Alexander Neckam
Albricus / Albericus / Albricius

La sua biografia è alquanto scarna. Studiò a Cambridge e Oxford, diventando un eccellente filosofo e medico. Forse il vero nome era Alexander Neckam, nato a St. Albans nel 1157 e morto nel 1217.

Sotto lo pseudonimo di Albricus scrisse il Liber Ymaginum Deorum o De deorum imaginibus, che forse è la stessa opera pubblicata dalla biblioteca Gallica sotto il titolo di Allegoriae poeticae: seu de veritate ac expositione poeticarum fabularum libri quatuor Alberico londonensi authore (Paris, Joannis de Marnef, 1520).

Dati molto interessanti sono presenti in
e meritano di essere riprodotti integralmente.

Chi scrive è una certa Yatima.

In a strange short article of Joannis Opsopoeus at
"Praefatio ad Lectorem"
many "facts" are stated regarding the origin of the Tarot subjects
and the Mantegna Tarot, which sound very alien.

Here are some excerpts:

[Begin quote] "An old Chronicle from the Austin Friars at York [now in the collection of the Earl of Arundel, 6 fol. 135v] informs us that Alexander Neckam was born in September A.D. 1157 at Sanctus Albanus [St. Albans] on the same day as Richard [Coeur-de-Lion] was born at Windeshore [Windsor], and that Alexander's mother Hodierna ["She of Today"] suckled Alexander at her left breast and Richard at her right. Alexander was educated in the abbey school at S. Albanus and later at the University of Paris, where he had become a professor by 1180. He returned to England in 1186 and later became a professor at Oxford, where he lectured on the Song of Songs to anyone who had a mature mind and sublime intelligence [maturi pectoris & sublimis intelligentie].

Writing under the name Albricus (or Albericus, suggesting whiteness) Londoniensis [of London], he described all the gods in the book called Liber Ymaginum Deorum [Book of the Images of the Gods - codex Vat. 3413]. This book was based on the Pythagorean Doctrines of Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius [c. 400 CE], a Hellene [i.e., Pagan] who wrote about Vergilius and the Saturnalia, and of Martianus Capella [fl. 410-30 CE]. In his account of the gods he also relied on manuscripts from Servius [c. 400 CE] and Donatus [mid 4th cent.], who both knew many things about Vergilius. [Servius'commentary on the first six books of the Aeneid survives, as does Donatus' Life of Vergilius. Also extant are Macrobius' Commentary on the Dream of Scipio and Martianus' Marriage of Mercury and Philology.] Based on these ancient books he attempted to set down the true meanings of the Images he described. In this way Albricus brought the Olympians back to Europe, and made possible the Renaissance. When the star exploded and burned for six months [the supernova of 1181], the Sardae Sagae [Wise Women of Sardinia] took Albricus to their subterranean temple and initiated him into the fuller meaning of the Secret Images [Imagines Arcanae]. [The Sagae are, presumably, the Gianae and the temple in question is their Ta Rat'.]

(The images were also used to hide the teachings of the followers of Peter Waldo (the Waldenses), the "Poor Men of Lyons," for the barbe, their preachers, began to preach after A.D. 1176, when Albricus was in Paris. Already in A.D. 1179 Pope Alexander III had forbidden the preaching of the Waldenses, and in A.D. 1184 the corrupt Pope Lucius III declared the Poor Men to be heretics because they advocated the simple life of the country dwellers [pagani].

Francesco Petrarca [Petrarch, 1304-74], who wrote the Trionfi, knew the Images of Albricus, and even saw the Sardinian cave, which he described [Africa, Canto III, 140-262] as the Hall of King Syphax (but he hid its location by placing it in Numidia). These descriptions were collected into a little book about the Images of the gods [i.e. the Libellus de Imaginibus Deorum, c. 1400], which was also put under the name Albricus.

