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Tarot Card Games and Crypto Jews

Compilation: Tarot History and Crypto Jews
----------------------------------------------

To: alt.tarot,alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Tarot Card Games and Crypto Jews
Date: Mon, 12 May 2003 02:35:44 GMT

From

http://www.cryptojews.com/card_playing_to_hide_jewish_iden.htm

comes an article that may shed light on the commonly held Hermetic
belief that tarot or tarocchi game cards contain hidden symbolism
relating to the Jewish Kabbalah. 

The site from which this article is drawn is one that deals with
Ladino Crypto Jews, secret Jews living in Spanish and Portuguese
cultures who have hidden their Jewishness since the days of the
Catholic Inquisition. 

CARD PLAYING TO HIDE JEWISH IDENTITY

by Art Benveniste

adapted from an articles in HaLapid, Summer 1999

   In his presentation to the 1999 Society for Crypto Jewish Studies
Conference in Los Angeles, Seth Ward told of a woman from Northern New
Mexico whom he had interviewed. She was describing the Crypto Jewish
practices of her family and told about playing cards every September
with her Grandmother. Playing cards was an annual ritual of the family
that was somehow related to the Jewish High Holidays.
   It reminded me of a story told by Rabbi Baruj Garzon of Spain: 
   Several years ago the Jewish community of Spain wanted to buy some
land in the Barcelona Area for a Jewish summer camp. Rabbi Garzon
drove there from Madrid to negotiate with the landowner. It was late
in September. A price was agreed on and the rabbi told the landowner
that he would go back to Madrid to talk with the Board of Directors
and they could sign the papers the following week. 
   Back in Madrid that evening, Garzon received a call from the man in
Barcelona. The landowner said that there were certain days the
following week when he could not sign the papers. The rabbi wrote down
the dates and went to bed. The next day he was about to put the dates
on his calendar when he noticed that they coincided with the Jewish
High Holidays. He called Barcelona and asked why the man could not
sign on those dates. He was told that the man's family had a "strange"
calendar and that there were some days each year when they did not
work or handle money. The rabbi asked what the family did on those
days. He was told that they played cards. 
   On checking the man's "strange" calendar for the next few years, he
found that the days always fell on the High Holidays. The man had no
explanation for the card playing.
    
Card Playing Disguises Prayer
                                                                      
 
   The rabbi explained that during the time of the Inquisition, secret
Jews would gather for prayer by sitting around a table with cards on
the table and prayer books on their laps. When strangers came by they
would play cards and when they were alone they would turn to the
prayer books.
   Last April I repeated this story at a talk I gave in Tucson,
Arizona. My presentation was reviewed in the Chronicle, and Emma Moya
of New Mexico got a copy of it. She writes:
   "In Nuevo Mexico cards are called Barajas, [but] in other
southwestern areas the cards are called cartas. Our Academia Hebraica
in Albuquerque has researched and recorded the following information
that may or may not relate to Mr. Benveniste's statement in the
Chronicle: The word "baraja" alludes to the word "baraha", prayer in Hebrew."
   In addition, recently I received an email from Judith Crystal
Pirkle, who described her family customs. She said:
   "The stories passed down to me by my Mother and her family all
check out. Also the custom of playing cards on the Sabbath eve (Erev
Shabbat) was passed on through our family."
   As the Mexican soldiers checked houses on Friday evening to make
sure no one was observing the Sabbath, the Crypto Jews played cards
and told Torah stories by using the cards. A heavy cloth was placed on
the table with a large candle burning; at bedtime the candle was
placed under the table so it could not be seen from the windows.

--------EOF--------

cat yronwode

========================================================

Orig-To: alt.tarot,alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi
Orig-From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Tarot Card Games and Crypto Jews (2)
Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 01:47:09 GMT

Joseph wrote:
> 
> jk wrote:
> 
> > catherine yronwode  wrote:
> >
> > > The site from which this article is drawn is one that deals with
> > > Ladino Crypto Jews, secret Jews living in Spanish and Portuguese
> > > cultures---
> >
> > It is interesting that Jews would have used some kind of playing cards
> > to teach Torah, if that is in fact the case, but the tradition of
> > linking Tarot to Kabbalah began with the Egyptomaniacal theories of
> > French Freemasons.
> 
> Are you deliberately skewing the meaning of the post or did you just not read
> it all? The article was about the use of the cards to hide or disguise or
> misdirect attention from an activity that had nothing to do with tarot cards.

The article was not written with specific respect to Tarot (tarocchi,
tarock) sets, but the TIMING is interesting. The Inquisition -- and
thus the Jewish use of playing cards to disguise Jewish prayer --
occurred BEFORE the Egyptomania craze. The expulsions and forced
conversions of Jews in Spanish-held lands dates to 1492, when tarocchi
was certainly in vogue. Also, note that the article in question
documents the practice of card-playing on both the Sabbath and the
Jewish High Holy Days as STILL occurring among Ladino Spanish Crypto
Jews at the present time, both in Madrid, Spain, and in New Mexico, USA.

