Mysteries of the Tarot: The Ship of Fools

The Ship of Fools: Heironymous Bosch

Ship of Fools, by Heironymous Bosch

As a great fan of Heironymous Bosch, I could not help posting a whole boatload of Fools! Note the little head in the tree!

I found an interesting source for the idea of the painting in a book called Dreamtime: Concerning the Boundary Between Wilderness and Civilization by Hans Peter Duerr.

The Fool has a lot of resonance with Dionysus, God of Divine Madness.
Here it is:
“The maenads of Zagreus–Dionysus were closely related to the Couretes, and probably had the same roots. The Meanads were the ‘grasping ones’, the ‘tearers’, even more closely than the Couretes bearing traces of the Wild Hunt. Like the Erinys of Artemis, these ecstatic huntresses were spirits of the dead who raged through the land ‘between the times’, clad in the skins of panthers, deer or foxes, carrying the thyrsus and suckling wolf pups. they were given death offerings usually of milk and honey. The same offerings were later given to¬† the ‘bonnes dames’ and the ‘naht-frouwen’, the women of the night. On choes, the second day of the of the Anthesteria festival, Dionysus, the ‘great loosener’, the ‘god of blossoms’, rolled through the streets and alleys of Athens, seated on his ship cart. The cart was drawn by two satyrs, and the god was accompanied by the souls of the dead, who on this day arrived from the swamps of Lerna, the door to the underworld, to visit the mortals.
When a ship rolls on land, all matters are turned upside down. the rule of the masters did not prevail on choes, and the slaves were free and could do as they pleased. As late as 1133, a wooden ship on wheels traveled from Cornelimunster to Tongern and Looz via Achen and Maastrischt, where it was fitted out out with sails and mast. Wherever the ship haulted, women were overcome by wild ecstasy. half-naked or clad in short shifts, their hair loose, they danced around the ship and later engaged in behavior about which a monk who reported the event maintained he could only weep or be silent. Regrettably for posterity, he did not write while weeping, so we are left in ignorance as to what might taken place around the ship after nightfall.
Ships float in water, in no-man’s-land, as it were, not subject to the laws of one particular country. it is understandable, therefore, that in the latter part of the Middle Ages, ‘lawless’ fools were often represented on ships. If the ship then traveled over ‘someone’s land’, this was chaos overcoming order.”

The images here are amazing. If you read this paragraph slowly, allowing the images of the Maenads, the ship, the mad Fools to play in your imagination, you will see how one simple image of the Fool resonates, like fine poetry, into the deepest levels of the unconscious and tap into the Ancestral Memory where the Ship of Fools still exists as a ‘reality’.
This is how Tarot works. Images and symbolic keys to deeper meanings, many unseen, not obvious, require meditation to reveal themselves. Images from the Ancient Mysteries transmit core energies from the Soul of the World, fertilizing and ordering the imagination so that it becomes a mediator between times, dimensions, and levels of consciousness beyond the boundaries of the known.
For this to happen, you must do something that has gone out of fashion — you must slow down, savor, brood upon an image until it falls into your bloodstream and becomes part of you. Then, when you read the cards they will come to life and speak in ways no instruction manual can teach.
Next post will give a definition of Tarot with a few ideas on how to consecrate a Tarot deck.
Peter Breugel, Carnival

Peter Breugel, Carnival

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