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MikeH  MikeH is offline
Join Date: 03 Nov 2007
Location: Oregon USA
Posts: 443
The 7 days of creation

Thanks for engaging, Cerulean.

I have finally pulled myself away briefly from my beloved Julia Orsini (even if she never existed), to look at the scans Coredril posted. Coredril wrote,
To contribute a little I would like to answer to the question Mike H, the starter of this thread asked in #34:
Originally Posted by MikeH
So my question now is, where does Etteilla himself, or his immediate disciples, write about the seven days of creation? I want to know more about his rationale for putting them in the tarot.
Here is one answer I founded in "Le Second Cahier" (pages 8 to 21). These are explanations from Etteilla himself.
I attach scans of these pages in two post.

Maybe someone has enough time to transcribe the text in todays french and even translate it.
I am going to make a stab at translating what Etteilla says about the seven days of creation, using these. I probably have not linked all the clauses in the first sentence together right, so I give the French as well as the English for that sentence, in case anyone can improve it. After the first sentence, it got easier. I am presenting a very literal translation, but I hope not to the point of incomprehensibility. I will interrupt occasionally to put in my own reflections.
L'ignorance, car c'est toujours elle qui conduit au mal, insinuant indifférenment son caractere dans différens hommes, a d'abord troublé l'ordre des nombres; et non contente de ce crime, que ne lui paroissoit pas assez grand pour se venger de ce que ses honteux prosélites n'avaient pas se reconnaître que le Livre de Thot était la source de ces milliers de volumes à la voracité du feu, l'ignorance enfin a effacé du Livre de Thot le premier feiuillet, coté no.1, l'ignorance enfin a effacé du Livre de Thot le premier feiuillet, coté no.1, qui representait, comme on le justifie par les numéros 9, 10, 11, & 12, une lumière environnée d'un nuage épais, ou le chaos qui se refoulait sur lui-mème pour faire place à la Vérité, au moment que le Créateur manifestait sa gloire & sa bonté souveraine aux Créatures de tout l"univers qui sommeillaient & sommeillent encore dans son intelligence: vérité allégorique, bien digne de nos premiers Maiîtres.

Ignorance, because it is she who always leads to evil, insinuating her character indifferently in different men, first disturbed the order of the numbers; and not content with this crime, which did not appear great enough for taking revenge, those shameful proselytes not recognizing that the Book of Thoth was the source of thousands of volumes all delivered to the voracity to the flames, Ignorance finally erased from the Book of Thot the first sheet, listed no. 1, which represented--as may be justified by numbers 9, 10, 11, 12--a light surrounded by a thick cloud, or the chaos which was turned back in order to give place to the Truth, at the moment when the Creator manifested his glory and his sovereign bounty to the Creatures of the whole Universe, who slept and will sleep again in his intelligence: allegorical truth, indeed worthy of our first Masters.

This allegory, formerly no. 1, was listed as no. V; and in place of the emblem of a unique Motor, a pure light, dreadful Ignorance was first to put on this card a Jupiter, then a Pope, and in third place a Swordsman (Fr. Spadassin); error that seems to us ridiculous, as if these images when reunited did not offer us a precious Book, containing all the Philosophy of the first People of the Earth, seen after an inundation over at last half the Globe, if one ought not believe a general judgment.

After this Divine image, came the six allegories offering the six days of universal creation of all the Worlds peopled by Creatures, following the places and Globes that they inhabited, this sentiment being not only that of the Philosophers, who carried it from point to little point on the earth that we occupy, but that of all the Physicians, who are in accord that the Sun is the instrument by which the Creator appeared in order to light up the life of all Beings; as the Sun, it carried itself to all the Globes of our Universe. These Globes can be nothing other than the proper matrices to receive life, that one might compare to a fluid that contains and transfixes all of Nature, since it is the true spirit of the Lord, the Sun that vivifies all the embryos, enfuses itself so that all the Globes are necessarily people, or matrices, which the order of all things demonstrates: gold, and also coal, being matrices, from the moment that Nature animated them, or Art revived them.

The second sheet of the Book of Thoth bears effectively the number of 2 in the translation, and not that of XVIIII. It had, following the Ancients, and has at present according to our studies, a second number, which is also 2, and finally a third number, which is 1: it is the same for the other sheets, pages, or cards; we explain this fully in the Supplement to the third Cahier, page 97. But here is another more intellectual object that presents itself in reading attentively the Book of Thoth.

