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MikeH  MikeH is offline
Join Date: 03 Nov 2007
Location: Oregon USA
Posts: 443

I am now reading Cerulean's translations from the Editions Dusserre booklet alongside the c. 1838 Las Vegas book. Cerulean's is an abridged version of one section of the c. 1838, its "Explication des 78 tarots ou cartes Egyptiennes Formant le Livre de Thot," pp. 51-152 of the c. 1838 book. The abridgement is clearly made by an editor with not much sense and a lot of red ink. For one thing, he or she removes all reference to the method of doing spreads that precedes this section of the book, a very particular method that I have not seen before. He also appears to change the wording often, from what is fairly clear to what is fairly obscure. And he omits a lot.

However not to prejudge this editor, I have ordered a copy of the "Grand jeu de dames" deck myself, in hopes that the booklet in question, c. 1850, will be included, in its French and English versions. "Bair's Lair" was out of stock, so I had to spend a lot more ($35 including postage) at another internet source. Before I comment on the two “Julia Orsini” texts in detail, I hope I will be able to see the c. 1850 for myself.

Getting these booklets is proving rather expensive. I guess I also need an LWB, even though I have no particular interest in the deck that goes with it, whatever it is. (I assume it is the same as the one pictured on under “Etteilla.” What I really don’t like is that the upright and reversed keywords are often different from the ones on the 1789 cards, as shown in Decker et al and in Mary’s list. And their putting a sun on card 1 strikes me as absurd, if the initial cards have to do with the days of creation. The sun wasn't created until the fourth day.)

Since publishers list decks rather than booklets, which decks by which publishers have the LWB? That way I can shop around and get the cheapest. If the cheapest way is to buy the booklet separately, I am happy to do that.

Before commenting on the c. 1850 “Julia Orsini” booklet (in a future post, not this one!), I want to ask a few more questions about the 1789 cards as reproduced in Decker et al. I want to ask something about the little writing in script that appears at the top of some of the cards. Some of this writing also appears on the “Etteilla” cards. But some of it (on cards 14, 15, and 17) doesn’t appear on later decks, that I can find.

Card 2 has: “2 (superscript e). Element” and “1 (superscript e) Creation.” I take this to mean “2nd Element” and “1st Creation.” The little e’s mean that the number is to be read “Premiere,” i.e. “1st.” In other words fire is the first element and the card has as one of its titles “First day of Creation.”

Card 3 has: “1. Element” and “3 (superscript e) Cre.” In other words, water is the first element, and the card has as a title “Third day of Creation.”

Card 4 has “3 (superscript e) El.” And “2 (superscript e) Cre.” So air is the third element, and a title is “Second day of Creation.”

Card 5 has “4. Cre.” In other words, “Fourth day of Creation.” No associated element.

Cards 6 and 7 are missing from Decker et al’s reproductions.

Card 8 has some writing on the left side. Perhaps it reads “A. P. D. R.” With two dots above and to the right of the A. Or perhaps it is just “P. D. R,” with some other symbol to the left of it, containing at least 2 dots.

Card 14 has a small “15” on the right top of the card. I assume that means that the card is meant to correspond to the Devil card in conventional tarot decks. That correlates well with Decker et al’s Table III (which I reproduced in an earlier post here) giving the 1788 correlations between Etteilla and the Tarot of Marseille

Card 15 has a small number on the top right. I can’t quite make it out. It is either “16” or “1e.” “16” would be the Marseille Maison-Dieu, which doesn’t correlate with Decker et al’s table. “1e” would be the Bateleur, which does correlate.

Card 17 has a small “13” in the top right. There is also a “13” in the lower left. These would mean that the card correlates to card 13 of the Marseille, as is fairly obvious.

I see no more little writings on Decker et al’s cards; but then 18 and 19 aren’t shown.

The c. 1838 “Julia Orsini” book amplifies on this writing, even though its reproduction of the actual cards doesn’t have any of it. Here are pp. 13-15. The diagrams here for cards 1 through 9 are self-explanatory.

In other words, as Etteilla fans know, cards 2-8 are about the seven days of creation, and card 1 is about the Chaos that preceded them. (The A.P.D.R. on card 8 remains a mystery to me.)

I find this way of seeing the initial trumps as significant, in that I have for some time seen the seven days of creation already in the Marseille cards, as hidden meanings of the first seven cards, Bateleur to Chariot, existing as such since Italy of about the end of the 15th century, as well as in the first seven cards of each of the four suits. How I get these to these hidden meanings is not by recourse to intuition (or spirit-guides or extra-terrestrials), but through the use of the 4th century Neopythagorean text Theology of Arithmetic--which I have verified did circulate in manuscript in Venice and Florence of the late 15th century and was came out in a print edition in mid-16th century Paris (as can be seen on WorldCat). I see that text's thinking and imagery in the first seven cards in each suit of the 1491 Sola-Busca, and then much the same imagery in the “synonymes” section attributed to Atteilla by Papus, and also in the first seven Marseille trumps. I also see some of the same thinking and imagery in Philo of Alexandria's Neopythagorean account of the seven days of creation in his essay “On the Creation."