Now consider your choices:

A) From 1492 down to the present day Ladino Crypto Jews have used
tarocchi (tarock) cards to hide their prayer and their Torah teachings
from Christians -- but the Hermetics, Freemasons, and/or Egyptophiles
did not have know this at all, and just fantasized or MADE UP the idea
that Jews used playing cards to disguise hidden spiritual lessons -- a
complete coincidence! 

or 

B) Some Hermetics, Freemasons, and/or Egyptophiles either knew Crypto
Jews or WERE Crypto Jews, and thus they told the truth when they said
that the Jews used tarocchi cards as guides to spiritual mysteries. 

Choice (B) seems more logical to me than choice (A), simply because it
merely requires direct knowledge of something that would at that time
have been known to hundreds of thousands of Ladino Crypto Jews, while
choice (B) requires a very far-out yet highly accurate fantasy to have
been coincidentally true. 

cat yronwode 

==============================================

Orig-From: Catherine Yronwode 
Orig-To: alt.tarot,alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi
Subject: Tarot Card Games and Crypto Jews (3)
Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 22:34:31 GMT

jk wrote:

> > It is interesting that Jews would have used some kind of playing cards
> > to teach Torah, if that is in fact the case, but the tradition of
> > linking Tarot to Kabbalah began with the Egyptomaniacal theories of
> > French Freemasons:

I used to believe as you do about this, Jess: I took a rationalist
viewpoint, that i since i could see no logical reason why the Kabbalah
was linked to playing cards (tarocchi or tarock decks), it was logical
to assume that any such claimed  the linkage was a fantasy on the part
of Hermetic Egyptomaniacs. 

The article cited at the beginning of this discussion is the very
first link i have seen between Jewish religious teaching and playing
cards. 

The article dates to 1999. The research is fairly recent. 

The mention of this linkage arose OUTSIDE the realm of Tarot
scholarship -- and in the much more staid and less-fantasy-prone realm
of Crypto Jewish scholarship.

The mention of this linkage did not arise with reference to tarot
cards per se -- but tarocchi / trionfi / tarock games were and are in
the region where Jews were forced to convert or become Crypto Jews. 

Further, i believe that the linkage between these card decks and the
teaching of the Torah as revealed in the study of Crypto Jewish
history makes sense of the seemingly senseless connection between the
cards and Kabbalah that first entered the field of occultism during
the Hermetic revival period. 

One of the most convincing points in this argument to me is that the
origin of the linkage between playing cards and Crypto Jewish
religious practices is both dated and located appropriately -- namely,
to 1492, the year of the Spanish expulsion of the Jews from all
regions they controlled, including Sicily in Italy. I say that this is
"appropriate" in date and location because the date falls well after
the invention of tarocchi as a game and Sicily is well within the
expected spread of tarocchi card decks throughout Italy, including
those Italian regions controlled by Spain at the time and thus under
the Spanish edict of Jewish expulsion. 

Side note -- Sea-faring Jewish merchants regularly travelled the
Mediterranean, from Spain and Portugal to Sicily and Malta and thence
to Cairo and Tunisia. In Malta and portions of Sicily at the time of
the expulsion, the Jewish population in some municipalities was 1/3 of
the total number of residents, and local officials appealed to Spain
to make an exception against the expulsion order, for fear of
destroying the social infrastructure. The Spanish King refused,
insisting that all Jews in Spanish-controlled Italy be converted or
expelled. Thus the number of Crypto Jews in Sicily and Malta was quite
large and the practice of using tarocchi cards as a disguise for
religious services was probably quite widespread. 

The fact that the custom of using playing cards as religious tools
persists among Crypto Jews to this day -- 500 years after its origin
-- indicates that it was a widely-based practice and, very
importantly, also means that it was still an ongoing practice during
the period that the Egyptomania Hermetic craze took hold. 

> Catherine indicated in her posting that the information at the link
> she provided "may shed light on the commonly held Hermetic belief that
> tarot or tarocchi game cards contain hidden symbolism relating to the
> Jewish Kabbalah."

Yes, and i will now go a step farther, Jess. 

Based on this new information (new to me -- and apparently new to the
world of tarot research, since i have not encountered it anywhere
except in scholarship about Crypto Jews) i am now radically reversing
my stand on the origins of what i considered to be a "myth" on the
part of Hermetic authors. 

In short, i now think that the Hermetics were telling something very
close to the truth. In short, i now believe that the association of
tarocchi cards with Jewish mysticism predated the rise of the
occult-Egyptomania craze and that the authors who partook of this
craze were merely repeating something true. 

I now believe that the only fantasy component in the Hermetic tale as
i was taught it in the 1960s was that the cards were *invented* to
display occult truths. I think, rather, based on the date of the
earliest tarocchi decks and the date of the Spanish order of
expulsion, that Jews *adapted* the cards for use to disguise prayers
and religious teachings. 

