History Podcasts

Chitrali Mythology Timeline

Chitrali Mythology Timeline


Welsh mythology

Welsh mythology consists of both folk traditions developed in Wales, and traditions developed by the Celtic Britons elsewhere before the end of the first millennium. As in most of the predominantly oral societies Celtic mythology and history were recorded orally by specialists such as druids (Welsh: derwyddon). This oral record has been lost or altered as a result of outside contact and invasion over the years. Much of this altered mythology and history is preserved in medieval Welsh manuscripts, which include the Red Book of Hergest, the White Book of Rhydderch, the Book of Aneirin and the Book of Taliesin. Other works connected to Welsh mythology include the ninth-century Latin historical compilation Historia Brittonum ("History of the Britons") and Geoffrey of Monmouth's twelfth-century Latin chronicle Historia Regum Britanniae ("History of the Kings of Britain"), as well as later folklore, such as the materials collected in The Welsh Fairy Book by William Jenkyn Thomas (1908).


Contents

Hjalmar Frisk (Griechisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, Heidelberg, 1960–1970) notes "unexplained etymology", citing "various hypotheses" found in Wilhelm Schulze, [2] Edgar Howard Sturtevant, [3] J. Davreux, [4] and Albert Carnoy. [5] R. S. P. Beekes [6] cites García Ramón's derivation of the name from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)kend- "raise".

Biography Edit

Cassandra was a princess of Troy, the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba and the fraternal twin sister of Helenus. Cassandra is described as beautiful and clever, but was considered insane. [7]

Gift of prophecy Edit

Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy, but was also cursed by the god Apollo so that her true prophecies would not be believed. Many versions of the myth relate that she incurred the god's wrath by refusing him sex, after promising herself to him in exchange for the power of prophecy. In Aeschylus' Agamemnon, she bemoans her relationship with Apollo:

Apollo, Apollo!
God of all ways, but only Death's to me,
Once and again, O thou, Destroyer named,
Thou hast destroyed me, thou, my love of old!

And she acknowledges her fault

I consented [marriage] to Loxias [Apollo] but broke my word. . Ever since that fault I could persuade no one of anything. [8]

Cassandra, daughter of the king and queen, in the temple of Apollo, exhausted from practising, is said to have fallen asleep whom, when Apollo wished to embrace her, she did not afford the opportunity of her body. On account of which thing, when she prophesied true things, she was not believed.

In some versions of the myth, Apollo curses her by spitting into her mouth.

Cassandra had served as a priestess of Apollo and taken a sacred vow of chastity to remain a virgin for life. [10]

Her cursed gift from Apollo became an endless pain and frustration to her. She was seen as a liar and a madwoman by her family and by the Trojan people. In some versions, she was often locked up in a pyramidal building on the citadel on the orders of her father, King Priam. She was accompanied there by the wardress, who cared for her under orders to inform the King of all of his daughter's "prophetic utterances". [11]

According to legend, Cassandra had instructed her twin brother Helenus in the art of prophecy. Like her, Helenus was always correct whenever he had made his predictions, but he was believed.

Cassandra made many predictions, all disbelieved except one, when she foresaw who Paris was and proclaimed that he was her abandoned brother. [12] Cassandra foresaw that Paris’ abduction of Helen for his wife would bring about the Trojan War and warned Paris not to go to Sparta. Helenus echoed her prophecy, but his warnings were ignored. [12] Cassandra saw Helen coming into Troy when Paris returned home from Sparta. Though the people rejoiced, Cassandra furiously snatched away Helen's golden veil and tore at her hair, for she foresaw that Helen's arrival would bring the city's destruction in the Trojan War. [12]

Fall of Troy and aftermath Edit

Cassandra foresaw the destruction of Troy. In various accounts of the war, she warned the Trojans about the Greeks hiding inside the Trojan Horse, Agamemnon's death, her own demise at the hands of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, her mother Hecuba's fate, Odysseus's ten-year wanderings before returning to his home, and the murder of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra by the latter's children Electra and Orestes. Cassandra predicted that her cousin Aeneas would escape during the fall of Troy and found a new nation in Rome. [13] However, her warnings were all disregarded. [14]

