Cathar Beliefs in Tarot Iconography
Have you ever heard of the Cathars? They were an intriguing medieval religious group who held beliefs that were considered heretical by the Catholic Church. As a result, many Cathars faced persecution and met tragic fates, often being condemned to death by fire. The story of the Cathars is a captivating chapter in history that reveals the complexities of religious diversity and the conflicts that can arise as a result.
I recently decided to delve into the world of Medieval/Renaissance Tarot and wanted to learn more about the concepts and symbolism behind decks like the Marseille Tarot and the Visconti Tarot. In my search for a comprehensive resource, I came across a fascinating book that caught my attention. Although it hasn’t been released in print yet, it is available for purchase on Kindle, so I decided to grab a copy.
The author, Russell A. Sturgess, comes from a Christian background but has also explored various forms of spirituality, as evidenced by the sources he references in the book. It is important to note that the book also includes some New Age influences. Sturgess makes certain claims about the Cathars that could benefit from additional references for verification.
The Gospel of John held significant importance for the Cathars, as mentioned by Sturgess. However, there seems to be a contradiction in their beliefs. Despite their adherence to this gospel, it is unclear whether they believed in a physical resurrection or placed importance on communion. Further clarification is needed regarding these aspects of their faith.
It seems the Cathars were excluded from participating in Church communion and instead practised their own version of it in the privacy of their homes.
The Divine Feminine
Although I am only 147 pages into the 499-page length of the book, it has already sparked numerous intriguing questions. Additionally, the book contains compelling illustrations that enhance the reading experience. While this is not a comprehensive review, I look forward to delving deeper into the content and gaining more insights.
The Cathars held a belief in a Divine family consisting of Mother and Father God, with Christ and Sophia as the son and daughter of these divine parents. The Cathars highly revered the Divine Feminine, as they believed that embracing her teachings and principles was key to breaking free from the cycle of reincarnation. This emphasis on the Divine Feminine led to a harmonious coexistence among the female religious adepts (known as the Parfait) and their male counterparts within the Cathar community, without any internal hierarchy among the Parfait.
In 13th-century Italy, during a period when the Gugliemites revered the Divine Feminine as equal, there existed a hierarchical structure. There is even evidence of a female Pope, although her reign was relatively brief.
In the Visconti Tarot, there is a female pope depicted in the High Priestess card. This depiction is believed to represent the Gugliemite Maifreda da Piovano, who was closely related to Matteo Visconti. The inclusion of this figure in one of the earliest Tarot decks adds an intriguing historical and familial context.
The absence of a hierarchical structure among the adepts of the Cathars suggests that the Marseille Tarot’s origins were influenced by a diverse range of factors.
Murdered by the Catholic Church
Maifreda was a devoted disciple of Guglielma of Bohemia. Guglielma, who considered herself a female counterpart to Christ, deeply influenced Maifreda’s spiritual journey.
Maifreda, although not a Cathar herself, shared a similar fate to many of the Cathars. She was burned at the stake after being bestowed with the title Papessa by Guglielma shortly before her death. The extent to which Guglielma and her followers adopted Cathar beliefs remains uncertain.
During the period when Maifreda was executed, the Church also exhumed Guglielma’s remains and cremated them. The Church might have been concerned about the possibility of her resurrection as the Holy Spirit, as she had predicted. This captivating and enigmatic episode has sparked my curiosity to delve deeper into the world of Medieval and Renaissance mystics.
The Holy Grail
The Cathars, known for their practice of kindness, inspire me in my Tarot contemplations. While it is still early to determine the exact impact of their teachings on my Tarot work, I wanted to offer some initial reflections.
I look forward to sharing more thoughts on what I learned from the book in terms of using the Tarot for spiritual growth. Additionally, I am eager to explore the connection between the book and the Grail Code. It holds a special significance for me, as I had a vivid dream about 3D cards, all of which were Cups cards. So stay tuned for my follow-up on this book review.
For now, the jury is out for me on whether or not the Cathar beliefs actually form the roots of the Marseille Tarot but some of the iconography is certainly a good match with Gnostic, Christo-Sophianic philosophy, if not specifically Cathar.