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Andrea Aste The Book of Shadows. The Lost Code of the Tarot.

Abyssus Abyssum Invocat


“This is a great moment, when you see, however distant, the goal of your wandering. The thing which has been living in your imagination suddenly become part of the tangible world. It matters not how many ranges, rivers or parching dusty ways may lie between you; it is yours now for ever.” (Freya Stark)

Pr

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f

a ec

One of the most disconcerting constants of the most important discoveries made by mankind seems to be chance. As long as something is searched for, it is not found. However, as soon as one stops searching or simply looks for something else, one suddenly stumbles onto something unthinkable and unconceivable. It is precisely the chance nature of discovery and its unpredictability that makes it singular and legendary in the eyes of history. If in 1492 Christopher Columbus hadn’t decided to reach the East by travelling through the West, he wouldn’t have gone aground on the beaches of a new continent. If on that summer day in 1928, Alexander Fleming hadn’t gone on holiday without washing the dishes, when he returned he wouldn’t have found them covered with the multicoloured mould that led him to discover penicillin.

Not even the discovery central to our story is an exception to this strange rule of destiny. If in 2010 the Newstone International hadn’t been contracted to demolish the old Loocy Fer Ltd* building in New Cotton Road in London, today we would not have one of the most important historical-scientific discoveries of the century. In fact, the excavators uncovered the dusty remains of an ancient alchemy laboratory in the cellar of a house destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The importance of the discovery is not so much in the fact that the laboratory remained intact for centuries, but in what it contained: the first pack of Tarot cards ever created and a manuscript that traces the story of its invention, the work of an Alchemist completely lost over the course of history: Johannes Athanasius Prometheicus.


Since the day of the discovery, pages upon pages have been written. Art historians, philosophers, logicians, mathematicians, manuscript experts, counterfeiters, theologians, fortune-tellers and mediums raged against each other in a bloody battle. Each wanted his own theory to take precedence. The only thing clearly understood in this tempestuous sea of rivalries is that the material is authentic. However, I shall say nothing about certain questions: if the Tarot cards found are the first, what their real significance is, whether they have some kind of divinatory power, any aspect concerning their deciphering. Too many words have already been bandied about. In this book I will limit myself to narrating the complex events of which they are the fulcrum as I experienced them and, from the point of view of a “layman” who had the fortune of being called upon by CCB History to curate the directing of the first scientific document made about this important discovery. Andrea Aste

*The Loocy Fer Ltd was famous in the 1800s for its extremely elaborate and luxurious whale oil lanterns. Around 1870 however, it was accused of treating the oil with chemical substances that caused violent hallucinations. There were numerous cases that went to court accusing the firm of having caused madness and murderous domestic rampages in countless clients. In 1888 it was forced to declare bankruptcy and its proprietor, Woland Loocy Fer III, shot himself in his office. After that the building remained empty; its ill fame had it also that it was “cursed” and infested by the ghosts of the people “killed” by the Loocy Fer lanterns.


See the decoding at page 34


See the decoding at page 35


See the decoding at page 48


See the decoding at page 49


I

The Pipe Smoker

t is said that once there was a sage wiser than any other. He was a man of few words. So much so that one only heard his murmurs. People from every cast went to him and, in silence, he keenly observed them. Then, still silent, he packed his three pipes with slow and measured gestures. He lit them and silently began to smoke. With every puff, the coils of smoke became more and more dense, designing strange swirls in the room. If one observes them closely, they seem to become dark forests of tall trees, cities with crenellated palaces whose blue domes shone in the desert. Then, oceans with long, slow waves out of which flew strange winged fish. The smoke did not just show these faraway lands; it became earth a n d sun and bridges and water. The room opened wide o n t o another world. Then the people there were shaken by an atrocious chill of doubt: whether to remain in their own reality with all that they loved and all that they would have liked to be different, or plunge into a reality they had only dreamed of, knowing that the moment it truly became reality it would also show its negative side and there would be unpleasant things they would wish to be changed. Each person that went to the sage reacted differently. Few entered that world they had passionately dreamed of. Most fled. Never changing his expression, the sage observed them all silently. And in that utter silence, the seekers understood just how easy it was to dream dreams as long as one did not have the courage to live them.

