Century Bologna"

This is my third version of this essay. The first was a short post in 2017 on Tarot History Forum. Then in May 2020 I submitted a longer one for translation into Italian and publication in a volume on the history of the tarot in Bologna, published in August 2020. A revised version of this essay will be published in late 2020 in English. The current blog is my most complete version. The subject is a sheet giving cartomantic meanings, or more specifically keywords, for some 35 cards of the Bolognese tarocchini found with a file of papers of Masonic content by Franco Pratesi in the library of the University of Bologna. The dates on the other sheets ranged from 1760 to 1782, with the preponderance between 1772-1773. In 2004 Michael Dummett compared these keywords with the corresponding keywords in Etteilla's 1770 book on cartomancy with the 32 card Piquet deck, and found 5 correspondences. I suggest that there are at least two more, and five or six if adjustments are allowed for the different look of French court cards compared to Italian ones. Moreover, if a different work of Etteilla is used as the basis of comparison, one for which there is reason to think would have been known in Northeastern Italy among Masonic circles in 1772-1773, the correlations are over 90% for the cards they have in common, but little for any other cards. My basis is an 1802 work claiming to reprint a work of Etteilla's from 1753-1757 but printed in a small edition in 1771, which the 1802 editor, Jacques Saint-Sauveur, said he obtained Etteilla's permission to distribute in 1772. After that, according to the entry in a French biographical dictionary, Saint-Sauveur, aged 15, moved to Trieste, where his father had been given a diplomatic post, and where he, too, began training for that career.

January-July 2020: "From Marziano to the Ludus Triumphorum"
This essay, in two parts, is an expanded and revised version of a talk I gave to the International Playing Card Society at their September 2019 convention in Catania, Italy. In it I present a hypothesis for the origin of the Tarot, or Ludus Triumphorum: that its early structure was that of a game described by Marziano da Tortona for Filippo Maria Visconti, duke of Milan, sometime before Marziano's death in 1425, but with a different set of subjects. These subjects, originally 14 came from three sources: (1) early games with trump subjects, notably Karnoffel and VIII Imperadori, for the 4 dignitaries; (2) the four cardinal virtues, correlated visually with the four suits; and (3) the six Trionfi of Petrarch. These are arranged in a 4x3 matrix with 2 above, probably in Bologna or Florence but not excluding Milan. In Part Two I describe what would happen in such a matrix if attempts were made to convert horizontal relationships in rows to vertical ones in columns: namely, additional cards would be required, the Wheel of Fortune in Lombardy and the Bagatella (Magician) in Ferrara, for 16, possibly also with the Fool. Then 5 more, Devil to Sun, are added to bridge the gap between Death and the Last Judgment, the celestials perhaps replacing the theological virtues, added earlier; at that point the Marziano structure is abandoned completely.

January-March 2020: "Etteilla and Variants Timeline III, with Links"
This is an expanded version of a Timeline taht I had put on Aeclectic Tarot Forum before it closed, with new material discovered partly by me and partly by others on Tarot History Forum, in particular "Tarot John" and Steve Mangan. These additions, with links to the original sources online when available, are in red in what is otherwise unchanged from Aeclectic. The earlier one on Aeclectic (Timeline II) was itself a joint product of many hands, on a still earlier thread there called simply Etteilla and Variants Timeline, posts on which Timeline II and III still link.

November 2016 - December 2018: "The Tarot Trumps, Some History, from Christian Beginnings to the Esotericists and C. G. Jung"
While conceived and the blog framework laid out in November 2016, most of this blog was done in 2017 and 2018. It was stimulated first by essays of mind published in Cassandra Johns' journal Numen Naturae, in 2016 and 2017: first "The Magician; Some History" and then "The Tower: Some History". When that journal unfortunately ceased publication, my next essay, on the Popess, was left without a home. At the same time,  a tarot book group to which I belonged was starting to discuss Sally Nichols' Jung and Tarot. So I volunteered to do historical introductions and some thoughts about how the trump cards would fit into Jung's psychology. What also interested me was how much of a gap there was between the interpretations of the tarot trumps before the esotericism of Eliphas Levi and after: not as much as I had been led to believe, I discovered. So what I projected was 22 essays on how the 22 special allegorical cards of the tarot would have been seen, and were seen when people wrote about them, from the very Christian perspective of the 1440s, perhaps modified by a growing interest in Plato, to C. G. Jung. Not all are completely done and I don't know what happened to the Pope, the Lover, and the Chariot, but at least 19 of them are in readable form (as of Sept. 2020).

