Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Unicorn Hunters: My Top Ten

The search for a hidden meaning may be a unicorn hunt; but if there
is a meaning to be found, only a correct basis of fact will lead us to it.

Michael Dummett, The Game of Tarot

Very few people have taken a serious look at the Tarot trump cycle and opined on its meaning. A great many people have indulged their preconceptions about the cards, biases usually deriving from two centuries of occult drivel. The most noteworthy of the fatuous commentators was Joseph Campbell, who blathered a bit about Tarot and Dante in the late 70s. A flaky history professor, Theodore Roszak, repeated some New Age drivel about the Fool's Journey in the late 80s. Then there are hundreds of other pop-culture Tarot authors and thousands of writers on the Internet, most of their opinions stemming from a relatively few writers of previous generations. There are four criteria for making the list, and none of that horde qualify.

  1. The sine qua non is independent thought. The ten writers on the list have been able to look past the pop-culture dreck and see something of their own, right or wrong. This is a relatively objective criterion, at least compared with the next two.
  2. Getting the gist of it right, correctly identifying the basic idea behind the trump cycle, is a second criterion for making the list. Evaluating this necessarily requires some standard of comparison, and that is naturally my own view. The trump cycle is essentially a Triumph of Death, a Stoic-Christian moral allegory related to hundreds of other works in the tragic/macabre family of genres. A few writers caught a glimpse of this, and most did not.
  3. Seeing some of the structure and details of the series is a third criterion for making the list. The crucial insight in terms of structure is the identification of three distinct types of subject matter. The lowest register or group of trumps ends with the Pope, an obvious but almost universally unrecognized fact which refutes the prevalent but simple-minded septenary analyses. Beyond that, substructure is apparent in each of the three sections of the trump cycle. Again, a few writers saw part of this, most did not.
  4. Moving the discussion forward in some way, beyond the stagnant world of humbug and imposition, is the fourth criterion. In addition to insights about the design such as those indicated in the second and third items, relevant factual findings and/or correct identifications of trump subjects taken out of their cyclic context contributes to the overall progress in terms of understanding the trump cycle.

The ten interpretations will be presented in chronological order. A 4-part score will be given to each writer to indicate how well each criterion was met.

1876: Theodore Low De Vinne (1828-1914) was an American printer and scholar of printing and typography. His analysis of the Tarot trump cycle was contained in a single paragraph in The Invention of Printing (1876).

The Wheel of Fortune is emblematic of the fate which assigns to one man the condition of a Hermit, and to another that of an Emperor. The virtues of Temperance, Justice, and Strength which man opposes to Fate, the frivolity of the Fool, the happiness of the Lover (if he can be happy who is cajoled by two women), and the pride of the Empress, are all dominated by the central card bearing an image of the skeleton Death -- Death which precedes the Last Judgment and opens to the righteous the House of God. In these cards we have a pictorial representation of scenes from one of the curious spectacle plays of the middle ages, which were often enacted in the open air to the accompaniments of dance and music. The union of fearful mysteries with ridiculous accessories, and the ghastly suggestion of the fate of all men, as shown in the card of Death the reaper -- these were the features which gave point and character to the series of strange cartoons popular for many centuries in all parts of civilized Europe under the title of the Dance of Death.
DeVinne was quite unaffected by occultist preconceptions and correctly identified the significance of the trump cycle in the most general sense, but he didn't bother with the details and was not noticed by subsequent writers.
His score, subjective but not wholly arbitrary, is 5/4/0/1.

1926: Arthur Edward Waite (1857-1942) was a Christian mystic and scholar of the occult, and created what became the standard esoteric Tarot deck. Despite spending his adult life wallowing in the mystical side of occult societies, he remained a relatively sober analyst. He discussed the trumps as a composite design in the 1926 article "The Great Symbols of the Tarot", noting that "there is no doubt that some of [the cards] correspond to estates and types", i.e., the ranks of man and allegorical circumstances of life shown in the first and second sections of the trump cycle, and that some of the higher-ranked cards, "including the Resurrection card and the Devil", "are doctrinal in character", referring correctly to the eschatological nature of the highest trumps. Although he failed to correctly identify the groupings and found some images completely obscure (which he termed "symbolical"), this was still a considerable insight into the structure of the trumps. Likewise, his comments about the Chariot and Death suggest some glimpse of the De Casibus narrative arc of the middle trumps.

