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MikeH  MikeH is offline
Join Date: 03 Nov 2007
Location: Oregon USA
Posts: 443
two additions to my previous post

Since my last post, I have received my copy of the “Grand Jeu des Dames” deck and, --more importantly, the 112 page booklet that comes with it, 56 pp. in French attributed to Julia Orsini, and 56 for the English translation, These concern the “Etteilla II” decks; so for now I will say no more about “Julia Orsini” and her books. I still want to focus on Etteilla I.

On the 1789 “Etteilla I” cards as depicted in Decker et al, I have two additions to my previous post.

First, Decker et al say that it is definitely the number “16” that is written on card 15 (p. 93). They also say that the number “17” appears on card 16, which is one they don’t give a picture of. So all the cards 13-17 have such numbers. They are explained by the Dictionnaire of 1791 as “signes du mort” (“signs of death”), according to Decker et al. But what does that mean?

My theory is that these numbers represent the corresponding Marseille cards. If so, we have Temperance, the Devil, the Tower, the Star, and Death. If the Marseille Temperance represents the Eucharist, as some say, it is a sign of death and rebirth. An 1826 Etteilla I Temperance card (which I will discuss next) has "Angel of the Apocalypse" written on it (Kaplan vol. 2 p. 401, with a picture on p. 400): another way of seeing the Marseille card, and a clear sign of death. As for the Marseille Star, that could be the "bright and morning" star of the Apocalypse, too--and again, perhaps, the Eucharist. The others are self-explanatory.

Part in brackets added later in same day (I forgot to put in this part):

[Not only are these cards "signs of death," but each has a particular association with the picture and keywords on the corresponding Etteilla card, I think. Temperance, 14, is associated with marriage, Etteilla's 13, in that marriage should be founded on that virtue, moderation in all things. It also requires the Eucharist in the ceremony depicted on the card, as marriage is a sacrament.

The association of "major force" and the devilish personages on Ettteilla card 14 to the Marseille Devil card is obvious. It depicts what happens to those who do not receive God's grace after death. It is the major force opposing God. The Etteilla card also has other meanings, relating to energy in general. The list of synonyms in the c. 1838 book includes "spiritual force" as well as acts of violence. But in relation to death, it is its relation to the Devil that most matters.

The association between "maladie" and the Magician depicted on Etteilla's card 15 to the Marseille Maison-Dieu is not so obvious. Here we have to remember that "Maison-Dieu" meant, among other things, a hospital or hospice. (There are numerous Internet references to Norman structures in England by that name. One, making the connection to the tarot card, is an 1849 issue of Gentleman's Magazine.) A "Maison-Dieu" is a place where one confronts death. As such, on the Noblet and Dodal Maison-Dieu cards, smoke reaches up to the Sun as well as coming down. It is the human being seeking God in his moment of peril, and God's offer of grace. In Vieville's version of the Maison-Dieu, balls of fire rain down from the sky, and a man looks up fearfully. That is probably a reference to the Apocalypse. A similar reference probably occurred in the Cary Sheet card, of which we have only a part. (See below. I am not sure how the Sforza Castle fits in, except to link the Cary Sheet with the Vieville.)

The role of the Magician on Etteilla card 15 still remains to be explained. The 1826 Etteilla I deck (which I will discuss next), I think supplies the link. The word "Aaron" is written on card 15 (Kaplan vol. 2 p. 401, picture p. 400). The Magician is the Priest who is a conduit for God's grace and punishment.

For Etteilla's 16, Judgment, the association to the Marseille 17, Star, might be that both have to do, in one interpretation of the cards, to the Apocalypse, as I have already discussed. That is when the Last Judgment happens, and it is announced by the "bright and morning star," Christ, offering his body and blood one more time.

Etteilla's 17 is Death. Its relationship to the 13th Marseille card is obvious.]

