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MikeH  MikeH is offline
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Join Date: 03 Nov 2007
Location: Oregon USA
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MikeH 
The letters around the edges


On the top of the "Temple of Fire" diagram are 12 strange signs. In Etteilla's book to which this diagram is a frontispiece (Lecons Theorique Pratque du Livre de Thot), these same signs appear on p. 43, and under them the Arabic numerals from 1 to 12. Below is a link to my photo of the part of the "Temple" diagram I am talking about, and below it the signs on p. 43.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-_65QLlU1To...43IMG_0436.jpg

Etteilla is saying that these unfamiliar symbols correspond to the numbers 1-12. He also calls them an "alphabet" of the ancient Egyptians, in fact the second such alphabet possessed by this ancient people. The first "alphabet" he calls the "numerique" and has only seven letters. This then expanded to twelve in the second alphabet, which he calls the "cabalistic" alphabet. kept secret by the priests of Egypt, whom Etteilla calls "choens"--perhaps a variation on the Hebrew "cohens", also meaning priests. Then after that was a third, the hieroglyphs that we see on the old monuments, allegorical pictures such as are also seen in the first 21 cards of the tarot.

Here is a summary statement by Etteilla about the second and third alphabets:
Quote:
Le second alphabet, l'écriture cabalistique, est un peu plus à notre connoissance que l'alphabet numérique-cabalistique; le peu que nous en avons dit, fruit de beaucoup de tâtonnemens, doit être, nous nous le persuadons, d'un grand secours pour ceux qui cherchent à developper cet antique alphabet, qui, nous le maintenons, est antérieur aux caracteres Chaldéens & autres. Quant au troisième alphabet, les Allégories, le Soleil, un Arbre, &c. nous en avons autant que le bon sen & la lecture des Ouvrages sur les hiéroglyphes égyptiens peut en donner à ceux qui s'y appliquent.

(The second alphabet, the cabalistic script, is a little more in our knowledge than the numeric-cabalistic alphabet; the little that we said about it, fruit of much groping, has to be, we are persuaded, of a big help for those who try to develop this ancient alphabet, which, we maintain, is previous to the Chaldean and other characters. As for the third alphabet, the Allegories, the Sun, a Tree, etc. we have it as much as good sense and the reading of Works on Egyptiens hieroglyphs can give it to those who apply themselves to it.)
In more detail, Etteilla says earlier of the second alphabet:
Quote:
Les nombres étoient les lettres, & les lettres étoient les nombres, & les uns & les autres ne surpassoient pas la quantité de douze, tels que nous les offrons: Les nombres étoient fixes, & les lettres variables; c'est-à-dire, que ces caracteres en tant que nombres ne faisoent uniquement que changer de place, & au contraire comme lettres, non-seulement de changes & même de rester droites, comme si elles eussent été des nombres, on étoit le plus souvent obligé de les renverser, d'en lier plusieurs ensemble, & enfin d'en employer une seule plusieurs fois; mais ces lettres à côté les unes des autres, comme nous faisons de deux ll dans le mot elle, ou de deux tt dans le mot lettre, &c., ne formoient pas seulement un seuls mot, mais sourvnet plusieurs, ou tout un discours.

(Numbers were letters, and letters were numbers, and the ones and the others did not surpass the quantity of twelve, such as we offer them: The numbers were fixed, and the letters variable; that is, these characters as numbers were made uniquely only to change place, and on the contrary, as letters, not only changes and even remaining straight, as if they had been numbers; some had to be knocked down, connected together, or one used several times; but these letters close by others, such as we have two ll in the word elle, or of two tt in the word lettre, etc. formed [informed?] not only one word , but often several, or a whole discourse.)
The first alphabet, Etteilla said, had 7 letters, which were also numbers. In the second alphabet, there were still only 12 letters. As we can see, they are just straight lines combined in various ways, and finally a circle, for zero. But these generated many more, through combinations and variations, For example, a circle (0) and a vertical line (1) combine to make something like the Greek letter phi. And two horizontal lines, with the addition of an oblique line between them, could generate our Z or N. And then came a third alphabet, the "hieroglyphic," corresponding to the allegorical pictures on Etteilla's cards 1-21 plus 0.

Then, after the "hieroglyphic" alphabet came the next level of alphabets, formed from the first level. From the process of combining elements of letters in the second alphabet, of which he has already given examples, there comes, as the sixth, one of 40 letters. Here is Etteilla (p. 60):
Quote:
Le troisième alphabet du second rang, ou le sixième alphabet, est, comme nous avons dit, le mélange des quarante dernieres & basses Cartes, ou les dix dernieres de chaque séquence, lesquels hiéroglyphes remis tels qu'ils éroient jadis sur les lames, & placés en totalité ou en partie sur l'autel dans la première enceinte du Temple, annonÇoit les sujets d'allégresse ou les fléaux de la nation.