The fact that a specific and unique Ladino word for playing cards -
"barajas" -- exists in New Mexico among Crypto Jews, when the rest of
the Spanish-speaking world calls these objects "cartas" is a very
suggestive lead, as was noted in the article, where is was stated that
the Academia Hebraica in Albuquerque, NM, had identified the word
"baraja" with the Hebrew word "baraha," meaning "prayer," based on the
use of these cards to disguise prayer on the Sabbath. 

This leaves only one link incomplete -- the jump from the known
teaching of Torah and/or the observance of Jewish prayer via playing
cards to the not-yet-proven teaching of Jewish mystical Kabbalah via
playing cards. However, given the early date of 1492 for the start of
the custom of using tarocchi to teach Torah, i think that the link to
Kabbalah can be safely assumed, for Kabbalah did not fall out of
favour among Jews until the rise of the Enlightenment philosophy, and
in the 15th and 16th centuries Kabbalistic teachings such as the
numerological "decoding" of "Bereshith" (the first word in the Book of
Genesis) were an intimate part of the  religious training of Jews. 

Finally, we have the question of the "Egyptian" connection to tarot.
Why Egypt? 

I suggest that if you wish to look into this further, from a
researcher's point of view rather than a dogmatist's, you study the
matter of the Geniza in the Cairo synagogue. 

Allow me to point the way, if not to lead the scholarly expedition: 

It was common Jewish belief prior to the 19th century (and is still
held true among some Jews) that any piece of paper upon which any one
of the names of GD has been inscribed or indicted or engraved must
not be thrown away as rubbish, even if the paper is no longer of use
or too worn for use. Thus old Torah scrolls are not tossed in the
garbage, nor are written prayers -- nor, in the Medieval and
Renaissance period -- were personal letters in which a prayer was
made. A letter, for instance, in which one wrote to one's merchant son
who was plying the Mediterranean trade, "I miss you, my dear, but GD
willing we will meet again when you return home from your voyage" was
not to be thrown out, because the name of GD was on it. 

As Jews were being expelled from place after place in the wake of the
Spanish edict of 1492, there was one repository where old Torah
scrolls, prayers -- and other old paper upon which GD's name appeared
-- were sent. This was the Geniza in the Cairo synagogue -- an upper
room or loft area into which the papers were cast, thus allowing them
to remain on holy ground. The Jews had not been expelled from Cairo,
and thus this was a safe place to send worn-out papers of holy
significance. 

The Geniza was first opened to scholars in the late 19th century, and
among the treasures found there were early Essene Jewish sect versions
of the Torah (equivalent to those later found at Qumran near the Dead
Sea). The material in the Geniza was jumbled, tumbled, many centuries
old, and had never been "preserved," only stored. It was continually
being eaten by rats and continually being replenished by new deposits. 

Scholarship in the Geniza originally centered on religious scrolls --
early versions of the Torah. Only later did the matter of Medieval
prayers, Kabbalistic speculations, and personal correspondence even
become of interest. By then much of the material had been mauled and
damaged in picking over the trove for Torah scrolls. The full extent
of the Geniza holdings -- more than a millennia's worth of discarded
documents -- will never be known. 

Now, what is of interest here to me is this: The fact that these
holdings exist at all indicates that during the period after the order
of expulsion, Jews were in the habit of depositing sacred religious
writings whose possession meant a death sentence in Cairo. Egypt was
not the home of the Jews or the tarot, but to Crypto Jews who no
longer had their own synagogues, Egypt was the one safe place that
worn-out Torah scrolls -- and other papers -- could be sent. 

This is just a hint of where a diligent researcher could go in
following up the idea of why the tarot cards were simultaneously said
to contain Jewish mystical teachings and to come from Egypt. The
extent of the social data (as opposed to religious data) to be gleaned
from the Geniza holdings is only now becoming apparent, as we see by
the fact that scholars have published such books as "A Mediterranean
Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the
Documents of the Cairo Geniza" (in four volumes). In other words, this
is a new field, and research is still ongoing. 

It's a vague lead, of course, but it does hint at a manner in which
one may take into account an actual (not fantasy) history of Crypto
Jewish involvement with tarocchi cards and connect three seemingly
unrelated things: Egypt - Jews - the use of playing cards as religious
artifacts. 

I hope that that people interested in the history of the tarot give
some consideration to these matters. 

I do not expect anyone to reverse their opinion, as i have -- and
conclude immediately that the seemingly anti-rationalist Hermetic
"fantasy" that the tarot contains Kabbalistic teachings was actually
based on facts surrounding the use of playing cards by Crypto Jews as
"baraja" (prayers). 

I do hope, however, that in any debate that results from this opening
of a new area of research it is is understood that i am not in any way
proposing to revive the outworn Hermetic fantasies that "the tarot was
created in ancient Egypt" or "the tarot was created by Jewish
Kabbalists." 

