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

In the 10 years after his first book, Etteilla made his living buying huge lots of old maps, prints, books, etc. sold at auction and then reselling them individually (Wicked Pack p. 80). He traveled a great deal, including a lengthy stay in Strasbourg (p, 81). He also bought and resold tarot decks from other places, since they were difficult to get in Paris ((Wicked Pack p. 90). One of his most trusted students was in Lyon, long a center of printing, and he corresponded with him often in the year before he put out his deck (p. 91). So it is quite likely that Etteilla had access to a great number of antiquarian sources and tarot decks.

I am glad that people are realizing that Kircher's tree is an unhistorical fabrication, either by him or by his source. You don't need to deduce this. You simply need to compare his diagrams with his only known source, a converso in France, and also to look at the Kabbalist literature prior to him (although I haven't taken a good look at Kabbalah Denudata). See the essay "Four trees, Some Amulets, and the Seventy-Two Names of God" in Athenaeus Kircher: the last man who knew everything.

In Kabbalah, there are a couple of historical trees: first, the one that forms the frontispiece on the “Portae Lucis” published in 1515; it has quite a bit fewer than 22 “paths”. Since the book is in Latin, it had a wide influence. There is al the description of the tree in Cordovera, published in Hebrew in late 16th century Venice. It has 22 paths; perhaps there were other "trees" then current, because Cordovera goes out of his way to emphasize that there is only one path from Malkuth, the one to Yesod. He makes a good case. Naturally, Kircher, the Golden Dawn and folks after ignored Cordovera. Perhaps his is the same as the “GRA” tree; I don't know. I hope so.

It is difficult to know what in de Gebelin and de Mellet is fabricated and what is not. Their language sometimes suggests a differentiation betwen what is their idea and what they claim to be getting from elsewhere. As for the latter, I have not found any confirmation.

.With the Sefer Yetsirah, you also have to be careful of fabrications. For example, the one translated by Westcott has hitherto unknown (i.e. probably fabricated) assignments of planets and signs of the zodiac. Kaplan's Sefer Yetsirah short version is a good source.

I don't think that the method of proceeding by way of "blinds" is very fruitful in historical research, unless they can be verified in documents. Of course if one has privileged access to other worlds, one can say what one likes, but that’s not historical research.

I have devoted several years, off and on, researching how the thinking of 1st-2nd century Alexandria, Syria, Greece, and Rome might have influenced how the tarot was interpreted in the 15th-18th centuries; I have used only publicly verifiable sources of the time. I have posted my results here and on THF, including Arabic -based (ultimately Alexandrian) alchemy, the Chaldean Oracles (2nd century Syria) as interpreted by Proclus, the Orphic Hymns, Greek writings on the Dionysian and Greco-Egyptian cults, Roman sarcophagi accessible in 15th-18th century Italy, the Christian Kabbalah (deriving ultimately from Jews in the Eastern Mediterranean) and perhaps most of all the Theology of Arithmetic (2nd or 3rd century Alexandrian-based). I am glad to see that work mentioned.

For my application of the Theology of Arithmetic, see

For alchemy, see

For the Chaldean Oracles, see

For Greco-Roman writings on Egyptian and Greek religion, see
(I couldn’t find it searching the index; sorry about the red)

For Kabbalah, see

(only look at what I say on pp. 39 and 40; before that, my participation was just a neophyte flailing around).


For esoteric interpretation generally in the 15th century, as related to the Renaissance concept of "hieroglyph" see (end of the thread)

For all of these, I have a blog I’ve been working on for years; it’s in need of a little updating, including the table of contents, which doesn’t have my Neopythagorean analyses of the suit cards: to find them, just go to the corresponding trump number and scroll down:

To be sure, when you are dealing with something that could not be put in writing explicitly because of fear of the Inquisition and other authorities, what one says has a large element of speculation. The goal is to minimize the speculation as much as possible, by using actual documents and artworks.

To the extent it can be verified, the "stream" from Alexandria is not continuous, but goes in stops and starts, sitting in libraries in the meantime, all converging on Italy in the 15th century and enlarging to other countries thereafter. Wherever else they may have gotten their ideas, the secret societies were fed by humanists, and the humanists used documents which are mostly today still around and in libraries.

On this thread, it would be useful to see, using documents, Etteilla's possible sources. I myself have mostly focused on Etteilla's milieu (including Caliogstro) and the 15th century. The intervening period is largely a mystery to me, although it is one I am trying to educate myself about. Right now I am trying carefully to study 16th century Italian documents. Some are not available in English; for others, the available English translations are not reliable, and I am trying to improve them.

I don't think it's useful to use Levi and others 50 or more years after Etteilla to say what Etteilla didn't put in writing. However it is always ok to use any source to interpret what he did write; however the authority of the source varies depending on its verifiable relationship to Etteilla himself.

A 1584 French numerological treatise on the tarot is being studied at

I myself haven’t a clue. Perhaps some of Christine's erudition could shed light on its cryptic contents.

I apologize to Teheuti for not seeing her addenda.

And Cerulean, thanks for posting the link to the beautiful images in the British Museum. They do show where the LeMarchand images come from.

I am not sure I know what "Etteilla IV" is.
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