• From Bethel to Pentecost: The Tower of the Tarot deck as the Tower of Babel

    Author(s):
    Lloyd Graham (see profile)
    Date:
    2023
    Group(s):
    History of Art, History of Games and Play
    Subject(s):
    Tarot, Tarot cards, Major arcana (Tarot), Major arcana (Tarot) in art, Tarot in art, Babel, Tower of, in art, Babel, Tower of
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    Tarot, Tower of Babel, Bethel, Tarocci, Jacob's Ladder, Pentecost, Tower card
    Permanent URL:
    https://doi.org/10.17613/qsaa-zv14
    Abstract:
    Images of the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9) in illustrated Christian manuscripts are suggestively similar to representations on the Tower card in many versions of the Tarot deck; both genres show the Tower being destroyed from above, with oversized persons falling head-first from it. In terms of connections between heaven and earth, the antithetical relationship between God’s holy stairway at Bethel – the “House of God” (Gen 28:10-19) – and mankind’s cursed simulacrum at Babel (Gen 11:4-5) could justify early identifications of the Tower card as the “House of the Devil” or “House of the Damned.” The Tower’s builders were punished for their hubris by having their single language split into the different tongues of the world. The New Testament parallel to this linguistic division – which befell Jesus’s apostles at Pentecost – was characterised by tongues of flame descending from heaven (Acts 2:3-4), so it would be natural to apply the same visual cipher to the event at Babel. Such celestial fire would readily have been integrated with the existing iconography of the Tower being destroyed from above, whereupon it could easily have become “normalised” as a conventional lightning bolt.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Online publication    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    5 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved

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