I ran across some interesting images the other night.  I love to browse old art, new too, but for tarot’s sake, old art.   The stuff from the 15th and 16th centuries I consider a tarotic sweet spot where I can admire from afar what might have been in the minds of the people who created tarot.   

There were 2 paintings that really caught my attention, this is the first:

Allegory of Chastity, Hans Memling 1475

Allegory of Chastity, Hans Memling 1475



Whooooyaaaaaa!  The question that arises to me looking at this is, if this is chastity, a woman being protected from 2 rogue and roving lions, what does it mean if she is gently caressing them?  Thinkin’ Crowley may have been onto something there with his Lust card, eh?!

Yes, yes, the lions are symbols of our bestial natures, but never forget that they are powerful solar symbols (and I dare say that trumps the previous).  The light this throws on the modern Strength card, to me, is that it is, to put it bluntly, sex between the Sun and the Moon.   Boooyah!

Te other interesting painting I found is relevant to what I am working on but not nearly as much so, but let me show you now and then I will get back to Strength.

Hl. Christophoros, Hans Memling 1480

Hl. Christophoros, Hans Memling 1480


I must admit that this one made me jump out of my chair.  This is by the same artist as the last painting, Hans Memling, in 1480.   It is called Hl. Christophoros, Christophoros being translated from Greek means Christ bearer.    This is Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travel.

Now, if you look carefully at the right hand side you will see a very clear representation of the Hermit.  Not only is he there in this painting, but if you look up and at other medieval paintings of St. Christopher you will find the Hermit over and over again!!!

There is a story that goes with this; from the Catholic Encyclopedia:


The legend says: A heathen king (in Canaan or Arabia), through the prayers of his wife to the Blessed Virgin, had a son, whom he called Offerus (Offro, Adokimus, or Reprebus) and dedicated to the gods Machmet and Apollo. Acquiring in time extraordinary size and strength, Offerus resolved to serve only the strongest and the bravest. He bound himself successively to a mighty king and to Satan, but he found both lacking in courage, the former dreading even the name of the devil, and the latter frightened by the sight of a  cross at the roadside.

For a time his search for a new master was in vain, but at last he found a hermit (Babylas?) who told him to offer his allegiance to Christ, instructed him in the Faith, and baptized him. Christopher, as he was now called, would not promise to do any fasting or praying, but willingly accepted the task of carrying people, for God’s sake, across a raging stream. One day he was carrying a child who continually grew heavier, so that it seemed to him as if he had the whole world on his shoulders. The child, on inquiry, made himself known as the Creator and Redeemer of the world. To prove his statement the child ordered Christopher to fix his staff in the ground. The next morning it had grown into a palm-tree bearing fruit. The miracle converted many. This excited the rage of the king (prefect) of that region (Dagnus of Samos in Lycia?). Christopher was put into prison and, after many cruel torments, beheaded.


I would love a more detailed account of St. Christopher, but from the little I have read he has an interesting history with an ambiguous origin.  A few notes; in many depictions of St. Chistopher he has a dog head.  He is always shown wearing bright red  and carrying an infant Christ on his shoulders.  His most noteworthy miracle was turning a staff into a tree, and is always shown with a staff.  These 3 attributes are things often seen in the Fool card, red clothes, a dog and a staff, further – carrying the infant Christ makes me wonder if the package the Fool carries on his staff contains Christ and the weight of the world. 

In his quest to find the greatest king (Emperor?)to serve he encounters a successively greater chain of people including a king of marauders (Magician?) and the Devil (Devil) before he finds, with the help of the Hermit, Christ as the greatest king.  He is finally imprisoned (Tower) and martyred.

I’m not saying this is the story that inspired the original tarot, or that it is not.  My interest is only passing, really, for I see it as another myth with the same patterned story although one with a striking resemblance to the original tarot.  Again, I am more interested in the Truth behind it all, than the Truth as interpreted by 15th century artists or cardmakers.

Never elevate someone else’s judgment above your own!  You, too, contain the divine spark in you and have direct access to the TRUTH!

Ok, now that I have written that little motivational sentence, let me move on, or back, to Strength.

All of my instincts are screaming that the 8s need to show a combination of 8 & 11. And it doesn’t look like I am going to have much of a choice, they are moving that way like a juggernaut.  I still maintain that the modern Strength card contains some Justice and perhaps Justice contains some Strength, what with the Sword and scales.

I guess I didn’t have much more to say about the first painting after all.

And with that I bid you adieu, you Tarotnaut Travellers!

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3 Responses to Christophoros

  1. Ian says:

    Ok, I didn’t want to mention this yet, but I can’t hold it, either, because you’re seeing it the same way (“there is more than meets the eye”):

    The woman you can’t see on the Strength card, the one riding/mounting the lion… is Ma’at, from the Justice.

    Isn’t she?


  2. Tarotsmith says:

    The way I see it, in the concept of the 8, the woman is one side of the scale and the lion the other, she could definitely be Ma’at!
    Then, when I shift the image to the position of 11 I see the lion as a symbol for a strong heart, strength of heart, divine presence in heart.

    The 8s are awesome!

  3. sandrar says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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