Rather, i am proposing that it now seems quite realistic to suppose
that after the 1492 decree of expulsion of all Jews from Spanish-held
lands -- including territories in Italy, where tarocchi was invented
-- the Jews did indeed adopt the use of these playing cards to
promulgate religious and mystical teachings. Further, i propose that
the pun on torah/tarot is probably quite old, and that the
Egyptophilic Hermetics who claimed that "the tarot contains hidden
Jewish wisdom" were basing their opinions on contact with or knowledge
of the Crypto Jewish use of tarocchi cards as disguises for prayer and
religious education. 

cat yronwode 

===============================================================

Orig-From: Catherine Yronwode 
Orig-To: alt.tarot,alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi
Subject: Re: Tarot Card Games and Crypto Jews (2)
Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 22:45:52 GMT

jk wrote:
> 
> ["Catherine Yronwode" ] wrote in message news:<3EC050F1.BDF106D0@luckymojo.com>...
> 
> > The article was not written with specific respect to Tarot (tarocchi,
> > tarock) sets---
> 
> > , but the TIMING is interesting. The Inquisition -- and
> > thus the Jewish use of playing cards to disguise Jewish prayer --
> > occurred BEFORE the Egyptomania craze.
> 
> You mean before the documentary evidence of Egyptomania influencing
> Tarot is established as a fact. But that doesn't by any means indicate
> it is likely that this Jewish use of playing cards contributed to the
> occultist interpretation of Tarot involving Kabbalah. I do think it is
> interesting, and contributes to a small body of evidence I've been
> gathering and considering for some time, for example:
> 
> http://jktarot.com/tarmag16.html
> 
> ---which evidence points to some kind of mystical-magickal use or
> interpretation of playing cards much earlier than the 18th-century
> origin of occult Tarot.
> 
> But the interpretation of the data you wish to supply has a serious
> problem---
> 
> > The expulsions and forced conversions of Jews in
> > Spanish-held lands dates to 1492, when tarocchi
> > was certainly in vogue.
> 
> But not in Spain. Spain didn't have much (or any) Tarot tradition of
> game play for centuries and only in the last 100 years or so did they
> start producing Spanish Tarots and these chiefly as fortune-telling
> decks.
> 
> So it's almost a certainty that the decks these Spanish Crypto-Jews
> were using were not Tarots.

I covered this objection in part (3) in this thread, just posted. 

Briefly, major portions of Italy were ruled by Spain at that time and
thus the order of expulsion extended there. 

In some municipalities in Sicily and Malta, 1/3 of the population was
Jewish. The Jews of Messina were said to be one of the largest
settlements of Jews anywhere. Messina is in Italy but was ruled by
Spain and thus the Jews there had to convert or face expulsion. Also,
there were numerous Jews in Ferrara, Italy, where they were protected,
but from whence they sent financial aid to the Jews of Sicily, many of
whom became Crypto Jews. Many Italian Jews were merchants and
travelled widely along regular routes of trade between Italy, Malta,
Tunisia, Cairo, Spain, and Lisbon. 

For documentation via the web, search on Jews of Messina, Jews of
Italy, History of Jews in Sicily, Crypto Jews in Sicily, Jews in
Malta, Jews of Ferrara, and so forth. There is a wealth of
information. 

cat yronwode 

===============================================

Orig-From: Catherine Yronwode 
Orig-To: alt.tarot,alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi
Subject: Re: Tarot Card Games and Crypto Jews (2)
Date: Wed, 14 May 2003 04:29:20 GMT

jk wrote:
> 
> The link for this part:
> 
cat wrote: 

> > , and just fantasized or MADE UP the idea that Jews used
> > playing cards to disguise hidden spiritual lessons -- a
> > complete coincidence!
> 
> No, a perfectly understandable development, happily apart from the
> conjecture you offer, as I explain here:
> 
> http://jktarot.com/egyptomania.html

I have read your essay, Jess, and i believe that it provides good
background on the rise of the "Egyptianization" myths surrounding
tarot. 

But it does not provide a meaningful look at why the *Kabbalah* (which
is not Egyptian, but Jewish) was also said to be encoded in the tarot
by occultists of that and even more recent periods. 

If it can be demonstrated that the tarot is not Egyptian, which you do
quite handily, in my opinion, then it follows that even if one
believes Judaism to be Egyptian in character (WHICH I DO NOT), you
will have just debunked the Jewish mystical link to the tarot.

Hence i return to my theory -- and, as you note, it is *apart* from
the conjecture you offer: 

It is known that around 1492, Crypto Jews -- while under Spanish legal
injunction to convert to Christianity or face expulsion from all
regions in Italy then ruled by Spain -- developed a practice of using
playing cards to cover or disguise the teaching of Torah and the
recital of prayers on the Sabbath and at the Jewish High Holy Days. 

It is known that this practice continues to the present day among
Crypto Jews in Spain and New Mexico at least, and perhaps elsewhere. 

It is therefore evident that this practice existed in the era of the
Hermetic revival. 