July - December 2017, "Egypt in the Tarot"

This essay is in three parts, all focusing on aspects of Paul Christian's presentations of the tarot. Part 1 starts with biographical information: born Jean-Baptiste Pitois, his first literary efforts were translations from German, English, and Italian, then French and Church history. In the 1850s he came to know Eliphas Levi and then wrote on astrology, tarot, and magic. The tarot for him exists in a cosmic framework defined by a "Rose Cross" that combines Kabbalah and astrology in a way that also has some relation to ancient Egypt, notably the 60 "decans" and the astrological ceiling of Dendera.
Part 2 explores the "Egyptian initiation" that Christian presents, of which 22 frescoes on the walls of alleged halls under the Great Pyramid.interpret the tarot. He claimed Iamblichus as his source, a claim shown to be false. Others have suggested pre-existent manuscripts and even similar fresco series in Naples or its vicinity, for none of which there is any evidence. Yet there is evidence that an "Egyptian" interpretation of the tarot existed before de Gebelin (1781) and influenced the look of some of the Tarot of Marseille cards.
Part 3 goes into this last question in more detail, going card by card. What a historical study of the changes in the cards over time suggests is that while Egypt has nothing to do with the tarot as a sequence of allegorical images,  details so seem to be added to the cards inspired by Greek and Roman writings about Egypt that became known and translated starting only decades after the first record of the sequence in Italy.. This influence became more pronounced over time.

January - June 2017: 

"The Esches on Playing Card Imports to Rome to 1480"

Arnold and Doris Esch have made a specialty of studying the extant records of playing card imports  to Rome in the 15th century, including tarot decks, mostly proving to be from Florence. Here I give the Italian original and an English translation of one of their articles, I think from "Ludica" in 2016, giving data from 1466-1480 and a summary of their findings before then.

"Moakley's 1966 The Tarot Cards Painted by Bonifacio Bembo, Texts and Updates". 

Gertrude Moakley's work has long been out of print and difficult to get, unless by using Interlibrary Loan. In this blog I have transcribed the text in full, chapter by chapter, together with my own commentary with which I try to update what she says in light of more recent evidence. This was not a hard job because over time the evidence has largely confirmed her early discoveries and conclusions.                                                                                                                  

Between July 28, 2015 and March 1, 2017: 

