Etteilla Timeline and Etteilla card Variants - background


trying again

Let me see if I can get that to reproduce...


3 2


5 4



That's a Star of David folks!

You'll have to imagine it...


Are you describing what I've written below?

- Kether -
Binah - Chochmah
- Da'ath -
Geburah - Chesed
- Tiphareth -


Star of David

Yes that's it. But the more I thought about it, the more these other ideas floated up...

I want to sink a little deeper into the presence of the Star of David I just mentioned. If we just take it at face value, and think of this primordial sequence of six terms arranged around an invisible seventh, then we can easily see this as the Supernal and Heart triangles of the Tree, as I mentioned. But, we have another consideration to bring in here, because Etteilla has already caused us to associate the number 10 with the Planets (2nd cahir supplement, p 161-2). And those who are good students of the Kabbala know that there aren't any planets in the Supernal Triangle

Plus, to refine the point even more, in the above-quoted section (4th book of the 7-fold division; 2nd chair p. 140) he moves from the discussion about this curious nest of number-paris ,into the next idea, ~by bringing up the equation "3 + 7 = 10"~ and following it with the five Trumps 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 (which are then mirrored by the numbers 31, 41, 51, 61, and 71).

<There's clearly more to talk about in these few sentences, but for the moment I'm just focusing on the possible references made through and about the Star of David.)

Even though Etteilla jumps right into showing us the 10 as two pairs of fives (reinforcing the point made in my last post of "the multiplied 5"), we are also told that we have the option of seeing the 10 as 7 + 3. Where have we heard this before? Oh yes, this makes up the rest of the Hebrew Alphabet canon, which divides the letters into 12 Singles, 7 Doubles and 3 Mothers. On the Tree these make the 3 horizontals, 7 verticals and 12 diagonals on the Paths. I don't think he's talking about Paths specifically here, but he brings up the formula so the reader can realize that we're thinking Kabballistically in this sentence.

So now I wonder whether the Work of God represents the Star of David around Tiferet, without including the Supernal Triangle at all. God himself is the Supernal Triangle (as explained on Etteilla's card #1). the Work of God follows (his trump numbers 2 - 7), and then with #8 we have Eve, which refers back to the Marseilles Priestess and the Moon. This makes perfect sense when you read Etteilla talking about how 8 represents "movement and rest, sliding from one side to the other eternally; increase and decrease" in terms that put us in mind of the lemniscate and the action of the Moon on the tides and human experience. (2nd cahir pp 140-142). Etteilla even uses a phrase that is strongly reminiscent of Kabbalistic movement around the Tree: The Sefir Yetzira talks about the energy of the meditator "running and returning" up and down the Tree, and Etteilla says nearly the same thing about #8, Eve, "moving and returning", pulsing between the 1 and the 8.

It is the 7 Planetary governors that are commonly seen ranged around Tiferet on the stations of the Tree that actually describe the Star of David most often used in magic (rather than a Star formed around Daat). This makes me somewhat certain that he wants us to drop those six Marseilles Trumps into the Tree around the Heart center, and put the Fool at the center (this is the Trump that would be assigned the astrological Sun in the simplest possible AAN matchup, mentioned above). The completed construct would involve Trump #1 (the Marseilles Pope) filling the whole Supernal Triangle, then the Works of God circulating around the Fool at the heart, and then Eve/the Priestess (Etteilla's #8) in the Malkuth position, anchoring the Divine creation in matter.


My suggestion is to split the thread after post number 148?

The forum for discussing Hebrew letters and magical alphabets might be better for developing these heories?

It sounds as if continued development and exploratiom will go beyond what can be touched on hete. A link to your further exploration is welcome

It was a hope we can focus on historical Etteilla pattern texts, cards, dating has been hard to develop at least one thread just because there are so many decks over time.
The books and references for Etteilla history are still ongoing.

The Jeu des Princesse Pattern and related texts were coming next, I hope. MikeH let me know he was offline, but I have off and on checked throigh material


Fool rushes in where angels fear to tread!

No need to split the thread, because I don't have the bandwidth to follow through with a long intense conversation over here right now. I've got a book to finish!