Coroebus and Othronus came to the aid of Troy during the Trojan War out of love for Cassandra and in exchange for her hand in marriage, but both were killed. [11] According to one account, Priam offered Cassandra to Telephus’s son Eurypylus, in order to induce Eurypylus to fight on the side of the Trojans. [15] Cassandra was also the first to see the body of her brother Hector being brought back to the city.

In The Fall of Troy, told by Quintus Smyrnaeus, Cassandra had attempted to warn the Trojan people that Greek warriors were hiding in the Trojan Horse while they were celebrating their victory over the Greeks with feasting. They disbelieved her, calling her names and degrading her with insults. [16] She grabbed an axe in one hand and a burning torch in her other, and ran towards the Trojan Horse, intent on destroying the Greeks herself, but the Trojans stopped her. The Greeks hiding inside the Horse were relieved, but alarmed by how clearly she had divined their plan. [16]

At the fall of Troy, Cassandra sought shelter in the temple of Athena. There she embraced the wooden statue of Athena in supplication for her protection, but was abducted and brutally raped by Ajax the Lesser. Cassandra clung so tightly to the statue of the goddess that Ajax knocked it from its stand as he dragged her away. [12] One account claimed that even Athena, who had worked hard to help the Greeks destroy Troy, was not able to restrain her tears and her cheeks burned with anger. In one account, this caused her image to give forth a sound that shook the floor of the temple at the sight of Cassandra's rape, and her image turned its eyes away as Cassandra was violated, although others found this account too bold. [12] Ajax's actions were a sacrilege because Cassandra was a supplicant at the sanctuary, and thus under the protection of the goddess. He further defiled the temple with sexual intercourse by raping her. [17]

Odysseus insisted to the other Greek leaders that Ajax should be stoned to death for his sacrilege, which had enraged Athena and the other gods. Ajax avoided their wrath, because none of them dared to punish him after he clung, as a supplicant, to Athena's altar and swore an oath proclaiming his innocence. [12] Athena was furious at the Greeks' failure to punish Ajax, and she avenged herself with the help of Poseidon and Zeus. Poseidon sent storms and strong winds to destroy much of the Greek fleet on their way home from Troy. Athena herself inflicted a terrible death on Ajax, although the sources differ as to the manner of his death. The Locrians had to atone for Ajax's crimes by sending two maidens to Troy every year for a thousand years to serve as slaves in Athena's temple. However, if they were caught by the inhabitants before they reached the temple, they were executed. [11]

In some versions, Cassandra intentionally left a chest behind in Troy, with a curse on whichever Greek opened it first. [12] Inside the chest was an image of Dionysus, made by Hephaestus and presented to the Trojans by Zeus. It was given to the Greek leader Eurypylus as a part of his share of the victory spoils of Troy. When he opened the chest and saw the image of the god, he went mad. [12]

Captivity and death Edit

Cassandra was then taken as a pallake (concubine) by King Agamemnon of Mycenae. Unbeknown to Agamemnon, while he was away at war, his wife, Clytemnestra, had betrayed him by taking Aegisthus as her lover. Clytemnestra and Aegisthus then murdered both Agamemnon and Cassandra. Some sources mention that Cassandra and Agamemnon had twin boys, Teledamus and Pelops, both of whom were killed by Aegisthus.