1951: William Marston Seabury (1878-1949) was a lawyer who published studies regarding issues of international film censorship, the economics of film distribution practices, trade associations, and the like, and an enthusiastic Bridge player. His study of Tarot was limited, and his notes were published postumously, but given what he did write it is clear that he was content with vague parallels in lieu of real explanation. He makes the list only because there are so few writers who took an original look at the trumps rather than creating or justifying occult babble. Seabury mentioned Boccaccio’s De Casibus, but he did not understand what the connection might be. Like so many others before and after him, he looked at the subjects out of their sequential context, and it is the sequence of the images which establishes a De Casibus or Fall of Princes motif in the trump cycle. He also mentioned Holbein’s Dance of Death at some length, listing eleven trump subjects which he found in that work. Unfortunately, he failed to draw any conclusion from that, simply adding it to his catalog of medieval analogies, including Dice & Chess, Florentine Guilds, the Feast of Fools, and above all, Dante.

1956-66: Getrude Moakley (1905-1998) was a librarian at the N.Y. Public Library. Her book, The Tarot Cards Painted by Bonifacio Bembo for the Visconti-Sforza Family: An Iconographic and Historical Study, was the first detailed, art-historical analysis of a specific deck and its unique iconography. (Decades later, we are have yet to see a second.) Moakley's most fundamental insight was that the hierarchy of trumps were a hierarchy of allegorical triumphs, hence the name carte da trionfi. She presented the trumps and the suit cards as all meaningfully integrated into a Carnivalesque pageant, a triumphal procession based loosely on Petrarch's I Trionfi. In interpreting the Visconti-Sforza cards as reflecting primarily themes from Petrarch's poem, Moakley weaves in a number of other motifs as well. Interpreting the suit cards, for example, she cites the allegorical interpretation of Innocentio Ringhieri which identified the suits with the four Cardinal Virtues. Moakley then presents each suit as a chivalrous embodiment of its respective virtue, thereby connecting them with the knight's processions mentioned above, which integrates the suits into her overall conception of the deck. This ambivalence, mixing Carnival vanities and moral allegory, fits neatly with the cultural sensibilities of the Carnival/Lent cycle.

One of the most compelling identifications Moakley provides in support of her theory deals directly to this Carnival/Lent aspect. The Mountebank, lowest of the trumps, is identified as the Carnival King himself, and the singular Fool is interpreted as the personification Lent. She discusses the unique iconography of these cards in the Visconti-Sforza deck, explaining their peculiarities in terms of these meanings. And she describes their role in the pageant. Into this context of a playful Carnivalesque procession, Moakley suggests that Petrarch’s triumphs were blended. They were excerpted, simplified, and rearranged "in the merry mood of Carnival." Some elements seem straightforward, such as Love followed by the Chariot. In the Visconti-Sforza deck, Love may well illustrate a betrothal picture of Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti. The Chariot has a female sovereign being pulled by winged horses, and might easily be intended to conflate the conventional Tarot Chariot with Petrarch's Triumph of Chastity.

Moakley resolves discrepancies with her interpretation with speculation about humorous intent: Lack of fit with Petrarch's design is taken not as a weakness of the theory but as implied satire of that design. The trumps are considered "a ribald take-off" of Petrarch’s story. "Perhaps because, in the merry mood of Carnival, everything possible was done to make fun of the solemn story." Unfortunately, there is no apparent rhyme or reason to the various mismatches, and no coherent connection with Petrarch's design. If it were intended as a satire it fails utterly, since the object of the satire is no longer visible. Such interpretive freedom means that there is little real explanatory power to the hypothesis. However, to the extent that Petrarch's Trionfi themselves were a Triumph of Death, she has glimpsed the central design of the trump cycle. And she discovered genuine historical cognates for supposedly enigmatic and mysterious cards that Waite had termed "symbolical".