1 is immutable; but in order to aid the intelligence of the Disciples, the Egyptians instructed us that it was necessary often to confide it as number 12, thus 2 as 11, and 3 as being the number 10; but here is a Tableau that here will help the understanding, noting however that it is here a question only of human intelligence; for such is the Divine intelligence, 1 bears itself to 10, etc. (footnote 1)

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
12. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1

Footnote 1: It is humanly the sign of Sin, but divinely, it must be the sign of Purity. Take then care, in following the true Science of Numbers, for the truth and its mixture, or good and evil. If you are attentive, you will be yet instructed on this subject by another Note.
I am not sure what Etteilla is illustrating in his “Tableau” of the numbers from 1 to 12. It might just be a "secret code" to which Etteilla claims access. It might also be a kind of upper world/lower world comparison: God to Prudence, the Sun to Fortitude, the Moon to Temperance, the Stars to Justice, etc. That is what the footnote suggests: a world of Purity vs. a world of Sin. But then what does the right half mean? I haven’t yet seen a second note. Let us go on.
This second sheet, listed number 2, offers for allegory a Sun. If we engrave this precious Book, we will demonstrate 1st, that the Stars lasted to become the first allegories of the Ancients; 2nd, that we have rendered truly the four Cardinal Virtues, each put a the head of a volume; and 3rd, that we explain more interiorly than superficially the allegories that have been proper to the high Sciences.

This second sheet, as we have said, bears also the number 1, relative to the six days of creation: the light was called day, and the darkness night; and it bears the number 2, the Fire, second Element.

No 3. The third sheet has for allegory the Moon, and bears the number 3 for the third day of creation; [that it gives its jet; and thus the number 1 Water, first element.
Here the phrase I translate literally, “that it gives its jet,” is qu’elle donne son jet. It should be a quote from Genesis, concerning the third day. I can’t find anything like it in my King James. [Note added May 2014: Kwaw resolved this mystery. See] The closest is verse 9: “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together in one place...” But it is obvious enough that water is a theme of that day (along with plants), namely, the creation of the Seas by separating the water from the land. I continue:
No. 4. The fourth sheet has for allegory the Stars, and was by the Cardmakers called “The Star,” because it showed there some Stars: I explain otherwise the figure in its proper nomination, titled by its day of creation: expanse [etendue, probably a word for “firmament”]; the number of the Element that it bears is 3, Air.

No. 5. The fifth sheet bears the number 6 for its day of creation: God made Man in his image, being then, in regard to human physicality, in perfection; it bears for its Element the number 4, “Earth.”

No. 6. The sixth sheet offers the false hieroglyph of an Emperor, its number of creation, which can serve for replacing it as it was formerly with the Egyptians, is 4, fourth day of creation: God made two great lights. This sheet primitively offers a Zodiac; and I believe, without rejecting anything that I have said about the fourth sheet, that the Cardmakers have moved a part of the sixth sheet onto the fourth; this of which we speak at present, the sixth sheet, has only the third number [i.e. three heavenly bodies]. It is necessary at the bottom of the Zodiac to notice there the allegory of the spirit of the colors, the white; notice that one finds again on another sheet the black, on another the red, and finally on another the seven colors, as Physics conceives them; the most interesting and the most difficult is to discover the true green color, in the center of the others.
Perhaps here some pictures are in order. For Etteilla I, I will use Sumada’s beautiful images of his 1890 deck. No. 4, with its astrological signs that Etteilla says came from No. 6, is in the center. The other, with only three astral bodies, is on the right. One version of the Marseille Star card is at left, for comparison. I don’t know which one Etteilla’s engraver used; the one that looks the most similar to me, oddly, is the Noblet, of c. 1650 or a little later. There is the same masculine-like body.

We can see how little the Etteilla No. 6 reflects “the stars” created on the fourth day of creation: there is only one. On the Marseille-style Star card, there were more, and we don’t know whether they are meant to be stars or planets (there weren’t seven starlike planets!). In Etteilla’s version, they are planets, identifiable by their astrological signs. Well, in astrology planets are part of the zodiac, in a sense, as their rulers.

But I cannot see on Eteilla’s card 6 even part of a true zodiac, i.e. the twelve signs or constellations; nor is there any “allegory of the colors.” Etteilla’s description comes closest to fitting the Etteilla III design (below right, from the “Jeu des Dames” deck put out by Editions Dusserre). There indeed one can see a zodiac, the sun and the moon, a few planets, and of the colors, the white and red at least, along with a special green in the middle. He perhaps has in mind alchemical allegories when he talks about the “allegories of the colors”: black, white and red were the primary stages of the work, and one stage in between black and white was “the peacock’s tail,” showing all seven colors and, one point, a special green.

No. 7, or the seventh sheet of the Book of Thoth, is also an Emperor, badly figured to the purpose [or, figured to a bad purpose?], which was preceded by an Empress; it bears 5 as its number of creation. God created the flying and aquatic animals. There is no third number.
Perhaps he was unhappy about the appearance of a snake here, which neither flies nor swims. In any case, some version of these cards must have existed in 1784, since his comments are so detailed.
The eighth sheet offers for allegory a naked man, in the middle of a superb garden, physical Nature being then formal and in its astral aspect of creation, fixed, without movement, because the eighth day was that of repose.

