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ATS Newsletters

by author


The Boiardo 15th c Poem
Tarot history in brief

quotations from various people

Functions of Readings
What is Tarot?


Med. on XVIIII

Emily E. Auger

Tarot and Other Meditation Decks

L. Atkinson

Orphalese Software review

S. Arwen

Memory & Instinct

Kathy Berkowitz

Waite's Mystical Tradition (Pt 1)
Waite's Mystical Tradition (Pt 2)
Waite's Mystical Tradition (Pt 3)
Waite's Mystical Tradition (Pt 4)

Nina L. Braden

Tarot in Literature

David Brice

Birth of Tarot

Colin Browne

Square & Compasses Tarot

Lee A. Bursten

Journeys in Tarot Creation
Vachetta review


Review: The Lo Scarabeo Story

Ross G. Caldwell

Tarot History

Bonnie Cehovet

Tarology - Poetics of Tarot
Review: Secret of Tarot
The Mystereum Tarot

N. Chishty-Mujahid

Concerning Ghisi’s Laberinto

Craig Conley

A House of Tarot Cards

A.B. Crowther

Rachel Pollack interview

Jean-Michel David

On Paneurythmy and Tarot
Tarot's expression of the numinous
Yarker, Tarot & Arcane Schools
Waite-Smith Sun card
The Fool as Wandering Jew
Tarot as Christian Art
Education through Tarot
Tarot: the vatical & the sacral
Fortuna, Ass & Monkey
Steiner and Tarot
1701 Dodal restored!
Enc. Tarot vol I-IV: review
Christ, World & Sin
Caveat Emptor:
       Visual Tarot

Tarot & AlefBeit
Review: Jean Payen Tarot
Tarot and Freemasonry
I-Ching and Pip Cards
Whither directing your course?
Tarot & the Tree of Life
Ovid, Egypt and Tarot
When the Devil isn't the Devil
Four elements and the suits
Court Cards & MBTI
Certification & Codes
Jean Dodal Marseille
Conference FAQs
Golden Dawn
Kabalah & Tarot
Golden Tarot review
Annual spread
Iraqi Museum
Two Brief TdM reviews
Meditations on the Tarot

Enrique Enriquez

The Joy of Wordplay
J-C. Flornoy interview
Embodied Tarot
Indirect Suggestions
Whispering to the Eye

Mark Filipas

History of Egyptian Decks
Lexicon Theory

Jean-Claude Flornoy

in memorium
from Oral Tradition

Roxanne Flornoy

Children and Tarot
from Oral Tradition

Mary Greer

Killing the Thoth Deck
On the Tarot of the Four Worlds
Egypt, Tarot and Mystery School Initiations

William Haigwood

The Sixties: Counterculture Tarot

Alissa Hall

Parlour Tricks

Kris Hadar

The Tarot

Claas Hoffmann

Crowley-Harris 'Thoth' deck

Michael J. Hurst

Tarot Symbolism review

K. Frank Jensen

Century with the Waite-Smith

Shane Kendal

A Poetry of Tarot

Ken J. Killeen

The Metaphysical Bible

Barbara Klaser

Language of Tarot

E. Koretaka

Cardinal Virtues

Dovid Krafchow

Kabbalistic Tarot

Lisa Larson

Perceptions of Spirituality

Suzan E. Lemont

Therapeutic Tarot Work

Eric K. Lerner

Diloggun and Tarot

N. Levine

Tarot of Prague review

C. Liknaitzky

Journey in Ceramics

Joep van Loon

Tarot Wheel

Karen Mahony


S.J. Mangan

Fool, Alef & Orion

Robert Mealing

Petrarch’s Triumphs
Jean Noblet Tarot
Hunting the "true" Marseille Tarot
Cary Sheet

Fern Mercier

Playing the Fool

C. de Mellet

Inquiries into Tarot

Sophie Nusslé

Fantastic Menagerie

Robert V. O'Neill

Tarot Symbolism
Tower Iconology

Michael Owen

Xultun Tarot

Dan Pelletier

Magic Manga Tarot
the Blank Spot

Robert M. Place

The Fool's Journey

Debra Rosenthal

Looking at the Jacques Vieville

Mjr Tom Schick

Tarot Lovers Calendar

Inna Semetsky

Counseling Reading for Spouses
Learning the language of images
Re-Symbolization of Self
Tarot (dis)contents

Diana Sobolewska

'Bateleur's tale'

Russell Sturgess

Jesus's New Testament

N. Swift

Sufism & Tarot

Arthur E. Waite

Symbols of Tarot

Iraqi Archaeological Remnants and possible influences on the Tarot

by Jean-Michel David

One of the consequences of the last Iraqi war has been the pilleging of its museums, out of which a number of ‘minor’ archaeological artefacts have been taken. As a consequence, and to limit illicit trading in these, the July/August 2003 issue of Minerva (vol 14, n4) has wonderfully reproduced a significant number of images, ranging from bowls and vases to statuettes, jewellery and cuneiform tablets.

