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Robert ONeill Articles and Blogs

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Tarot Symbolism

Welcome to the Dr. Robert V. O'Neill Tarot Library. Included here are research excerpts focusing on Tarot symbolism, iconology and influences. Read More »

Iconology of the Early Tarot Conclusion

Our analysis of the early Tarot images confirms the documentary evidence that the Tarot originated in 15th century Italy. An excellent summary of the documentary evidence can be found at Collected Fragments of Tarot History. Read More »

Introduction to Iconology of the Early Tarot

"The first function of history is to open our minds to the infinite wealth of possible worlds and to help us to understand that our own view, whatever it may be, is precarious, limited, and open to sudden and radical change." Read More »

Defining Magic

4. Defining magic The Church condemned magic. But what exactly was magic? The Church's position reminds one of the judge who declared that he couldn't define pornography but he knew it when he saw it. If one wished to preserve the cult of saints who performed miracles while damning the magician for almost identical acts, then one had to be extremely cautious and precise in defining exactly what was condemned and what was accepted. The dilemma was faced by drawing a set of fine distinctions concerning what was miraculous and what was illicit magic. Read More »

Ramon Llull

Ramon Llull Perhaps it would be well to step back from the generalities and abstractions about magic and consider an individual 'magician'. In the 15th century, Ramon Llull (1232 - ~1316) was considered one of the greatest minds of the late middle ages. His magical thought and alchemy influenced Agrippa and Bruno (Yates 1982) and this influence was still alive in the 19th century (Levi 1860). Read More »

Transmission of Magical Knowledge to the 15th Century

5. Transmission of magical knowledge to the 15th Century Occultist writers often attribute the transmission of magical knowledge to secret societies. The claim has some basis if we consider the 16th to 20th centuries. However, it does not suffice to explain the transmission from ancient times to the 15th century when the Tarot was invented. There simply are not any secret societies that could have served the purpose (see separate article on Secret Societies and the Tarot) nor is there any hint of such a society in the hundreds of medieval manuscripts that deal with magic. Read More »

Religious Art and Magic

The occultist community is accustomed to thinking of the Roman Church as the enemy of Magic. We have already seen that the Church was the primary means for the preservation and dissemination of magical texts and that many forms of magic, such as astrological imagery in medical practice, were applauded. Read More »

Dr. Robert V. O'Neill

Dr. O'Neill recently retired as Senior Research Scientist and Corporate Fellow, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He has more than 240 publications including several books on Ecological Theory. He has served on the National Science Foundation Panel on Ecological Sciences and the Editorial Boards of Ecology, Columbia University Press, Ecosystem Journal, and Conservation Ecology. Read More »

Tarot Bagatto Cards

In the 15th century, the modern Magician card was known as "Bagatto". The five surviving images of the Bagatto from the 15/16th century are shown in Figure 1. All show a man standing or sitting at a table. They wear Read More »

Tarot Death Cards

IntroductionThe material is this essay will eventually be developed into a complete analysis of the iconology of the 15/16th century Tarot images. But since I have decided to begin in the middle of the trumps, some brief introduction is required. Read More »

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