Hence it is possible -- even likely -- that knowledge of the Crypto
Jewish practice of employing tarocchi cards as covers for
religio-mystical teachings gave rise to the Hermetic revival notion
that the Kabbalah was somehow contained within and/or linked to and/or
encoded in tarot cards. 

Accepting one theory does not require the dismissal of the other. In
fact, the two theories -- the Egyptomania theory of tarot and the
Crypto Jewish theory of tarot -- work hand-in-hand to help define why
the Hermetic revival embraced the far-reaching conclusion that both
the Egyptian Book of Thoth AND the Jewish Kabbalah were concealed
within the tarot. 

The former was, as you submit and i concur, sheer fantasy. 

The latter was, as it now seems to me, factual, at least in a sense. I
do not believe that the tarot was created to embody Jewish teachings,
as some Hermetics stated, but it seems possible -- even likely -- that
an adaptation of the tarot to Jewish mystical and religious uses was
propagated after 1492 and during the subsequent centuries preceding
the Hermetic revival among Crypto Jews in the circum-Mediterranean
region. 

cat yronwode 

=====================================================

Orig-To: alt.tarot,alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi
Orig-From: Catherine Yronwode 
Subject: Re: Tarot Card Games and Crypto Jews (3)
Date: Fri, 16 May 2003 02:41:35 GMT

jk wrote:
> 
> Catherine Yronwode  wrote:
> 
> > jk wrote:

> How much Crypto-Jewish scholarship have you actually read?

A good deal. And you?
 
> > The mention of this linkage did not arise with reference to tarot
> > cards per se -- but tarocchi / trionfi / tarock games were and are in
> > the region where Jews were forced to convert or become Crypto Jews.
> 
> Once again, Tarot wasn't produced in Spain until lately, 

Once again (third time) you are making a mistake in thinking that
because the edict of expulsion that led to the formation of what is
now called Crypto Judaism was *promulgated* in Spain that it only
affected people *living in* Spain. 

For the third time: At the time of the 1492 Jewish expulsion order,
Spain owned, ruled, controlled, had possession of, and enforced its
laws (including the expulsion order) in Sicily, which is, was, and
will be part of Italy, which is where tarocchi cards originated. 

> and that's because there is no tradition of Tarot game play in Spain. 

Irrelevant. Expelled Jews and Crypto Jews also lived in ITALY!!!!
That's because Spain ruled part of Italy. 

> They have plenty of other card games, using the
> distinctive Spanish cards (which look different from
> Italian and French cards), but Tarot never caught on
> in Spain until it was adopted, as it was in the
> UK and the United States, as a fortune-telling
> deck.

Yes, and that is irrelevant. 

I am not talking about Spain, but about ITALY. 

Up to 1/3 of the population in some municipalities in Sicily and Malta
were Jewish at the time of the order to convert or die -- and hundreds
of thousands became Crypto Jews. I am not talking about Spain. I am
talking about Spanish-ruled ITALY. 

> So, what you would have us believe is that---
> 
> 1. Jews wished to mask their true beliefs by hiding
> a Jewish practice under the guise of playing cards.

I do not wish you "believe" it, i merely point you to scholarly
research in which it is mentioned as fact. 

> 2. The deck of cards (Tarot) they chose for this purpose
> was rare in Spain, and so likely to draw attention to its
> users for that reason alone.

Get off the SPAIN thing, Jess. I am talking about ITALY, much of which
was ruled by Spain. I have been saying this for three days in at least
three previous posts and you have not even acknowledged that i have
written it. 

> 3. If only or mainly Jews or Crypto Jews used Tarot, again
> a rare deck of cards in Spain, 

Forget SPAIN, Jess. Think ITALY. Crypto Jews in ITALY. ITALY!!!!

> for this purpose, eventually
> that fact would have been discerned by the Inquisition (which
> is after all our source for much of the information concerning
> the practices of Crypto Jews). 

The Inquisition may be YOUR source for information on Crypto Jews, but
it is not "our" source by any means. 

The best research on Crypto Jews comes not from other sources, such as
post-Expulsion grave stone inscriptions, the persistence of Jewish
names in ostensibly Christianized families, the financial records of
charitable funds created to facilitate the repatriation and religious
retraining of Crypto Jewish families who were admitted into
Judaism-tolerant nations (e.g. Holland), personal papers and diaries,
and family reminiscences of Crypto Jewish practices. Although much of
this information is found only in print, there is some available on
the web, including a remarkable record of a Crypto Jewish gravestone
found in post-expulsion Italy. Check it out. 

> In other words, if Crypto Jews
> used Tarots it might have marked them as Crypto Jews
> in a way that using regular Spanish card decks would not
> have done.

You are off in SPAIN again, Jess. I have been talking about ITALIAN
Crypto Jews. I thought you were educated enough to have known that
Spain ruled a large part of Italy, but when i saw that you were
unfamiliar with this, i mentioned it at once -- and yet, three posts
and three days later, you are still obsessing about SPAIN. 