1977: Ronald Decker was an art and art history teacher, and curator of the U.S. Playing-Card Company's collection. From the fragmentary presentation of his ideas that I've seen, it appears to be both novel and, in some ways, insightful. In particular, his analysis of a systematic design in the TdM trump cycle appears sound, although he fails to understand either the overall gist of the trumps or the meaning of the individual cards.

1980-85: Michael Dummett (1925-) is the foremost scholar in the field of Tarot history, with many books and articles to his credit. His insistence on facts and reason is unparalleled in the Tarot world, and his originality and productivity are likewise in a class by themselves: he literally wrote the book on Tarot history. However, he also contributed greatly to Tarot iconography. His studies documented, among a great many other historical findings, that there were over a dozen different orderings of the trumps. He analyzed their patterns of similarity and difference, which is a crucial first step in making sense of their meaning. If the trump subjects have meaning as a coherent work of art, then somewhat different orderings convey somewhat different meanings. Conversely, the commonalties convey a generic content, a design which was recognized and respected by all those who revised the orderings. If the trumps constitute a work of art with a coherent meaning, then the order of the cards is the composition of that work while, if the trumps do not constitute a coherent system, then we may agree with Dummett: "Certainly most of the subjects on the Tarot trumps are completely standard ones in mediaeval and Renaissance art; there seems no need of any special hypothesis to explain them." As Dummett put it, "The hidden meaning, if any, lies in the sequential arrangement of the trump cards".

Dummett discerned in those commonalties the tripartite structure of the hierarchy and identified three types of subject matter in the trumps. This is another crucial step in Tarot iconography, and one which no other author has successfully negotiated. It is discussed in some detail in the earlier post, Iconography and the Order of the Cards. In terms of seeing into the gist of the trump cycle, however, Dummett declined to offer an interpretation. Despite providing these profound findings and insights, he didn't follow up with an iconographic analysis at all. In lieu of that he proposed a null hypothesis, that there is no such coherent meaning. The trumps were a kind of triumphal sampler of readily distinguished subjects in a vaguely conceived hierarchy, for mnemonic purposes only. Were it not such a vitally important and arguably sufficient alternative, against which all other hypotheses must be measured, this would rate a zero for the second criterion. However, given that it is the benchmark which other views must exceed to even merit consideration, it's importance must be acknowledged.

1985: John Shephard "studied the tarot in relation to the astrological and mythological literature of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries for several years. He is a member of the International Playing Card Society, the Astrological Association, and the Astrological Lodge of London." Shephard, like some others on the list, understood almost nothing about the design of the trump cycle but nonetheless made a serious attempt at ekphrasis. Being expert in astrology, he interpreted the trump subjects and the cyclic structure in astrological terms. However, instead of following the occultist approach to correspondences, he developed a system based on the Children of the Planets conceit. While still bordering on the absurd, with far-fetched interpretations and inordinate complexity in the service of a trivial program, his analysis was at least novel and period appropriate. (Also, along the way, he presented a very valuable and wholly correct analysis of the E-Series model book iconographic program.)

1998: Timothy Betts, in his book Tarot and the Millennium: The Story of Who's on the Cards and Why, argued that the trump cycle was a peculiar retelling of medieval legends of the Second Coming and the Last Emperor. It was a novel interpretation, with no debt to the occultists, but he missed the essential meaning of the trump cycle and its structure completely. He did, however, discover and report on some relevant historical facts.

2000-02: Michael J. Hurst. I have followed key leads provided by Moakley and Dummett. Moakley's most significant insight that the trumps are an allegorical trionfi. Rather than taking the trump cycle as a travesty of Petrarch's I Trionfi, however, I have treated the hierarchy as a unique moral allegory and attempted to explain it in its own right, as one of many such works. Dummett's observation of the division of the series into three sections with different types of subject matter is fundamental. Each individual trump subject must be interpreted within the context of its register, the section of the overall program in which it appears.