Cassandra was sent to the Elysian Fields after her death, because her soul was judged worthy due to her dedication to the gods, and her piety during her life. [18]

Cassandra was buried either at Amyclae or Mycenae. The two towns disputed the possession of her grave. [11] Heinrich Schliemann was certain that he had discovered Cassandra's tomb when he had excavated Mycenae, because he found the remains of a woman and two infants in one of the circle graves at Mycenae. [11]

The play Agamemnon from Aeschylus's trilogy Oresteia depicts the king treading the scarlet cloth laid down for him, and walking offstage to his death. [19] : ln. 972 After the chorus's ode of foreboding, time is suspended in Cassandra's "mad scene". [20] : p. 11–16 She has been onstage, silent and ignored. Her madness that is unleashed now is not the physical torment of other characters in Greek tragedy, such as in Euripides' Heracles or Sophocles' Ajax.

According to author Seth Schein, two further familiar descriptions of her madness are that of Heracles in The Women of Trachis or Io in Prometheus Bound. [20] : p. 11 She speaks, disconnectedly and transcendent, in the grip of her psychic possession by Apollo, [19] : ln. 1140 witnessing past and future events. Schein says, "She evokes the same awe, horror and pity as do schizophrenics". [20] : p. 12 Cassandra is one of those "who often combine deep, true insight with utter helplessness, and who retreat into madness."

Eduard Fraenkel remarked [20] : p. 11, note 6 [21] on the powerful contrasts between declaimed and sung dialogue in this scene. The frightened and respectful chorus are unable to comprehend her. She goes to her inevitable offstage murder by Clytemnestra with full knowledge of what is to befall her. [22] : pp. 42–55 [ full citation needed ] [23] : pp. 52–58


Chitrali Mythology Timeline - History

Detail from The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy by Domenico Tiepolo (1773), inspired by Virgil’s Aeneid

Illustration of the Ancient Olympic Games

Solon before Croesus, By Nikolaus Knüpfer

The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David, 1787

347 BCE Plato’s death: Plato, often seen as the world’s greatest philosopher dies
338 BCE Battle of Chaeronea: Philip II, King of Macedon defeats the Greek of city-states. He establishes the League of Corinth. Macedonian kings largely dominate the city-states.

Alexander the Great founding Alexandria, Placido Costanzi (Italy, 1702-1759)


Magical Places in Chinese Mythology

Up in the Sky

Around 6500 years ago, the sky was divided into four parts in Chinese astrology, namely east, west, north, and south. Each section contains seven stars, which look like images of some mythical creatures.

Those Four Mythical Creatures represent each section of the sky and control the four seasons respectively a yellow dragon named Ying Long is guarding in the middle, who is superior and more powerful.

They were important celestial beings and laid the foundation for Chinese culture, mythology, Fengshui, and magic arts in the Taoism Religion.

Mount Kunlun in the West

Mount Kunlun is the most important mountain in Chinese mythology.

It is a sacred, beautiful land where many celestial beings and mythical animals are living.

Penglai Islands in the East

In ancient Chinese mythology, Penglai Islands are some mountains floating in the sea.

In those mythical mountains, fancy palaces are made of jade and gold, all animals and plants are pure as white clouds, and some powerful immortals are living there.

Therefore, Emperor Qin Shi Huang and Emperor Wudi of Han , two of the greatest monarchs in Chinese history, all had been to Penglai to search for immortals.

Penglai Island 3D Metal Puzzle Model

Mount Tai the Connection of Heaven and Acheron

At the foot of Mount Tai , there is the entrance to the underworld, where all the ghosts would go through.

On the top, however, is a path to heaven.

Therefore, it is believed as a magnificent, mythical place that connected the worlds of celestial, human, and ghosts.

Other Mythical Places

In Chinese culture, most of the magnificent mountains , rivers, and lakes have their own immortals guarding those places, as well as protecting local inhabitants.

Taoists and Buddhists have been practicing in those quiet, spectacular places for thousands of years, during when they had built many spectacular temples, pagodas, and g rottoes .

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Soviet Union Falls

Dec. 25, 1991: Following an unsuccessful Communist Party coup, the Soviet Union is dissolved and Gorbachev resigns. With Ukraine and Belarus, Russia forms the Commonwealth of Independent States, which most former Soviet republics eventually join. Yeltsin begins lifting Communist-imposed price controls and reforms, and, in 1993, signs the START II treaty, pledging nuclear arms cuts. He wins reelection in 1996, but resigns in 1999, naming former KGB agent Vladimir Putin, his prime minister, as acting president.

