Etteilla Timeline and Etteilla card Variants - background


I have had a chance to translate some of Hugand's 1789 article that I referred to in an earlier post, as explaining the meaning of the "Temple of Fire" layout in Memphis. Here, before I get to Hugand, is the layout of the Temple again, as it appears in the front of Etteilla's Lecons Theorique et Practique du Livre de Thot, 1787:

I called attention to the four small squares of four cards each plus one more at the bottom of the squares: cards 22-25 plus 33; cards 36-48 plus 49; cards 64-67 plus 77; cards 50-53 plus 63.

These are the court cards and the aces in each suit.

There were also the nine cards on the four sides of the temple--these are the number cards 2-10 of each suit--and the large inverted semi-pyramid in the top half of the page--these are the 21 trumps plus the Fool as 0.

Now I come to Hugand's article, Faites-mieux, j'y consense, ou Les Instructions d'Isis, Divulgees par un Electeur de la Commune de Lyon, en l'annee 1789:which means, "Do better, I agree, or The Instructions of Isis, Divulged by an Elector of the Commune of Lyon, in the year 1789." The author is Claude Hugand-Jejalel, a member of Etteilla's "Intepretes du Livre de Thot" residing in Lyons. That is the place the author claims to live, and Hugand is the only one of Etteilla's known disciples who lived there.

Etteilla referred to Hugand as "H. Jejelel." "Jejalel", according to Decker, Dummett, and Depaulis in Wicked Pack of Cards , p. 100, was Hugand's "cabalistic name," borrowed from the 44th of the Spirits surrounding the Throne of God in Etteilla's "Cabala." Actually, this Spirit is the 40th, as can be seen on p. 65 of Etteilla's Haute Phlosophie des Hautes Sciences, 1785 ( That number 40, we will see by the end of this essay,has some additional significance in Etteilla's system besides being the number of number cards in the deck.

Hugand was one of Etteilla's two favorite disciples, the other being Hisler in Berlin. The present article is first a communication from Lyons to Paris, then Etteilla's enthusiastic reply, and finally Hugand's summary at the end. It might be that the first part is from early 1789 and the last part late 1789, but I am not sure (the French Revolution proper began with the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789). It is from the end summary that I take the page below, the next to last page of Hugand's article (the same page I posted before).


If the above is too blurry for you, here is a larger resolution version.

Now for my translations. The first paragraph on this page reads:

Let us separate the Notables. In place of a single tableau, dangerous, we obtain four perfect tableaus under the domination of the virtues.

On the previous page, he had presented the 20 "Notables"--i.e. the court cards--as one triangle, equally "perfect," i.e. equilateral, when the Fool, card 0 here, was added as its apex (6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1). In the four small triangles that follow (at the top of the page above), notice that the numbers are the same as in the four small pyramids of the "Temple of Memphis" diagram, except that a sixth card has been added, so that the array forms a "perfect" triangle, 3 + 2 + 1. (There is also a mistake in group 4, Commerce: the first card should be 63 rather than 62. In the triangle of the Notables, p. 37, 63 is included but not 62.)

Significantly, the name of a social class has been associated to each of the groups, as well as a virtue. The sixth card in each group is one of the virtue cards. So we have Justice associated with Agriculture, Temperance associated with the Priests, Strength with the Military, and Prudence with Commerce.

As I said earlier, all of this makes total sense, from the standpoint of someone in sympathy with the French Revolution. The peasants require Justice in how much of their crop they give to the Priests and the Military, and the just rewards for their labor. The priests, who eat and drink up the money given to them to help the poor (our author declares indignantly), need Temperance. The Military, of course, needs the Courage to do what is right. The Commercial people need Prudence to manage their goods and investments properly.

Here is what our author says about the priests (p. 23):
C'est dans l'emploi de ces biens d'église qu'il y a abus, & l'abus est énorme; car nos ecclésiastiques d'aujourd'hui n'ambitionnent d'être nommés pour desservir les bénéfices des pauvres, qu'afin de pouvoir se les approprier. Il semble que le revenue en dîme ou en rente, dont ils ne devroient être que les distributeurs, avec une réserve modique pour leur aliment, soit destiné uniquement à leur jouissance personnelle, à leur dépense fastueuse, & à leurs aisances, plaisirs ou amusements sans cesse multipliés.

