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Tarot History: Dice and Cards

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.divination,alt.tarot,alt.occult,talk.religion.newage,,
From: (nagasiva)
Subject: Tarot History: Dice and Cards
Date: 12 Jan 1998 22:35:40 -0800

49980110 aa2 Hail Satan!

re inquiry of interest in discussing the data at the following URL:

I am.  it isn't very long, I append it to this email.

after seeing the URL referenced above I was so intrigued by the
construction of Mr. Opsopaus that I printed off the whole site
for reference in the library here.  needless to say I have been
a fan of pythagorean ideas and structures for a while, and the
form of the tetractys speaks volumes to me (I have constructed
a new Tree of Life based on it and may well flesh out an entire
symbolic association system combining my 1(0)/25/75 tarot and
a number of other divinatory and magical systems using some of
the text which I found at this site, with proper attribution).

is there some other explanation for the way that
card decks were constructed than as a replacement for dice games?
I notice that one of the things the construction of 21/56 cards
achieves is the equal distribution of chance (since the probability
of having one card is the same as that of having any others, as
compared to dice throws, which are distributed unevenly) and the
expansion of the equivalent of multiple throws within a single
mechanism.  draw a card and you have thrown a pair (Major) or
trio (Minor) set of dice, or, play something more complex with
the entirety.

the addition of the Fool (Excuse, Idiote, etc.) makes for the
possibility of combination with any 22-element system, even
while retaining (since 0 is not a natural number, with which
the illiterate were probably most familiar) the capacity to
replicate dice throws (0 could be 'cocked dice' for example).

re triangular and pyramidal #s with respect to 21 and 56:
I can explain these terms fairly easily and provide a very
important emphasis to the value of his work.

here is how 21 is a 'triangular number'

                        *                         1  (0 + 1)
                     *     *                      2  (1 + 1)
                  *     *     *                   3  (2 + 1)
               *     *     *     *                4  (3 + 1)
            *     *     *     *     *             5  (4 + 1)
         *     *     *     *     *     *        + 6  (5 + 1)

this is also the case for any cumulative sum:

                3, 6, 10, 15, 21, 28, etc.

on this flat plane it is more difficult to graphically illustrate
the 'pyramidal' formula, but it is constructed on an identical
principle using a 3-dimensional form, summing elements in a like
manner.  if nothing else the mathematical progression can be seen.

                        *                        1  (0 + 1)
                      # # #                      3  (1 + 2)
                   @ @ @ @ @ @                   6  (3 + 3)
               & & & & & & & & & &              10  (6 + 4)
          $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $         15 (10 + 5)
      % % % % % % % % % % % % % % % % % % %   + 21 (15 + 6)

this is also the case for any compounded sum:

                4, 10, 20, 35, 56, 84, etc.

that these mathematical numbers (21, 56) are identical to the
number of unique dice throws (for 2 6-sided and 3 6-sided
dice, respectively), that the history of tarot appears to
directly imply it developed from games, and that these numbers
constitute the number of cards in the TAROT (excluding the Fool,
0) is no mere coincidence, from what I can see, and I'd love to
hear alternative suggestions regarding the development of gaming
and divination which would explain this as anything other than
progressive and family lineage:

                DICE (divination/gaming)
                CARDS (at least gaming)
                TAROCCI (at least gaming)
                TAROT (divination)

one important question is: was the Fool/Excuse included in all
card decks which otherwise contained the historic structure of
tarocci?  is it not significant that, in historic tarocci, the
0 card is the least potent, never being able to win a trick,
as if it were a 'bummed' or 'cocked' roll of the dice?

discussion/correction welcome.  please cc me if you want to be
sure that I see your response.  thanks.