Dec. 1994: Russian troops enter the breakaway republic of Chechnya to stop an independence movement. Up to 100,000 people are estimated killed in the 20-month war that that ends with a compromise agreement. Chechen rebels continue a campaign for independence, sometimes through terrorist acts in Russia.

March 26, 2000: Vladimir Putin is elected president, and is reelected in a landslide in 2004. Because of term limits, he leaves office in 2008, when his protege Dmitry Medvedev is elected, and serves as his prime minister. Putin is then reelected as president in 2012.

October 23, 2002: About 50 Chechen rebels storm a Moscow theater, taking up to 700 people hostage during a sold-out performance of a popular musical. After a 57-hour standoff, most of the rebels and around 120 hostages are killed as Russian forces storm the building.


Sources

The works of classical authors, written mostly in Latin and occasionally in Greek, throw some light on the religion of Germanic peoples however, their interest in the religious practices of Germanic tribes remains limited to its direct relevance to their narrative, as when Strabo describes the gory sacrifice of Roman prisoners by the Cimbri at the end of the 2nd century bc .

For all his knowledge of the Celts, Caesar had no more than a superficial knowledge of Germans. He made some judicious observations in Commentarii de bello Gallico about their social and political organization, but his remarks on their religion were rather perfunctory. Contrasting Germans with the Celts of Gaul, Caesar claimed that the Germans had no druids (i.e., organized priesthood), nor zeal for sacrifice, and counted as gods only the Sun, the fire god (Vulcan or Vulcanus), and the Moon. His limited information accounts for Caesar’s assumption of the poverty of the Germanic religion and the partial inaccuracy and incompleteness of his statement.

Tacitus, on the contrary, provided a lucid picture of customs and religious practices of continental Germanic tribes in his Germania, written c. ad 98. He describes some of their rituals and occasionally names a god or goddess. While Tacitus presumably never visited Germany, his information was partly based on direct sources he also used older works, now lost.


The Milesian School: 7th-6th Centuries BCE

Miletus was an ancient Greek Ionian city-state on the western coast of Asia Minor in today’s Turkey. The Milesian School consisted of Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes (all from Miletus). The three are sometimes described as "materialists," because they believed that all things derived from a single material.

  • Thales (636-546 BCE): Thales was certainly a real historical individual, but very little evidence remains of his work or writing. He believed that the "first cause of all things" was water, and may have written two treatises entitled On the Solstice and On the Equinox, focusing on his astronomical observation. He may also have developed several significant mathematical theorems. It is likely that his work strongly influenced Aristotle and Plato.
  • Anaximander (c.611-c.547 BCE): Unlike Thales, his mentor, Anaximander actually wrote materials can be credited to his name. Like Thales, he believed that just one material was the source of all things--but Anaximander called that one thing "the boundless" or infinite. His ideas may well have strongly influenced Plato.
  • Anaximenes (d. c. 502 BCE): Anaximenes may well have been a student of Anaximander. Like the other two Milesians, Anaximenes believed that a single substance was the source of all things. His choice for that substance was the air. According to Anaximenes, when the air becomes finer, it becomes fire, when it is condensed, it becomes first wind, then cloud, then water, then earth, then stone.

Who Is O. Dorsey?

Osbourn Dorsey was an African-American man who invented the doorknob and doorstop in December of 1878. He successfully obtained a patent for his work in the same year. Because of the time in which he lived and the fact that he was African-American, very little is known about his life. Historians still wonder if the man was born free or if he was a freed slave.

Historians do not know where Dorsey lived or what other inventions he created, if any. Historians do not even know what Dorsey did for a living. Most of the information about Dorsey and his inventions comes from his patent application.

