Brian Williams Minchiate


An English text if you're a predictive reader

The beginning/introduction mentions fortune-telling by "Julia Orsini," which is actually a text included in the Etteilla II and III, I believe, the Jeu des Dames pattern. Her text in a so-called "Book of Thoth" has the rules, descriptions, etc., some of which also appear in Pictorial Key to the Tarot.

If you allow the pdf document to load and read Arthur Waite's section 3.5-3.9, the text might be similar to your Etteilla layouts. Other than the Celtic Cross, I recognized the other layouts in the Jeu des Dames little booklet "Livre de Thoth".

I like the Minchiate book very much for design history, but I don't see any historical gaming. I'm not certain--but was Brian Williams more known for his Italian expertise and ability to translate Renaissance tarot design into art? I was not certain he was a historical gamer or reader?

I'd be interested in what people come what if they play or read with the Minchiate.

I'm beginning to play with his Renaissance tarot for the first time in all the years that I own it. I noticed a certain airiness that seemed similar to the French Du Berry Book of Hours and started going what if...



I believe M. Alliette's divinatory system all came out of his overly-fertile head.

Etteilla might justifiably be called the true founder of occult tarot. I know this honor (or maybe it's a dubious distinction) usually goes to Court de Gebelin, but Etteilla worked out a complete, original system of divination as well as completely reworking the card images, which far exceeded in scope de Gebelin's mostly theoretical contributions. There's a great profile of him in "A Wicked Pack" which, judging by the style, was written by Thierry DePaulis.

Etteilla also reordered the trump sequence in the following manner:

1) Pope, 2) the Sun, 3) the Moon, 4) the Star, 5) the World, 6) the Empress, 7) the Emperor, 8) the Popesse, 9) Justice, 10) Temperance, 11) Fortitude, 12) Hanged Man, 13) Love, 14) the Devil, 15) Mountebank, 16) Judgment, 17) Death, 18) the Hermit,
19) Tower, 20) Wheel, 21) Chariot, 0) Fool.

That's the basic sequence, but it's hard to follow because he also changed a number of the images as well as their names. For example, number 12 shows a woman carrying a caduceus and raising her skirts as she avoids stepping on a snake; the card is named "Prudence." Apparently, Alliette intended cards one through seven to represent the creation of the world, and number eight to symbolize God's rest afterward. What the other strands in the sequence are I don't know.

He was apparently inspired by de Gebelin, as his most important tarot work only began appearing after 1783. Like de Gebelin, he saw the tarot as an Egyptian book (of Thoth) written in hieroglyphs. It was composed by a committee of 17 magi chaired by Hermes Trismegistus in the 171st year after the flood, inscribed on gold leaves, and installed around a temple at Memphis. There was, of course, no documentation of any of these facts.

The theory was easy but getting the cards done was tougher. He eventually formed a study group, le Société des Interprètes du Livre de Thot, in 1788. He was apparently able to shake down members of the group for enough money to restore the 78 hieroglyphs to their true form, since of course he believed that the Tarot de Marseille debased and distorted the true, original form of the book due to the mistakes of ignorant artisan cardmakers. The result was that very, very strange deck which is still published by Grimaud, and apparently mostly true to the original.

I suppose with a lot of work and study a person could learn this very complex and highly esoteric, one-of-a-kind divinatory system. But why would anyone bother?


On Etteilla-agreement/Marseilles-Williams

I do have a modified agreement on Etteilla. The only reason that I know of his work is by swimming backwards from mentions by Waite, back through James Revak's Etteilla pages on the Villa Revak site---just to know historically where he stands. So I vaguely know the ordering starts with Chaos and when I encounter odd variants, I'm likely able to say that I won't read with the deck.
However it was useful to know what Waite was talking about in his divinatory meanings for the Rider Waite for historical purposes.
Etteilla has some steps of ordering that vaguely seem to suggest a creation theory, which makes me think of Genesis. So in terms of creativity, it's kind of interesting.
If I lived in France or was interested in Napoleonic through Victorian eras, Lenormand and Etteilla might be of some interest historically.
Oh, and someone mentioned that Brian Williams didn't tackle the Marseilles... He did seem to generate a lot of interest in the Italian variant decks when his Renaissance tarots and Minchiate came out--one of the contributors to the appendix of the Minchiate is Tom Tadforlittle, I believe. Tom Tadforlittle for a short time had a special interest group devoted to old Italian decks before 1880, fueling even more interest in such variants.
My Minchiate has an inscription that makes me sigh even today.
Sorry to get off topic...