========================================= appended find the dice info

  [from ]

Dice and the Tarot

   After playing cards were introduced into Europe in the 14th
   century, they almost completely replaced dice (Moakley 41), which
   had been in use since at least the First Dynasty of Egypt (David
   2). This is reflected in terms such as "ace" and "deuce," which
   are now used for cards, but were originally used for dice. (This
   is the reason there are technical terms for 1 to 6 - viz., ace,
   deuce, trey, cater, sink and sice - but not beyond.)

   Two kinds of dice were used in classical antiquity: dice proper
   (kuboi, tessarae), which are virtually identical to six-sided
   modern dice, and knucklebones (astragali, tali), which have four
   sides (Halliday 205-15, esp. 213-15; David 1-7; Ore 193). For
   divination, five astragali were rolled, and the resulting
   combination was looked up on a four-sided pillar, many examples
   of which survive in more or less fragmentary form (e.g., Sterrett
   "Epig.", "Wolfe"; Kaibel). It so happens that the number of
   possible five-astragali throws is 56, exactly the number of Minor
   Arcana, and that the throws were listed on the tablets in four
   "suits" (two of 15 throws, two of 13; see Halliday 213n3). When
   dice are thrown for divination, the number of possible throws of
   three dice is also 56 (Minor Arcana), and the number of throws of
   two dice is 21, the number of Major Arcana (excluding the Fool).

   This correspondence would be a remarkable if it were
   coincidental, and it therefore suggests that the Major Arcana
   derive from divination with pairs of dice, and the Minor Arcana
   from triples of dice (or quintuples of astragali). Additional
   evidence can be found in a system of meditation developed around
   960 CE by Bishop Wibold of Cambray, in which 56 virtues were
   associated with the throws of three dice (Kendall 2-4). Also, in
   the fifteenth century, when the Tarot first appears, we find a
   number of poems setting out the meanings of the 56 throws
   (Kendall 11; see, e.g., Kraemer). In truly Cabalistic fashion,
   San Bernadino's sermon of 1243 draws an analogy between the 21
   rolls of two dice and the 21 letters of the (medieval) Roman
   alphabet (Kendall 4) - that is, ours without J, V, W, Y, Z.

   Unfortunately I cannot take credit for this important insight;
   Gertrude Moakley (p.42, n.9) attributes it to the statistician
   Maurice G. Kendall (1956). This is particularly annoying since I
   have been piecing together and translating astragalomancy
   tablets, and the significance of the number 56 should have been
   obvious to me! In mathematical terms 21 is the sixth Pythagorean
   triangular number, the Hexaktys, and 56 is the sixth Pythagorean
   pyramidal number (the base of which is the Hexaktys). The total
   number of Tarot cards, 78, is the twelfth triangular number. The
   Pythagorean Tetraktys is, of course, the fourth triangular

   There is, so far as I know, any record of the correspondence
   between dice throws and Tarot cards. Nevertheless, I've listed a
   throw of two dice for each Major Arcanum. This is based on the
   observation that in ancient dice games numerically higher rolls
   (usually) beat numerically lower ones, and on the assumption that
   the higher numbered die corresponds to the row of the triangular
   number. There are two obvious way the 21 Major Arcana (Magician
   to World) correspond to the rolls, both of which reflect the
   structure of the Major Arcana (as will be explained later):

                11                  11 12 13 14 15 16
                12 22                  22 23 24 25 26
                13 23 33                  33 34 35 36
                14 24 34 44                  44 45 46
                15 25 35 45 55                  55 56
                16 26 36 46 56 66                  66

   Due to their shape (when arranged symmetrically), I'll call the
   left the Fire Hexactys and the right the Water Hexactys. It is
   unclear at this time which is more useful. In any case, the dice
   attributions are conjectural and are provided only as an impetus
   to further exploration.

   A correspondence between the Major Arcana and throws of three
   astragali is discussed later. There are also correspondences
   between the Minor Arcana and throws of three dice or five
   astragali. The charts are presented in an Appendix (Tarot
   Divination Without Tarot Cards*), where practical techniques of
   dice divination are discussed.

        [* ]

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