I would not want to explain my whole theory here, which I have elaborated elsewhere, but I could probably say in not too many words how the first seven Marseille trumps reflect the seven days of creation, in terms, like Philo's, both Biblical and Neopythagorean. But I won't do it now.

I am not alone in seeing Neopythagoreanism in the Marseille trumps. Jodorowsky describes it in his book Way of the Tarot, but in an intuitive way, not appealing to any sources available during the formative stages of the deck. I think he is not merely using his own intuition, but also drawing on esoteric tradition, because similar analysis is in Zain’s writings on the cards. The question now is, when did that tradition originate?

I hypothesize that Etteilla, in identifying the early cards with the days of creation, is merely making explicit what was already an esoteric understanding of the first seven cards of the trumps and each suit, going back to the end of the 15th century, not only in the Sola-Busca but probably also the Cary Sheet and Giulia Orsini. (I have discussed elsewhere how the Cary Sheet is associated with Alexander VI’s Egyptomania via the painter Pinturicchio and Ascanio Sforza; my argument is the expansion of a point in O’Neill’s essay on the Popess. Huck’s comments on Giulia Orsini very much help my case. She might be named as author in the same way in which philosophical writing indebted to Aristotle was attributed to Aristotle, and alchemical writing influenced by Raymond Lull--who was no alchemist--was attributed to Raymond Lull.) In this way the notations on the top of the cards referring to the Days of Creation might reflect a pre-existing tradition which Etteilla made explicit, although in a garbled way, one going back not to Egypt, or even the beginning of the tarot, but to the time of Giulia Orsini.

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. All I know, from Payne-Towler (, is that Etteilla was supposedly not using Genesis, but the Poimandres, a Hermetic text. Looking at that text (Barnstone trans. The Other Bible, p. 570f), I find the four elements, to be sure, at the beginning of creation (a move inspired by Plato's Timaeus), and the creation of "mere matter" below. I see Biblical-sounding wording (in Roman Alexandria, such language is no surprise) about the creation of "winged creatures and water fish, and "four footed things and creeping things," and finally the Father bringing forth "a being like himself." I also find seven celestial Rulers (i.e. the planets) giving rise to seven human beings. But I see no seven days of creation. (No mention of plants or stars either, but that is a small point.) Etteilla is perhaps making an imaginative leap; but in what terms? Most of the ingredients are there, except for the seven days. Is there more?

Where is Etteilla's discussion? I would guess that if it is anywhere, it would be in his Hermetic and alchemical treatise called “Les sept nuances de l'oeuvre philosophique-hermétique; suivies d'un traité sur la perfection des métaux,” also known as “Science. Leçons théoriques et pratiques du livre de Thot.” Does anyone have access to that text, or relevant quotes or paraphrases from it? On WorldCat, the only libraries shown are the British Library, the Bibliotheque Nationale, and the Zentralbibliothek of Zurich. I am sure none of them will lend it to me. Are any of these holdings available on-line? I tried the Bibliotheque Nationale without success. Is it discussed elsewhere?

Al. right, I will get back to the cards. Concerning the script on the 1789 deck’s other cards, we see confirmation of what they are about in the c. 1838 text. Its revelations are mostly not surprising, as these titles have been repeated in various booklets since. Here are pp. 17-19 (I omit p. 16, which merely gives “La Temperance” in the center of card 10, “La Force” in the center of 11, and “La Prudence” in the center of 12.)

The only puzzling one (though not a surprise, since most lists have the same) is card 13, which has the High Priest, i.e. the Pope, inside it. From reading Decker et al, I would have expected “L’Amour” or “L’Amoureux.”

Finally, here is the diagram for c. 1838’s card 78, whch is in the same row with 76-77.

I have seen this title translated as “Folly of the Alchemist.” According to this text, it is literally “Folly, or Indeed the Alchemist.” We must bear in mind that Etteilla was himself an alchemical writer, publishing his “Seven Nuances” very close in time to his “cahiers” and the 1789 deck. The alchemists traditionally derided themselves for their folly, spending so much for so little in return (as do we all!). It is probably said with some irony, since they also claim to have received thereby the favors of Lady Wisdom.

To summarize, here are my questions:

(1) How can I get a copy of the LWB most most cheaply and surely?

(2) Where do Etteilla or his disciples write about the seven days of creation and/or the Poimandres?

(3) Does anyone have access to Etteilla’s “sept nuances” or paraphrases therefrom?
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