The TdM Tarot Wheel

THE TAROT WHEEL

THE TAROT WHEEL ACCORDING THE MARSEILLE TAROT

At this stage you might admire the structure of the Tarot Wheel as presented on the previous pages. Or on contrary you might ask yourself an important question. If the structure of the Este Tarot is the original, then how to explain that other versions are existing with important variations in the ordering of the Trumps, differences that are much more important than those with the Visconti Sforza?

 

To answer this question, we will consider the best known of all historical Tarot versions, the Tarot of Marseille. In fact, the Italian Tarot was specially made for the Italian aristocracy. From every deck, there existed only one single hand painted version. This aristocracy was well educated and they were very well aware of the classic writings of Plato. The Tarot of Marseille on the contrary was a printed deck, with as target anyone loving card playing. In order to make the principles of the Tarot accessible to less educated people, simplifications where necessary. And together with the simplifications at the same time some some clearer symbolism appeared on the cards, certainly to reinforce the ideas behind the cards.

 

So the very difficult task was to translate the hand painted Italian Tarot, based on classical theories that few people knew, to understandable images for less educated people. While making little changes to the 22 images of the Trumps, links to classical writings had to be avoided, to give more understandable symbols related to daily life. The Roman Catholic Religion had to replace the classic philosophy. With these terms of reference, the Italian aristocratic Trionfi decks evolved to printed Tarocchi decks and later to the Tarot of Marseille.

 

The order of the trumps on the Tarot of Marseille does not at all correspond with the order as we have seen on the original deck made in Ferrara. The key of the order that is used here is every third card. Because the trumps start with number 0, these numbers are 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 20.

 

2 The Popess. When looking at the Popess and the Pope as a pair, we have seen the ressemblances of the Popess with Faith. The Popess represents the Franciscan saint St Clara oo one of here close followers, St Agnes, a very faithfull person who was a Bohemian princess and probably sister of Guglielma who was based in the region of Milan.

5 The Pope. The Pope is the successor of St. Peter, the first disciple of Jesus who continued preachinh the message of Christ after his crucifixion. With dis Death and Ressurection, Jezus gave back to humanity the Hope in Eternal live. The Pope is often portrayed having the keys to Paradise in his hands, representing this Hope for eternity.

So the cards numbered 2 and 5 represent the theological Virtues Hope and Faith.

The next cards are direct, 8 Justice, 11 Strength and 14 Temperance, all three cardinal Virtues.

17 The Star. The Star can be interpretated in two ways. On the Visconti Sforza deck we see the Goddess Venus holding the Star in here hand. Venus is also called the Morning Star. In Revelations, the last book of the Bible, appears the following text:

Revelation 22:16 - I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning star.

So the Morning Star is a direct reference to Jesus. On the Este deck we see two astrologers making calculations when they see the Star of Bethlehem appearing, announcing the birth of Jesus. On both cards the star is a reference to Jesus. Jesus by himself symbolizes the Love of God, who send his one son to Earth, to die in order to save humanity. The Love of God is the third theological Virtue.

20 The Angel. The Angel announces the final judgement. She is often portrayed standing on the disk of the World. The world is related to the element earth, the element that is symbolizing Prudence, the last of the cardinal Virtues. Sometimes, like on the Estensi deck, the Angel is portrayed as the Virtue Prudence (see the figure below).

 

Conclusion, the trump cards in third position represent the seven Virtues, respectively Faith (2), Hope (5), Justice (8), Strength (11), Temperance (14), Love (17) and Prudence (22). We still easily recognize the three levels of the Soul, the first six cards representing Society, the next nine cards the Hardship of Life and the last six cards the Ascent to Light. So at the base level the three groups of seven cards have changed in size and we have to organize them differently. The Tarot of Marseille is clearly subdivided in seven groups of three cards, with every group consisting of one pair of two closely linked cards, topped up by a Virtue. In fact it goes even further. seems that The last two Virtues together with the World relate directly to the Trinity, the Star to God the Son, the Last Judgment to the Holy Spirit and the World to God the Father. After this introduction, let us recall the order of the Tarot of Marseille using the spelling on the Tarot of Jean Noblet:

I.

II.

III.

IIII.

V.LE.

VI.

VII.

VIII.

VIIII.

X.

XI.

IIX.

XIII.

XIIII.

XV.

XVI.

XVII.

XVIII.

XVIIII.

XX.

XXI.

