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MikeH  MikeH is offline
Join Date: 03 Nov 2007
Location: Oregon USA
Posts: 443
Card 15, associations to images

For card 15, here are: the 1910 Etteilla I from; Sumada's Etteilla II, date unknown,; and his De La Rue Etteilla III, also date unknown,

For the imagery on this card, I can provide Etteilla’s own account in the second Cahier, as I now have a copy, thanks to a reader of this thread. Etteilla wrote three pages on this card, pp. 23-26 (reproduced later in this post). As I understand him, he is contrasting the Marseille version of the card with how he thinks the original card actually looked. So at the end I will put the two cards side by side. I am using the modern Grimaud version of the card here, because one feature he describes is clearest there: Etteilla also refers to the Marseille Page of Swords. So I include it as well.

Here is Etteilla, with my explanatory comments in brackets:
In place of Tri-Mercury [the grandfather of Hermes Trismegistus, Etteilla tells us in a chart at the end of the 2nd Cahier], who put together the Book of Thoth, the Cardmakers saw, by the baton that he holds, a traveling gamester [Fr. Joueur de gibeciere]; and recognizing only the number or cipher 1, instead of 15 in Arab numerals that it formerly had, they called this card no. 1, and consequently put it, also badly to the purpose, at the beginning, that which should be near the end [qu’il le seroit en finissant].

This Mercury, then Sovereign of all Egypt and first among the Magi, had indispensably a rod in his right hand (1), the woodcuts reported, indeed understood, it to be in his left fingertips; the left hand held [then] to his chest, the right at present [i.e. in the Marseille] at his pocket [Fr. poche]; they made him a round hat like that of the Valet of Swords reversed, that is to say, [of one] wishing to see and not to be seen: he [actually] had a kind of tiara like that of the Patriarchs, [but] they [the cardmakers] gave him a Gothic getup, such as the Romans’ Captain of the Band [Guard?] had for a time; he [actually] had the vestment of a Magus or Chief Sacrificer; behind him was a T, sign of life, exceeding the height of three on ten, they put nothing on it; on the center of the diametric line, a point was needed.

[Footnote]1) The false Magicians imitate this, and in consequence, the Charlatans and finally men of different responsibilities. A rod or stick in the hand is the hieroglyph of the first and greatest honor; and the contrary [au contre] when the personage is felt to be a man of nothing or of a mean state.

In front of Mercury was in fact a table; but it was formerly at the height of his chest; in place of the Book of Thoth, which was on top of this table, they [the cardmakers] put a Charlatan’s box; at the other side of the table remained a pot [Fr. vase], but they painted it like a glass, and added an orvietan box [boite d’orvietan]. With the first Egyptians, there was really a pot, but it was of white earthenware [terre blanche], and filled with a celestial-astral liquid, composed of one third wild honey, one part terrestial water and one part celestial water; these three parts formed the number of 4 raised to 12, of which the water of heaven was 5 and that of earth 7.

They [the cardmakers] put on this table, one presumes, some roots; there were none. One supposes likewise that they [the cardmakers] wished to put there some jettons or small balls of cork; it was formerly ten rings, arranged 1, 2, 3, 4. They put blades of grass under the table in order to conceal their ignorance; that had naturally to be.

This Sage was dressed a little like the ancient Patriarchs, such as Moses is imagined; but the Prophet of the Lord changed some attributes from that of the Magi, ones that had no doubt been inspired by the Eternal, so that the People of God could distinguish Moses and his brother Aaron from the idolatrous Priests, that is to say, from those who, although fearing the Lord, had not received the Law, since his righteous anger at the time of the deluge.

So we see on the table the white pot (bluish on the card), the rings in four rows of one to four each, and a stacl of cards. The sequence, 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10 is the famous Pythagorean Tetrakys, the way in which the first four numbers yielded the Deity. Behind the Magician is indeed a T, painted blue. On the modern Grimaud card, you can see the point above the T in black on the strip separating the dome of the temple from the walls. If it is on the 1890 card (at right below), it is not clear enough to make out; it does seem to be on the original 1789 version, faintly, as reproduced in Decker et al (at left below)

And here are the pages I have attempted to translate.

Finally, I want to say something about the Etteilla II and III image, which is quite different from the one that Etteilla describes.

It seems to me that the card designer was trying to make it clear that it was Hermes Trismegistus on the card and not Aaron, as in the title given to the card in 1826. One of the most famous sections of the Corpus Hermeticum at that time was the end of the Aesclepius, in which the author claims that in Egypt at that time the worshipers of the gods have the power to bring them down into their statues, and that this power will soon be lost forever. Along with this ability, there was the ability to make spirits do one’s own bidding, whether spirits created by the magician or otherwise. The Magus Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest has a apirit Ariel who reluctantly works magic at Prospero’s bidding. But Hermes Trismegistus was reputed to have been able to create a little man, or homunculus (, who would perform feats of magic for him. The Florentine Picture Book, 15th century Florence, had a picture of him with his creature, in this way sacreligiously aping the Creator.

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