Etteilla Timeline and Etteilla card Variants - background


Pythagorean Kabbalistic Sacred Geometry

I want to insert my scan here of the page from Fideler as promised, but am not allowed to attach anything at this point. Would someone like to let me know what it takes for me to be able to share an image with you?

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While I don't support Christine's theory in all the particulars - it is apparent from recent scholarship by noteworthy academics (well-pointed out by Christine who has read most of it) that the 'underground stream' of occultism was far more coherent than we've previously given it credit for. This includes far more interaction and an exchange of ideas and information than was thought. It is also clear from reading Le Monde Primitif that the ideas put forth by de Gébelin and de Mellet were not new to them, but were an amalgam of materials that were 'going the rounds' probably among a Masonic body of occult researchers.

There's a discussion of the Martinist/Masonic possibilities here:
with links to related discussions.

The point in this thread is the demonstrable sources and content of Etteilla's material and what he included in his books and deck.

Personally, I get the impression that Etteilla was more of a popularizer of occult metaphysics than a deep philosopher or mystic, ultizing whatever came to hand to make his numerological-tarot system seem more mysteriously appealing to potential students of his school.

I apologize if I've gotten this thread off track, but I think it is worth trying to determine the extent of Etteilla's Kabbalistic knowledge and any possible link he made between it and the Tarot.


Perhaps one should pay attention in the Etteilla questions to an earlier unusual Minchiate deck called "Minchiate Francesi", which was made c. 1730 (if I remember correctly). Material to it is hard to find.

But the first card is "Chaos", as in the Etteilla Tarot ...


... and in the description of ... Francesi/
The Minchiate Francesi is a 98 cards deck, rather different than the Italian Minchiate decks. Following is a description based on the Solleone reprint of the deck. It's printed in sepia. The 42 trumps include -

1.The chaos.
2. The sun, Helios in the sun chariot pulled by four horses.
3. The moon, a woman with bow and arrow seated on a cloud with the moon at her back - possibly Artemis.
4. The stars, a feminine figure holding a scepter with a stars at it's top, seated on clouds against the background of the stars.
5. The world, an infant seated on concentric circles and holding a sandglass in his hand.
6. The element of air, a woman seated on clouds above a rural landscape.
7. The element of earth, a crowned woman seated on the earth beside fruits in a rural landscape.
8. The element of water, a woman in a sea-shell chariot pulled by two fish by the beach.
9. The element of fire, Perseus seated at a table holding a helmet, with a shield with Medusa's head or face on it.

... etc.

... we find "elements" also in the lower ranks - as in the Etteilla.

Some more pictures are given by Tarot passages ...

Two others in a pdf.file of Giordano Berti:

A playing card seller offers this information:
Le sommet de la vente pourrait bien être atteint avec le «Minchiate» de François
de Poillly, 2ème version, un jeu complet de 98 cartes, estimé 8 000 / 12 000
€. Le Minchiate est une forme florentine du tarot, où l’on a ajouté des atouts ;
très à la mode en Italie aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècle, il séduisit François I de Poilly
qui en réalisa une version française à son retour à Paris, vers 1660. Son fils
François II a voulu « remettre de l’ordre » dans ces atouts « incohérents », d’où
cette nouvelle édition, connue en 2 exemplaires uniquement.
... according which a Francois I de Poilly made c. 1660 this deck, which was published (again ?) c. 1730 by his son Francois II de Poilly.

Indeed a graveur Francois de Poilly (1623-1693) existed with some reputation, and the whole family seems to be involved in graphical productions. And this Francois de Poilly had been in Italy (1649-1656), where he might have become acquainted with Minchiate games.çois_Poilly

I found this text from 1672: ...
... where "Francois Poilly senior" is noted between the authors (perhaps as engraver ?), but the major author is Pierre Le Moyne.

Pierre Le Moyen is of interest, cause this man became "suspicious" cause an edition about the "Femmes Fortes" ... the project had some similarity to Tarot.

A further project, in which Pierre Le Moyne and Francois Poilly cooperated is reported here:
De l'art de regner. Au Roi (1665) Pierre Le moyne&f=false


Well, for the moment I've no answer, where this "Francois Poilly around 1660" comes from, but it might well be, that the later Francois Poilly c. 1730 used motifs formed by his earlier relative.