LEFOV

LLBATELEVR

LA.PAPESSE

LEMPERATRISE

LEMPEREVR

LE.PAPE

LAMOUREVX

LECHARIOT

IVSTICE

LERMITE

LAROVE.IEEORTVNE

FORCE

LE.PENDV

LAMORT

LEMPERANCE

LEDIABLE

LA.MAISON.DIEV

LESTOILLE

LALVNE

LESOLEIL

LEIVGEMENT

LE MONDE

(the Fool)

(the Conjurer)

(the Popess)

(the Pope)

(the Empress)

(the Emperor)

(the Lovers)

(the Chariot)

(Justice)

(the Hermit)

(the Wheel of Fortune)

(Strength)

(the Hanged Man)

(the Death)

(Temperance)

(the Devil)

(the God House)

(the Star)

(the Moon)

(the Sun)

(the Judgment)

(the World)

As we have seen there is a clear trinary structure in this order. In the Tarot de Marseille, seven groupes of three cards form each a specific entity with a closely related pair on the base and a third card who represents a Virtue

 

  1. The first pair is formed identical to the Este tarot with the Fool and the Conjurer. Numbered II, the Popess symbolizes Religion and the theological Virtue Faith, faith in God.
  2. The second pair is formed by the Empress and the Emperor. Numbered V, the Pope is a symbol for the Roman Catholic Church and as the successor of St Peter he incarnates the theological Virtue Hope.
  3. The third pair is formed by the lovers and the Chariot, representing internal lust and desire you can control. Above this pair with the number VIII the cardinal Virtue Justice, to remember you that if you do not control yourself, Justice will do its job.
  4. The fourth pair is formed by the Hermit and the Wheel of Fortune, remembering to you that life is cyclic, that time is ticking, No matter how high your post or responsabilities are, one day younger people will replace you. This is your destiny and you can do nothing about it. On top of this pair with the number XI the cardinal Virtue Strength to give you courage to face the futur.
  5. The fifth pair is formed by the hanged man and Death, to remember you that inevitably one day or another your life will be turned upside down, never to be the same again. In the worst case you have to prepare for your last days in this body. The card governing this pair is numbered XIIII, representing the cardinal Virtue Temperance to remember you that you have to be humble if Death is approaching. On the Marseille Tarot, Temperance has wings, in order to visually transform the Virtue in an archangel, who you will meet after you die before facing the final judgement.
  6. The sixth pair in the Marseille Tarot is made up by the Devil and the Tower to remember you with the Devil, to Hell that is waiting for people who did not obey the laws of God. With the Tower, you are remembered to the Anger of God against all the sins commited by humanity. On top of this evil pair we see the Star, representing Jesus, the son of God, send to Earth by his father to save through his sufferings and death humanity. In this way the card represents the theological Virtue Love, the Love of God
  7. Finaly as a last pair the Moon and the Sun, the big lights in the sky. The Moon to remember you that you have you pace and purify your Soul before you can ascent to God and the Sun, origin of life to prepare you for Paradise. On top of this pair we see an Angel calling the Souls of the Dead for the final Judgement. This card incarnates the Holy Spririt, while if your live is guided by the Holy Spirit, the final Judgment will lead you to Paradise.

 

The last card of the Marseille tarot is the World. We see a naked figure in a Mandorle, man and woman at the same time, representing God the Father, with around him the four beasts representing the four evangelists. The card is called the World,due to the limited knowledge the ancient people had about our environment. In fact it represents the unlimited Universe and thus Eternity and God himself.

 

As we dispose this seven pairs in a circle, with the seven spiritual cards as spokes of a wheel above them, and we dispose the World card in the axis of the Wheel, then we have the Tarot of Marseille version of the Tarot Wheel. So we have three levels of cards, each with theri proper order. On the first level the journey of the Human Soul through Society, and life up to God and Reincarnation. On the second level the seven Virtues representing the moral values. Finally on the third level we find in the center of the figure the representation of our Universe and thus of God himself.

The World card, in the axis of the Wheel, representing the whole Universe and thus God, it summarizes by itself all elements of the Tarot. As a conclusion we can say that the Tarot Wheel, using the concept that the Tarot is representing the human life cycle, the moral values and God himself, can be applied to very different versions of the Tarot. This representation goes very well with the neo-platonic versions of the Tarot, as imagined by Italian aristocracy as we have seen with the Este Charles VI Tarot and the Visconti Sforza Tarot, but it is also the perfect representation of this cycle for the Tarot of Marseille, a version of the Tarot adapted to the printing press and accessible to a much wider and lesser educated audience.

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