(The third alphabet of the second rank, or the sixth alphabet, is, as we said, the mixture of the forty last, lowest Cards, or the ten last of every sequence, hieroglyphs that when put as they anciently were, and placed, wholly or in part, on the altar in the first first circuit of the Temple, announce the subjects of enjoyment or the plagues of the nation.)
This number 40, divided into four groups, happens to coincide with the total number of symbols ranged around the edges of the "Temple of Fire", including also one more in the middle. So we have an answer to our puzzle about what the strange letters are.

Etteilla continues:
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Oui, les Bâtons ou verges des Mages, les Coupes augurales, les Epées ou Glaives de la Justice & les Deniers ou petite Dieux de la nation (1) ètoient diffèreremment faits & diffèremmenent placés qu'ils ne le sont sur toutes les copies qui nous sont parvenues...

(1) Les petits Dieux, ou comme a mieux dit Iamblique, les diverses manières de rendre aux sens les bienfaits de Dieu; ce qui ne fut pas par suite de temps chez les troisièmes Égyptiens & peut-être encore moins chez tous les Idolâtres, qui, malgré leur absurdité, eurent la force de répudier les Enchanteurs, tantôt comme étant Sorciers, d'autrefois comme des méchans, & le plus souvent comme n'étant que des fripons, sans nulle connoissance de vraie ou de fausse Magie, ce qui est presque génèral aujourd'hui, y ayant très-peu de Magiciens, & je le sais, encore bien moins de Sorciers.

(Yes, the Batons or Mages' rods, the auguring Cups, the Swords or Blades of Justice, and Coins or little Gods of the nation (1) were differently made and differently placed on all the copies that have reached us...

(1) The little Gods, or as Iamblicus said better, the diverse ways of rendering to the senses God's benefactions; that which was not a product of time to the third Egyptians and maybe even less to all Idolators, who, in spite of their absurdity, had the strength to reject the Enchanters, sometimes for being Sorcerers, other times for being evil, but mostly for being only rascals, without any knowledge of true or of false Magic, which is almost generally so today, there being very few Magicians, and. as I know it, still much fewer Sorcerers.)
We learn more about these four groups:
Quote:
7. Le septième alphabet, ou mieux le premier du troisième rang, étoit simplement composé des dix dernières Cartes de Bâtons ou verges, que l'un posoit depuis: jusqu'à 10 suivant les cas & leur nombre & leur disposition annonÇoit l'abondance ou la disette des denrées.

Un seul Bâton étoit le signe de l'abondance, comme celui de dix formant un T, & celle--ci étoit plus générale, quoique l'une & l'autre donnée à la bonté de Dieu. Sept bâtons annoncent que par l'économie & la bonne administration les magasins publics étoient remplis & qu'on pouvoir aider les étrangers.

Neuf Bâtons sur une ligne diamétrale, annoncoient l'espérance, & déja les apparences de la récolte qui seroit abondante. La file des Bâtons obliques n'annoncoit que l'espérance: si cette ligne étoit directe, elle étoit le signe de la priere pour que le Créateur bénisse les travaux de la campagne.

(7. The seventh alphabet, or better the first one of the third rank, simply consisted of the last ten Cards of Batons or rods, from one to ten; according to the cases, their number and measure announced the abundance or scarcity of foodstuffs.

A single Baton was the sign of abundance, as that of the ten, which formed a T; and this was more general, although the one and the other given in the bounty of God. Seven batons announce that by economy and good administration the public stores were filled and that one could aid foreigners.

Nine Batons on a diameter announce hope, and already the appearances of the harvest which will be plentiful. The line of oblique Batons announce only hope: if this line is direct, it is the sign of prayer, so that the Creator blesses the farmwork.)
We can indeed see the "T" on Etteilla's Ten of Batons, which also represented Ten in his "third alphabet": on the card, it is enclosed in a circle. (To view these cards, go to http://www.tarot.com/tarot/decks/index.php?deckID=9.) As you can see, the symbols underneath the suit-sign arrays exactly correspond to the first nine "letters"--which are also numbers--of the second alphabet. The tenth is almost the same as the tenth, except that a circle, the zero, is superimposed on the T. These are his "cabalistic letters" for the numbers from one to ten. People have supposed that these symbols were Masonic; if so, he gives no sign of it here. Indeed, they look to me like Etteilla's attempt to reconstruct primitive signs and nothing like anything Masonic.