> You have offered NO evidence to support the idea that
> the cards these Jews were supposedly using were Tarot
> cards.
 
Beyond the fact that hundreds of thousands of Crypto Jews lived in
Italy, where the tarocchi cards were invented, i have not offered any
speculation, much less firm evidence. I made this quite clear at the
outset when i called this an interesting theory.  

> > Further, i believe that the linkage between these card decks and the
> > teaching of the Torah as revealed in the study of Crypto Jewish
> > history---
> 
> First off, what is revealed in the "study" is merely a claim
> about this, nothing documented, and it is claimed to be a
> family custom, not a regional one. 

You have mistaken my use of the word "study" -- referring to the
entire field of Crypto Jewish historical research -- as a reference to
one article. Presumably you made this mistake because an article that
reports results is sometimes called a "study" in scientific circles --
but the article in question was not a scientific "study," it was an
"essay" -- and i was not referring to it at all  when i spoke of "the
study of Crypto Jewish history." Rather, i was using the word "study"
as a verb -- the "studying" of the subject. 

However, to your point, in the one article i mentioned, there is
documentation of the custom from Madrid, Spain, and Albuquerque, New
Mexico -- which seems not to be evidence of a mere "family" custom,
but rather of a widespread cultural practice. 

> > One of the most convincing points in this argument to me is that the
> > origin of the linkage between playing cards and Crypto Jewish
> > religious practices is both dated and located appropriately -- namely,
> > to 1492, the year of the Spanish expulsion of the Jews from all
> > regions they controlled, including Sicily in Italy.
> 
> But you're talking here about people who were Crypto Jews,
> so people who presumably wouldn't have been expelled because
> they were pretending NOT to be Jews.

I think you are less familiar with history than i assumed you were.
Let me recapitulate: 

In 1492 the order of expulsion was put into effect in Spain. Jews
under Spanish rule in portions of Italy were required to either
convert or leave, taking only the clothes on their back. At that time
some left and others sincerely converted to Christianity. A third
group pretended to convert, and they are the Italian Crypto Jews. Some
of these Crypto Jews were later expelled anyway, on the grounds that
their conversions were insincere. 

During this time of instability in the Jewish communities throughout
the circum-Mediterranean region, there was no one way to "be" a Crypto
Jew. 

Some families adopted Crypto Jewish practices and then, when they
could safely remove to a new home in a friendlier nation (such as the
Netherlands) with their possessions intact, they resumed their Jewish
religion, even after a generation or two or three. 

Other families were never able to relocate and their descendants
remained Crypto Jews for five centuries and are only now being
reintegrated into the Jewish community. 

Still other families started out as Crypto Jews but gradually became
less and less Jewish in orientation, some even forgetting that they
had ever had Jewish forebears. 

The potential for variant experiences from region to region and from
family to family is vaster than you seem to understand. 

> You are inventing fiction, not offering historical speculation.

I am offering a theory. I am inviting intelligent scholarly people to
investigate it further. 

> Catherine, let me make you a suggestion. By all means send your
> ideas, with an appropriate summary of where you'd like to take
> them, off to a publisher. And you'd better do it quickly before
> someone steals your "research". I have no doubt your book about
> the Crypto-Jewish origins of occult Tarot would be unduly popular.

I proposed a theory and hoped for dialogue with educated tarot
researchers and you think i am out to publish a book.

Do you think that all intellectual discourse must needs have
competition for a *publishing contract* at its root? 

If so, you are a sad scholar indeed.

Let me make my position VERY clear to you, Jess: 

My interest in this matter arose because my family is openly Jewish on
my German mother's side and there are two known Crypto Jewish surnames
(our of four surnames known) on my father's Sicilian side. While
researching Italian Crypto Jews, i found some remarkable material on
the use of playing cards to disguise Jewish religious teaching in
Crypto Jewish families. I shared it with those who might be better
able to make use of it than i. 

Any motivation beyond that is your fantasy. 

Are you interested in the subject, or only in name-calling and
sarcasm? 

If you are interested in tarot research with respect to the Crypto
Jewish use of playing cards to disguise religious teachings and prayer
from 1492 to the present, you might suggest some other Italian forms
of playing cards that existed circa 1492, beyond tarocchi cards, that
might have been used by Crypto Jews

You might then theorize as to why people who had a 22 letter alphabet
and could thus see in the already-extant 22 tarocchi trumps a pretty
good "fit" for teaching their hidden heritage, would choose to utilize
a different form of Italian playing cards that lacked the coincidental
number-22 linkage.