Before Dorsey’s invention people closed and secured doors in a variety of ways. Many people used some type of latch to keep doors closed, whereas others used leather straps as handles. Even after the doorknob was invented it took years for people to embrace them fully and begin installing them on the doors in their homes.

Other important African-American inventors include Alexander Miles, who invented the elevator a few years before Dorsey invented the doorknob. In 1923, Garrett Morgan invented the traffic light. In 1960, inventor extraordinaire Fredrick M. Jones invented the thermostat control.


Tarot Mythology: The Surprising Origins of the World's Most Misunderstood Cards

The Empress. The Hanged Man. The Chariot. Judgment. With their centuries-old iconography blending a mix of ancient symbols, religious allegories, and historic events, tarot cards can seem purposefully opaque. To outsiders and skeptics, occult practices like card reading have little relevance in our modern world. But a closer look at these miniature masterpieces reveals that the power of these cards isn’t endowed from some mystical source—it comes from the ability of their small, static images to illuminate our most complex dilemmas and desires.

Contrary to what the uninitiated might think, the meaning of divination cards changes over time, shaped by each era’s culture and the needs of individual users. This is partly why these decks can be so puzzling to outsiders, as most of them reference allegories or events familiar to people many centuries ago. Caitlín Matthews, who teaches courses on cartomancy, or divination with cards, says that before the 18th century, the imagery on these cards was accessible to a much broader population. But in contrast to these historic decks, Matthews finds most modern decks harder to engage with.

“You either have these very shallow ones or these rampantly esoteric ones with so many signs and symbols on them you can barely make them out,” says Matthews. “I bought my first tarot pack, which was the Tarot de Marseille published by Grimaud in 1969, and I recently came right around back to it after not using it for a while.” Presumably originating in the 17th century, the Tarot de Marseille is one of the most common types of tarot deck ever produced. Marseille decks were generally printed with woodblocks and later colored by hand using basic stencils.

Top: A selection of trump cards (top row) and pip cards (bottom row) from the first edition of the Rider-Waite deck, circa 1909. Via the World of Playing Cards. Above: Cards from a Tarot de Marseille deck made by François Gassmann, circa 1870. Photo courtesy Bill Wolf.

However, using cards for playful divination probably goes back even further, to the 14th century, likely originating with Mamluk game cards brought to Western Europe from Turkey. By the 1500s, the Italian aristocracy was enjoying a game known as “tarocchi appropriati,” in which players were dealt random cards and used thematic associations with these cards to write poetic verses about one another—somewhat like the popular childhood game “MASH.” These predictive cards were referred to as “sortes,” meaning destinies or lots.

Even the earliest known tarot decks weren’t designed with mysticism in mind they were actually meant for playing a game similar to modern-day bridge. Wealthy families in Italy commissioned expensive, artist-made decks known as “carte da trionfi” or “cards of triumph.” These cards were marked with suits of cups, swords, coins, and polo sticks (eventually changed to staves or wands), and courts consisting of a king and two male underlings. Tarot cards later incorporated queens, trumps (the wild cards unique to tarot), and the Fool to this system, for a complete deck that usually totaled 78 cards. Today, the suit cards are commonly called the Minor Arcana, while trump cards are known as the Major Arcana.

Two hand-painted Mamluk cards from Turkey (left) and two cards from the Visconti family deck (right), both circa 15th century.

Graphic designer and artist Bill Wolf, whose interest in tarot illustration dates to his art-school days at Cooper Union in New York, has his own theories about the tarot’s beginning. Wolf, who doesn’t use cards for divination, believes that originally, “the meaning of the imagery was parallel to the mechanics of the play of the game. The random draw of the cards created a new, unique narrative each and every time the game was played, and the decisions players made influenced the unfolding of that narrative.” Imagine a choose-your-own-adventure style card game.