FYI, I wrote a fairly exhaustive article about the Intelligences, or Shem angels in 2007, it's over at

There you'll find the origins, history, transmission, and provenance of these very useful and popular tools from the magicians bag of tricks. I include Etteilla in the lineage because he shows the identifying feature of the angel-seal for Poiel on his 2 of Coins. That's the pip with Mercury on it, with the interlocked circles against a background of fire. (This is the Grimaud Etteilla I'm quoting, Etteillla's very own creation.) You can see it again in Papus' Tarot, although the most elegant version of these seals can be found on Tavaglione's Stairs of Gold Tarot, with the distribution of the angels around the zodiac explicated at the back pages of that LWB. This arrangement of the angels on the pips comes to us from Pasqually via the Elus Cohens, according to Ambelain.

I'll leave it to you experts to decide if this is a coincidence or not! I have a feeling that there are going to turn out to be a lot of similar "coincidences" to be found when all is said and done.

It's probably sensible to remark that, due to the extreme condensation of Etteilla's language, and his tendency (like the rest of his type) to speak in riddles, one has to check up on every significant phrase and follow out its associations into the history of magic and esoteric philosophy. Otherwise it's easy to miss the references he's making.

My previous conclusions were derived from years of looking at the cards themselves (wondering why did he do this?), and from multiple episodes of poring over the untranslated LWB's with a multilingual friend (she translated the LWB of the Cartomanzia Italiana for me). But now that you folks have completed this awesome collation, I see even more of what I have suspected all along. So I thank you again from the bottom of my heart, truly. Having access to this text is a longtime dream come true.

Blessings to all.


Hi, folks. Gosh, I haven't looked at this thread for a while. I'm glad to know that it's still active. For myself, I am mainly focused, at least doe now, in what happened between the end of the 15th century and the end of the 18th century. I can't quite get a handle on the 19th century decks yet. That's why the Cahiers are so interesting to me; they speak a language of numbers that was spoken in the Renaissance. Etteilla said he learned of the tarot from the grandson of the famous Alexis Piemontese. If so, the family must have had the elixir, because that Alexis was 16th century (you can even read one of his books online). In any case, I am at the moment trying to make my way through 16th-17th century Italian literature relevant to tarot, with help from a few others. (I don't find deciphering obscure texts in old-fashioned versions of foreign languages tedious, but exhilarating; however I must admit that going through those LWBs did get to me after a while.) That said, Christine's points fit my interests; so unless someone has some burning 19th century issues, I want to ask her a few things.

Christine wrote,
Oh, he is being tricky, our Etteilla! He remembers that Ficino uses this trope of the "10 conquering the 12" in the diatribe that put him into the history books. This was at an earlier stage of Christianity's encounter with the Hebrew Mysteries, and the Christians still had to take the position that they were learning Hebrew in order to convert the Jews. 'The 12 Tribes' is a traditional way to refer to the Jews, because of their divinely-mandated social organization. The 10, on the other hand, is associated with Hermeticism, the post-Alexandrian-synthesis Mysteries that ushered in the Christian dispensation. Thus it also makes an around-the-backside reference to the Tree, the 10 Sephira (which are, after all, the Numbers even in the Hebrew paradigm). Etteilla is following in Ficino's footsteps in telling us to look beyond these "vulgar numbers" (the 12 Signs of the Zodiac) to see the "Multiplied 5" (5 x 2).
Are you referring to the passage in Corpus Hermeticum XIII, which Ficino translated (but written in 2nd century Alexandria), in which 10 virtues drive out 12 vices? It is sections 7-10 at I am not at all sure the 10 and the 12 here refer to either Judaism or Christianity. The Corpus was in the same milieu as both and was influenced by both but was neither. Perhaps you are referring to something Ficino himself wrote. If so, I'd like to know where it is, so I can look at it.

Pico della Mirandola, December 1486, then took up the Hermetic text and converted it to 10 driving out 10. In his case, it was 10 Hermetic virtues driving out the 10 "kellipoi", or tormentors, of what he took to be Jewish Kabbalah. Here is Pico, in his 900 Theses (by "Mercury" he means Hermes Trismegistus):
7.9. Within each thing there exist ten punishers: ignorance, sorrow, inconstancy, greed, injustice, lustfulness, envy, fraud, anger, malice.