(It is in the employment of these goods of the church that there is abuse, and the abuse is enormous; because our clerics of today aspire to be appointed to service the benefices for the poor, so as to be able to appropriate them. It seems that the revenue in tithe or rent, of which they should be the distributors, with a moderate reserve for their food, is only intended for their personal enjoyment, for their luxurious spending, and for their ease, pleasures or ceaselessly multiplied amusements.)
Such people, of course, are in desperate need the virtue of Temperance.

In an earlier part of the essay, the author talks about the rights and responsibilities of agriculture, those who farm the land (p. 19).
Examinons les besoins & les ressources particulieres de chaque order, & d'abord commenÇons par l'agriculture. Les citoyens laborieux qui exercent cette utile profession, demandent la liberté de semer, planter, cueillir & débiter leurs récoltes à leur plus grand avantage; ils demandent à être propriétaires paisibles, maîtres & seigneurs des champs qu'ils cultivent: nullement envieux des jouissances des citadins, le ravissant spectacle de la nature remplace pour eux les frivoles amusements des villes.

(Let us examine the needs and particular resources of each order, and first let us begin with agriculture. The laborious citizens who exercise this useful profession, ask for the freedom to sow, to plant, to gather and to sell their harvests to their best advantage; they ask to be peaceful owners, masters and lords of the fields that they cultivate: by no means envious of the enjoyments of the city-dwellers, the charming spectacle of nature replaces for them frivolous amusements of the cities.)
He goes on to talk about the other classes. In the priestly class he includes all engaged in arts, sciences, and letters, not just priests: doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, writers, and so on. They provide important services to the community and ask for an honest subsistence proportionate to the needs of their families and the security of their old age, as well as

In the military he includes all those who risk their lives with arms for the public good. They deserve protection in their old age and in case of disability, and the honors that customarily go to heroes.

The commercial class are those citizens who work in the lucrative profession of commerce of manufacturing (p. 20).
Les citoyens industrieux qui se livrent à la profession lucrative du commerce & des manufactures, demandent au gouvernement liberté pour leurs échanges, & protection pour leurs manufactures. La moindre entrave dans la circulation leur est très-préjudiciable; & dans l'importation & l'exportation des marchandises, leur cote-part de contribution doit être prélevée de la maniere la moins gênante.

10 pour 100 de la valeur sur tout ce qui est importé ou exporté, paroît un tribut convenable.

(The industrious citizens who are engaged in the lucrative profession of commerce and manufacturing ask the government for freedom for their exchanges, and protection for their factories. The slightest obstacle to circulation is very-harmful to them; and in the import and the export of the goods, their part of the contribution must be taken in the least annoying manner.

10 for 100 of the value on all that is imported or exported, appears a suitable levy.)

I think this shows what the fifth cards are doing at the apexes of the four pyramids in the "Temple of Fire" diagram. These Aces constitute exactly one tenth of the number cards in each suit. So they represent the tenth of the wealth that is administered by the representatives of each class..

In the case of agriculture and commerce, a tenth is given by them to the government. The other classes, however, are not engaged in making and selling goods for profit, and already get just enough for their needs. So their tax, in this ideal society, should be less (p. 21):
Les ordres, quoique également utiles, ne peuvent offrir un tribut égal; parce que ce tribut est proportionné aux richesses, & que les richesses sont spécialement le partage des deux orders extrêmes, l'agriculture & le commerce; tandis que les distinctions honorifiques sont les principaux biens possedés par les deux orders moyens, le sacerdoce & la milice. Ces Derniers ne peuvent guère, en conséquence, offrir qu'un léger don à la patrie, lorsque les premiers offrent la dècime de leurs récoltes, de leurs échanges, 35, 49, 63, 77: Réglez, au contraire, les dépenses du gouvernement sur la contribution perÇue, & jamais les terreurs de la dette publique ne troubleront votre repos.