“The imagery was designed to reflect important aspects of the real world that the players lived in, and the prominent Christian symbolism in the cards is an obvious reflection of the Christian world in which they lived,” he adds. As divinatory usage became more popular, illustrations evolved to reflect a specific designer’s intention. “The subjects took on more and more esoteric meaning,” says Wolf, “but they generally maintained the traditional tarot structure of four suits of pip cards [similar to the numbered cards in a normal playing-card deck], corresponding court cards, and the additional trump cards, with a Fool.”

This woodblock version of the classic Tarot de Marseille was published around 1751 by Claude Burdel. Photo courtesy Bill Wolf.

Even if you aren’t familiar with tarot-card reading, you’ve likely seen one of the common decks, like the famous Rider-Waite, which has been continually printed since 1909. Named for publisher William Rider and popular mystic A.E. Waite, who commissioned Pamela Colman Smith to illustrate the deck, the Rider-Waite helped bring about the rise of 20th-century occult tarot used by mystical readers.

“The Rider-Waite deck was designed for divination and included a book written by Waite in which he explained much of the esoteric meaning behind the imagery,” says Wolf. “People say its revolutionary point of genius is that the pip cards are ‘illustrated,’ meaning that Colman Smith incorporated the number of suit signs into little scenes, and when taken together, they tell a story in pictures. This strong narrative element gives readers something to latch onto, in that it is relatively intuitive to look at a combination of cards and derive your own story from them.

“The deck really took off in popularity when Stuart Kaplan obtained the publishing rights and developed an audience for it in the early ’70s,” says Wolf. Kaplan helped renew interest in card reading with his 1977 book, Tarot Cards for Fun and Fortune Telling, and has since written several volumes on tarot.

A version of the popular Rider-Waite deck from 1920. Photo courtesy Bill Wolf.

Though historians like Kaplan and Matthews publish new information on divination decks every year, there are still many holes in the larger story of fortune-telling cards. Wolf points out that those who use cards for divination are often at odds with academics researching their past. “There’s a lot of friction between tarot historians and card readers about the origins and purpose of tarot cards,” Wolf says. “The evidence suggests they were invented for gaming and evolved for use in divination at a much later date. Personally, I believe they were designed for game play, but that the design is a bit more sophisticated than many tarot historians seem to believe.”

By the mid-18th century, the mystical applications for cards had spread from Italy to other parts of Europe. In France, writer Antoine Court de Gébelin asserted that the tarot was based on a holy book written by Egyptian priests and brought to Europe by Gypsies from Africa. In reality, tarot cards predated the presence of Gypsies in Europe, who actually came from Asia rather than Africa. Regardless of its inaccuracies, Court de Gébelin’s nine-volume history of the world was highly influential.

Teacher and publisher Jean-Baptiste Alliette wrote his first book on the tarot in 1791, called “Etteilla, ou L’art de lire dans les cartes,” meaning “Etteilla, or the Art of Reading Cards.” (Alliette created this mystical pseudonym “Etteilla” simply by reversing his surname.) According to Etteilla’s writings, he first learned divination with a deck of 32 cards designed for a game called Piquet, along with the addition of his special Etteilla card. This type of card is known as the significator and typically stands in for the individual having their fortune read.

A hand-colored set of tarot cards produced by F. Gumppenberg, circa 1810. Photo courtesy Bill Wolf.

While the tarot is the most widely known, it’s just one type of deck used for divination others include common playing cards and so-called oracle decks, a term encompassing all the other fortune-telling decks distinct from the traditional tarot. Etteilla eventually switched to using a traditional tarot deck, which he claimed held secret wisdom passed down from ancient Egypt. Etteilla’s premise echoed the writings of Court de Gébelin, who allegedly recognized Egyptian symbols in tarot-card illustrations. Though hieroglyphics had not yet been deciphered (the Rosetta Stone was rediscovered in 1799), many European intellectuals in the late 18th century believed the religion and writings of ancient Egypt held major insights into human existence. By linking tarot imagery to Egyptian mysticism, they gave the cards greater credibility.