2008: Ross Gregory Caldwell, although indebted to Moakley in a general sense, has taken a different approach. Trionfi in their most literary incarnations tend to be primarily allegorical, with Petrarch's cycle being the defining example. In their more common and pragmatic form, triumphs tended to be public-relations events staged for the benefit of military or political leaders. Alfonso's triumphant entry into Naples in 1443 is a well-documented example from the same period in which Tarot was created, but ancient monuments and descriptions tell a similar story. Allegory and homage are, in a sense, the two extremes toward which triumphs may be directed, although they are never actually separated. Caldwell has argued that the trump cycle represents a kind of speculum boni principis in the form of a generalized procession, which corresponds well with events like Alfonso's entry. As such, it might be based -- as some have speculated -- on an actual procession. Regardless of the origin of the hierarchy, as a card game designed for an Italian noble it would fit beautifully with descriptions of the value attributed to such games: not merely recreation but ennobling inspiration.

As of this date, Caldwell has not made a detailed presentation of his ideas.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gertrude Moakley

Gertrude Moakley passed away ten years ago this friday.
This seems like a good time to remember her.

Gertrude Charlotte Moakley was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on February 18, 1905, to Arthur Irving Moakley and Josephine Henry (Barrett). She received a B.A. from Barnard College in 1926 and a B.S. from Columbia University School of Library Science in 1928. (Photo from Barnard College yearbook, Mortarboard 1926.) She then began working as a librarian for the New York Public Library. She appears in directories of librarians from 1933 through 1970, and she published several books on filing codes, including Basic Filing Rules for Medium-sized Libraries, foreword by Rudolf Flesch, (1957). This biographical information comes from page 2 of that book.

Gertrude Moakley... has been a staff member of The New York Public Library, Cataloging Office, Circulation Department, during 1928-34 and from 1945 to date. In charge of filing for about seven years, she served as chairman of the special committee, which revised the Filing Code of the Circulation Department, during 1949-53. In 1953-54, Miss Moakley was chairman of a special committee on revision of the ALA Rules for Filing Catalog Cards appointed by the executive board of the ALA Division of Cataloging and Classification. Miss Moakley has contributed articles to the Bulletin of The New York Public Library and the Journal of Cataloging and Classification, and she has lectured on catalog arrangement at New York University.

At some point Moakley became interested in the study of Tarot. Her article, "The Waite-Smith Tarot: A Footnote to The Waste Land", appeared in the Bulletin of the New York Public Library, (v.58, 1954). She argued for the influence of Arthur E. Waite's Tarot book and deck on T.S. Eliot's 1922 poem. From 1955 through 1967 she corresponded with art historian Erwin Panofsky; this period brackets her article and book on the iconography of the Visconti-Sforza trumps. The 17-page article, "The Tarot Trumps and Petrarch's Trionfi: Some Suggestions on their Relationship", appeared in the Bulletin of the New York Public Library (v.60, 1956), and foreshadowed the 1966 book for which she is famous.

In 1958 she wrote a brief introduction to the Arcanum Books edition of Waite's translation of The Tarot of the Bohemians, by Papus. Among other things, it expresses her interest in and understanding of the two sides of modern Tarot. She compares the duality of Tarot to "the Yin-Yang symbol, whose dark [occult] side has a little spot of brightness at its center."

To complete our idea of the Tarot symbolism we need to add to the darkly veiled side the bright conscious side with the spot of dark unconsciousness at its center. That is, we need to recognize that the literal facts about the Tarot cards are probably quite different from the occultist account. But this brings us again to another veiled darkness: the unconscious motives of those who meant to use symbols only to add to the amusement and excitement of a Carnival game. We may then accept the occultist tradition as a valid myth, that is, a solemn way of stating a truth symbolically with such imaginative force that even its authors at first always mistake it for the literal truth.