(The orders, although equally useful, cannot offer an equal levy; because this levy is proportioned by wealth, and because the wealth is especially the share of the two extreme orders, agriculture and commerce; whereas honorific distinctions are the main goods possessed by the two orders in the middle, the priesthood and the militia. The latter can hardly, accordingly, offer only a light donation to the homeland, when the former offer the tenth of their harvests, of their exchanges, 35, 49, 63, 77: Adjust, on the contrary, the expenses of the government to the contributions received, and the terrors of the national debt will never disturb your rest.)
That explains the four small pyramids (5 numbers each) of the "Temple of Memphis" (which Hugand also, p. 13, calls "colonnes", columns, of that edifice). They are the noblest members of the four classes, "notables" rather than "nobles", extracted from the four classes themselves. They are the most notable persons, the most distinguished citizens in each class, in four ranks, two crowned and two not. The crowns do not mean that they are sovereigns; that distinction is elsewhere. But they act on the Monarch's behalf; they "determine and balance the needs and resources of the government" (p. 16) The uncrowned ones serve under them and aspire to their position. And since they embody the virtues, "their virtues are their titles" ("ses virtus sont ses titres", p. 17)..

In the "Temple of Memphis" diagram, the large upside down semi-triangle is of course the trumps, 22 of them. Then the four rows on the outside (the "walls" of the edifice, p. 13) are the common people in each class.

What we have is the social structure of ancient Egyptian society, which is an ideal to which the socially concerned people of all nations should aspire. The lack of such a government in France is perhaps why the author calls those represented by the court cards "Notables" rather than "Nobles": the implication is that those who call themselves Nobles in France are often not such.

But more needs to be said about fifth inverted pyramid, the large one in the center, in relation to the Monarch himself. Here is our author (pp. 14-15):

1, 8, 15, Dieu se repose sur le monarque du bonheur de son peuple.

2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Image sensible du Créateur, & son représentant sur la terre, le Monarque doit correspondre à son divin exemplaire; il doit, en quelque sorte, créer un nouvel univers, en procurant à son peuple tous les biens qui sont en son pouvoir.

9, 10, 11, 12. La justice, la tempérance, la force & la prudence, vertus départies aux hommes par la munificence d'un Dieu, composent le diadème invisible & sacré qui couronne sa tête auguste.

13, 14, 16, 17. Son peuple multiplié sait sa véritable force; il en est le juge supreme. La vie du dernier des citoyens est sous la protection immédiate du chef. La faulse meurtriere & vengeresse, attend ses ordres pour moissonner les ennemis de son peuple; mais la prudence seule a droit de les dicter.

18, 19, 20, 21. Instituteur de son peuple, il doit en surveiller l'éducation; il peut, il doit punir & récompenser. Arbitre de la paix & de la guerre, ce n'est qu'à l'extrêmité qu'il doit s'y résoudre.

0 -- Cette lame, par ses significations apposées, prévient le monarque, qu'après avoir jugé son peuple pendant son court passage, il en sera lui-même sévèrement jugé; & que, selon qu'il aura bien ou mal usé son pouvoir, il sera l'objet du mépris ou de la vénération de son peuple.

(1, 8, 15, God reposes on the monarch the happiness of his people.

2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, The sensible image of the Creator, and his representative on the earth, the Monarch has to correspond to his divine exemplar; he must, in a way, create a new universe, by getting to his people all the goods that are in his power.

9, 10, 11, 12. Justice, temperance, strength and prudence, the virtues allocated to the people by the generosity of a God, compose the invisible and sacred diadem which crowns the august head.

13, 14, 16, 17. His multiplied people know his real strength; he is the supreme judge. The life of the lleast of the citizens is under the immediate protection of their chief. The murderous and vengeful scythe [An old meaning of "faulx" per Wiktionary] awaits its orders to harvest the enemies of his people; but prudence alone is entitled to dictate them.

18, 19, 20, 21. Teacher of his people, he has to watch their education; he can, he must punish and reward. Arbiter of peace and war, it is that in the extremity that he has to be resolute.

0 - this card, by its affixed meanings, warns the monarch, that having judged his people during his short passage, he will be severely judged himself; and that, as he will indeed have well or badly used his(its) power, he will be the object of the contempt or worship of his people.)
So the large pyramid is all about the Monarch and his power. The Monarch himself is denoted by card 15, as he says explicitly later on (p. 37, which I will quote a bit later): the Magician, who has the power to heal or cause illness. In this application, the question is: Will he rule according to virtue against those who are vicious, or will he be ruled by the vices himself? Both are there, both are in his power, in the universe of which he is the sole creator.

There are here two senses to the 0 card, the Fool (numbered 78 in the actual deck). It can represent defective judgment, or it can represent the sagacity to be expected of the representative of God. Hugand is basing himself on what Etteilla wrote in 1787, in Lecons Théorique et Practique du Livre de Thot, p. 57:

Le Fou, ou mieux l'Homme, a de même deux côtés opposés: celui de sa nature matérielle se lie avec ses vices moraux & physiques, & le côté de sa naature spirituelle se lie avec sex vertus morales & physiques.

