Monday, December 10, 2007

Imagined Cards

The Moral Allegory

Who then is free? The wise man, who is lord over himself, whom neither poverty nor death nor bonds affright, who bravely defies his passions, and scorns ambition, who in himself is a whole, smoothed and rounded, so that nothing from outside can rest on the polished surface, and against whom Fortune in her onset is ever maimed.
(Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Satires, 2.7)

Ripping Up the Cards -- a New World

My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must transcend these propositions; then he sees the world rightly.
(Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.54)

There is nothing wrong with making up a version of Tarot with new images, or new meanings for the old ones, or revisioning any other work of art or literature to suit our own values, attitudes, beliefs, and practices. Such strong misprision, forced misreading whether intentional or naive, has gone on from the earliest times. It is the way in which old narratives are made newly relevant, speaking to a new audience, often in a very different culture. The point is simply to be aware that such revisions tell us nothing about the historical meaning of the Tarot trump cycle. To impose preferred meanings on the battered artifact and use that fiction to claim historical sanction for one's personal beliefs is indulging a childish game of make-believe.