"Translations of Franco Pratesi Essays Originally in Italian"
Franco Pratesi has been writing on tarot history since 1986, with an impressive list of publications and now web-essays, most uploaded to his website Recently he has been writing only in Italian, even when publishing in the London-based journal The Playing Card. So I have been translating his essays into Italian, including two in the above-named journal, April 2015 and January 2016, the rest online. In many cases I have written my own reflections on his essay, chiefly about the logic of his reasoning or conclusion in the light of other considerations. In one, about the Cary-Yale tarot deck, he and I collaborated: see entry for Jan. 17, 2016. His part is in Italian and mine, a couple of pages only, in English. He also posted a 2nd "note" as he calls it, on the same subject, on Feb. 12, 2016. In each case, I have put a translation and my response to it here (as well as on two public tarot forums). Other translations will be added as time allows. As of February, 2017 there are 29 of these translations.
"Alain Bougearel's 'tarot arithmologique du nombre pentagonal 22 = 1+4+7+10'",
Here I offer my translation of Mr. Bougereal's stimulating and careful essay arguing for a division of the 22 subjects of the tarot into 4 successive groups of 1, 4, 7, and 10 subjects, as suggested by the arithmological properties of the pentagonal number 22, according to the "arithmetic" (really, number theory) texts of the time, based on Nichomachus of Gerasa's Hellenistic-era Pythagorean-inspired Introduction to Arithmetic. After the translation I offer my own defense of Bougereal's thesis, showing how the Pythagorean significance of those four numbers fits the actual groups of cards, in all 3 of the 15th-16th century orders. Moreover, such Pythagorean considerations are consistent with outlook of the times, in which other Pythagorean analyses of tarot and playing cards were made. At the end I give Bougereal's French version as revised by the author.
"An Empress in Palermo for the 'Alessandro Sforza' tarot",
Here I discuss and partially defend the analysis of a recently discovered Empress card in Palermo, which seems to suggest an earlier provenance for the "Catania" cards of which it is a hitherto missing card.
"The Rothschild Cards and Giovanni dal Ponte"
Dal Ponte is a suspected card-maker and known producer of wedding chests in Florence before his death in 1437. Here I defend the position, maintained by two art historians but denied by two tarot researchers, that the Rothschild cards could reasonably be of his design. 
"Errors in post-1927 editions of Wirth's Tarot des Imagiers",
Oswald Wirth is best known for designing a tarot deck, originally for Papus and an improved version to accompany is major work on the tarot, known in English as "Tarot of the Magicians", recently reprinted with an introduction by Mary K. Greer. In the Conclusion I noticed a few passages that did not make sense, so I obtained a print-out of the original, as well as a copy of the 1966 French reissue, All the reprints had errors when compared with the original, as well as omitting many of the illustrations and misnumbering the items in a major one. This blog-essay corrects the errors of omission and commission, as well as comparing the various versions of his cards. Unlike most of my blogs, this one begins at the bottom. 
"Jewish-Christian Interaction in Italy before 1500", .
I begin with a general survey of Jewish settlements and learning in Italy before 1440; Jews had long-standing settlements in Sicily, southern Italy, Rome, Lucca, Pisa, Ferrara, the suburbs of Milan, and the Adriatic coast before the 15th century.  Starting at the beginning of the 15th century, Jews were allowed to study medicine at Padua , resulting in an influx of Jewish scholars, including Yohanan Alemanno, who influenced the hermeticist Lodovico Lazzarelli. In 1430 Jews were invited to Florence; talmudic influence is noticeable in the famous "Ghiberti doors" of the 1430s. and later there is a friendship between  Pico della Mirandola and Alemanno. Finally, the Kabbalah-influenced Catalan philosopher Ramon Llull is translated into Hebrew, stimulating Llullian Kabbalah among Italians.
I have also made extensive additions to another blog, "Etteilla's Trumps as Interpreted by him and his followers", in the section "An Etteilla Timeline", This expanded timeline is the result of a collaboration with several others, notably "Kwaw" and "huck" on Aeclectic Tarot Forum..