Of specific interest to us are a number of cylinder seals and, even more significantly, some ivory relief plaques, mostly dating from the eighth century BCE. Trade from this region has a long history, and, in fact, prehistory. I am moved to imagine how these may have been understood by people living anywhere from the Iberian to the Italian peninsula at the time – or rather, just before the time – of Tarot’s emergence.

Allow me to describe and show some of the images of some of these more relevant artefacts. The reader’s imagination has already been, I am sure, awakened to some of the similarities as their eyes perused these pages prior to reading these words.

There are a number of relief plaques, of Syro-Phoenician origin, and carved from ivory, which measure 29.9 cm in height and 12 cm in width – not much larger than the Visconti-Sforza cards. Their very relief-type carving would remind any woodcut carver that here were plates made for the purposes of printing – I am not suggesting, of course, that this was their purpose. Rather, the images, especially as relief and given their size, would have suggested this use.

Some of these relief plaques are even more appropriately sized, with a height of 10.5 cm and a width of 5.5 cm – suggesting, I propose again, card-type woodcuts (save that in this case, they are ivory rather than wood).

A few of the extant ones are especially interesting. Take M65318 (T65-124), included below, and compare the design to depictions of XI Strength.

Not knowing how many, if any, of these very plaques may have made it to European shores makes for conjectures which may be too readily rejected or dismissed as just too far fetched. Nonetheless, enough of the images extant in Tarot hark back to half forgotten or even lost raison d’Åtre, traditions, allegories and iconography.

Another set are larger images, each, accoding to the accompanying annotations, 46 cm in height and approximately 12.5 cm wide. These may have formed the back of a throne or the heardboard of a bed. The central relief plaque of the set below is of what appears to be an enthroned woman holding in her right hand what may be a pomegranate. At her feet, as a footrest, appears, again, what resembles a leonine pair of animals. The relief is badly worn, and the image quality such that clarity of the decipherment of depiction is impinged. Still, again, what would such a set suggest to the mediaeval woodcut artist?

I would imagine that, for the purposes of transport by any possible merchant, the plaques would have been removed from the chair-back or bed-head. Following is a depiction as to how the individual ivory rectangular reliefs were used in the backing of a chair – undoubtedly a chair of political and religious significance: a throne.

Before moving on yet earlier tablets, permit me to also include two of the relief plaques first mentioned. The images, per se, have little resemblance with Tarot imagery – save possibly with VIIII the Hermit. Nonetheless, it is the clarity of their form which, if these had, along with others, found their way to regions of Tarot emergence, have proved influential.

Two other much earlier depictions are also of significance, each dating from the early second millenium BCE and made of, in this case, terracotta.

Here we have some of the earliest representations of very Tarot-like images. In the first instance, Ishtar (according to the description) stands on a lion. In the second of these is a frontal view of a Chariot, complete with canopy, and so reminiscent of its Tarot equivalent image:

Finally, though maybe not as significantly, two ‘boxers’ according to the description, are facing each other, in ways which recall similar depiction upon the lower portion of XVIIII the Sun:

It should be noted again that I am not arguing that Tarot cards in any way originate from these images. What I am suggesting, somewhat controversially, is that should any such-like plaques have found their way amongst the image makers of early cards – even if only European-made Mamluk card makers, then they may have been, along with myriad other influencial works, highly significant.

If nothing else, these certainly should prove of iconographic interest to those of us with such an orientation. In addition to these reliefs, there are, of course, numerous statuettes. These, however, though providing image similarities, would not have suggested to the woodcut engraver that they were in any way intended for the production of ‘mass’ card production, unlike the above ones.

It is again worth noting that many of these artifacts have unfortunately gone missing as a consequence of the recent Iraqi war, and that some will undoubtedly surface in the private collections of the unscrupulous. A call has been made to report any sightings on the world’s black market, and hope this addition to the archaeological requests assists the plight of the Iraqi museum in both making its collection better known, and in the recovery of its – and indeed our collective – international human heritage.

Of Interest

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