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THE TAROT AND THE TEMPLE OF SERAPIS
Dr Lewis Keizer writes:
Currently there are many postings of a document by Michael Poe describing an Italian archeological description of images from a Serapian temple in Italy now under water. The images corresponds exactly to modern trumps, with Veiled Isis taking the position for the Popess or High Priestess, etc. I have been unable to contact Poe, so I contacted the Italian archeological museum in charge of the sunken Temple of Serapis at Pozzuoli and asked for any information, as this is the only Serapian temple in Italy I know that is under water. As of this writing, I have no response. But if Poe's information is correct, we would have an excellent possible source for the earliest Italian Tarocchi images, devoid of Egyptian dress.Esoteric Origins of Tarot: More than a Wicked Pack of Cardsby Lewis Keizer, Ph.D.
The Michael Poe document is at: http://www.oakgrove.org/GreenPages/bos/2034.txt
Unfortunately, though Michael Poe has some very fecund ideas, the documentation leaves much to be desired. For example he writes:
"Bernard Bromage, in his book, which I can't recall the exact title of (it was years ago), but is something like The Secret Wisdom of the Egyptians (I'll look it up). Basically the book is fairly uninteresting as it relates to how ancient Egyptian traditions really worked. But there was, in one paragraph, something that struck my eye. In discussing, I believe, the Tarot he says (and despite not remembering the title, I do remember the sentence) "The Tarot, of course, originated from the Temple of Serapis in Naples, Italy." "
The book in question is:
Bernard Bromage, The Occult Arts of Ancient Egypt, The Aquarian Press, London, 1945.
"Certainly there is good evidence for asserting that the figures which adorn the twenty-two "Major Arcana" of the Tarot were first discerned as frescoes painted in the Cave of Serapis near ancient Naples and were interpreted as forming part of an Ancient Egyptian Book of Thoth, a compendium in allegorical form of the primordial wisdom of the Egyptians..." p. 198-199.
"As basis of the entire structure there was an alphabet in which all the letters represented separate gods. With these god-emblems went ideas; these, in there turn, having numbers attached to them, these latter being perfect signs."
Mr. Bromage does not give the sources for this "good evidence", for his assertation. Michael Poe in turn, traced an archaeological report on the Temple of Serapis:
"The French Institute of Archaeology in Cairo found the report for me and sent me a translation of the illustrations found on the wall. The report consisted of, among other things not particularly germane here, of descriptions of the illustrations, and a statue standing in the entrance. There are 20 illustrations that were on the wall prior to their destruction during WWII."
He then proceeds to give a description of these images.
Michael J. Hurst has done a thorough demolition job on the authenticity of the Michael Poe material at:
And The French Institute of Archaeology in Cairo in Online at:
Bearing the above facts in mind, we can now move on to the IAMBLICHUS CONNECTION.
Here is a short section on SERAPIS from: Charles King, The Gnostics and Their Remains
And a few pictures of:
which is actually at POZZUOLI ( Puteoli) on the Bay of Naples. You can orientate yourself with this Italian site:
THE WORSHIP OF SERAPIS.
I. THE FIGURED REPRESENTATIONS OF SERAPIS.
The next great series of monuments to be considered are those emanating from the worship of Serapis, that mysterious deity, who, under his varying forms, had, during the second and third centuries of our era, completely usurped the sovereignty of his brother Jupiter, and reduced him to the rank of a mere planetary Genius. Unlike the generality of the deities who figure upon the Gnostic stones, the Alexandrian Serapis does not belong to the primitive mythology of Egypt.* His worship may be said to be only coeval with the rise of Alexandria, into which city it was introduced from Sinope by the first Ptolemy, in consequence of the command (and repeated threats, in case of neglect) of a vision which had appeared to him. After three years of ineffectual negotiation, Ptolemy at last obtained the god from Scythotherius, king of Sinope; but when the citizens still refused to part with their idol, a report was spread, that it had spontaneously found its way from the temple down to the Egyptian ships lying in the harbour.
The prevalent opinion amongst the Greeks was that the figure represented Jupiter Dis (Aidoneus) and the one by his side, Proserpine. This latter the envoys were ordered by the same divine messenger, to leave in its native shrine. Another story, also mentioned by Tacitus, 2 made the statue to have been brought from Seleucia by Ptolemy III, but this rested on slighter authority. It is, however, a curious confirmation of this last tradition that Serapis is named by Plutarch ("Alexander,") as the chief deity of Babylon (Seleucia in later times) at the date of the Macedonian Conquest—a proof that
* The difference between him and the ancient Theban Serapis (as the Greeks translated his title "Osor-Api"), shall be pointed out farther on.
2 Who narrates the whole affair at great length—a proof of the influence of the religion in his day—in his History, iv, 84.
This brings us to that most wondrous identification of all, which Hadrian mentions in a letter to his brother-in-law Servianus, preserved by the historian Vopiscus in his Life of the Tyrant Saturnius. “Those who worship Serapis are likewise Christians; even those who style themselves the bishops of Christ are devoted to Serapis. The very Patriarch himself, * when he comes to Egypt, is forced by some to adore Serapis, by others to worship Christ. There is but one God for them all, Him do the Christians, Him do the Jews, Him do the Gentiles, all alike worship.” Severus Alexander, too, who daily paid his devotions to Christ and Abraham, did none the less expend large sums in decorating the temples of Serapis and Isis “with statues, couches, and all things pertaining to the Mysteries,” ± whilst he left the other gods of Rome to take care of themselves.
* The Patriarch of Tiberias, head of the Jewish religion, after the destruction of Jerusalem.
± A very favourite representation of Isis upon our taismans shows her reclining upon a couch.
The French Institute of Archaeology in Cairo
for chasing up reports on Temple of Serapis in Naples.