Between Oct. 21, 2012, and July 28, 2015
"Platonism and the Tarot: From Renaissance Milan to 18th Century France",
This is an expansion of an earlier essay, "The Astral Journey of the Soul",,  In that essay I was concerned to show how the cards from Death on follow a pattern described at the end of Plutarch's essay "On the Apparent Face in the Orb of the Moon." In the present essay I look at all 22 triumphs (major arcana),  relating them to certain works of Plato that were read and discussed in Northern Italy starting in the second quarter of the 15th century. As in the other essay, I focus exclusively on the Milan-based cards, including the Tarot de Marseille.                             
"The Renaissance Philosophy of Cartomancy".
There was actually nothing written about the philosophy of cartomancy during the Renaissance. To have done so would have entailed serious difficulties with the Church. This essay is an attempt to construct what such a philosophy might have been, from three types of sources: first, ancient writings read then about divination by means of lots, i.e. "sortilege"; second, lot-books and literary products that provide Renaissance narratives of the use of cards to predict the future; and third, philosophical/theurgic writings in the Neoplatonist tradition, both Christian and Jewish, focusing on writers who claimed by esoteric means to predict the future, notably Pico and Allemano.  I have two versions of this essay, one short and one about twice as long, two different posts on the same blog.            
"Dummett's Il Mondo e l;Angelo: translations and commentary".
This classic 1993 work, probably the noted tarot historian's most interesting one for the general reader, is not easy to access, being both out of print and in Italian only. I have translated numerous  passages and summarized others for the purpose of engaging with the issues he raises, in relation to new information and my own reflections. Unlike his other books, it focuses on the deck rather than the games played with it, especially the traditional, non-occultist decks of the 18th century and earlier used primarily for games. For some chapters, I have been content just to quote and summarize. For others, such as his chapter on cartomancy, I have probably written more commentary than he did text.                 
"Decker's The Esoteric Tarot: Ancient sources Rediscovered in Hermeticism and Cabala"
Ron Decker collaborated with Michael Dummett in two of their books. Here he is on his own. In the first half of the book, he presents ancient texts available in the Renaissance as sources for the tarot, starting with Horapollo's Hieroglyphica, then Neopythagorean number theory, then an ancient astrological treatise, and finally the "Hermetic" works associated with the Roman-era philosopher Apuleius.  In the second half he relates the cartomancy of Etteilla to the Kabbalist work Gates of Light. Since this is the type of interpretation I do myself, with some of the same texts, I was eager to read Decker. Some of what he offers works and some doesn't.                                                                                     
"The Popess of the Tarot and the Double Life of Guglielma",
In 1966 Gertrude Moakley proposed that the first Popess of the Tarot was a Visconti relative named Manfreda,  acknowledged as Popess-elect by a secret group of followers of a saintly woman named Guglielma who had died a few years before. Moakley's proposal  was later endorsed by Dummett. In 2005 Barbara Newman enlarged on Moakley with new information about a Guglielma cult even at the time of the early tarot, one that also celebrated Manfreda, but under cover of another cult. Against her it has been argued, with new evidence, that this "cover story" of 1450 was not new, that this other Guglielma had  been an object of devotion for centuries. In this essay, taken from a series of THF posts, I reply with a reformulation of Newman's thesis that I think the new evidence supports.          
"Ross's Chart",
This is a relatively short essay taken from a one-post thread by that name on THF, with a few additions. Ross Caldwell has a chart that purports to show that the tarot was invented within a couple of years before 1440. I try to show that the chart shows nothing of the kind, and--following Vitali and Dummett--that at least 20 years before 1440 should be allowed for its time of invention.                                                                                                            
"Ambrogio vs. Bonifacio Bembo",
It is frequently said that Bonifacio Bembo was the artist responsible for the three early decks associated with Milan, except for 6 cards by a second artist. In 2013 the Brera Gallery published an exhibition catalog giving some of the work to another member of the Bembo family, Ambrogio. In this essay I translate some passages from that book and summarize others, along with scans of their reproductions of Bembo artwork and some photos of my own taken in Cremona.                                                                                            
"New Material on the Sola-Busca".
The Sola-Busca is a unique tarot deck with enigmatic scenes on the suit cards and Roman heroes on the triumphs. In 2014 the Brera Gallery published an exhibition catalog in which they determined the identity of the artist and suggested names for its owner and its designer. I present their arguments for the owner and the designer and discuss their analysis of the deck, as well as summarizing another point of view expressed recently in Italy that dates the Sola-Busca to a century later.                
  "The Stag on the Temperance Card".
Exactly what the sources of the imagery are, and so the meaning, of a puzzling early card, which Decker identified as Temperance, has been hard to pin down. In this short essay I point to a medieval tradition of stag imagery that confirms Decker's identification.                                                                                    
"Latimer's Sermons on the Cards: A Game of Triumphs in Which All Can Win".
This is a detailed exposition of two sermons in 1529 England in which Hugh Latimer, an English priest with Protestant leanings, invokes a game familiar to his parishioners called "truimphs", and which Latimer gives a Christian meaning. In the game he imagines, hearts are trumps; It is not tarot, but rather the adaptation of the game to ordinary cards,  one example of a tradition of giving meanings to the suits so as to impart an ethical dimension to the game. Part One of this essay appeared as an Addendum to an essay by Andrea Vitali at The whole essay, with a few changes, is at                                                                    
"Trionfi Manuscripts and Tarot Productions: Is There a Correlation?"
In the late 14th century, over the course of several decades, Petrarch wrote and published his poem "Il Trionfi" in which each of six triumphs, after the first, overcomes the one before it. The subjects resemble some of those of the game called "Triumphs". Did people perceive a connection, so that interest in one stimulated interest in the other? Was the game inspired at least in part by the poem at all? My essay tracks the manuscript history of the poem, including illuminated vs. non-illuminated versions, in relation to that of the game.