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T

he Great Mufatil possessed a huge glass jar in which a beautiful siren lived. No one remembered anymore how she had come to the city. The old people said she had ended up there in voluntary exile after some strange events had happened in the waters of the sea. She remained closed into the jar shaped like a distiller and never left it. She spent her days thinking while smoking a pipe made of walrus bone. She thought of the forests of posidonia from which the grey sharks ambushed their prey. She saw the great plains of the abysses where the seahorses ran free from sunrise to sunset. She remembered the inaccessible mountains that sank their roots into deep abysses the colour of night, where phosphorescent fish imitated the firmament. As she dreamed of her lost watery homeland she smoked away her melancholy and the sweetness of the memories lightened her mood. Her thoughts floated to the surface, went through the spout of the tube on top of the jar and came out drop by drop. But before they hit the floor, they thickened and took on the shapes of books. In these books, the people of the city read verses whose music took them to places faraway in time and space, and in those voyages they learned to understand and love all that exists in all its multiple forms.

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I

have observed the vault of heaven many times, my gaze fixed on the distant planets and stars. I have spent days and nights with my good eye glued to the optical tube until it almost blinded me. I have searched through the slipperiest meanders of the firmament, where not even the most audacious thought succeeds in finding purchase. I have spent months in sharpening the tube’s focus and perfecting my invention to be able to see ever farther and more clearly. However, the heavenly spheres rolled away, some slowly, others more rapidly. How they moved remained a mystery to me until the day, when in a fleeting moment in which the last ray of sun crossed the sky before vanishing into the other side of the world, I glimpsed a barely perceptible trace to the right of Orion. On another night, I made out a footprint skilfully hidden in the confusion of the Milky Way. At first I was surprised and unable to understand what were these mysterious signs: minute flaws in the celestial spheres, cracks and fissures, each with its own shape and size, some enormous, others slight, almost cancelled as are footprints on the shoreline. When I finally succeeded in focussing the optical tube, I saw their shadows and, at last, one magnificent summer night, their silhouettes stood out sharply against the brighter stars: elephants, turtles, birds and fish of every kind. Like drunks, they rolled from one part of the cosmos to the other; each carrying a star on is back. At times, many animals were heaped into a tottering, precarious pile, a living tower

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topped by a star or a planet. I began to realize that eclipses, perigees, apogees, equinoxes, solstices and the other celestial movements are not organized by some godly hand into the ascetic perfection of clockworks. The geometrical scheme of their movements is merely an illusion created by the minds of humans, insignificant creatures that need a precise and regular order to feel safe and protected. The universe is nothing more than an unruly herd of cosmic beings wandering unsteadily, lurching and rolling in inexplicably disorganized movement.

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Cygnus The Cygnus sing for to those who has a dream. Listen his voice, follow his enchanted melody. Spread your wings and fly up above the sphere of the fixed stars, toward your dreams.

6

4 8

1

2

3

5 7 1

Your fears

2

The Obstacles

3

Your Potential

4

Internal Influence

5

External Influence

6

Inner Help

7

External Help

8

The Issue


Cassiopeia Vain Queen Cassiopeia looks in her mirror searching for an answer. What will be? Ask you question, shuffle the cars, play the game and read what the stars whisper to the Tarot....

