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This is an index of the chapters in the novel which contain substantial claims about history. Those chapters which contain only action scenes or plot elements have been ommited.

Each chapter is sub-divided into topic headings analysing the claims made in that section of the novel and their associated subjects.

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Tarot - Myths and Realities

Leonardo and the Goddess

Tarot - 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)

Once again, 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.

Tarot cards 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.

Brown's assertions 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.

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Leonardo and the Goddess

Leonardo was a well-documented devotee of the ancient ways of the goddess.
(Chapter 20, p. 96)

If Leonardo's 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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History vs The Da Vinci Code is copyright Tim O'Neill 2006. All rights reserved.