Today, a half century later, the more sophisticated Tarot cultists take much the same view. It has been noted that, around this time, Moakley was a guest on "Long John" Neville's late-night radio program "about psychism, spiritual mysteries, and paranormal phenomena", on WOR in New York. Their introduction was made by Eden Gray, godmother of modern Tarot. It is clear that Moakley was a significant figure in the Tarot world during this period, and in 1959, for the University Books edition of Waite's The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, Moakley wrote an insightful introduction to Waite, his artist Pamela Colman Smith, and their Tarot deck. Crediting both for the deck, providing biographical information about "Pixie" as well as Waite, and dubbing the deck "the Waite-Smith Tarot" (rather than Rider-Waite) for the title of her earlier article, all seem natural today but might not have in the 1950s. Not surprisingly, her understanding of Waite was far better than most Tarot enthusiasts today. She also appended an unusual section, "Note on The Tarot as a Game", describing how Tarot games are played. Few people in the English-speaking world had any knowledge of or interest in the cards primary purpose. Moakley observes in passing that the game might have some connection with "the essential meaning of the Tarot". She recommends the book to people beyond the expected readership of fortune-tellers and occultists.

Waite's Tarot is full of symbols to which he attracts your attention only indirectly. The gradual discovery of these is one of the delights of owning the book. Even in the plagiarized and debased De Laurence edition it has been for years one of my treasures, and it is good to see it appear again in its more gracious form.

And even to a person with no interest in mysticism, the book may be of great value. The section entitled "The Tarot in History" is an excellent summing up of the development of occult Tarotism and a sound estimate of its claims. It will be useful to anyone who wants to study as a cultural phenomenon this modern instance of what Robert Graves has called iconotropy.

Then, too, this book will be useful to anyone who is curious about the imagery of T.S. Eliot's great poem, The Waste Land, and who refuses to let his curiosity be inhibited by Eliot's recent disparaging remarks about "wild-goose chases after Tarot cards." The "traditional Tarot" which plays so great a part in this poem must have been Waite's and it is all to Eliot's credit that his imagination was kindled by it in the second decade of the twentieth century.

Today, of course, Moakley is best remembered for her 1966 book, The Tarot Cards Painted by Bonifacio Bembo for the Visconti-Sforza Family: An Historical and Iconographic Study. Here she presented the first (and what remains to this day the most respectable) iconographic study of a particular Tarot deck. Her research (by this time over a decade of it) encompassed the history of the Visconti-Sforza deck itself, the family for which it was made, their heraldry and relationships, the artist who was responsible for its creation, and the symbolism of the allegorical figures. She provided sober identifications for "enigmas" like the Hanged Man and "mysteries" like the Popess, opening the door for subsequent rational treatment of Tarot iconography. Her findings in each of these areas remain foundational today, and her conclusions about the iconographic program of the trump cycle remain more reasonable than 99% of what has been written since.

Gertrude Moakley died in St. Petersburg, Florida, on March 28, 1998. Reportedly, she had continued to study Tarot and work toward a revised edition of The Tarot Cards, and both her research notes and the rights to the original book were entrusted to Stuart Kaplan. Unfortunately, there is no indication that either a reprint of the original or a revised edition will ever be released.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ancient Triumphs (1 of 5)

The Tarot trump cards—carte da trionfi—have the concept of triumphs at their heart. As first pointed out by Gertrude Moakley, the brilliant conceit was to make the hierarchy of trump cards a hierarchy of triumphs, an allegorical concatenation in the tradition of Boccaccio's Amorosa Visione and Petrarch's I Trionfi. Those 14th-century works, and even Tarot itself, (created around 1440), predate the pervasive triumphalism that began in the late 15th century. That motif for both honorific and allegorical displays continued through the 16th and 17th centuries, and began over two thousand years earlier.