27.10. A profound contemplator will see that the ten punishers, of which the preceding conclusion spoke according to Mercury, correspond to the evil order of ten in the Cabala and its leaders, of whom I have proposed nothing in my Cabalistic conclusions, because it is secret.
This translation is by Farmer in his book Syncretism in the West, p. 342; he also has the Latin. Farmer in a footnote explicitly connects Pico's theses here with Corpus XIII. Farmer observes that Pico has collapsed the 12 Hermetic vices into 10, something that the text itself gives some suggestion of. Pico is probably thinking of the 10 Hermetic virtues as corresponding to the positive side of the 10 sefiroth of Kabbalah, although he doesn't say so explicitly. So both sets of 10 are for him Jewish/Hermetic, two expressions of the universal philosophy (i.e. the many faceted thought of 2nd century Alexandria). Hey, 10 is a good Jewish number, as in commandments and sefiroth (albeit they come from Egyptian Jews). And in Christianity there are the 12 apostles and the 12 days of Christmas. In the West, there are 12 inches to an English foot, and plenty of Roman base 12 units (see see

The same theme as in the Corpus and Pico, of virtues driving out vices, was taken up a month or so later (on Huck's estimate) by Pico's cousin Boiardo in his famous tarocchi poem, about 11 virtues driving out 11 vices. Well, whatever adds up to 22. For more on this, see my posts at (rather buried these days).

And now we have Etteilla. But it seems to me that the first 12 are the 4 virtues plus the 7 days of God (card 8 on his day of rest), with 2 cards referring to the 1st day (the initial card and the one designating the day as such). So in an oblique sense these 12 are virtues. And as for vices--or at least, e.g. for Death and Sickness, misfortunes--well, we have cards 13-21 plus card 0 = 10. 12 virtues defeat 10 misfortunes/vices. These numbers seem reversed from Corpus Hermeticum XIII, but it is a variation on the same theme. Thanks for making the connection, Christine.

Thanks also for explaining what the Intelligences are. At one point he says that there are 75 - 3 of them, = 72. So that would be the Divine Names. So when he says the Cabalists don't count above a certain number, that number is 72.

I have trouble seeing Etteilla put the Fool in the midst of his trumps 2-7. as he states often that it goes between 21 and 22. And for him the planets aren't associated directly with 2-8, because he puts the planets--or more properly, the spheres in which the planets are seven-- as the 1-7 of Coins. But still, there is an energy relationship between planets and sefiroth, and so some association, which Etteilla is drawing on when he employs the language of the Pymander on the planets to describe the relationship between 1 and 8, which mightcorrespond to sefira 1-3 and 10. I am not yet convinced that he has in mind the sefiroth, but it is surely possible.

So I follow some of what you say, Christine. Why it is important that 10 is twice 5, and that those pairs add up to 7, still eludes me, despite your explanation. Also the "vulgar numbers" remain unclear to me, since the only group of 12 cards is the first one, and these cards are wholly of God. I will read your posts a few more times, and also the other essay. If you could explain anything more explicitly, it would be nice.

One word of warning. You wrote,
This idea caused me to put Etteilla's Trumps into the numbered positions. (Remember, these are Trumps with numbers 2,3,4,5,6,7.) Those trumps are Enlightenment, Discussion, Revelation, Voyage, Secrets and Support.
The current Grimaud Grand Etteilla is a fake when it comes to titles (and a few small details as well). Some Grimaud Grand Etteillas do have Etteilla's titles (but still depart from Etteilla in those details), but not the one you have. For yours, only the pictures are reliable (except on card 1). Compare your cards to the earlier Grimaud cards that I posted on pp. 9-10 of this thread and you'll see. They at least have the right titles; the earlier Grimauds are very much like the original, but are still not the same, at least on cards 1 (they added a sun) and 13-17 (they took away the extra numbers). Compare to the pictures of a real Etteilla 1789 deck, in Wicked Pack of Cards. I'd love to have a reprint, but I don't know of any.



Ch answers: Yes, thank you Mike, you have exposed my double-take! Mixing up Ficino and Pico, I must have been caught up in a furore as I was writing!

The basic setup of the thought is Alexandrian, but it was brought forward because it's useful. And yes exactly," influenced by both Judaism and Christianity, but was neither". This exact domain is the numinous zone where Tarot lives. Certainly the attitude fits perfectly for the syncretic era of Boiardio, as the occult scene had already seen Lazzarelli adapting the premises of the Mantegna series to make up a pack of 22 Tarot-like Trumps, four Aces and his Victory card. (if you are interested in this line of thought, see

The simplest way to read "12 versus 10" is to contrast the old world/Testament (Holy Land) versus new world/Testament (Christian Europe). It expresses the competition between the Hebrew-speaking world-view and the Christian-centered worldview, a lively dialogue stirred up by the influx of Hebrew and Arabic speakers into Europe after the Crusades. However, the sense of competition between them is really a false dichotomy because it takes both numbers to make the Alphabet, and/or to do the math of astrology. By this I mean, the Alphabet of 22 is made up of 12 signs, 7 planets and 3 elements. Etteilla makes it clear that the know this, stating, " 7 + 3 = 10". This is what I mean when I said that in context with 12, the number 10 is not just the doubled five, but is also a reference to the "7 + 3" of the Hebrew Alphabet.