[Later added and replaced: I pointed then with some information to a second Mitelli deck. Meanwhile I've opened a thread to this deck with some improved material ... see at
... ]


Huck -

From what I can tell, the first nine cards contain themes found in the first five Etteilla cards - but without Etteilla's Days of Creation (de Gébelin) overlay. The Minchiate Francesi (MF) cards 6 through 9 are the four elements that, in Etteilla are cojoined with the cards 2 through 5: Sun, Moon, Stars, World (MF - also has these concepts as 2-5). But, only the image of Chaos is similar.

It is interesting to consider that Etteilla may have seen this deck and taken some ideas from it.


Here's the page from Fideler that Christine has mentioned. Christine, perhaps you can explain how all this relates to the basic geometry figure on Etteilla's 2 of Coins.



Huck -

From what I can tell, the first nine cards contain themes found in the first five Etteilla cards - but without Etteilla's Days of Creation (de Gébelin) overlay. The Minchiate Francesi (MF) cards 6 through 9 are the four elements that, in Etteilla are cojoined with the cards 2 through 5: Sun, Moon, Stars, World (MF - also has these concepts as 2-5). But, only the image of Chaos is similar.

It is interesting to consider that Etteilla may have seen this deck and taken some ideas from it.

Well ... it's called Minchiate Francesi and Etteilla lived in France and had some sense for playing cards generally. Likely he knew about the interesting productions of his time. That two totally independent productions both started with "Chaos" looks not probable ... either there is a common tradition, which isn't calculated (what about the Demorgone ? ... or these always present models of spheres ? ... and the Minchiate also had 4 elements), but influenced both, or there's simply direct influence: Etteilla knew the deck.
And not to forget: Etteilla lived for some time as Kupferstichhändler (copperplate engraving merchant) in Strasbourg. So somehow he should have understood something of the market.

Kabbala as the "common ground" between both isn't so probable. The West-Europeans Jews had lost interests in the Kabbala and after the long enduring expulsion from France there weren't so much Jews in France in 1790. Still around 1900 there were not much, about 50.000 ... about 10% of their number in the comparable Germany. In Germany there was a final sect still active in the 1780's, the "Frankisten", based on the person of Jacob Frank.
... who became a topic to Gerschon Scholem later, who with interest researched such cases. Jacob Frank had been actually an excommunicated Jew from Poland.
In Eastern Europe Kabbala stayed active a longer time ...


1865_1870ish British Museum color of Etteilla III_Grand Jeu Oracle du Dames

Sumada sent me the link.

I had seen the listing, but the cards in color eluded me.

Partial, but stunningly pretty. As pictured in the LeMarchand book Cartomancie...., although the line drawings are appearing more lively in color cards.

My handcolored avatar is the Brunette La Repose..(copied and colored).

This would be a the original source for 20th century reprints, with additions. Notice the French originals -- which are sometimes seen photo-reproduced in 20th century decks as inserts -- do have Etteilla numbering and titles on the side. This Etteilla III pattern from engraver G. Regamey circa 1865 is also known as Grand Jeu de l'Oracle des Dames and the circa 1865 book text that has instructions for this deck from M.F. Delarue of Paris, son in law of Simon Blocquel of Lille, France. Simon Blocquel published the circa 1838/40 and 1850 Etteila/Lismon decks and text for the Grand Etteilla II.

As noted in a related thread (link to follow) and previously, the Grand Etteilla III text by Madamoiselle LeMarchand circa 1865-70 and deck seemed to be geared more toward cartomancy--even if the titles and some pictures seem to keep the Etteilla II ordering and titles. More detail in the related thread.

Eventually will try to go to Post #1 and maybe try to index post #'s that would summarize content and also add related links in relevant places if the Etteilla patterns referenced are I, II, III and IV or there's historic content with documentation.

My historic books and decks and images ---which developed and are linked and shared with others and throughout these threads --reflect the historic cartomancy.

I find Decker, Dummett and DePaulis information from "A Wicked Pack of Cards: The Origins of the Occult Tarot" the best and useful resource to check for the 18th and19th century facts, dates, and meanings. The summary of Etteilla patterns and material are very carefully put together and truly worth reading and enjoyable.



Hebrew/Christian splice

Am loving the scans, Huck. Thanks so much for taking the trouble. Image lust strikes again!

In terms of the strain or flavor or "school" of Kabbalah/Cabbalah that you would see in Etteila's deck, it would definitely be of the red-headed stepchild variety. By this I mean, the amalgam that was flowing in the Orders was just that, not "pure Hebrew", not "pure Hermetic" or anything like it. And when one starts reading into Martinism, one discovers the admonition that the student will need the courage of his or her convictions, because s/he will not find coherence with either Jews or Christians; they will both foreswear what we are studying as Martinists.