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1/19/09 A couple postscript revisions: I'm going to discuss triumphalism and related iconographic motifs in five posts, although the division is naturally somewhat arbitrary. For example, Helios in his chariot continued to be depicted in the Middle Ages as a holdover from ancient times; but it was also a precursor of the Renaissance fondness of the quadriga and a cognate for medieval images of Elijah's fiery translation. This first post will deal with ancient Roman triumphs a bit, with quotes from Margaret Ann Zaho's Imago Triumphalis. The second post will examine the transmission and transition of triumphal motifs in medieval Christian works beginning with Prudentius' Psychomachia, the most prominent early Christian example outside of the Bible (which I'm largely ignoring). It will continue through Pope Innocent III, Dante, and Giotto in the early 14th Century. Petrarch's Triumphs: Allegory and Spectacle, edited by Konrad Eisenbichler and Amilcare A. Iannucci will be the source for much of that. The third post will talk about the revival of triumphalism in the later 14th Century as allegory (i.e., Triumph of Death frescoes), as homage (i.e., Cola di Rienzi's 1354 entry into Rome), and as literary devices in Boccaccio and Petrarch. This too will rely largely on Petrarch's Triumphs. The fourth post will present some material on Renaissance triumphalism in Italy, the fashion for trionfi in the 15th and 16th centuries. This will draw mainly from Imago Triumphalis but also including comments and images regarding Durer and Mantegna. The fifth post will show some images of 17th-century German pageant wagons which illustrate how allegorical figures in such a procession might have appeared at the time Tarot was invented. Those images are from Triumphal Shews: Tournaments at German-speaking Courts in their European Context 1560-1730, by Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly.

The word "triumph" has two very different but directly connected meanings. It refers to both victory and the celebration of victory. Moreover, the symbolism of triumph was varied. The triumphal arch was a monumental symbol of victory often depicted in illustrations. Trophies of victory, including weapons, armor, and captives, were also commonplace symbols of triumph. One of the most striking depictions of triumph is the calcatio colli, the pose in which the triumphator is standing with his foot on the neck of the defeated. It was a common practice in the Byzantine world and widely known. The upright victor and prostrate vanquished are also illustrated in other scenes of trampling, by foot, by horse, or by chariot. Riding a horse was itself, like riding the chariot, a common triumphal symbolism. Another Roman triumphal tradition was the use of allegorical hunting scenes, “where equestrian victory over real and mythical wild beasts signified both political conquest and apotheosis.” Both military and hunting scenes might also include or presage the coup de grace, the death stroke with sword, bow, spear, or mace.

Iconographically, the most characteristic depiction of conquest shows the victor standing triumphant over the fallen vanquished. Another famous motif is the calcatio colli or foot on the neck of the vanquished. Any image where the victor is shown delivering a coup de grâce is equally symbolic, immediately recognizable as a triumph. The subsequent glorification of the victor is most typically shown as a coronation or procession, with crown and chariot as corresponding symbols of dominion. Other well-known motifs of triumphant glorification include enthronement, coronation, a triumphal arch, and so on. A common, somewhat intermediate motif is the heroic equestrian. In addition to the obvious indication of a mounted warrior and battlefield leader, this alludes to the ultimate bloody triumph and perfect justice of Christ, the conqueror described in Revelation 19:11-13.

Just as the concept of triumph has many symbolic representations, a given motif may have various meanings, each appropriate to a different context. To give a few examples, the chariot of Mars suggests battle itself rather than victory (although that is implicit in the god of war) or glorification (again implied—he is a god!) The chariot of Helios (or Selene) is essentially transportation, albeit suitable for a god. Conversely, triumph as both victory and glorification can have many different representations. It is not restricted to just images of coronation, enthronement, royal entry, a particular coup de grâce, or any other specific subject. A mounted reaper menacing (i.e., coup de grâce motif) nobles, clerics, and riff-raff, for example, is immediately recognizable as a triumph of Death. Nonetheless, given the provenance of Tarot, the canonical form of cognate for our discussions is the chariot in procession reflecting the Renaissance revival of Roman triumphs. Given the placement of the chariot within the trump cycle, the essential meaning is the success of military victory, reflected in such a procession.