Besides the essays above, I made extensive additions to two other blogs already described.

One is "Tarot and the Chaldean Oracles", in which instead of having to plow your way through a rather wordy set of forum posts, you can follow an annotated a slide show that I gave on the subject instead. It is partly at the beginning of the blog and partly later on, so just follow the instructions.

The other extensively revised blog is "Tarot and Kabbalah in the 15th and Early 16th Century", where I have expanded the introduction considerably, proposing a particular history for the Kabbalist "tree" in to what the Christian Kabbalists made of both it and the Sefer Yetzirah, and linking the Tree as known in the Renaissance to the writings of Oswald Wirth and Paul Foster Case .

Before Oct 2012:

"The 'Song of the Virtues and Sciences' for Bruzio Visconti",

Around the middle of the 14th century a poet named Bartolomeo Bertoli da Bologna wrote a poem on the seven virtues and the seven sciences, dedicated at first to Luchino Visconti, Duke of Milan, and then, after Luchino's death in 13499, his son Bruzio, who ruled Bologna until 1355.  The major study of this manuscript is in Italian by Leone Dorez. My essay offers a translation of the first three and a half chapters of Dorez's book, through his discussion of the 7 virtues, with reproductions of the illuminations. Parallels may be seen to the later Cary-Yale tarot as well as--given Bartolomeo's addition of a ruling figure over each group of 7, making 16 in all--to the game of chess.

"Giotto's Virtues and Vices and Petrarch's Triumphi as starting points for the historical tarot,"
This essay is a development from my earlier "From Michelino to Cary-Yale to Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo." Here I look at the Cary-Yale as Petrarch's poem "Triumphi" plus the seven traditional virtues (from manuscripts such as "The Song of the Virtues and Sciences," discussed in another essay) in the form of an educational game.  I then show how the famous "Virtues and Vices" series of these 7 virtues paired with 7 vices could have been the basis for an expanded deck, from 16 to 22 special cards, of which the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo, of Milan in the 1450s, although missing two of the cards, is the earliest surviving example.
"Binary Patterns in Games and Divination Tools,"
 This essay is a reflection upon work initiated by "Huck" (Lothar Teickemeier) on the Tarot History Forum on binary thinking in the tarot and other games and divination tools. I start by noting similar thinking in the work of Jacques Halbronn, using his work to help us see the conventional "Marseille" trump cards as 11 "good" cards and 11 "bad cards in 11 binary pairs. However it most likely developed out of a system of 8 binary pairs, which Halbronn shows is the case in geomancy, a popular system of divination in 15th century Italy. Such an array of  2 x 8 also applies to chess, the I Ching, the "game of the gods" designed by Marziano for Filippo Visconti in the 1420s, and to the postulated 16 special cards of the Cary-Yale Tarot designed for Filippo Visctonti later.
"Palingenio's Zodiacus Vita, 1535 Venice."
Palingenio was a poet, monk, and humanist at the court of Ferrara in the 1530s who wrote an immensely long poem called, in English translation, "The Zodiac of Life." The narratorascends through 12 rungs of a mystical ladder culminating in the Godhead. In 1559 the author's body was exhumed and burned as that of a heretic.The work then enjoyed renewed success in German and French translation, being mentioned by Etteilla in one of his books on tarot, 1785. This essay explores parallels between the poem and the tarot and ends with some speculation on how such correspondences could have been transmitted from Ferrara to Paris in 1535 and then kept alive through the 18th century.
"Etteilla's Third Cahier and its Supplement",
Despite its name, this is the first published, 1782, of a series of books Etteilla wrote on the tarot, the first ever giving esoteric meanings of the cards as he saw them, meanings which on the whole have been carried on ever since. I post my translation of the text, followed by his later thoughts relating to this Cahier, from the supplement to the 4th Cahier, 1785, and a supplement to this 3rd Cahier, added to the 1782 text at some unknown date, but probably between 1782 and 1785. The original French for this material is on Aeclectic Tarot Forum. The 3rd Cahier in French was posted there by "Corodil" in August 2012; I transcribed the supplements. None of this material has been published since Etteilla's time, on the Internet or in paper, or in translation at any time.
"Etteilla's Angelology", at
Translation with commentary of Etteila's main discussion of the Kabbalists' "72 spirits around the Throne" in his 1785 Philosophie des Hautes Sciences. About 3000 words