(The Madman, or better, Man, has two opposite sides: that of his material nature is bound up with his moral and physical vices [or defects], and the side of his spiritual nature is bound up with his moral and physical virtues.)

In a reformulation of this point in a later section (p. 37), Hugand makes the point without employing the 0 card, a number he put at the apex of a pyramid representing the notables instead, so as to make the same point about them. In this new configuration, he says of the Monarch's own pyramid:

Le 0, employé dans la pyramide précédente, il reste pour celle du Souverain 21 lames. Ce nombre étant triangulaire, voyons à les ordonner.


Reste six lames à employer, absolument subordonées à la lame cotée 15, que nous avons dit représentative du Monarque. Elles peuvent être placées de deux maniéres: ou en une seule ligne, à la base de la pyramide, aux places marquées *; mais alors les vices moraux domineront le Monarque, & le livreront, ainsi que son peuple, à tous les fléaux physiques qui en son la punition inévitable; ou bien ces lames formeront une nouvelle pyramide inférieure & dépendante de celle ci-dessus, en cette forte:


Le Monarque, alors digne par ses vertus de représenter sur terre le Monarque des Cieux, tient enchaînées les vices & les fléaux; ordonne son petit monde; répand sur son peuple la fécondité par d'heureux mariages; les connoissances & les lumières par de sages instructions; & voyant son peuple multiplié & instruit, le Monarque jouit alors d'un repos inaltérable dans le sein des vertus; & s'élève par la religon, jusqu'au souverain & unique Créateur de toutes choses, qui, dans sa bonté, l'a institué son représentant.

(The 0 being employed in the previous pyramid, there remain for the Sovereign 21 cards. This number being triangular, let us see their arrangement.


There remain six cards to be used, absolutely subordinate to the card listed 15, that we called representative of the Monarch. They can be placed in two manners: in a single line, at the base of the pyramid, on the places marked *; but then the moral vices will dominate the Monarch, and will deliver him, as well as his people, to all the physical plagues which are the inevitable punishment; or these cards will form a new pyramid, lower and dependent on that above, in this way:


The Monarch, then deserving by his virtues to represent on earth the Monarch of Heavens, holds enchained the vices and plagues; orders his small world; spreads fertility on his people by happy marriages; knowledge and light by wise instructions; and seeing his people multiplied and educated, the Monarch enjoys then an unchanging rest in the breast of the virtues; and rises by religion up to the sovereign and unique Creator of all things who, in his kindness, established him as his representative.)

In the large inverted pyramid that ends Hugand's presentation, there is again the 0 at the apex. It is not only a question for the sovereign, but for the whole people, whether it is to be ruled by ignorance or wisdom.

Of course all this is in the context of revolutionary France, in which the monarch will in fact be brought before the people's representatives and tried for his acts of omission and commision.

Hugand observes, in the middle of the page I presented, that the Egyptians knew very well the power of triangular configurations, in fact equilateral ones such as he used in his later presentation. Their own Great Pyramid was nearly as high as it was wide, he notes--unlike the ones shown on the tarot deck, cards 13, 15, and 19, which are in the Greek style. (Actually I see pyramids on cards 5, 17 and perhaps 2.) In arithmetic textbooks, such as were still used in Etteilla's time, I would add, numbers that formed such equilateral triangles were called "triangular numbers", just as those forming squares (4, 9, etc) were called "square numbers" and cubes "cubic numbers". These textbooks originated with the Introduction to Arithmetic of the ancient Neopythagorean Nichomachus of Gerasa (

I still haven't got to the strange signs around the edges of the diagram of the "Temple of Fire". I'll get to those later.


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.

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:
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:
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):
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:
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:
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 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:
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:
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.
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


While Etteilla does not make any correlations between Geniuses and particular cards, he does say (pp. 111-112) that it is possible to calculate what number (from 1 to 72) a person’s Genius is, and from that look up its name in Etteilla’s chart. To get the number, all you need to know are the initials of the person’s first and last name and their favorite number, chosen by

He also writes of Palingene in Le zodiaque mysterieux (p.8). On p.13 a conjured spirit says:

. . . mon nom est compose de huit lettres; mais en las premiere et la derniere de ton alphabet, si tu les sais lier, tu le trouveras parfait.

