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The Sola-Busca Tarocchi

XX Nenbroto, Nimrod’s Tower


& the Myth of the Watchers

Peter Mark Adams

XX Nenbroto is one of the few Sola-Busca images that is recognizable from more standard tarot

decks. It depicts Nimrod and the destruction of the Tower of Babel. The source usually cited for

this imagery is the biblical account of the Tower' of Babel found in Genesis; however, the

relevant passage does not describe the destruction of the tower, it merely describes the dispersal
of its builders as the result of a god-induced confusion of languages. Beyond this passage, no

other Biblical reference exists concerning the tower or its fate. From where, then, did the story of

the towers destruction, symbolised by the lightning strike, originate?

The third to fourth century CE Bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius Pamphili, in his ‘Preparation for the

Gospel’ recorded, and so preserved for posterity, quotations from many historians and

philosophers whose writings are now lost. Amongst them we find the following passage

attributable to a second century BCE Hellenistic, and possibly Jewish, historian known as the

Pseudo-Eupolemus,

“Eupolemus, in his work, “On the Jews,” states that the Assyrian city of Babylon was first

founded by those who escaped the flood. When the tower was destroyed by God’s power, these

giants were scattered over the whole earth.”

The passage not only introduces the theme of the destruction of the tower by god but also alludes

to the fact that its builders, under the rulership of Nimrod, were ‘giants’. These references

confirm that the card’s imagery was derived from an extra canonical tradition (we will return

later to search for traces of this tradition) and that the image is, indeed, a depiction of Nimrod

and his tower being destroyed by a lightning strike sent by god.

In Dante’s ‘Inferno’ Nimrod appears in the ninth circle of hell amongst the giants. He shouts

garbled words,

"Raphel bay ameth, zabi almi"

This nonsensical mixture of Hebrew-, Greek- and Latin-looking words, is an unmistakable

reference to the goetia, to the tradition of magical incantations and spell casting that evolved
from and incorporates the traces of several pagan traditions with Christianity; utilising the

intermingled names of pagan deities, angels and daimones. Nimrod is also described in Pseudo-

Philo as being a black giant and as essentially evil. All of these obscure references, along with

those suggested by pseudo-Eupolemus and Dante, point us towards identifying Nimrod as one of

the Nephilim or ‘giants’ described in Genesis; which brings us to one of the defining cosmo-

conceptions of Western esotericism, the ancient myth of the Watchers.

Copyright © Peter Mark Adams 2016

Excerpted from

The Game of Saturn: Decoding the Sola-Busca Tarot by Peter Mark Adams

forthcoming from Scarlet Imprint, Winter 2016