"Etteilla's 'Temple of Fire' at Memphis," at
Translation of selected passages, with commentary, from an article written by Etteilla's disciple Hugand in 1789 that uses the "Temple of Fire" diagram appearing in a few Etteilla-related books. From Hugand it is clear that the diagram reflects what Etteilla considered to be the wise structure of ancient Egyptian society. My essay ends with Etteilla's explanation of the signs that are on the borders of the diagram, which relates as well to some symbols that appear in two of the suits in his deck. About 6000 words.
"Dionysus and the Historical Tarot: 15th-18th Century Cultural Contexts",
Part A, written April 2012, develops the hypothesis that Dionysus became consciously linked to the tarot by 1505 by the d'Este ruling family of Ferrara. Part B, an April 2012 revision of material written in 2008-2011, shows how this interpretation can be carried through all the trumps as tarot imagery developed c. 1500-1760. A has 10 sections, about 25,000 words. B has 22 sections, about 25,000 words. This essay also appears on the LeTarot website, starting at
"Tarot and the Chaldean Oracles,"
The Chaldean Oracles are a group of sayings embedded in the writings of pagan Neoplatonists of the 4th-5th century, which came to the attention of the West largely through Ficino's translation of an edition by Gemistos Plethon of Mistra, Greece. This essay contains my contributions on this subject in an October 2011 thread on Aeclectic Tarot Forum, .Compiled from material there in June 2012, the essay includes quotations and summaries of other participants' contributions to the extent necessary to support my final ideas. 4 sections, about 20,700 words.
"Tarot and Alchemy: Two Parallel Traditions"
 This essay explores the parallels between alchemy and tarot during the period 1420-1680, in images and text, expanding on suggestions by Robert O'Neill in his book Tarot Symbolism.. The present essay was originally a series of posts on a thread "Tarot and Alchemy" on Tarot History Forum in 2010, revised for this blog in June 2012. Nine sections, about 33,600 words.
"Neopythagoreanism and the Historical Tarot."
This essay uses mainly one ancient Neopythagorean text, the Theologumena Arithmeticae or Theology of Arithmetic, a text studied in Renaissance Italy, to interpret the number cards of the Sola-Busca tarot of c. 1491 Ferrara or Venice and connects them with the word-lists of the Etteilla School in France done at the end of the 18th century. The aim is to show the establishment and continuation of a divinatory system involving the numbers One through Ten carried out in terms of four suits. Originally written 2010, slight revisions June 2012. 15 sections, about 46,500 words. The original thread is at, for which. I was the initiator and major contributor.  .
"Etteilla's Trumps as Interpreted by Him and his Followers: Translations and Commentary",
In this essay I make use of two hitherto untranslated texts, the Second Cahier by Etteilla himself and a c. 1838 book of interpretations of Etteilla's cards in the Etteilla tradition, of which I translated portions on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum, much of it for the first time of which I am aware (although the text of the c. 1838 is similar, except for cards 9-15, to what is in the bilingual Little White Book accompanying a current Dusserre deck). I use the Second Cahier for the philosophy behind each of the trumps, and the c. 1838 for how it was applied to fortune-telling early on. I also compare the c. 1838 to the later Little White Books of c. 1910, the modern Grimaud, and the Dusserre, to see how the fortunes predicted have changed over the years. 11 sections, approximately 49,700 words.
 "Tarot Cards as Renaissance Hieroglyphs."
This essay is an attempt, first, to understand the ways in which the term "hieroglyph" was understood n 15th century Italy, second, to ascertain the localities of humanists  with these understandings, relative to cities in which there are records of tarot decks, and third to determine to what extent, and when, tarot cards could fit under that designation. It is divided into 5 sections and is about 19,500 words.
"From Michelino to CY to PMB",
In this essay I try to construct a plausible development of the tarot in Milan from its beginning in the "Game of the Gods" illuminated by Michelino c. 1425 or earlier, to a type exemplified by the Cary-Yale deck of the 1440s, a type I argue started around 1428, to a type exemplified by the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo deck of the 1450s, of which 14 surviving cards are by one artist and 6 by another. I wrote a draft of this essay in 2008 but extensively reworked it in June of 2012. It has 2 sections and about 17, 450 words. The material comes originally from the thread "The 5x14 Theory: An Investigation" on THF,
"Tarot and Kabbalah in 16th Century Europe",
This essay attempts to draw plausible correspondences between the Kabbalah as published in Latin during the early 16th century and the 22 tarot trumps as printed then and in the 17th century. I draw upon characterizations of the 10 sefiroth on the Tree of Life plus the En Sof outside the Tree, primarily in three texts, Pico della Mirandola's Nine Hundred Theses, Ricci's translation of Gikkatilla's Gates of Light, and Reuchlin's On the Kabbalah (1518). I refer occasionally to a fourth text as well, Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy (1533). This presentation is in the section called "Introduction", about 6500 words, written May 2012. The remaining 12 sections, done in 2008, are a more complete compilation of these authors' characterization of the sefiroth, in about 7700 words
"Pico's Influence on Boiardo's Tarot Poem",
Matteo Boiardo sometime after 1460, but in one view January of 1487, wrote a poem imagining a card games with four regular suits, two of virtues and two of vices, and a fifth suit in which legendary women embody virtues and men embody vices. In this essay I hypothesize that the verses about the fifth suit, and the general conception for the poem as a whole, were inspired by the 13th book of the Corpus Hermeticum as summarized in the Theses on "Mercury of Egypt" in Pico della Mirandola's 900 Theses, published 1 December 1486. Pico and Boiardo were cousins. There are 2 sections with  about 3600 words in all..
"A Bolognese Origin for the 'Tarot of Mantegna'?",
The corresponding thread is
Here I have turned the often circuitous turns and returns of the thread into one continuous, fairly chronological narrative, based on my contributions to the thread but summarizing the objections of the other main participant. About 22,700 words.
"22 Invocations of Dionysus: The Esoteric Tarot Before 1781",
This blog was the starting point for three others. I began it in 2008 and continually revised and expanded since then, until June 2011. It starts with a brief history of the tarot from 1420 to 1781, and then goes through each trump in order, taking it through Christian, Greco-Egyptian, Dionysian, alchemical, Neopythagorean, and Kabbalist interpretations. After each trump there follows a discussion of the number cards corresponding to that trump number, from 1 to 10 and then starting over again, 1 to 10 again.