For this allegory let us imagine eleven circles, an orange cut into eleven horizontal parts and emptied; you will realize what I wish to say, putting the first part on the man’s head and the last under the soles of his feet, so that he sees only nine circles; to help you, consult the fourteenth section of the Pymander translated by Francois de Candalle, 1578.
I am not sure how de Candalle divided his Pymander, but the G. R. S. Mead translation’s section 14 ( is certainly appropriate (the Greek is “Poimandres”). The god Anthropos, androygynous but envisioned as masculine, falls into the embrace of Physis, matter, envisioned as female, and becomes fused with her. Anthropos has within himself the seven gods of the heavens plus three higher ones, the Demiurge, the Logos, and Mind. Physis is then the eleventh. Here an earlier section, a footnote that I translated earlier, becomes relevant:
It is humanly the sign of Sin, but divinely, it must be the sign of Purity. Take then care, in following the true Science of Numbers, for the truth and its mixture, or good and evil.
Whatever the “it” is there, this passage fits the circles around the lady of card 8. Above, the seven gods are good; but once fused with matter and ignorance, they become vices that must be expunged if the soul is to return home. (The 8th orbit, that of the Demiurge, has its bad side, too, e.g. destroying the good with the bad in the Flood); the ninth god would be the Logos, whose Christian counterpart is Lucifer. The vices are described in sections 25-26 of the Poimandres. There the soul passes from inside the spindle of Necessity into the purity of God. In the Poimandres, the soul does not stay in the 8th circle, but eventually moves up from there. In the Renaissance, there were 10 levels; after the fixed stars came the Primum Mobile (First Moved) and the Empyrean. Only a few saints made it to the Empyrean.

So when “Julia Orsini” says
The circles around the lady represent the labyrinths of the future in which her imagination finds itself ensnared...
it is saying in an easily accessible way that it is the seven planetary gods and those higher than them, in their demonic transformation, which have her trapped. Etteilla’s double-sided archetypes, the pure and the shameful, at their best capture the contrast between below and above, between ignorance and light.

Let us continue:
From more than fifteen hundred Tableaux that I have been offered to study for twenty years in the Book of Thot, this, in the discourse I have made, has been the most useful.

1 (in center of page)
8 (in center of page)
13.........................14 (centered on page)

I shall speak more about this precious day of repose, and of the four allegories 9, 10, 11 & 12.

“After the souls had passed seven days in a plain (there came the day when it arrived), where they were called to be judged; they left on the eighth, and were four days walking, when they saw a light. The third day, they began walking again; and finally on the fourteenth day, each was rendered to his destination.” Can one, who has even the lightest notion from reading the Book of Thoth, doubt that this precious Book was known by the Greeks, who were able to copy elsewhere this series of metaphors? Recall a few different sheets.
It would have been obvious to Etteilla’s intended audience that he was citing the Myth of Er in Plato’s Republic, 614d-e and 615b-c (
Then he [Er] beheld and saw on one side the souls departing at either opening of heaven and earth when sentence had been given on them; and at the two other openings other souls, some ascending out of the earth dusty and worn with travel, some descending out of heaven clean and bright....
Now when the spirits which were in the meadow had tarried seven days, on the eighth they were obliged to proceed on their journey, and, on the fourth day after, he said that they came to a place where they could see from above a line of light, straight as a column, extending right through the whole heaven and through the earth, in colour resembling the rainbow, only brighter and purer; another day's journey brought them to the place, and there, in the midst of the light, they saw the ends of the chains of heaven let down from above: for this light is the belt of heaven, and holds together the circle of the universe, like the under-girders of a trireme. From these ends is extended the spindle of Necessity, on which all the revolutions turn.
This is one translation. The second to last word is also translated “orbits” (e.g. Grube). In Plato, there are eight orbits, for the seven planets and the fixed stars. In place of the column of light, Etteilla has put his “man,” surrounded by orbit-like circles. The engraver, however, probably was an admirer of Durer and so could be inspired by his “Urania,” whom he also identified, in the upper or “astral” realm, with the lady (whom Etteilla also calls a man) in Card 5.

And of instead of eight orbits, we have nine, plus the one at the top of her head and the soles of her feet. These correspond to all but Mind in the Poimandres, all but the Empyrean in Christian cosmology.

[Added July 15. having looked at Plato's "spindle of necessity" in the Myth of Er, I see another passage in the Poimandres that might be what Etteilla had in mind when he said to look at section 14. In the 1650 English translation (, section 15 says:
15. But the Workman, Mind, together with the Word, containing the Circles and Whirling them about, turned round as a Wheel his own Workmanships, and suffered them to be turned from an indefinite Beginning to an undeterminable End; for they always begin where they end.
These circles are the planets and fixed stars, just as in Plato. Then these whirls, going downward, "brought forth unreasonable or brutish creatures" (Sect. 16) and the same, it turns out, in human beings, as well as other vices (Sect. 60ff). ]

Well, that was very enlightening. So, Coredril, do you have whatever the next footnote is, and the part on the four cardinal virtues, sections in which he promises to shed further light on the subject here? And if you have page 97 of the Supplement to the Third Cahier, that would be nice, too.

Meanwhile, I think I'm ready for a break.
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