The Meanings of the Minors: Who First Created Them?


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Kiama:

That's an intelligent question, and in the final analysis I think it can only be partially answered.

Your observation that the suited cards originally had no intrinsic meanings is right on, since, besides their not containing any obviously symbolic pictures as the trumps do, they are not in any way peculiar to the tarot deck. Playing cards using those suit signs had been around in Europe for at least 50 years before the invention of the tarocchi deck.

So meanings assigned to the suited cards would have originated when people first started using the deck for divination, and nobody knows exactly when that was, although it was probably some time in the 18th century. The very earliest record we have of people using the cards that way comes from the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova. In 1765, when he was in Russia, he kept a teen aged mistress who was a card reader, and he tells how he returned to his apartment after a night of debauchery, and she greeted him with tears and anger. She had laid out 25 cards in which she claimed to be able to see everything he had done. The number of cards she employed tells us that she was using either a) a full tarot deck, or b) a deck of playing cards.

The first published system of interpretation of suited cards was indeed by Etteilla, in 1770, but his first book was designed for use with a French piquet deck. This is a 32-card deck of regular playing cards from which the pips two through six have been removed from each suit. It's similar to a contemporary 40-card Mexican deck I have from which the sevens, eights, and nines have been removed. Starting in 1781, Etteilla published systems of divination for the tarot deck.

As for the pips of the antique decks being ugly, I'll just say that some of us prefer those decks. Setting aside that Italian oddity, the Sola-Busca deck, illustrated minors are a twentieth-century innovation, or in other words, not traditional. Also, there are nearly as many ways of interpreting suited cards as there are decks.

Just one more thing: why people still argue about the origins of tarot is a mystery to me. Tarot was an Italian invention, and all the 15th-century references to it are Italian. It spread to France and Switzerland in the 16th century as a result of regional warfare. All the pertinent primary documents have been published by Stuart Kaplan in his Encyclopedias, and have been available for some time.

(catboxer)
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Talking Thanks for the answer, Catboxer!


Wow - what a great informative post. Thank you!

Starfish (not the original poster but wondered this ? just the same)
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Another question: Were Ettiela's meanings for the Minors in any way according to the numerology system that JMD and Isthmus Nekoi suggested?

Kiama
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No. The Eteilla keywords and those which have appeared on this Forum seem distinct.

Etteilla's minor meanings appear to have been independent of a clear system linking a key-word for a number and relating it to the suit. What was clear is that the words he used for the upright and reversed meanings were clearly conceptually connected (though at times, one needs to think of the connotations of the words in the French language to see how).

The copy of the deck I have, by the way, has Alliette's 'key words' printed thereon.

Also remember that, despite claims to the contrary by its author should he be living now, the Etteilla deck is not truly a Tarot, but rather a similar deck which arose from seeking to understand the Tarot. Many cards have been changed, and the whole deck is sequentially numbered from one to 78 (interestingly, this last card has two numbers upon it: 0 and 78, and is illustrated with a very similar representation to the Fool - possibly the first instance of having zero upon this card).
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Quote:
Originally posted by jmd
No. The Eteilla keywords and those which have appeared on this Forum seem distinct.

Etteilla's minor meanings appear to have been independent of a clear system linking a key-word for a number and relating it to the suit. What was clear is that the words he used for the upright and reversed meanings were clearly conceptually connected (though at times, one needs to think of the connotations of the words in the French language to see how).
Its early morning, so I'm pretty fuzzled... Does this mean that say, a French word which sounded like say, 2 of Diamonds, in French ended up being conceptually linked to teh meaning for that 2 of Diamonds?

Kiama
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I have three questions arising ....


Quote:
Originally posted by catboxer
So meanings assigned to the suited cards would have originated when people first started using the deck for divination, and nobody knows exactly when that was, although it was probably some time in the 18th century. The very earliest record we have of people using the cards that way comes from the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova. In 1765, when he was in Russia, he kept a teen aged mistress who was a card reader, and he tells how he returned to his apartment after a night of debauchery, and she greeted him with tears and anger. She had laid out 25 cards in which she claimed to be able to see everything he had done. The number of cards she employed tells us that she was using either a) a full tarot deck, or b) a deck of playing cards.

The first published system of interpretation of suited cards was indeed by Etteilla, in 1770, but his first book was designed for use with a French piquet deck. This is a 32-card deck of regular playing cards from which the pips two through six have been removed from each suit. It's similar to a contemporary 40-card Mexican deck I have from which the sevens, eights, and nines have been removed. Starting in 1781, Etteilla published systems of divination for the tarot deck.

I have three questions arising.

(1) Is there any evidence of tarot cards being used for fortune-telling before Etteilla's published systems of divination for the tarot deck?

(2) If so, is there any written record of divinatory meanings assigned to the suited cards of the tarot deck before Etteilla's published systems of divination for the tarot deck?

(3) Catboxer refers in his/her post to a 25-card reading. I was wondering how this could suggest a full tarot deck rather than a deck of playing cards.

Thanks.
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There are only 22 Major Arcana cards in the Tarot deck, so a 25 card reading must use additional cards--possibly the court cards, or some minors.

Divination by numerology dates back to Pythagorus in Classical Greece, predating the Kabala; systems of correspondences for the numbers 1--9 could have been applied to the playing cards/minor arcana cards for fortune telling before the Golden Dawn assigned meanings for magickal development.

The Golden Dawn's system birthed at least three different decks of cards: The Waite/Smith, Crowley's Thoth, and the Golden Dawn's own esoteric deck.