Hoping for more light and less heat, 

cat yronwode 
==================================================================

Orig-To: alt.tarot,alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi
Orig-From: Catherine Yronwode 
Subject: Re: Tarot Card Games and Crypto Jews (3)
Date: Sat, 17 May 2003 03:23:29 GMT

John B (John_bilodeau@hotmail.com) wrote:
> 
> Catherine Yronwode (cat@luckymojo.com) wrote:
> 
> 
> 
> > If you are interested in tarot research with respect to the Crypto
> > Jewish use of playing cards to disguise religious teachings and prayer
> > from 1492 to the present, you might suggest some other Italian forms
> > of playing cards that existed circa 1492, beyond tarocchi cards, that
> > might have been used by Crypto Jews
> >
> > You might then theorize as to why people who had a 22 letter alphabet
> > and could thus see in the already-extant 22 tarocchi trumps a pretty
> > good "fit" for teaching their hidden heritage, would choose to utilize
> > a different form of Italian playing cards that lacked the coincidental
> > number-22 linkage.
> 
> Hi Catherine,
> 
> I mentioned this thread to some of the people in the Judaic Studies
> program who are studying crypto Jews and here are the questions or
> comments they had:
> 
> - Most Jewish communities already possessed methods for restricting
> access to information about the Kaballah, why would they adopt the
> 'card game' strategy?

I am not asserting that they did. 

What i have been saying is that i believe that the currently widely
discredited Hermetic "myth" that "the Kabbalah is encoded in tarot
cards" may have arisen because Hermetic authors either were Crypto
Jews or knew Crypto Jews who were using playing cards to disguise
Torah teachings. 

I was also contrasting the possibly real-life basis of this Hermetic
so-called myth with the entirely fabulous and utterly unsalvageable
Hermetic myth that the tarot cards arose in Ancient Egypt as the Book
if Thoth. 

> - In the article mentioned, the use of the cards seems to be to
> address the problem of concealing the reason for the gathering, rather
> than the content. In other words the cards seem to be being used as a
> blind to disguise the purpose of the assembly. Is there other evidence
> that the cards actually have something to do with the practice of the
> religion, or the teaching of the Torah beyond giving an excuse for
> people to be sitting around a table together in the evening?

This is found in the article by Art Benveniste at 
    http://www.cryptojews.com/card_playing_to_hide_jewish_iden.htm

   ...an email from Judith Crystal Pirkle who described her family
   customs. She said: "The stories passed down to me by my Mother 
   and her family all check out. Also the custom of playing cards 
   on the Sabbath eve, (Erev Shabbat) was passed on through our 
   family. As the Mexican soldiers checked houses on Friday 
   evening to make sure no one was observing the Sabbath, the 
   Crypto Jews played cards and told Torah stories by using 
   the cards..."

The suggestive phrase is "told Torah stories by using the cards." What
is being stated is that there was a system in place of using specific
cards to relate to different portions of the Torah. 

As Corey (hieronymous707@aol.com) mentions in another post in this
thread, such identifiation of cards with specific portions of
scripture has a counterpart in Christian tradition:

    "...please consider the publishing of 'Curious and
    Interesting Anecdotes', under the name "Louis Bras-de-Fer", 
    printed in 1778 in Belgium. It is the oldest specific reference 
    I can find of 'The Soldier's Almanack / Prayer Book', the 
    story that relates playing cards to Christian doctrine.

Corey is referring to the oldest version of a prose-poem made popular
in the 20th century under the name "The Deck of Cards," which was
recorded by a variety of country and western singers, the most popular
being T. Texas Tyler, who had a huge hit with it during World War Two.
(Lyrics are at the end of this post.) 

Of course, this Christian poem or half-sung recitation describing the
use of cards to teach Biblical stories originates in the 18th century,
about 300 years after the Crypto Jews presumeably began using the
technique. But Corey takes us even further back in time when he points
out that:
   
    "...please consider the publishing of 'Curious and Interesting 
    Anecdotes', under the name "Louis Bras-de-Fer", printed in 
    1778 in Belgium. It is the oldest specific reference  I can 
    find of 'The Soldier's Almanack / Prayer Book', the story that 
    relates playing cards to Christian doctrine.
   
    "In 'The Encyclopedia of Tarot, Vol. 1', Stuart Kaplan writes, 
    'In the sixteenth century, a book written by Jacob Cammerlander 
    described each pip card with its moral and spiritual associations," 
    referencing a book 'Kartenlosbuch', published by a M. Jacob 
    Cammerlander von Mentz that describes playing cards in religious 
    terms.  
   
    "The text is written in rhyme."

So via Cammerlander, we arrive at the 16th century for the earliest
known associatations being made between playingcards and spiritual
subjects. But a few questions remain: I have not seen the Cammerlander
book and i am unsure whether Kaplan explains whether the "moral and
spiritual associations" made by Cammerlander with respect to the cards
refer to the Torah (the "Old Testament" of Christians), or whether
there are Christian ("New Testament") associations included as well. 

In either case, the 16th century closes 100 years after the order of
the expulsion of the Jews and the rise of Crypto Judaism in the late
15th century. 

So, if we acknowledge that Art Benveniste has rediscovered a hidden
Crypto Jewish tradition, the Jewish people may legitimately be seen as
the earliest to make linkages or association between playing cards and
religious teachings -- and, even if they were not the only ones, and
Christians did it too, the fact that they did so still lends a factual
basis to the otherwse discredited Hermetic "myth" of the tarot as a
"cover" for Jewsih religious teachings. 
  
