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Robert ONeill Articles and Blogs

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Iconology of the Lovers Cards

Introduction Six examples of the Lovers card have survived from the 15th/16th centuries (Figure 1). In the type B ordering, the Lovers cards are number seven.The imagery is quite consistent and shows a young couple with a cupid hovering above. One card shows three couples with two cupids. The last card (lower right) is a fragment but probably also had the typical Cupid above. Read More »

Iconology of the Angel Tarot Cards

IntroductionFigure 1 shows the Angel cards that have survived from the 15/16th centuries. The imagery is remarkably consistent across the cards, showing one or two angels blowing trumpets and figures rising from graves. Read More »

Iconology of the Chariot Cards

Introduction Figure 1 shows the seven extant Chariot cards from the 15th/16th centuries. The Chariot card was number eight in the type B ordering. The Chariot on the early cards appears as a 2-wheeled chariot pulled by white horses. Read More »

Franciscans Influence

The Albigensian Crusade had crushed the political and hierarchical infrastructure that supported the Cathars in Provence. The Inquisition persecuted the remnants in Provence and Italy for the next two centuries. Read More »

Origins of Catharism

Part I: Origins of Catharism Were the Cathari direct descendents of the ancient Gnostics? Yes, sorta, kinda. The Medieval Manichee by Runciman (1947, Cambridge University Press) is a dated but classic treatment of the subject. The influence of Runciman's work can be seen in the fact that the book was reprinted in 1955, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1991, and 1996. The book is a real goldmine for the English-speaking reader because it provides a comprehensive synthesis of the earlier French and German scholarly studies. Read More »

Iconology of the Early Tarot References

Anderson, M. D. 1963. Drama and imagery in English medieval churches. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge. Read More »

Albigensian Crusade

Part IV: Albigensian Crusade and the Inquisition The "problem" of the Cathari was solved by the Albigensian Crusade. Without going into irrelevant details, the Cathari in Provence (called Albigensians after the town of Albi) were preaching the downfall of the Church under the protection of powerful local rulers who were snubbing their noses at the Pope. When they murdered a Papal Legate, the pope went anaerobic and called on the rulers of northern France to intervene. Read More »

Introduction to the Magic of Tarot

Introduction One of the most controversial issues in the history of Tarot is the extent to which magic and divination played a role in the design of the 15th century Tarot. Opinions are sharply divided and vehemently argued. On one side are those who side with Dummett (1980) and maintain that the Tarot was designed to play a game - plain and simple. Their strongest argument is that extensive treatises on magic written in the 15th and 16th century, such as Agrippa's De occulta philosophia libri tres (1531), never mention the Tarot. There is no smoking gun. Read More »

Catharism and the Trumps

Part III: Catharism and Tarot Okay, after a couple of dry historical sections--let's get down to the nitty-gritty! Is the Tarot actually Gnostic in origin? The answer is--it's hard to see Catharism as the sole or fundamental source of the Tarot symbols. It is possible that the dualist heresy was A source but essentially we have to reject the idea that the dualist heresy was THE source (or primary or fundamental, etc.). After analyzing what the Cathari believed, it just isn't consistent to think of the Tarot as a Cathar symbolic system. Read More »

Magic: a Dilemma for Christianity

3. Magic: a dilemma for Christianity While it is clear that paganism disappeared, it is equally clear that Magic did not vanish. As a result, the issue of magic always posed a dilemma for the Church. The dilemma could not be solved by crushing Magic because belief in supernatural powers was an integral part of the culture into which Christianity was born. Indeed, Magic was an integral part of Christianity itself. The old and new testaments are full of demons and angels, prophesies and miracles. Read More »

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