Essays on Shakespeare

1. "The Hermetic Hamlet Slide Show",
This essay was originally written in 1994-1996 as the second half of my Ph.D. thesis at Pacific Graduate Institute. In the present form, it is a two part slide presentation given to the Theosophical Society of Portland in 2008. It treats the play as an "ascent through the planets", based on the characterization of the planetary vices given in Tractate One, the Poimandres, of the Corpus Hermeticum,amplified by Ficino in his Three Books on Life as well as various alchemical treatises. Part One goes through the play in terms of Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Luna. Part Two goes through the play again in terms of Saturn, Sol and Mars. In 10 sections, about 40,1000 words.

2. "The Divine Feminine in Shakespeare's Pericles",
Originally written 1999, then revised 2001 and again 2007. An analysis of the late play written partly by Shakespeare and partly by a terms of Gnostic mythology and Jungian psychology. Builds on work of Harold Bloom and Ted Hughes. In 11 sections, about 14,800 words.

3. "The Theology of King Lear",
Originally written 2003, revised 2004 and again slightly in 2012, this is an analysis of Shakespeare's play in terms of Gnostic myths in Irenaeus's Against All Heresies, Erasmus's Praise of Folly, the troubadour poet Peire Cardenal, alchemical texts, and Jungian psychology. In 14 sections, about 42,350 words.