It goes on to say (p.14)

Garde-toi de mêler le sacré avec le profane. Apprends que je suis un esprit de la soixant8e- et-douzième classe, et non celui par exellence à qui tu dois de purs et divins sacrifices.

(However, the 72 names have only 5 letters (if one include the yh or al suffix), not 8.)

Perhaps the letter conversion chart is the same one as in there?

a 4
b 6
c 26
d 18
e 12
f 4
g 21
h 28
i 11
k 10
l 12
m 19
n 11
o 9
p 12
q 8
r 12
s 4
t 6
v 9
x 13
y 2
z 3

u, j and w = 0



Thanks for the reference, Kwaw, I will look at it.

Etteilla gave his number/letter correspondences earlier in the book, p. 43. I discovered them after posting. They are as follows:

1. 3. 4. 7. 9. 2. 4. 6. 8. 10. 11.
A. E. I. O. U. B. D. C. F. G. -H.

12. 33. 44. 55. 66. 77. 88.
-J. --K. -L. -M. -N. -P. --Q.

90. 20. 30. 40. 50. 60. 70. 80.
-R. -S. -T. --V. -X. -Y. -Z. --&.

He leaves out U and W, but includes &. He also has I. Then he gives an example. The name "Ismael Ozias" converts to the initials J. O., which convert to 12 and 7. We then add the number 36 to that sum. I am not sure why 36 is chosen; it may be something one does no matter what the example (half of 72), or it might be what you get by adding 10 to the person's favorite number, which in Ismael's case was 26. The result in this example is 55. Then you add to that sum of the two numbers corresponding to the planets and signs of Leo and the Part of Fortune in the 11th house, from a table Etteilla provides. The reason for the 11th house is that it is the house of good geniuses, as he has said in the 4th Cahier. I don't see why Leo and the Part of Fortune are chosen--Ismael was born on March 10 or 11--or how one knows what numbers to choose among the seven (only) he gives for the 11th house. In our example, we have 55 + 71+ 70 = 196. We then divide that number by 72 (the total number of geniuses). The remainder is the number of the person’s Genius, in this case 52 = Harabel.

If you wish to examine this matter further, I would be happy to transcribe the French.


I have made some additions to my timeline,, for the years 1793, 1800, and 1809, based on new research by Huck.

And I have two more additions on the theme of "Etteilla card variants" pertaining to the Grand Etteilla I designs.

First, I have found one other difference between Etteilla's 1789 cards and the cards later produced by Grimaud, which continue even today except for changes in the keywords. DDD had noticed two changes, saying of the 1789 cards purchased by Depaulis (p. 91):
All of the purchased cards are identical to their modern reproductions, save card 1 ('Questionnant. / Etteilla.') which has no light-burst and card 14 where the two little people surrounjding the devil have no loincloths.
They later observe the changes in keywords in the modern Grimaud, and also another difference, the presence of the second numbers on cards 13-17, which Grimaud removed from the 19th century on (p. 93).

Now I have found a fourth difference The word "THOT", which in 1789 was printed on Prudence's belt, was removed in the Grimaud editions. In DDD the word is very hard to see. However I enlarged the image in the book, making it clearly visible

"THOT" also occurs in the German version of the card as it appeared in the deck published by Baumgartner in Leipzig 1793 (DDD p. 100). Below is a link to my enlargement of the card that Kaplan, vol. 2 (p. 402), reproduces. (As DDD persuasively argue, Kaplan is mistaken in saying that the card is mid-nineteenth century.):

I cannot find this "THOT" on Prudence's belt in any other version of the deck besides these two.

Etteilla himself clearly specified that the word "THOT" should appear on the belts of all four virtues (3rd Cahier), even though in the Cahiers themselves, where the four cardinal virtues appear as the frontispieces of the four Cahiers, the word does not appear on any of them.

The second additional variation I want to call attention to is one that may have been noticed by Sumada, although he does not call attention to it in his "treasure box" (see That is, the version of the deck put out by Pussey, of which Sumada gives us an example, is not the same as that put out by Grimaud, in that Pussey's does have the second numbers on cards 13-17. However it does make the three other changes from the 1789 originals that I have just talked about, including the absence of "THOT' on Prudence. Sumada gives a link to a British Museum copy of the deck, which is just the same as his, except for small differences in coloration. The Pussey decks were hand-colored, so that it is to be expected. The back of the cards is also the same. Both these decks have a tax-stamp on the 2 of Swords, indicating that they were done in 1890 or later.