1

You

2

The Other

3

The Composit Energies

4

Present Obstacles

5

The Intuition

1

2

3

4

5


L

egend has it that the Van Harings lavished the Alchemist with sumptuous riches. He was provided with one of the best-equipped laboratories of the time and the Van Harings’ son, Otto, as his apprentice. The source of Van Haring’s great wealth came from their armada of ships that transported precious goods, exotic plants and rare animals hailing from lands both far and wide; from the mystic coasts of the Far East to the mysterious shores of Africa, from the profane hills of Cipango to the sacred Isles of the Blessed. There was no corner of the known world untouched by their barges. Any wares needed were quickly acquired and dispatched to Amsterdam, one of the richest economic hubs of that period. In time, the Alchemist grew quite suspicious and unconvinced by such hospitality and wanted to discover the true reason behind the Van Harings generosity. One sleepless night while roaming the halls, he overheard whispering. It was the three Van Harings. He quietly put his ear to the door and discovered the truth behind the real reason for their great hospitality: the Van Harings were conspiring to seize the Alchemist’s findings and steal his inventions in order to gain political and economic control over the thriving harbors of Amsterdam. Otto acting as a spy for his parents, reported that the Alchemist wrote all of his experiments and secrets in a great book and was working on some mysterious cards of great power. They decided that the time was ripe to seize everything and ‘deal’ with the Alchemist. Prometheicus slipped away stealthily and formulated a cunning plan of escape and revenge on that very night. But first, he needed to destroy any hint or clue of his work in the laboratory and abscond with his book to protect its secrets.


F

inally the opportunity arose! First, the Alchemist prepared a small boat on the Herengracht, then under the guise of darkness stole into the laboratory, took his book of secrets and mysterious cards and hid these objects. Returning to the laboratory he made his version of a batch of Greek Fire, a highly flammable mixture that upon coming in contact with water, ignited and spread like wild fire, devouring everything in its path. The Van Haring Palace was one of the most imposing and majestic houses of the town. It was built in such a way that its main façade opened onto the river Singel while its back gave onto the Herrengracht, the Canal of the Gentry. When the Alchemist tossed the Greek fire, he thought the inhabitants would have time to escape even though the laboratory would be reduced to ruins. Unfortunately, the dry climate of that unusually warm summer quickened the flames which began to burn uncontrollably and ultimately destroyed everything. It is said Fokke and Bereneke died in the laboratory searching for the Alchemist’s precious manuscript, better known now as The Book of Shadows, which contained the greatest of all secrets. Otto, their only child, seeing what the Alchemist was doing, escaped certain death by flinging himself into the muddy waters of the Singel. Reaching the opposite bank, in the darkness he saw his family’s home consumed by an unnatural fire and, grieving the loss of his parents, he vowed revenge exclaiming: “In umbra, igitur, pugnabimus!” (Then we will fight in the shade!).

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the name and the reason This tragic event gave both Umbra. Promising great for the secret society of nized a small group of riches, Otto Van Haring orga his cause and vowed to for other prominent leaders reclaim the holy grail track the Alchemist down and and the manuscript. By of Umbra: the Tarot cards the Alchemist had gone the turn of the 17th Century, work had fallen into his and to the great beyond ty of the situation, oblivion. Given the difficul reconstructing and the Order decided to attempt in the fire by lost work t’s continuing the Alchemis memories of working as using Otto’s notes about his an apprentice.

rful hermetic order Over time, Umbra became a powe of government and ct aspe y ever branching out into crème de la crème of commerce. It is said that the nce, government, fina the elite in the fields of royal houses are of ers memb business and even some everywhere. secret members. Umbra has eyes

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Umbra Great Master’s criminal profile. INTERPOL archive.

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T

hanks to a series of documents of the Holy Inquisition that have recently resurfaced, historians have managed to partly retrace the History of Umbra. Apparently, the official year of its constitution was 1636, a year named “Annus Mirabilis” (Admirable Year) by the devotees. Umbra was strictly controlled by the Grand Master, an appointed role that was passed down from father to son until 1720, when the lineage was extinguished due to the death of its last member, Ghiselbertus Otto Van Haring, killed by Baron Karl Friedrich Hieronymus von Münchhausen in a duel of honor (apparently Ghiselbertus dared to call the renowned German Baron a “self-centered charlatan” and the Baron, in return for the offense, challenged him to single combat). Since then, all traces of Umbra have been lost and people believed that, without any guide, the members of the sect drifted away from each other. Only in recent times, with the London discovery, Umbra has returned to the spotlight, claiming its ownership of the Alchemist finds and affirming they possessed the only key to decode them. It is not clear, though, whether there is any historical connection between those that use the name Umbra today and the sect associated with the name of the Van Harings. We don’t know, however, if the date of the constitution coincides with that of the fire.