Building on Court de Gébelin’s Egyptian connection, Etteilla claimed that tarot cards originated with the legendary Book of Thoth, which supposedly belonged to the Egyptian god of wisdom. According to Etteilla, the book was engraved by Thoth’s priests into gold plates, providing the imagery for the first tarot deck. Drawing on these theories, Etteilla published his own deck in 1789—one of the first designed explicitly as a divination tool and eventually referred to as the Egyptian tarot.

A few of the cards from Etteilla’s esoteric deck, reproduced by Grimaud in 1890.

“Etteilla was one of the people who actually made divination so esoteric,” says Matthews. “He created a deck that incorporated all the things from Court de Gébelin and his book ‘Le Monde Primitif’ [‘The Primitive World’], which suggested an Egyptian origin for the tarot and all sorts of arcane things.” Matthews makes a distinction between the tarot’s abstract interpretations and the straightforward “cartomantic” reading style that thrived during the 16th and 17th centuries, prior to Etteilla.

“When we used to send telegrams, each word costs money,” Matthews explains, “so you’d have to send very few words like, ‘Big baby. Mother well. Come to hospital.’ And you’d get the gist of it. I read cards in a very similar way—starting from a few general keywords and making sense of them by filling in the words that are missing. This isn’t the tarot style of reading where you project things, like, ‘I can see that you’ve recently had a great disappointment. Mercury is in retrograde and da da da.’ A cartomantic reading is much more straightforward and pragmatic, for example, ‘Your wife will eat tomatoes and fall off the roof and die horribly.’ It’s a direct way of reading, a pre-New Age way of reading.”

One of Matthews’ favorite decks is the Lenormand published by Bernd A. Mertz in 2004 based on a design circa 1840. Photo courtesy Caitlín Matthews.

Matthews has authored several books on divinatory cards, and her latest is The Complete Lenormand Oracle Cards Handbook . This 36-card deck was named after the celebrity card-reader Mademoiselle Marie Anne Lenormand, who was popular around the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, though the decks bearing her name weren’t actually produced until after her death. The oldest packs in Matthews’ collection are two Lenormand-style decks, the French Daveluy of the 1860s and the Viennese Zauberkarten deck from 1864, which were some of the first decks to be illustrated using the technique of chromolithography.

Oracle decks like the Lenormand tend to rely on more direct visual language than traditional tarot cards. “The tarot can often speak in broad, timeless, universal statements about our place in the world,” says Wolf. “The imagery of fortune-telling decks is more illustrational and less archetypal. The images are generally more specific, simpler, and less universal, keeping the conversation more straightforward.”

In contrast to most oracle decks, which don’t include suited pip cards, Lenormand cards feature a unique combination of numbered playing-card imagery on top of illustrated scenes used for fortune-telling. “One of the earliest versions, called the Game of Hope, was made by a German named J.K. Hechtel and was prepared like a board game,” says Matthews. “You laid out cards 1 to 36, and the object of the game was to throw the dice and move your tokens along it. If you got to card 35, which was the anchor card, then you’re home, safe and dry. But if you went beyond that, it was the cross, which was not so good. It was like the game Snakes and Ladders.” In this way, the Game of Hope fell into the Victorian-era tradition of board games that determined a player’s life story based on luck.

This Lenormand-style oracle deck shows a mixture of playing card and fortune-telling illustrations, circa 1870. Photo courtesy Bill Wolf.

The game’s original instructions said it could be used for divining because the illustration on each card included both a symbolic image, like the anchor, and a specific playing card, like the nine of spades. “Hechtel must have seen that there were overlaps between divining with playing cards, which, of course, everyone did, and his game,” says Matthews. “Many other oracle decks appeared around the same time at the end of the 18th century and into the early 19th century. They became really popular after the Napoleonic Wars when everyone settled down and became terribly bourgeois.