Then Parrasio Michele of Ferrara [d. 1456] put together these Images, and they were later used by Pope Pius II and Cardinals Bessarion and Nicholas of Cusa at the council in Mantua (Vergilius' birthplace) that lasted from June A.D. 1459 to January A.D. 1460, but the cards were not well received by them, for they were considered Heretical or even Pagan. In later times this series of images were called the Tarocchi del Mantegna [Tarot of Mantegna], after the Paduan painter Andrea della Mantegna [1431-1506], or the Carte di Baldini [Cards of Baldini], after Baccio Baldini [fl. 1460-85], for these artists also illustrated the Trumps [Triumphi]. Ludovico Lazzarelli made them into a book, De Gentilium Deorum Imaginibus [On the Images of the Gods of the Gentiles, c. 1471 CE, codex Vat. Urb. 716]." [end quote]

This treatise states:

1. That Albricus invented the Renaissance regarding his humanist interest in the gods, which he described in the Book of the Images of the Gods - codex Vat. 3413 in the late 12th century.

2. That he was introduced in the subterranean pre-historic Sardinian temple Ta Rat' and initiated into the fuller meaning of the Secret Images displaced there – seemingly being the role-model for the Tarot trumps as such!

3. That the Waldenses used the same images for their secret teachings.

4. That Petrarca for his Trionfi knew the Images of Albricus, and even saw the Sardinian cave, which he described [Africa, Canto III, 140-262].

5. That the images of God are the basis for the Mantegna Tarot, when Parrasio Michele of Farrara put together these Images, and they were later used by Pope Pius II and Cardinals Bessarion and Nicholas of Cusa at the council in Mantua.

Anyone any idea?


Così replica Ross a Yatima:

I can't judge his biographical knowledge of Albricus, but I think he has made up the temple of Ta Rat' and the stories associated with it (although, given Opsopaus' learning, there must be a kernel of truth to it).

For the texts and the references there, he has followed very closely the order of the information given by Seznec in "Survival of the Pagan Gods" (I have a 1993 French edition, where this discussion of Albricus and his influence on Petrarch is given on pp. 200-210). Seznec's work remains the fundamental study - everybody should have it.

Seznec's article on this subject from the "Dictionary of the History of Ideas" is on the internet


He has this to say about Albricus, about half way down the page (volume 3, p. 289 if you have the printed edition) –

"Of special interest in this group is a Liber imaginum deorum, whose author, “Albricus,” has been identified with the Mythographus Tertius, who might be Alexander Neckham (1157-1217); after all sorts of vicissitudes, it is abridged into a Libellus de imaginibus deorum, and illustrated, at last, around 1420. To sum up, both the “plastic” and the “literary” traditions result, by the end of the medieval period, in a very mixed Olympus. Whether a Hellenistic model was distorted by an Arabic copyist—ignorant, of course, of mythology; or whether Juno or Jupiter was painstakingly fabricated by a conscientious miniaturist from a mosaic of descriptive texts—the outcome is always a set of barbaric figures.  These metamorphoses, however, are highly instructive: they reveal the unexpected channels and circuitous routes through which antique culture was transmitted; they also provide the key to puzzling problems of late medieval and early Renaissance art. The reliefs in Giotto's campanile, the capitals in the Ducal Palace in Venice, the frescoes in the Cappella degli Spagnuoli, become fully intelligible only by reference to Arabic or Babylonian inspirations. As for the Libellus, which was designed as a handbook for artists, it is the source of a whole series of French, Flemish, and Italian miniatures, sculptures, and tapestries. It will serve, even beyond the fifteenth century, as a pictorial code of mythology."

Seznec notes the Mantegna images that bear similarity to the medieval mythographic tradition. He also notes that one scholar claimed that the council of Mantua had something to do with it, but that this speculation is unsubstantiated. I'll see if I can find it. I remember it was a German article.

So to sum up, Opsopaus' "Prefatio ad lectorem" is a fictional use of a lot of factual data, and some reasonable guesses. The 22 images of the Ta Rat' are, however, unattested elsewhere to my knowledge. I assume he has made up this story. All of which is entirely legitimate, in the world of magic.