- Myths and Realities
Langdon felt a chill. They played Tarot? The
medieval Italian card game was so replete with hidden heretical
symbolism that Langdon had dedicated an entire chapter in his new
manuscript to the Tarot. The game's twenty-two cards bore names
like The Female Pope, The Empress and The Star. Originally, Tarot
had been devised as a secret means to pass along ideologies banned
by the Church. Now, Tarot's mystical qualities were passed on by
modern fortune tellers.
(Chapter Twenty, p. 92)
Brown has Langdon making some remarkable assertions here, few if
any of which can be substantiated by evidence. Tarot cards have
their origins in a bridge-style card game which first appeared in
medieval Italy. As in bridge, the game had trump cards and the modern
English name 'tarot' comes from the Italian 'tarrocco' meaning 'trump'.
Both words derive from the Latin 'triumphi' or 'triumph'.
The games minor
cards had suits which varied widely from place to place and over
the centuries. Today they are standardised as cups, pentacles, wands
and swords. In the past they had various names - chalices, cauldrons,
coins, disks, stars, bells, wands, leaves, blades, spears and acorns.
The major cards also varied widely, depicting characters which tended
to be traditional figures, parodies, carnival characters, sly jokes
and topical satires.
For the first
five hundred years of their history, this is all the (various) tarot/tarrochi
decks were - playing cards. Then, in the Eighteenth Century, an
eccentric Swiss pastor and amateur self-taught antiquarian, Antoine
Court de Gébelin, decided that the Tarot deck was clearly
a survival of ancient Egyptian magic. As a Freemason and dabbler
in things occult, De Gébelin shared the Eighteenth Century's
fascination with all things Egyptian. Egyptian hieroglyphics were
yet to be deciphered and so they were the focus of a wild array
of theories as to their esoteric and magical meaning.
were associated with gypsies who were then thought, incorrectly,
to be descendants of the ancient Egyptians. De Gébelin constructed
an elaborate history for the Tarot, claiming that it preserved the
secrets of the Egyptian 'Book of Thoth' and linked them to the Hebrew
alphabet, which was also widely considered to be deeply esoteric
and magical. Nothing of de Gébelin's fantasies had any basis
in fact or credible research.
It was De Gébelin
who first suggested the Tarot was meant to be used for fortune telling.
It seems that this use of the Tarot caught on in popularity in French
royal circles, but it was a Parisian ex-barber and charlatan called
Alliette, aka 'Le Grand Etteilla' who added astronomical elements
to the traditional card game deck and popularised the idea of cartomancy
around the time of the French Revolution. It gained further popularity
due to Napoleon's wife Josephine's devotion for card readings in
the early Nineteenth Century
Thanks to modern
occultists like Crowley and the commercialisation of many forms
of divination via the New Age movement, few people now realise that
the Tarot has merely been a playing card deck for most of its history
and is still used as such in Italy, France and Spain.
about the Tarot's 'hidden heretical symbolism' play on popular,
modern conceptions of the Tarot, but the actual historical basis
for these ideas is flimsy to say the least.
and the Goddess
Leonardo was a well-documented devotee of the
ancient ways of the goddess.
(Chapter 20, p. 96)
devotion to 'the goddess' is 'well-documented' then these documents
must be known only to Brown's Langdon, because they are entirely
unknown to any of the many thousands of scholars who have studied
Leonardo's life and work. All the actual documented evidence regarding
Leonardo has no hint of any such devotion. Brown uses this slow
drip-feed of assertions of this kind to build a suggestion that
this is the case, but there is absolutely nothing to support this
or any similar assertions in The Da Vinci Code.
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