The particular slice of Jews who would be interested in an active ecumenicism with the Magical Christians would necessarily be narrow. In both cultures it's only a small cabal but we see their names repeatedly as the active agents in moving the magical agenda forward. Someday I hope to collate an overview of how the magical, socio-cultural and political trends relevant to Tarot interweave (though there's fertile ground for many essays, don't wait for me!) It's much more complicated and interesting than we have been thinking.

When you watch the parade of names go by from Ficino forward (referring here to the Christians who were espousing Hebrew studies and the teachers they had), what you see is Marano or converso influence, alongside the identifying marks of the Sabbatai Zevi phenomenon.

Further, the magical Christians, who were Catholics and Protestants alike, were scouring Islam, Judaism, Gnosticism, Sufism and all the official and rejected Gospels, to sift out the rejected gold of Sophianic theology. This Theosophy is always accompanied by alphabetarian concerns, from the the creators of the polyglot Bibles to the Seals of Solomon. This is what's called the "Wisdom Tradition".

By the time of Etteilla we are looking at the cliches left over from two centuries of heated ferment. It's the lava tube, as opposed to the lava proper. However, what he shows us is the state of the interface between the "popular Tarot" and the Lodge paradigm that had been working with the Marseilles model before him. This is the territory he claimed and made his own. And the fact that he made his entrance through the "oracle" door (first with the simplified tiny double-headed pack, then with his Book of Thoth), makes him all the more interesting. Because he grabbed all the most numinous and glamorous and enticing cliches from the zeitgeist to make that pack. It was an instant hit, like our modern favorite TV shows! So the pack in its extended presence across time, both the original form and it's later permutations, provide us with a perfect mirror of the preoccupations of the times.


page from Fideler

What we are seeing is part of a series of illustrative explanations expanding on the Theology of Arithmetic, brought forward through Christian Hermetics. Here is the text that accompanies these images:

"The vesica is formed by two interpenetrating circles of the same diameter, and as a symbolic glyph it represents the fusion and reconciliation of opposites.

"Christ is said to be the mediator between heaven and earth, and it is well known in art history that he frequently appears in the mediatrix of the vesica. Further, since the temple is a gateway linking heaven and earth, and the Church is known as the 'body of Christ,' a good many cathedrals are based on the geometry of this Piscean symbol.

"The underlying pattern of 'the circle doubled' gives rise to the unique and harmonious geometry of the hexad, which may ultimately be reduced to the mathematical ratio (or logos) expressed by the vesica, being 1 : [square root of] 3 or the proportion 1 : 1.73205.... By using this fundamental proportion, which underlies the fabric of the phenomenal world, traditional cosmology expressed a hierarchy of transcendental relationship in the world of symbolic ideas."

(p. 284; _Jesus Christ, Sun of God_).

So, figure A is the Vesica, aka mediatrix. B seems to show a clever way of deriving much the same proportions from the Vesica that Huck was showing with the sphere. It's a fish! C is used to illustrate the 1st postulate of Euclid. D shows us the 3 Worlds Scheme, and E demonstrates the Tree with the Sephira laid over the 3 Worlds. Note that in F, the two rings have to be laid on their side to produce the Mandorla within which Christ appears. This is the same positioning that we see Mercury taking in Etteilla's 2 of Disks. G demonstrates how the proportions derived from "the Fish" plus the two triangles in the Vesica (C) leads to the proportions of the Cathedral of Beauvais (G).

The bottom row of circles are built within the sphere from which the Vesica is derived, but unfolding the geometry found in the vesica. Clearly this circle is the middle sphere from the Three Worlds scheme, which is why you see the shadowy traces of the upper and lower spheres cutting through. The base of the equilateral triangle forms the length of a vesica tip to tip, from which further geometrical figures can be derived by reflection. Note the Tetractys, Star of David, and Flower of Life (also see for more along these lines, as well as great presentation on how widespread this Sacred Geometry is in antiquity.)

Here's an eye-opening little quote from William Sirling's _The Canon_ which puts us in mind of why this symbol might appeal to a Masonry striving to create a western yoga:

"The Vesica was also regarded as a baneful object under the name of the 'Evil Eye,' and the charm most generally employed to avert the dread effects of its fascination was the Phallus [citation]. In Heraldry the Vesica was used as the feminine shield. It was interchangeable with the Fusill , or Mascle [citation], and was also figured as a Lozenge or rhombus. In the East the Vesica was used as a symbol of the womb, and was joined to the cross by the Egyptians forming the handle of the Crux ansata." (Stirling, p. 13).


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.