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Ancient Triumphs

The archetype of the Roman triumphal procession did not originate in Italy. Instead it was an amalgamation of early Near Eastern military parades and Greek religious processions that were then filtered through the Etruscan civilization. The Greeks and Etruscans derived the Near Eastern influence from Asia Minor. Assyrian relief panels from the palace of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh, Mesopotamia, show an early example of a military victory procession. [c.650 B.C.]
The procession of Ptolemy Philadelphus [c.275 B.C.] is an example of such a Hellenistic procession. The event was recorded in a work by Kallixeinos of Rhodes entitled About Alexandria. The very long but fragmentary text describes a large and elaborate civic procession in which is contained several smaller processions in honor of the gods, deified mortals and other personifications from nature.... The most detailed and complete section from this fragment is the portion that relates the procession of Dionysius. It is within this portion that the similarities between this Greek religious festival and the later Roman triumphal processions emerge. Most striking perhaps is the general arrangement of the procession with priests and musicians, dressed in purple robes and crowned with ivy, leading a long parade of figures and large 4-wheeled carts displaying images of the gods.

The Etruscan Connection

Evidence of a connection between a Greek historical concept and the Roman triumph comes from the Greek language itself. The Latin author Varro attributes the Latin exclamation triumpe to a Greek word thriambos. He further explains that here are no other connections made between the Latin word triumpe and any earlier Latin word. The phonetic shift from the Greek word thriambos to the Latin triumpe is not explained by Varro, since in strict translation the word in Latin should have become triambos. The shift to triumpe then can only be explained by the intervention of another form of the word which comes from the Etruscans. Due to the shift in vowel from a to u it would appear that the Greek word entered the Etruscan language at about the end of the sixth century b.c. The function of the word triumpe was originally as an exclamation. It is recorded as a shout that was repeated five times at the end of a poem entitled Carmen Arvale. The Carmen Arvale was a poem, or perhaps song, which was addressed to the god Mars and was shouted or exclaimed during a victory procession.
The Roman triumphal ceremony, like the word triumph itself, is therefore not an originally Roman phenomenon, but is instead derivative of an ancient Etruscan sacral ceremony. The form taken over by the Romans comes most probably from about the sixth century b.c. the period of the Etruscan monarchy in Rome. All of the most basic components of the Roman triumph come from the Etruscans; the name, the dress and insignia, the chariot, the organization of the procession, and the goal of the procession at the top of the Capitoline Hill. Etruscan reliefs from tombs and sarcophagi, as well as frescoes clearly depict a number of these early processions, some which appear to be religious in nature and others that are clearly more militaristic. The religious processions of the Etruscan priests, the lucumenes, clearly served as a model for the Roman triumph.... A fifth-century b.c. relief from a terracotta sarcophagus from Cerveteri, in southern Italy, depicts an early version of one of these processions.

The historian Florus records that the Romans borrowed from the Etruscans all the implements of the triumph including, fasces, robes of state, official chairs, rings, horse trappings, military cloaks, purple-bordered togas, the gilded chariot drawn by four horses, the embroidered robes and tunics adorned with palms, even the trumpeters who preceded the procession.