His interpretation of the individual Baton cards fits very well with the general idea of Batons as Agriculture. However it does not correspond at all with the keywords on Etteilla's cards. For the Ace, the keywords are Birth and Fall; for the Seven, Negotiations [Pourparler] and Indecision; for the Nine, Delay and Obstacles [Traverses], and for the Ten, Treason and Obstacle. This tends to show that Etteilla decided by 1789 to use keywords based on another source (other than his Egyptians as described here!). Given that there is some correspondence with the keywords that he used for his earlier 1771 book, he probably at least used that source.

Etteilla continues with Cups and Swords:
Quote:
8. Les Coupes, annonceoient les devoirs du Temple, les besoins des Mges, les schismes, etc.

9. Les Epées annoncoient la paix; la guerre, les troubles, & tout ce qui dépendoit de l"Art militaire & des grandes & premieres charges.

(8. Cups announce the duties of the Temple, the needs of the Magi, schisms, etc.

9. Swords announce peace; war, disorders, and all that depends on the Military Art and big and primary responsibilities.)
And finally coins:
Quote:
10. Les Deniers en relief & rond de bosse, n'étoient sans doute pas les petites rosettes, ou, comme on les nomme, les Deniers que nous voyons aujourd'hui sur ces Cartes, c'étoient les petits Dieux d'Égypte (1) ou, pour nous expliques de maniere à être entendus de tous Lecteurs, ils étoient les attributs emblématiques ou allégoriques de la Divinité; enfin, c'étoit dix des principaux antiques en bronze qui aujourd'hui, transportés de l'Egypte en Europe, sont répandus dans nos Cabinets, parmi lesquels, il est vrai, il s'en trouve un nombre prodigieux de semblables ou d'approachans à ceux qui étoient dans le Temple, les autres ayant été fabriqués à leur imitation.

(1) Du tems des premiers Egptiens, on réuniffoit les attributes ou les bien-faits de Dieu à dix objets principaux, comme nous les citerons; & par suite, sous les seconds & sous les troisiemes, en les envisages sur le nombre 40, somme les Hebreux sur 5er, jus'quà ce qu'en on fit sur chaque objet particulier un hiéroglyphe qui se nommois, chez les Egyptiens même.

(10. The Coins in relief and embossed circles were doubtless not the small rosettes, or, as we call them, the Coins which we see on these Cards today; they were the small Gods of Egypt (1) or, for us explain in a manner explicable to every Reader, they were the symbolic or allegorical attributes of the Divinity; finally, they were ten of the main antique bronzes which today, transported from Egypt to Europe, are widespread in our Offices, among which, it is true, there is a prodigious number approaching in likeness to those that were in the Temple, the others having been made in their imitation.)

(1) From the time of the first Egyptians, attributes or God's benefactions were reunified into ten main objects, as we shall cite them; and as a consequence, under the second and under the third, envisaging them on the number 40, like the Hebrews on 50, until was made, by these very Egyptians, for every particular object a named hieroglyph.)
So now we know why the figures of the Greco-Roman gods can be seen below the suit-objects of Coins, while the suit-object itself contains the astrological sign for the corresponding planet. It is because the figures on antique coins have such figures on them in relief. The Batons, however, have only the fist ten numbers below their suit-objects on the card, in the "cabalistic alphabet" of the ancient Egyptians. Also, there are no signs or symbols underneath Swords and Cups because Etteilla didn't think of anything to say about them.

One further paragraph shows another aspect of these little figures on the cards.
Quote:
De ces attributes hiéroglyphiques de la grandeur & la bonté de Dieu, est venu l'origine des talismans, & de ceux-ci, nos monnois courantes, parce que ces talismans ou porte-bonheur étoient quelquefois échangés pour des choses utiles à la vie, lorsqu'on n'avoit rien autre chose qui pût être équivalent à ce qu'on avoit besoin, & ces petits Dieux furent en grande estime jusqu'au moment où il en fut de fabriquer par toutes les Nations.

(From these hieroglyphic attributes of God's greatness and kindness came the origin of talismans, and of these, our current currency, because these talismans or lucky charms sometimes were exchanged for things useful for life, when one had no other thing that could be equivalent to what was needed, and these small Gods were in high respect untilthe time when they were made by all Nations.)
In Etteilla's cards, these "talismans" are only on the suit of Coins. But from the foregoing I think we have an explanation of one of the innovations of the Grand Etteilla II designs: they, alone among the Etteilla decks, have such small figures on all of the number cards, in all four suits. (For examples, go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/sumada...7631580712992/.)
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