Strange pictures on a mummy
I saw something which caught my interest in a museum in Poznan. This is an Egyptian archaeology as well as an early Christianity museum. Well, how about an Egyptian mummy with what appear to be something resembling tarot cards or affixed to the chest? A kind of hex for the next world. Now, we cannot obviously call them tarot cards since they come from much earlier, and may be paintings on cloth, and yet.... they resemble tarot cards, which are suspected by various tarot historians to originally come from Egypt. (They may also have a Chinese origin).
How old are these images? Well, the mummy is that of a woman called `Hat'. She dates from the 8th to the 4th century B.C! It is unclear of course whether she ordered the images affixed. Clearly, mummification implies a desire for eternal life. The imagery is therefore likely to be a related symbolism. It is a form of protection.
The two top images appear to resemble `the tower'! (Why would regular cards have a tower on them anyway? In Egyptian art, rooms are often represented with the dead from a bird's eye perspective in order that mansions on Earth can be enjoyed in the afterlife which is a kind of parallel Earth.
What may be thought of as the fortifications or crenels at the top may be the hidden compartments of a room, or rooms of a palace. In tarot, the tower is bad, and here something similar is represented with the dead.) Was there a desire to have a `house' in heaven? In this particular instance, however, we see something like a turret, a pillar with capitals. This is quite interesting as `pillar' resembles the idea of a `tower' in its elemental form.
It's impossible to say whether one item evolved into another but we can say that there are similarities. Clearly tarot cards are not placed with the dead today so the imagery clearly serves a different purpose these days, and for a long time in the past.
The two bottom images appear to be that of a lady. The images are different. They look like a worshipper but who can say--`The Priestess?' It seems more like a worshipper than `The Empress'. Maybe the images are the lady herself, looking inwardly, towards the heart. Above are the turrits, indicating worship within a temple? Did Tarot evolve out of an early form of Egyptian magical card or painting: perhaps an Egyptian book as has been speculated by others?
Conclusions: It cannot be proven the imagery are an early form of Tarot, or even if they relate to pre-tarot. We can point to similarities, and that is the best we can do at this time. (The image of a pillar for instance). We can say the images appear to have been self explanatory in their own time. People in that time might have recognised their meanings and why they were being applied. The function, however is different. The images appear to be related to fascilitating some function in the afterlife whereas tarot images are used for divination.
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