GAME OF THE FOUR ORDERS OF VIRTUE
The Original Ptolemaic Tarot Cards
"Consider therefore this game, most illustrious Duke, following a fourfold order, by which you may give attention to serious and
important things, if you play at it. Sometimes it is pleasing to be thus diverted, and you will be delighted therein. And it is more
pleasing, since through the keenness of your own acumen you dedicated several to be noted and celebrated Heroes, renowned models of virtue, whom mighty greatness made gods, as well as to ensure their remembrance by posterity. Thus by observation of them, be ready to be aroused to virtue.
Indeed the first order, of virtues, is certain: Jupiter, Apollo, Mercury and Hercules. The second of riches, Juno, Neptune, Mars and Aeolus. The third of virginity or continence: from Pallas, Diana, Vesta and Daphne. The fourth however is of pleasure: Venus, Bacchus, Ceres and Cupid. And subordinated to these are four kinds of birds, being suited by similarity. Thus to the rank of virtues, the Eagle; of riches, the Phoenix; of continence, the Turtledove; of pleasure, the Dove. And each one obeys its own king. However, the order of these Birds is, although none of their type has right over another, yet this arrangement they have alternately – Eagles and Turtledoves lead from many to few: that is to say it goes better for us when many cultivate virtue and continence; but for Phoenixes and Doves, the few rule over the many, which is to say that, the more the followers of riches and pleasure are visible, the more they lead to the deterioration of our station. Every one of the gods, however, is above all the orders of birds and the ranks of kings."
Description of the Michelino deck, the "oldest Tarot cards", circa 1425 AD of which no images were thought to survive.
‘Marziano da Tortona’ (translation: Ross Caldwell).
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