Yes I agree It all adds up to the 22; whether you think of them as 12 + 10, or [12 + (5+5)], or (12 + 7 + 3), the sum is exactly the same. The internal number-permutations taken to get there refer to different cultural instances of this revelation. However, measured against the "straight rod" of astrological mathematics, we see that the Hermetic and the Hebrew revelations are at root the same. (Puts us in mind of the cadeuceus, eh?)

Furthermore, the mathematics of astrology in every civilization is sexugesimal, meaning based on 6 x 10, which is the same mathematics of the honeycomb and the Kabbalah tree. The Babylonians invented it and everybody has gone forward with it ever since. This same internal structure also informs the Tetractys, it turns out. So pitting the 12 against the 10 as if they represent different worlds actually plays on the ignorance of the uninitiated. (Though it does create a niche in which to insert some more sacred geometry, so that has it's own benefits!) If nothing else, it puts the reader in mind that there's a hidden conversation that the writer is addressing, whether the reader knows the terms or not.

People who are teaching from the traditional playbook want us to dig further and look down the path to where they are pointing, so let's explore this a little more fully. In fact, the honeycomb number-grid of astrology is quite brilliant and compelling. It expands from the center to make a hexagon, granting two Zodiac signs per side. Bingo -- 6 decanates x 10 degrees per side = the complete 360-degree wheel. This also describes exactly the "flower of life" that centers and shapes the Kabbalah Tree. A similar sexugesimal "flower" is found in the Tetractys, which anybody who owns "The Theology of Arithmetic" can see beautifully illustrated on the cover. (Lift off the corner three points and set them above the rest, and you have the first 10 Sephira of the Unfallen Tree.)

The most elegant 1-page synthesis of the intersections between the Kabbalah and the Tetractys can be found in the book _Jesus Christ, Sun of God; Ancient Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism_, by David Fideler. The whole book is priceless, demonstrating the Alexandrian Synthesis at the highest level, so don't skip a page! On page 285 he's got a mind-bogglingly simple and elegant presentation under the heading "Jesus the Fish", wherein he shows "some faces of the Vesica Pisces and the square root of 3". Here he's showing how the Vesica Pisces is the mediator between worlds (both symbolic and cultural). From the Vesica PIsces can be generated the mathematics of the Tree, the Tetractys, the Cathedral, Star of David, the Flower of Life, and the figure of Jesus in the Mandorla in the East window of the cathedral in Poitiers. It's all one! This is one of the major realizations of the Alexandrian Synthesis, by the way, so everybody was aware of this. (The middle of three chapters of Reuchlin's _On The Art Of The Kabbalah_ (1517) is also about the intersections between Hermeticism and Kabbalah, at least the part he knew about at the time.)

Also remember that the square root of 3 is pi which by the ancient geometers was symbolized as 22/7. Hmm, back to the Hebrew alphabet again! That's also the symbol among the Hebrews for "three octaves and a final note". I was understandably struck by the penetration of this insight into the culture of the musical magi of the Renaissance when I was writing about this in 2006. (Please see , as it bears very strongly on this discussion). I have a very hard time imagining that Etteilla stood outside of this very traditional and well-discussed topic.

On a smaller scale, it takes 6 Shem angels of 5 degrees each to make up one 30-degree sign of the Zodiac. This is the 72 Intelligences. Etteilla's remark about how the "Hebrews don't count beyond this" could just as much be about their sacred calendar (which worked on a 360-day year, requiring an intercalcary month every few years to keep Passover in the spring) as about their angel-sequence. Whether you look at this remark as talking about the Shems or about the extra month every few years, this remark demonstrates that Etteilla understands the calculatory peculiarities of the Hebrew sacred calendar.

I also want to ask, why do we think Etteilla's pictured Disks look like the Hebrew symbol for Malkuth? When I see a Tetractys made up of Malkuth symbols, I can't help but notice the signal.


