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Robert ONeill Articles and Blogs

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7. Numerology "But thou hast arranged all things by measure and number and weight." Wisdom, XI, 20. The Art of Ramon Lull provides a convenient entry into the alphanumeric and image magic of the late Middle Ages. Blessed Ramon's devotion to letter combinations and strange diagrams seems very foreign to us and our culture. To judge whether such strange ideas might have influenced the Tarot designers, we must understand how the 15th century would have understood those concepts. We will begin with the association of numbers and letters. Read More »

Christian Magic

2. Christian magic During the first few centuries of the common era, magic was identified with the paganism of the Greco-Roman world that gave rise to Christianity. These rival religions were competitors and paganism was seen as a threat. Efforts focused on suppressing the power and beliefs of paganism. Read More »

Joachim of Fiore

Part V: Joachim of Fiore To understand the transformations that occurred in Catharism, we must pause to consider the strange mystic and prophet, Joachim of Fiore. Too "Catholic" for the occultist historian and too "heretical" for the orthodox, he appears more often in footnotes than in the text of history books. It has only been in recent decades that his incredible influence on the intellectual history of the Middle Ages and Renaissance has become the subject of scholarly research. Read More »

Doctrines of Catharism

Part II: Cathari Doctrine and Practice We have a great deal of information on Catharism because of the Inquisition--specifically set up after the Albigensian Crusade to stamp out the heresy. As always, one has to look at the testimony of accusers with a critical eye. Charges of immorality, for example, were not based on evidence but on the prevailing theory of heresy (Moore, 1975). Heresy was evil and unnatural and therefore was expected to show moral and physical symptoms. Leprosy was often taken as evidence of heresy. Read More »

Fool Cards

Figure 1 shows the four intact cards from the 15/16th century decks. The fool appears in a variety of guises from the goitered idiot with feathers in his hair to the homeless man with bells to warn of his approach. In two cases, he is being played with or tormented by children. In all cases he is carrying an object: a staff, a branch, or a belt of bells. In two cases he has a foolscap with the ears of a jackass. In all cases his clothing is inadequate. Read More »

Empress Cards

In the early ordering (Type B) of the Tarot trumps, the Empress card appears as trump #2.  With the Empress card we move from the lowest estates of man, represented by the Fool and Bagatto, to the highest. Read More »

Papess Cards

The five surviving Papess images (card #4) are shown in Figure 1.  All of the images show a seated woman wearing the triple papal tiara. Two have a staff topped with a cross, two have a bishop's crozier and the last holds a key, the key of Peter as a symbol of the papacy. Three have a closed book in their laps and one is reading from a book open on a reading stand. Two show a tonsured assistant as found on some Pope cards. Read More »

Pope Cards

Figure 1 shows the 6 extant Pope cards from the 15th and 16th centuries. As with the Emperor, all of the figures are enthroned. The keys of St. Peter are shown on three of the cards, Read More »

Virtue Cards

 The three Tarot trumps that represent cardinal or moral virtues (Temperance, Fortitude, Justice) will be covered in separate chapters. However, the virtues form an integral subset of the symbolic system and some general observations are in order. Read More »

The Major Arcana: Fool's Journey

Modern interpreters sometimes refer to the Tarot majors as the Fool's Journey. The 21 images of the trumps are seen as stages in a psychological or mystical journey and the Fool is seen as the pilgrim. Read More »

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