I have seen pictures of a third deck, exactly the same except for rather marked differences in coloration, a very different back, and no tax stamp on any card (indicating that it was done before April of 1890). This deck is in the possession of LeTarot Associazione Culturale in Italy. Some examples from that deck are below. First, for the back and 2 of Swords:'Etteilla+010a.jpg

Second, for the two numbers and the clothed figures of 14:'Etteilla+003a.jpg

Third, the sunburst and lettering:'Etteilla+001a.jpg

And finally, Prudence, where I wonder--here as also in the case of Sumada's and the British Museum's Prudences--whether some letters had been there but somehow were erased or painted over. But it doesn't look much like "THOT".'Etteilla+002a.jpg
Whether one is justified in calling this deck a Pussey, and when it was done, prior to 1890, I am not sure. Sumada's pictures are not large enough for me to see even whether it is the same engraving.


Sumada's Treasure Box is moving...

Very interesting find Mike!

HOWEVER, for those of you who do ever click the links to images given above - they will only work until December 1st, because Multiply is pulling the plug on sites like mine and becoming a "selling only" site.

But don't worry - everything is gradually moving to flickr :~)

You can now find my Etteilla decks here:-

...and a huge Prudence here:-

...where one can see there is positively no "THOT"

Keep up the good work Mike.



MikeH said:
Earlier I considered Payne-Towler's suggestion that Etteilla is inspired by the Poimandres, the first part of the Corpus Hermeticum. De Mellet might be borrowing from that source when he speaks of the “Creation of Man” card. Here is de Mellet, again from Tarotpedia:
Thot voulut exprimer la Création de l'Homme par la peinture d'Osiris, ou le Dieu générateur, du porte-voix ou Verbe qui commande à la matiere, & par des Langues de Feu qui s'échappent de la nuée, l'Esprit [Peint même dans nos Historiens sacrés.] de Dieu ranimant cette même matiere...

Thoth wanted to express the Creation of Man by the painting of Osiris, or generating God, with the speaking pipe or Verb with which matter is ordered, & by tongues of fire which escape from the cloud, and the Spirit [Painted even by our crowned historians] of God reviving this same matter...

I really must get round to cleaning that (mostly google) translation up! A 'porte-voix' is a mouthpiece or speaking-trumpet (i.e., a megaphone), and in the context here (Judgement card as creation) I presume is a reference to the angels trumpet, and 'ou verbe' would be better translated as 'or the Word' (i.e., Mellet is interpreting the 'speaking-trumpet' as an emblem of "the Word which commands/orders matter").


This is what Etteilla writes in his book: "Les sept nuances de l'oeuvre philosophique hermétique" from 1785:

I already spoke to the Freemasons, page 81 from the "Second Cahier des Tarots" or better, in the third book of the "Philosophie des Hautes Sciences" and though I do not belong to any Lodge, I have for all what is the real Masonry as much respect as a brother may have who knows the origin and understands the aim, the wisdom and the high sciences.
All the little names of Lodges and Degrees indicate more madness than wisdom and all the external apparitions
(he means "rites " in a pejorative way) are more the sign of ignorance rather than of science.

If one believes what he writes, it seems as if Etteilla at least in 1785, was not a Freemason.

Best regards


When Etteilla writes he has 'spoke' to the Freemasons:
J’ai déjà adressé la parole aux Francs-Maçons, page 81, second Cahier des Tarots, ou mieux, tome troisième de la Philosophie des Hautes Sciences,

Does this mean he has addressed them in his books (second Book of Tarot, p.81 & better, in the third book of the "Philosophie des Hautes Sciences"), or directly (as a guest speaker)? (Pretty sure it means he addressed them in his books - but just want to make certain.)

From the rest of the passage am I right to infer that when he speaks of 'real' Masonry, he is talking of that revealed in the Book of Thoth (the Tarot), to those who know how to interpret the hieroglyphs? And suggesting that is the 'High Masonry' to which true Disciples belong?

Etteilla said:
Si j’étais seulement Amateur, croyant à la Science du grand Hermès, aurais-je quelque confiance en celle d’Etteilla ? Je ne le crois pas. Quel mélange, que de faiblesse, que de forces ! Qui conçoit l’homme simple & de bon entendement.