>   Those were the two recurring questions from people who know more
> about this than I do. The general consensus seemed to be that any
> number of strategies may have been used by communities under such
> strain, but there didn't seem to be much hard information about the
> promulgation of kabbalistic teachings in communities struggling to
> conserve the minimum requirements of the jewish faith. But lack of
> evidence is not evidence of a lack, as they say...

I agree -- and again, i want to make it clear that i am not asserting
that a complete system of Torah correspondences was in place, nor that
Kabbalah was being taught. 

Rather, the fact that a association of playing cards with Judaism (or,
more properly Crypto Judaism) has a basis in history causes me to look
with fresh eyes upon the supposed "myth" of the Hermetic revival that
tarot contains encided Jewish mystical wisdom. The Hermetics may have
exaggerated or misinterpreted the role of cards vis-a-vis-Judaism, but
if the material presented in the article by Art Benveniste is true,
then the Hermetics seem to NOT have made up the story of a
relationship between the cards and Judaism out of whole cloth. 

Now, here are the lyrics to "Deck of Cards" by T. Texas Tyler:

-----------------------------------------

The Deck of Cards

       By T. Texas Tyler

During the North African campaign a bunch of soldier boys had been on
a long hike. They arrived in a little town called Cassino and the next
day being Sunday, several of the boys went to church. After the chaplain 
read the prayer, the text was taken up. Those of the boys who had prayer 
books took them out, but this one boy had only a deck of cards, so he 
spread them out. The sergeant who commanded the boys saw the cards 
and said "Soldier, put away those cards." 

After the service was over, the soldier was taken prisoner and brought
before the provost marshal. The marshal said "Sergeant, why have you
brought this man here?" 

"For playing cards in church, Sir." 

"And what have you to say for yourself, Son?" 

"Much, Sir", The soldier replied. 

The marshal said "I hope so, for if not I shall punish you severely." 

The soldier said "You see, Sir, I have been on the march for six days 
and I had neither bible nor prayer book, but I hope to satisfy you, 
Sir, with the purity of my intentions. 

"You see, Sir, when I look at the Ace, it reminds me there is but one
God. 

"When I see the Deuce, it reminds me that the Bible is divided into two
parts, the Old and the New Testaments. 

"When I see the Trey, I think of the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Ghost. 

"When I see the Four, I think of the four evangelists who preached the
gospel. There were Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 

"When I see the Five, it reminds me of the five Wise Virgins who trimmed
their lamps; There were ten of them, five were wise and were saved, five
were foolish and were shut out. 

"When I see the Six, it reminds me that in six days God made this great
Heaven and Earth. 

"When I see the Seven, it reminds me that on the seventh day God
rested. 

"When I see the Eight, I think of the eight righteous persons God saved
when he destroyed this earth. There was Noah, his wife, their three sons,
and their wives. 

"And when I see the Nine, I think of the lepers our Savior cleansed, and
nine of the ten didn't even thank Him. 

"When I see the Ten, I think of the ten commandments God handed to
Moses on the tables of stone. 

"When I see the King, it reminds me once again there is but one King of
Heaven, God Almighty. 

"When I see the Queen, I think of the blessed Virgin Mary, who is
Queen of Heaven. 

"And the Jack or Knave is the Devil. 

"When I count the number of spots on a deck of cards I find three
hundred 
and sixty five, the number of days in a year. 

"There are fifty-two cards, the number of weeks in a year. 

"There are thirteen tricks, the number of weeks in a quarter. 

"There are four suits, the number of weeks in a month. 

"There are twelve picture cards, the number of months in a year. 

"So you see, Sir, my deck of cards has served me as a Bible, almanac, and
prayer book."

And, friends, this story is true. 

I know ... because *I* was that soldier. 

------------------------------

Notes: 

1) The earliest reference to the song in this specific form does not date 
to World War II. A version regarding "the case of a private soldier, 
Richard Lee," is found on pages 265 - 267 in Robert E. Davis' "History 
of the Red Men and Degree of Pocahontas 1765-1988" (Davis Brothers 
Publishing Co., Waco, Texas: 1990). Davis dates the composition in 
its present form to the May 25 1883 issue of "The Council Brand," and 
says that the editor of this publication at that time, Brother Tanner, 
selected the article from "The London Times." The original title is given 
as "The Religious Card Player: A Soldier's Bible, Almanac, and Common 
Prayer Book."

2) Re the line: "When I count the number of spots on a deck of cards I 
find three hundred and sixty five, the number of days in a year." -- 
If you add the 
13 cards in each suit up, 
       assigning a value of 11 to Jacks, 12 to Queens and 
       13 to Kings, 
you get 91.  91 times 4 is 364, and if you throw in the Joker 
you get 365. 
 
cat yronwode 

EOF

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