4. "The Theology of Romeo and Juliet",
Originally written 2003, revised slightly in 2012. An analysis of the play in terms of medieval tests and imagery of the Assumption of the Virgin, of Celtic imagery of the Lunghnasadh, of the Gnostic "bridal chamber", of the medieval dawn song or alba, and of Jungian psychology. In 14 sections, about 41,000 words..
5. "Using Romeo and Juliet in a Mental Health Setting",
This essay is based on a group therapy group I conducted during the year 2005 in which participants, all sufferers of severe mental illness in a locked facility, read and discussed scenes from the play in terms of a treatment modality known as Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy, a modality which they were already somewhat familiar with from a previous group with me. I thought it went well, and others might benefit from reading about it. The play provides typical examples of emotional issues common to everyone and practical ways of resolving them, in a way in which people experiencing strong emotion can readily access at times when they are not thinking rationally. 8 sections, about 12,100 words including the scenes read from the play.

Other Essays of General Interest

1. "Cathar Slide Show",
This is the record of a talk I gave to the Gnostic Society of Portland in November of 2010. It is a brief history of the Cathar movement of the 11th through 13th centuries in the Languedoc of France and in Northern Italy, and using images gleaned from books and from my two personal trips to these areas (one just to Languedoc in 1999, then a second to both areas in 2001). In 4 sections, about 8600 words.

2.  "William Blake's Spiritual Journey."
This is the record of a slide talk I gave to the Gnostic Society of Portland in Nov. 2005 tracing Blake's spiritual journey in two of his illuminated books, The First Book of Urizen and Jerusalem, Emanation of the Giant Albion. I used photos taken of these texts at the Beinecke Library of Yale University. In 9 sections, about 17.150 words.

3. "Cupid and Psyche: a Tale Told in Art and Alchemy",
This is the record of a slide talk I gave to the Gnostic Society of Portland in April of 2006, going through Apuleius's tale of Cupid and Psyche with numerous images from art and alchemy to show various takes on particular episodes and integrating them with various psychological analyses of the tale. In 10 sections, about 8700 words.

4. "The Round Dance, Text and Commentary",

 This is a collaboration between another writer, Linda Phelps, and myself, i.e. my expansion of a piece originally written by Linda, so as to include more research. The text is a famous passage in the Acts of John in which Jesus, on the eve of the crucifixion says the words to a hymn while the disciples dance around him.Linda wrote the introduction and the parts on G. R. S. Mead's interpretation of it. I added more on the history and authenticity of the manuscript from which it comes, as well as information from other scholars on the interpretation. I am not sure when the essay was first done, but I did the blog, with one section, in 2006, made minor revisions in 2012; it is about 4000 words.

5. "The Round Dance Litany in the Acts of Philip",
In 1974 Francois Bovon found at Mt. Athos a short version of the "round dance" ritual, embedded in the form of a prayer that Philip offers to Jesus, apparently many years after his death, prior to Philip's administering of communion to the apostle Bartholomew and a woman named Mariamne, who may be Mary Magdalene. In this essay I give a translation of the passage from Bovon's French and of his explanatory comments, 1996. plus those of Frédéric Amsler in a second volume issued in 1999. The essay was written in 2006, the essay has one part and is about 3700 words long.

6. "Dali's Illustrations to Montaigne",
Reading Montaigne, I came across an edition edited by Salvador Dali. I thought the illustrations delightfully illustrated the essays and thought, for Christmas in 2008, some of my friends might enjoy the juxtaposition of the illustrations with quotations from the text. Here it is in blog form. In 12 sections, about 12,000 words.

7. "Interpreting the Engravings in Polanski's Ninth Gate,"
I was puzzled by the engravings shown in the movie "The Ninth Gate", so I researched the interpretations given in the book on which the movie was based, Arturo Perez-Reverte's The Club Dumas and also wrote down what the film itself had to say at various points. There was also the context of the story, in both the book and the film, and finally the tarot cards of which the engravings are variations. I'm not exactly sure when I wrote this essay; the blog is 2006, about 5500 words.