J’ai déjà adressé la parole aux Francs-Maçons, page 81, second Cahier des Tarots, ou mieux, tome troisième de la Philosophie des Hautes Sciences, & quoique je ne sois point reçu Membre d’aucune Loge, j’ai pour tout ce qui est de vraie Maçonnerie, autant de respect que puisse en avoir un frère qui en connaît l’origine & en conçoit le but, la Sagesse & les Hautes Sciences. Toutes les petites dénominations de Loges & de grades, annoncent plus la folie que la sagesse, & tous les simulacres extérieurs annoncent plus l’ignorance que la science.

Ce que je dis n’est pas par esprit de critique, mais par la sévérité que doit avoir un vrai Disciple de la Haute Maçonnerie.

L’origine de la Maçonnerie date du moment où le premier homme fut né mis en puissance de Sciences & de Sagesse.

Dans les enfants de Noé ce fut Cham & ses premiers descendants qui en firent un objet réglé ; car pour Sem & Japhet ils la nourrirent purement dans leur cœur, & leurs premiers descendants ne s’en occupèrent plus.
Les révolutions éloignèrent l’esprit pur de la Maçonnerie, & le coup de marteau fut seul conservé, parce qu’il rappelait sous les ailes de quelques Vénérables épars, les Disciples effrayés & éplorés.

A la vérité vint se mêler la Fable, & bientôt on osa frapper ce marteau sacré pour la perfidie.

La vérité intérieure de la Maçonnerie rappela tous les hommes, c’est où ils en sont ; mais il fallait à beaucoup d’eux ce vil dehors extérieur, qui bientôt amena tout ce superficiel étranger à la vraie Maçonnerie, superficiel qui éloigna les hommes faits, & ne donna assez généralement dans les Loges que des Vénérables instruits des simulacres, & mettant en usage les imaginations toujours renaissantes des Frères prétendus plus savants que les autres.

« Si la vraie Maçonnerie eût subsisté, les Frères auraient parlé tout haut, & le Mystère n’aurait existé que dans l’Œuvre. »

C’est ce que les Egyptiens avaient parfaitement rendu sur le quinzième feuillet du Livre de Thot, pages 24 & suivantes du même Tome ou quatrième Livre.

« Sur une table ou autel, à hauteur de la poitrine des Mages, étaient d’un côté un Livre ou une suite de feuillets ou lames d’or (le Livre de Thot) & de l’autre côté un vase plein d’une liqueur Céleste Astrale, composée d’un tiers de miel sauvage, d’une part d’eau terrestre & d’une part d’eau céleste, .... »

« Le Secret, le Mystère était donc dans le vase & dans la science de lire les sublimes Hiéroglyphes, tracés sur les soixante & dix-huit lames qui renferment la Science de l’Univers entier, de Gébelin, » en son huitième volume, Discours sur le Tarot. J’entends donc dire que répudiant en Loge tout ce qui s’appelle épreuves, il ne soit que celles d’interpréter le Livre deThot, où est toutes sciences humaines, & en second mettre un vase vide sur l’autel, ou si l’on veut, la table, jusqu’à ce que les Frères aient mis dedans la chose unique & l’aient conduite à son plus haut degré de perfection.


Looking on p. 81 of the 2nd Cahier, I see that Etteilla does speak of Masonry, in a footnote, which is the same as the sentence he quotes in the passage you gave.

(1) Si la véritable Maçonnerie eût subsistée, les Freres auroient parlé tout haut, & le mystere n'auroit existé que dans l'oeuvre.

((1) If the true Masonry had remained, the Brothers would have spoken out loud, and the mystery would have existed only in the work.)

So my guess is that when he says, in the passage you quoted, that he "spoke to the Francs-Masons p. 81" of the 2nd Cahier, etc., he means "spoke to" in the sense of "spoke about". Then the "véritable Maçonnerie" would be what he calls the "high sciences", which includes tarot as one of its parts. I can't remember what he says the other parts are. (Dream interpretation, palmistry?) On p. 81ff of the 2nd Cahier, the context is alchemy: Dufresnoy, Roger Bacon, Gebert, Philalete, Trevisan, Dom Perneti, Saint-Maur, and the "grand Hermes," and ultimately from Adam, Noah, etc.