Above detail.

Left: The devil of gaming and wine. Woodcut by Cornelis Anthonisz, Amsterdam artist and xylographer.c. 1540.

Note the heavy Dionysian symbolism. The cards are tucked into vine leaves, and he presses the grapes beneath his feet. Most of the earliest references to the Tarot cards, or playing cards in general, are injunctions to desist from playing cards. At this stage we can see a concerted attack on cards, and a negative attitude towards them from the authorities. This polarity is all the more striking when we note that the earliest Tarot decks were produced in the aristocratic courts of Northern Italy. We can see here, perhaps from a more Protestant fundamentalist point of view, the equation Dionysus = Evil. All the more extraordinary that the Tarot, catalogued as one of the Vices, should be a medium for the transmission of Wisdom.  


Tarot Index