The Roman Triumph per se

A particularly Roman quality added to this Etruscan ceremony was the personal prestige the procession brought to the individual honored. The Etruscans had kept the focus on the god Jupiter and the sacrificial ceremonies that were performed at the Capitoline. By the second century b.c. the Romans had already begun to focus more and more on the individual victor and the emphasis of the ceremony itself as a public display and exaltation of the triumphator. The triumphator is in essence, in the earliest examples of the Etruscan triumph, the representative of the god Jupiter.
By the Republican period in Rome there was not just one event generally referred to as a triumph, there were three. There was the triumph proper, the event we are concerned with here, the ovatio, and the triumph on Mount Albanus. The three triumphs are related in that the triumph proper is both the oldest of the events as well as the most honorable, the ovatio, first held in 503 b.c. is similar to the triumph except that the victorious general is not called the triumphator and is not dressed as such nor does he ride to the capitol in a chariot. The triumph on Mount Albanus, first held in 231 b.c., is the least honorific event in that the general could celebrate this event without permission, and it is held entirely outside the city.
The preparations for the ceremony began outside the sacred boundaries of the city in the Campus Martius northwest of the city center. Here the victorious general would address his troops and here too they were required to leave all of their weapons. The triumphal procession then would enter the city proper through the Porta Triumphalis. The procession then followed a counterclockwise route past the Forum Boarium and the Circus Maximus around the Palatine Hill and finally onto the Via Sacra. Once on the Via Sacra the procession traversed the whole of the Forum Romanum passing the temple of Vesta and the Regia. The procession then led past the site of the temple of Saturn and up the steep slope to the Capitoline finally reaching the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus.
The actual procession and its arrangement remained virtually unchanged from the earliest period. At the head of the procession came the magistrates and senators, as the leaders of the procession they were visible reminders of the state’s approval of the event itself. Next came the trumpeters and the first of many carts which carried the spoils of war, such as arms and armor as well as treasure, later there would be carts that served as tableau vivants with re-enactments of portions of the battles, accompanying the carts would also be paintings carried on large placards as well as slogans. Then came the laurel crowns that had been presented to the general by the defeated towns and capitals and following them came two sacrificial garlanded white oxen led by priests. Next came the triumphator himself pulled in a four-horse drawn chariot or quadriga. Following the triumphator came the lictors who carried the sacred fasces accompanied by dancers and singers and after them any Roman citizens who may have been freed from slavery as a result of the victory. Behind this grand procession marched the army who shouted praises and io triumphe.
The largest and most conspicuous record of these processions survives in the triumphal arches built and decorated to honor and mark these events. The form of the triumphal arch, like the ceremony that prompted its construction, was dependent on the Etruscans. The arch itself, most probably, derived its architectural shape from Etruscan portals. These Etruscan portals were often wide single bay arches that were elaborately decorated and served as gates or portals to cities.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My New Tarot Crush

Last week Robert Mealing posted some JPEGs from the Bibliothèque nationale de France to the Aeclectic Tarot Forum. As usual, his side-by-side comparisons with appropriate related decks were attractive and informative. However, I was most taken with the queen of coins. Quite the cutie with pushed-up boobs and a baby face -- high rounded forehead, big eyes, plump cheeks, tiny nose, small mouth and full lips, slightly receding chin.

In 2006, Dr Martin Grundl, chair of applied psychology at the University of Regensburg in Germany, ran a study using computer-generated faces to find which features people found most attractive. Women with high, wide foreheads were found more beautiful. Grundl says this is because we are attuned to prefer babylike features because they indicate youth and fertility. "Given a set of female faces morphed with those of children, the test subjects were asked to indicate which version they found most attractive," he says. "The results show that childlike characteristics - large round eyes, a large curved forehead and a small, short nose and chin - can enhance attractiveness. "Only very few (9.5 per cent) rated women with mature features as being most attractive. Most of the preferred female faces contained childlike proportions of 10 to 50 per cent."
Leah Hardy, Daily Mail, 1/14/2008
How cosmetic surgeons decide what small changes will make a woman beautiful

My previous Tarot crush was Bianca Sforza. Judging by the full-page illustration (of a woman having so little significance to Tarot history) facing page 1 of Kaplan's Encyclopedia of Tarot (v.II), and a second reproduction of the painting on page 112 of the same book, I must not be the only one who thought she was cute. Ambrogio de Predis painted this picture of the illegitimate daughter of Duke Lodovico Sforza.

Post on Aeclectic Tarot Forum:
Interesting TdM Mold

Dr. Grundl's beauty study referred to above is presented online at Beautycheck. Among the more interesting sections are the Summary, Babyfaceness, and Beautiful Figure pages. The full report can be downloaded as a PDF file, in German.