Chart of Characteristics
of Numbers

1
unity, creation, independence

2
duality, emergence

3
power, generative force

4
solidity, dullness

5 (2, the female number + 3, the male number)
sensuality, pleasure

6
perfection, harmony, balance

7
mysticism, psychic, magic

8
material, success, justice

9
spiritual, mental achievement
.................................................. ......................................
The Number Chart

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Number 1:

There is a beginning to every story. Therefore, within the number one we have many qualities that embrace LEADERSHIP and courage such as:


independence
adventure
initiative
originality
determination
individuality
direction

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Number 2:
Then light was shinned upon the subject. The vibration of two is the 'light bearer'. It's core intention is balance and PEACEMAKING, creating friendship wherever it goes. It holds such qualities as:


diplomacy
mediation
caution
kindness
sensitivity
cooperation
emotion
feeling
intuition

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Number 3:
The subject began to express with great creativity. Behold the joy of living with EXPRESSION in its many forms. The principles of the number three are:


enthusiasm
inspiration
imagination
words
vision
optimism
pleasure
creativity
ease
happiness
animation
artistic
cordial

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Number 4:
Now that we have creation let us put it into FORM and order. With practicality and determination we can create order and serve. Great achievements have been accomplished from the qualities of the four, which include:


concentration
management
application
conservation
dedication
efficiency
organization
follow-through

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Number 5:
Now that we have accomplished, let us allow FREEDOM to prevail so that we may progress and create new enterprises. With the energy behind the five, we promote new ideas and undertakings. Rewards are to be realized through such qualities as:


expansiveness
invention
promotion
variety
adventure
flexibility
movement
change

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Number 6:
Without others to love, serve, and cherish all is without purpose. Therefore, the six vibration brings with it the RESPONSIBILITY to restore humanity and remind all of us of the treasures within life. As six energy moves about in the world it embraces qualities such as:


beauty
creativity
domesticity
healing
morality
passion
harmony
trust
serving

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Number 7:
Now that I have learned how to give of myself, who and what am I really? I must have INDIVIDUALITY. Therefore, the quest for wisdom and knowledge begins. Eager to make sense of it all, the qualities of the seven are


analysis
research
calculation
understanding
perfection
the unseen
intuition
investigation
reason
vision
solitude

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Number 8:
Now that I have discovered Heaven, how do I bring it to earth? There is power behind MANIFESTATION and I want to do what it takes to attain what I want. The eight becomes very busy managing and supervising with its sense of judgment. Behind the vibration of the eight is:


power
authority
capability
organization
efficiency
skill
hard work

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Number 9:
Having universal wisdom, I embrace the principles of forgiveness and COMPASSION. The nine holds the vibration of universal love. It teaches us how to accept each other. By having such a vast overview, the nine becomes a bridge to many qualities like:


creativity
imagination
benevolence
impersonality
intuition
philanthropy
emotion
generosity
devotion
dedication

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Number 11:
Let us create ILLUMINATION of all that is before us. There is a path beyond what we know today. The eleven lives in two worlds. On practical days, it vibrates with the two. On days that it senses it’s full nature, it is of an energy that translates a world beyond. Therefore, the eleven energy is:


aware
six-sensed
creative
discerning
dreamy
inspiring
intense

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Number 22:
Let us build upon a foundation of precision and balance and we will have a master plan. On a practical day, the twenty-two becomes the four. When it senses its full capacity as a MASTER BUILDER, it can achieve what is barely imaginable. The qualities the twenty-two embraces are:


mastery of vast co-creative projects
great achievement
ingenuity
high energy
innovation
idealism

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As you become familiar with the principles behind the numbers, you can add to the list. Remember that each vibration can be expressed as balanced, under-balanced, or over-balanced. Here is one example for the three vibration:

Balanced = Expressive
Under-balanced = Shy
Over Balanced = Boastful
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Ross G Caldwell  Ross G Caldwell is offline
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Re: I have three questions arising ....


Quote:
Originally posted by Rusty Neon
I have three questions arising.

(1) Is there any evidence of tarot cards being used for fortune-telling before Etteilla's published systems of divination for the tarot deck?

(2) If so, is there any written record of divinatory meanings assigned to the suited cards of the tarot deck before Etteilla's published systems of divination for the tarot deck?

(3) Catboxer refers in his/her post to a 25-card reading. I was wondering how this could suggest a full tarot deck rather than a deck of playing cards.

Thanks.
For (1), the earliest evidence is from the first edition of Merlini Coccai (nom-de-plume of Teofilo Folengo, an itinerant friar) "Caos del Triperuno" (1526). An account is given in Kaplan II, 8-9.

Kaplan gives the date of the 1527 edition, but I have seen this edition and the passage dealing with the card reading is missing. Cordié's edition of the "Opere di Teofilo Folengo" (Milano & Napoli, Riccardo Ricciardi, 1977) says that it reappears in the 1546 edition. The fact that one of the readings criticizes the current Pope might have something to do with the lacuna in the 1527 edition.

Folengo uses only the trumps, and deals them to four people, 5-6-5-6. He then tells their "fate" in the form of a sonnet. Kaplans's translations will give you an idea.

(2) Franco Pratesi discovered a page in Bologna with one-word divinatory meanings assigned to some cards in the tarocchi pack. He assigned the sheet to around 1750 (IIRC). Dummet et. al. published this in "Wicked Pack of Cards" (I believe), but I don't have the book to check. Would someone with the book please post them?

(3) I can't help you with this one.
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PaganX: I'm curious, where did your numbers chart originate? Have you gathered this from several sources? Does this harken back to Pythagorus? Please elaborate as I'm just beginning a study of number associations to tarot.
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