My second addition is that Decker et al hypothesize that Etteilla’s “seven days of creation” theme for cards 2-8 is “an adaptation of an idea of the comte de Mellet” (p. 93). Indeed, he does seem to be following de Mellet, who reverses the Marseille order and has the cards from World to Devil come first, describing events in Genesis 1 and 2. De Mellet’s World is the “the Universe with the Goddess Isis in an oval, or an egg, with the four seasons at the four corners”; then the Marseille Judgment becomes “Creation of Man,” Sun becomes “Creation of the Sun”; Moon becomes “Creation of the Moon and the Terrestrial Animals,” Star becomes “Creation of Stars and Fish,” the House of God becomes the expulsion from Paradise, and finally “the Devil or Typhon, last Card of the first Series, come to disturb the innocence of the man & to finish the golden age” (all from Etteilla does seem to be using some of these ideas.

Decker et al observe that Etteilla is similar to de Mellet in other ways, too: in his correspondences between the ordinary French card suits (diamonds, hearts, spades, clubs) and the tarot suits (batons, cups, swords, and coins, respectively), and in his general characterizations of the suits. De Mellet had identified Hearts/Cups with happiness, Clubs/ Coins with Fortune, Spades/Swords for misfortune, and Diamonds/Batons for indifference and the country. For Etteilla, “Cups have to do with success and victory, i.e. happiness, Batons have a card labeled “country”; Coins are full of money and joy; Swords are clearly turned to misfortune” (Decker et al p. 94). And this is just for the pips; the court cards, I would add, reflect similar themes, with the King and Queen of Batons as man and woman of the country, Cups as man and woman of rank or high office (i.e. success), and Swords as the law and widowhood (the fate of soldiers’ wives). Coins, as “vicious man” and “bad illness,” do not fit this pattern. It is not necessarily that Etteilla followed de Mellet: these same general characterizations also apply to Atteilla's earlier suit asignments to the Piquet deck in 1770, as Decker et al point out. However seeing de Mellet's essay, published 1781, would surely have served to strengthen his convictions.

Another similarity is that he takes the same view as de Gebelin and de Mellet of seeing the Hanged Man as turned the other way and as Prudence.

Earlier I considered Payne-Towler's suggestion that Etteilla is inspired by the Poimandres, the first part of the Corpus Hermeticum. De Mellet might be borrowing from that source when he speaks of the “Creation of Man” card. Here is de Mellet, again from Tarotpedia:
Thot voulut exprimer la Création de l'Homme par la peinture d'Osiris, ou le Dieu générateur, du porte-voix ou Verbe qui commande à la matiere, & par des Langues de Feu qui s'échappent de la nuée, l'Esprit [Peint même dans nos Historiens sacrés.] de Dieu ranimant cette même matiere...

Thoth wanted to express the Creation of Man by the painting of Osiris, or generating God, with the speaking pipe or Verb with which matter is ordered, & by tongues of fire which escape from the cloud, and the Spirit [Painted even by our crowned historians] of God reviving this same matter...
Another translation is by J. Karlin, in Rhapsodies of the Bizarre, p. 51:
Thoth wanted to express the CREATION OF MAN by the depiction of Osiris, or the generating God, by a voice-born or WORD which orders matter, and by some TONGUES OF FIRE which escape from the clouds, the spirit [depicted as well in our sacred Stories] of God animates this same matter...
Correspondingly, we see in the Poimandres, in the narrator’s initial vision (Barnstone, Other Bible p. 570; the words in brackets, given by Barnstone, are the Greek originals):
Out of the Light a holy Word [logos] descended upon the watery substance, and I thought this Word the voice of Light, and unmingled fire leapt out of the watery substance [physis] and soared upward. The fire was quick and violent, and the air, being light, followed the Breath [pneuma] as it rose from earth and water to the fire, so that the Breath seemed suspended from the fire. But the earth and water remained intermingled and the earth could not be seen apart from the water.
And later, as his teacher Poimandres explains,
The watery substance of Nature received the Word and made itself into an orderly world from its diverse elements, and a brood of living creatures came forth.
All of this is reminiscent both of de Mellet and Genesis. To an extent it might even be depicted in Etteilla’s cards, although I see there no fire leaping out of the clouds, just the contrast between the light space and dark clouds (card 1, 1789) and the living creatures in the air, on the ground, and in a primordial sea (card 7, 1789, as in the Grimaud card at, which is faithful as far as the picture but not the bottom keyword).

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