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Robert ONeill Articles and Blogs

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Art of Memory

8. Art of memory One of the most confusing aspects of magic deals with imagery. It will take several chapters to untangle all the threads. We will begin with the Art of Memory which Yates (1966) established as an integral part of the esoteric tradition. Yates also shows that Llull's Art contributed to this tradition, which helps tie this chapter to material presented earlier. Read More »


Emperor Cards

 The Emperor appears as trump card #3  in the type B ordering we are following in this essay. A number of examples of the Emperor card have survived from the 15/16th centuries (Fig. 1) although it is clear that some of the images are copies or adaptations of others. Read More »


Universal Belief in Magic

1. Universal belief in magic There are a number of things that we know about magic in 15th century Italy with a fair degree of historical certainty. We know, for example, that there was a universal belief in the efficacy of magic. So if one were to ask whether the Tarot designers and early card-players believed in magic, the answer is yes. Read More »


Catharism and the Tarot Conclusions

Conclusions This series of studies examined the hypothesis that the Tarot symbols are based on a Gnostic model. The evidence argues against any direct influence from the ancient Gnostics. Their elaborate myths are not evident in the Tarot symbols, their literature was lost, their concepts aren't preserved in the late Medieval literature. The symbols of dualism in the Tarot are more likely derived from proximal sources such as Neoplatonism and the dualism inherent in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Read More »


Dante

Part IX: Dante It occurred to me that as we progressed through this series of studies, it was difficult to see how the many threads were woven together. As the infrastructure of Catharism was violently disrupted, its remnants were transformed by the Spiritual Franciscans with their Joachimism and their institution of the Tertiaries and later the Confraternities. The Gnostic doctrine, inherited from the Bogomils, was supplanted by a Neoplatonic Apocalypticism. Read More »


Tarot Imagery

Part VIII: Tarot imagery In an earlier section, we briefly examined the hypothesis that the Tarot symbols are the product of, or were directly influenced by, Gnosticism in the form of Catharism. The answer was clearly No! A scholarly examination of Catharism uncovered doctrines that are in direct conflict with a number of the Tarot symbols, as well as with concept of any material expression of dualist dogma. Read More »


Confraternities

Part VII: Confraternities Originally, "confraternitas" referred to groups of lay persons and secular clergy affiliated with a monastery (Little, 1988). They provided an opportunity for a deeper spiritual experience while remaining in the secular world. Before the end of the 13th century, the zeal of the Mendicant Orders (Franciscans and Dominicans) turned them into a popular form of lay piety (Banker, 1988). Read More »


Iconology of the Temperance Cards

Introduction The six Temperance cards surviving from the 15th and 16th century are shown in Figure 1. In the ordering we are adopting here, the temperance cards are numbered six of the trumps. Read More »


Iconology of the Fortitude Cards

The ninth Tarot trump according the type B ordering is the virtue Fortitude and the five surviving cards from the 15th/16th century are shown in Figure 1. Two of the cards show a woman in a long tunic holding or breaking a pillar. Read More »


Iconology of the Wheel Cards

Introduction The six surviving Wheel of Fortune cards (#10) from the 15th/16th century are shown in Figure 1. The same basic theme appears on all of them. Read More »


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