I also want to ask, why do we think Etteilla's pictured Disks look like the Hebrew symbol for Malkuth? When I see a Tetractys made up of Malkuth symbols, I can't help but notice the signal.
I assume you are referring to the Ten of Coins/Disks with the X inside each disk. The final three number cards of the Coin Suit represent the North Node (8), the South Node (9) and the Part of Fortune (10). The symbol for the Part of Fortune is an X inside a circle and the small picture at the bottom of the card makes this designation clear as it demonstrates the geometry involved in determining this astrological point (it's the relationship between one's Sun, Moon and Ascendant).

Re your earlier post:
I include Etteilla in the lineage because he shows the identifying feature of the angel-seal for Poiel on his 2 of Coins. That's the pip with Mercury on it, with the interlocked circles against a background of fire.
I also see nothing to indicate that the overlapping circles in the Etteilla 2 of Coins are the angel seal of Poiel. I've found two classical seals for Poiel and neither of them look like that. The Tavaglione "Stairs of Gold" Tarot (1979) has two interlinked circles placed vertically (not horizonally), and all of the Tavaglione Shem-seals for the Coin Suit are made up of interlinked or juxtaposed circles of the same number as the card on which they appear. They depict the geometry of the numbers from 1 to 10 and seem unique to Tavaglione. The flames in the background of the Etteilla 2 of Coins are indicative of the element of Fire. Each of the 2's show their suit's element. The Papus-Goulinat 2 of Coins does seem to be the missing link between the Etteilla and Tavaglione, as it has the name Poiel on it in Hebrew, but it doesn't mean that Etteilla made the link to the Shem Angels.


Added: the Tetractys points to a Pythagorean influence but not to a Kabbalistic one. There is no question that Etteilla had integrated both Hermetic and Pythagorean themes into his work, but there is still no real indication of any true Kabbalistic material in Etteilla's deck.


Also remember that the square root of 3 is pi which by the ancient geometers was symbolized as 22/7. Hmm, back to the Hebrew alphabet again!

hm ... back to the basics of math ... the square root of 3 is NOT Pi.

22/7 was NOT a symbol for Pi, but Pi was a symbol of circa 22/7, which was used, cause the operation 22/7 leads to a value, which is nearly identical to that, what was meant as Pi.

22 / 7 = 3.1428571...
Pi = 3.1415926 ...

22/7 helped to calculate (only approximately) the values (surface, circumference) of a circle.


The number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet is and was 22. This condition neither helped to calculate 22/7 nor was useful for the identification of the value of Pi.

Also it doesn't help to identify the value of the square root of 3.

1.7320508075 ...
see ...


"The square root of 3 is equal to the length between parallel sides of a regular hexagon with sides of length 1"

On a smaller scale, it takes 6 Shem angels of 5 degrees each to make up one 30-degree sign of the Zodiac. This is the 72 Intelligences. Etteilla's remark about how the "Hebrews don't count beyond this" could just as much be about their sacred calendar (which worked on a 360-day year, requiring an intercalcary month every few years to keep Passover in the spring) as about their angel-sequence. Whether you look at this remark as talking about the Shems or about the extra month every few years, this remark demonstrates that Etteilla understands the calculatory peculiarities of the Hebrew sacred calendar.

... hm ... I thought, that the Egyptians had a 360-days-calendar to which they added each year 5 not counted unlucky days, which led to one error-year all 1460 years (cause they missed to use leap-days all 4 years).
The sacred calendar of the Hebrews (at least for the younger period) didn't work with 360 days, but it had an orientation towards the moon.

According this article indeed there was also once a Babylonian calendar, which seems to have operated as you say, with 360 days.

The Babylonian year, which influenced the French time reckoning, seems to have consisted of 12 months of 30 days each, intercalary months being added by the priests when necessary. Two Babylonian calendars are preserved in the inscriptions, and in both each month has 30 days as far as can be learnt. In later times, however, months of 29 days alternated with those of 30. The method of intercalation is uncertain, and the practise seems to have varied.

But I don't know, if that is addressable as "Sacred Hebrew calendar". As far I'm informed, the Hebrew adapted a Babylonian/Persian solar lunar calendar around 500 BC, which they kept in a modified form (modifications cause of Jewish festivities) till nowadays.

As far Etteilla might be concerned, the French mood at the end of 18th century was rather interested in Egypt and the revolution of 1789 caused the invention of a new calendar a little later, which imitated earlier 12-months-with-30-days-models.

Etteilla died 1791, so actually "too early" to be influenced by it, but perhaps these calendar ideas were already discussed a few years before the revolution.