“Quite recently, it was discovered by Mary Greer that there was a prior source to the Lenormand cards,” she continues. “There’s a deck in the British Museum called ‘Les Amusements des Allemands’ (‘The German Entertainment’). Basically, a British firm put together a pack of cards that has images and little epigrams on the bottom, which say things like, ‘Be aware, don’t spend your money unwisely,’ and that sort of thing. It’s quite trite. But it came with a book of text that’s almost identical to the instructions for later packs of Lenormand cards.”

“Les Amusements des Allemands,” circa 1796, has many overlaps with Lenormand decks. Via the British Museum.

By comparing various decks from different time periods, tarot-card enthusiasts can identify the evolution of certain illustrations. “For example,” says Matthews, “the modern version of the hermit with the lantern, you’ll find that that was an hourglass and he was Saturn or Chronos, the keeper of time. You can see how that translates with the Tarot Bolognese meaning of delay or blockage. It was about time moving slowly, though that’s not used as a modern meaning much now.”

Most card readers recognize that the associations and preconceptions of the person being read for are just as important as the actual drawings on the cards: Divination cards offer a way to project certain ideas, whether subconscious or not, and to toy with potential outcomes for important decisions. Thus, like scenes from a picture book, the best illustrations typically offer clear visions of their subjects with an open-ended quality, as though the action is unfolding before you.

Matthews’ favorite decks are those with straightforward illustrations, like the Tarocchino Bolognese by Giuseppe Maria Mitelli, an Italian deck created sometime around the 1660s. Matthews owns a facsimile of the Mitelli deck, rather than an original, which means she can use them without fear of damaging a priceless antique. “The deck that I enjoy most is the Mertz Lenormand deck because of its clarity,” she says. “The background on each card is a creamy, vellum color, so when you lay them out in tableau, you can see the illustrations very clearly. I frankly get so tired of all the new Photoshopped tarots and the slick art, with their complete lack of any framework or substance.

Trump cards from the Tarrocchini Bolognese designed by Giuseppe Maria Mitelli, circa 1664.

“I also enjoy reading with the Lenormand deck made by Daveluy, which has been beautifully reworked by Lauren Forestell, who specializes in restoring facsimile decks—cleaning up 200 years’ worth of card shuffling and human grief. The coloring on the Daveluy is very beautiful. Chromolithography gave an incredibly clear color to everything, and I think it was probably as revolutionary as Technicolor was in the days of the movies.”

The illustration on some decks did double duty, providing divinatory tools and scientific knowledge, like the Geografia Tarocchi deck from around 1725. “The Geografia are extraordinary cards, almost like a little encyclopedia of the world with the oracle imagery peeking out at the top,” Matthews says. “The actual bit that you read from is just a cigarette-card length. So for example, the hanged man just shows his legs at the top of the card, while the rest of the card has information about Africa or Asia or other places on it.”

On the Geografia deck, the symbolic imagery is reduced to a small colored segment at the top of each card the rest is related to global geography. Via eBay.

In contrast, the meanings in other decks are particularly difficult to decipher, like the infamous Thoth tarot developed by Aleister Crowley, notorious for his involvement with various cults and experimentation with recreational drugs and so-called “sex magick.” Completed in 1943, the Thoth deck was illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris and incorporated a range of occult and scientific symbols, inspiring many modern decks. As Wolf explains, “with the rise of the divination market in the 20th century, more liberties were taken, and the imagery evolved into increasingly personal artistic statements, both in content and style of execution.”

But to balance such arcane decks, there are divinatory cards that offer little room for interpretation, like “Le Scarabée d’Or” or The Golden Beetle Oracle, one of Wolf’s most prized decks. “It’s just fantastically bizarre. There’s a little window in the lid of the card box, and when you shake it, the beetle appears, and points to a number,” he explains. “Then you find the corresponding number on a set of round cards, with beautiful script text on them, and read your fortune. Can you not imagine standing in a Victorian parlor in France, consulting the Golden Beetle? It was like performance art.”

This article originally appeared on Collectors Weekly. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


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