Otto

Aloysius


Van Haring Family Tree Otto

(1636-1650)

Aloysius

Augustus

Jacobus

Adrianus

(1650-1654)

(1654-1682)

Wilhelmus

(1682-1702)

Alewinus

Volpeertus

Vanadius

Ghiselbertus Otto (1702-1720)

In red, the Great Masters with the date of their leadership

Jacobus

Wilhelmus

Ghiselbertus


Cross Section from an original document of the time. Naval History Museum, Portmouth, UK


Table of Contnets Preface pag. The Book of Shadows pag. The mystery of the Alchemist’s Manuscript pag. Decoding the Book pag. The Tarot pag. Charts & Reference Tables pag. The New Tarot Spreads pag. The discovery of The Alchemist’s works pag. The Alchemist. An untold Story pag. Conflicting theories pag. Umbra pag. Aar Adesten and his time pag. Dramatis Personae pag. Occult Menia pag. The first tarot? pag. Madame Verefkin pag. The Parallel world pag. Conclusion pag.


Those few sample pages are part of the multimedia project “The Book of Shadows. The Lost Code of the Tarot�, now on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1769110239/the-book-of-shadows-thelost-code-of-the-tarot The book is the art book coming alone with the deck of tarot.


the

Concept

The object of this project is to give life to a parallel world rooted in the rich philosophical, symbolical, and historical background of the Renaissance. It revolves around the works of a fictional alchemist: a mysterious manuscript and a deck of Tarot cards, both coded with a complex cipher. To create them, I drew inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci’s codes, the Voynich Manuscript and geometry tomes of the Islamic civilization dating back to the XV century, alongside with the oldest surviving decks of tarot cards. By using symbols, allegorical images and esoteric languages derived from these works, I have wanted to echo a sense of magic and mystery typical of a time where ancient myth and new ideas were fused.


the

Documentary

The pivotal point of the project is the mockumentary: “The Book of Shadows. The Lost Code of the Tarot”. It’s an historical thriller revolving around the mystery of t the first Tarot ever created and its author: the Alchemist. Philosophy, history and science are intermingled with fictional facts, invented arcane references and symbols, citations of esoteric passages from fabricated manuscripts, all of which are used to create an illusion of authenticity and truthfulness. To create a perfect illusion of veracity some selected guests, who are well known international experts in different fields, express their point of view about the Alchemist’s works as if they were real: Prof. Augustus Casely-Hayford, Chris Butler, Mary K. Greer, Prof. Roger Scruton.

In certain moments the fabric of the parallel world is ripped apart and another level of reality appear: an animation, narrated by international star Arturo Brachetti, tells the Alchemist’s story and his journy into the Tarot he created. In his search for knowledge, the Alchemist devises a new game: the Tarot cards. He wanted to challenge Nature and, by cheating her, to gain her secrets. But Destiny thwarts his plans and reality shatters into thousands of pieces. The Tarot cards take life transporting the Alchemist into a discovery journey of fantasy worlds inspired by the meaning of the cards.

CC B

History

The Book of Shadows. The Lost Code of the Tarot director: Andrea Aste duration 1 h 15 minutes Language: English voice over docuemntary: professor Irving Coling-Bell voice over animation: Arturo Brachetti script: Andrea Aste animation: Andrea Aste editing and special effects: Andrea Aste music: Giorgio Boffa


the

Exhibition

The parallel world will be tangible in an exhibition modelled around the same concept. Real historical finds will be mixed up with the objects I have created: fiction and reality have to communicate in order to entertain the audience while at the same time making visitors think about the role of fantasy, myth and symbolic structures in the representation and understanding of our very own world and life. What is reality? What does “reality� actually mean if our perception and categorization change over time? The exhibition will be held mostly in museums of history of science, natural history, explorations and discovery museums, historical libraries, etc...

On Kickstarter look for The Book of Shadows. the Lost Code of the Tarot

Profile for Andrea Aste

The Book of Shadows. The Lost Code of the Tarot  

The most complete book about the Alchemist's manuscript and tarot discovered in London in 2010. Are those the first tarot ever created? Co...

The Book of Shadows. The Lost Code of the Tarot  

The most complete book about the Alchemist's manuscript and tarot discovered in London in 2010. Are those the first tarot ever created? Co...