Ross G Caldwell

Re: Etteilla

catboxer said:
I believe M. Alliette's divinatory system all came out of his overly-fertile head.

I suppose with a lot of work and study a person could learn this very complex and highly esoteric, one-of-a-kind divinatory system. But why would anyone bother?

I agree that Etteilla's system lacks *intrinsic* interest - gone are the days when we believed the tarot needed to be rectified, or that the medieval cards were "corrupt".

His system is both complex and ill-defined - I don't think anyone has every completely figured it out - if there even is a coherent system - and not all of his books are in print.

But I collect Etteillas - or at least, I have four, and always look to buy another one - so I should have some kind of a justification. :)

First, I think Etteilla started the tarot divination craze, and his deck saw many permutations in the 19th century, primarily in France but also anywhere with French influence, like Russia. In the nineteenth century many many people saw fit to study and read with this deck, and any system that it implies. As I see it, Etteilla and Etteilla style decks were far more prevalently used by occultists than any TdM in the 19th century.
I don't think is possible to comprehend the development of cartomancy in the nineteenth century, and the development occultism in the 19th century in general, without a knowledge of these cards.

Second, Etteilla had feet in both worlds, so to speak - parlour cartomancy and "high" occultism. So there is a Petit Etteilla which is only a deck of regular cards - more or less. And his first book was on reading with a regular deck. He is a link to card divination before Court de Gebelin and the tarot craze, and again he is a link to the Sibilline decks and the cartomancy of the 19th century. I'm not sure of links between him and Lenormand, but I think there is some connection.

But what it comes down to for me, I think, is the art. I love the art on all the decks, from the quasi-Masonic "Grand Etteilla" (the classic Grimaud in the orange-yellow box), still warm with 18th century universal ideals and designs - to the mid-nineteenth century "Grand Jeu de l'Oracle des Dames" (Dusserre), with its ornate lacy - well, 19th century - style (kind of like the magazines of the time, and pious journals for ladies). Then the hyper-Egyptian revival kind of Etteilla, etc.

For some reason, I love these decks, although I don't read with them, I just love to look at them - they always inspire good thinking.

I guess I'm a freak ;-)



Thank you for the link, Mari. I am really enjoying this deck (the Grimaud Grand Etteilla). Yes the sequence does begin with Chaos, and that card also represents a male querant. There are some very interesting, strange and beautiful cards in this pack. A couple of the cards are somewhat abstract and directly emotional like the "chaos" and "enlightenment" cards. The pips are austere but talky and do a lot of "pointing" to other cards.

I don't know that I will use the system exactly but it is fascinating that the cards have different meanings according to which cards they are next to, and that is making me look at them in a new way. Now I am curious to see what changed with the next set of Etteilla cards and the next. In this (Grimaud) deck there is a card called "Night" and a card called "Day" (the titles are not given on the cards, the divinitory meanings are, the titles are given separately in the LWB) and I noticed that in the 19th c. Etteilla these titles have been combined onto the upright and reversed halves of a single card. It looks like some of them were made more tarot-like also.

This deck is also making me very curious about the Laura Tuan Egyptian which I almost bought....the meanings given here for certain cards are the same as on her deck, so I guess she followed Alliette's pattern but used black and white line drawings by Levi (edited to add: oops, no the drawings are by Papus) as the basis for at least some of the cards.



Myrrha said:
<snip> Thank you for the link, Mari.
Seconded! And to the other contributers to this wide ranging(!) thread :)

Myrrha said:
<snip> ...curious about the Laura Tuan Egyptian...
At the risk of opening another (pleasant) can o' worms, I've often thought of one of the basic-look Falconnier and Wegener type decks (from the canonical Filipas Link!) and aside from the Lo-S Ancient Egyptian and Nefertari which I have. In the past, I have ponder the Machynka one, BUT the other one that appeals is indeed the Laura Tuan one - which I assume is the one with the design within the cartouche? Again, not of great relevance, so my apologies that some of this may have lost the spirit of "Historical Tarot" ;)

It's been a fun diversion anyway!