Etteilla Timeline and Etteilla card Variants - background


See post #70

Pages 18-21


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Since the way one treats card number 8 is exactly parallel to the way one treats number 1, with the genders reversed, I will go on immediately to discuss the explication of that card. Again, if you want just to see my end-result, go to the end of this post and scroll up a bit to "To sum up..."

Here are the c. 1838 pages for card 8.


The Dusserre French version is almost the same; only a few words are different, which will be discussed as we go.

For the first paragraph, Cerulean has:
1. This card is for the consultant; if the person you are doing the reading for is feminine, then you take the card in play and pose it at the beginning of the line that you are explaining; if the consultant is the male, you will retrieve it from the line and replace it as per the instructions (written earlier).
What the c. 1838 version has is as follows:
Cette carte est la personne pour quie on consulte; si elle ne vient pas parmi celles que vous aurez tirees, et que la personne pour qui vous faites les cartes est une femme, vous prendrez cette carte dans le jeu et la poserez au commencement de la ligne que vous devez expliquer; si le consultant est un homme vous la retirerez de votre ligne et la remplacerez comme il est dit page 45.
Or in English, literally, “This card is the person for whom we consult; if it does not come among those which you will have drawn, and the person for whom you do the cards is a woman, you will take this card into play and will put it at the beginning of the line that you have to explain; if the consultant is a man you will remove it from your line and will replace it as it is said on page 45.”

Notice that here the troublesome verb “sortir” we met in the explication of card 1 has been replaced by “venir,” to come (present tense “vient”)—they mean the same, as we see in Dusserre. The reference back to page 45 is another parallel.

The Dusserre French version of this passage is almost exactly the same as the c. 1838's. The only difference is that it has “page 8” instead of “page 45.” Page 8 is where in the Dusserre the material may be found that in the c. 1838 is on page 45.

The Dusserre translation reads,
This card represents the one for whom you are making the reading. If it doesn’t appear among the cards you have drawn, and if the Enquirer is a woman, you must take this card out of the pack and place it at the head of the line you are interpreting. If the Enquirer is a man, you must take it out of the line and replace it as explained on page 9.
As a translation of Dusserre’s French, the only thing wrong is that instead of “take this card out of the pack,” the more literal “take this card into play” is better, as in Cerulean’s translation, because the card might not be in the pack but rather in one of the six other lines. But Cerulean has left out the part about “if the card does not come up among those you will have drawn.” For the end of the passage, Cerulean’s 1890 French text is perhaps clearer than its explication of card 1, because Cerulean says: “replace it as per the instructions,” as opposed to "replace it (with the appropriate card)."

Here Dusserre does give the proper page reference (page 9 is of course where the English translation of page 8 is); but Dusserre forgets to say also, in contrast to what it said for card 1, that you must also replace card 8 with card 1 (something that was not said in the instructions).

So my translation of the passage would be, interpolating a part from Dusserre’s French text for card 1 in one place, and adding some exposition of my own, gleaned from the instructions for laying out the cards:

“This card is the person for whom you are doing the reading. If it does not appear among the cards you have drawn, and the Enquirer is a woman, you will put this card into play [from wherever it is, out of play] and place it at the head of the line that you are interpreting. If the Enquirer is a man, you will replace it [with card 1 and do] as is said on p. 9 [which says to put it at the head of the line and replace it with a card drawn at random from the pack].”

Cerulean’s translation of the next paragraph is ok, and so is Dusserre’s. Here is Cerulean’s:
2. The circles around the feminine represent the labyrinths of the future, what her imagination contains and troubles her; but soon the oracle will speak, and the future is to be known.
And Dusserre:
The circles round the woman represent life’s labyrinths which will entangle her mind, but soon the cards will talk and she will know her future.
And the French
Les cercles qui entourent cette femme, representent les labyrinthes de l’avenir dans laesquels son imagination se trouve embarrassee; mais bientot l’oracle aura parle, cet avenir lui sera connu.
The only question is how to best translate, after saying that the circles around the woman represent the labyrinths, that they are those “dans lesquels son imagination se trouve embarrassee.”

Cerulean says “what her imagination contains and troubles her.” Dusserre has “which will entangle her mind.” I would say, more literally than Dusserre, “in which her imagination is entangled.” I like “entangled” because it captures the sense of emotional agitation contained in the word “embarrassee” here, while also keeping to the metaphor of the woman enclosed by the circles. That agitation appears also in the keywords for the reverseds (which is what pertains to the Questionnante) in the c. 1838 text (p. 158): “Imitation. Jardin d’Eden. Effervescence. Bouilonnement. Fermentation. Ferment. Levain. Acidite. (It is the same in the English translation of Papus, Divinatory Tarot p. 13: "Imitation, Gaden of Eden, effervescence, seething, fermentation, ferment, leaven, acidity.")

Cerulean’s “contains and troubles her” expresses the element of “ferment” well, but it changes the original sentence structure; and the word “contains” is unnecessary as long as you have “in” (the French “dans”).

So I would say (keeping the English as close as possible to the French while still making sense):

“The circles that surround this woman represent the labyrinths of the future in which her imagination is entangled, but soon the oracle will have spoken, [and] this future will be known to her.”

This reference to the circles around the woman is a clear give-away that the Dusserre text was originally written for the Etteilla II rather than the Etteilla III that accompanies the Dusserre cards: there are no circles around the woman in the Etteilla III version, which shows a “garden of Eden” scene instead (a phrase that occurs in the c. 1838’s word-list).


Cerulean’s translation for the section on card 8 stops here. In the original c. 1838 and in the Dusserre, the explication continues:
Around cards no. 9, 13, 35, the prediction is auspicious despite nearby cards no. 14, 17, and 18, where it is ominous.

If it comes upright, you must be careful because of traps around you.

Nevertheless, if it is near no. 50, and inverted, your enemies will be caught in theirs [sic] own traps.

The ancients debated a lot about meaning of this card, but Etteilla is the only one who succeeded in fathoming its real meaning.
For this entire passage, I see no discrepancies between Dusserre’s French version that of c. 1838. But there are a couple of instances of careless translation into English.

(1) The Dusserre inexplicably adds the word “despite” to combine two sentences. The correct translation is “Around cards no. 9, 13, 15, the prediction is auspicious. It is a bad sign when near no. 14, 17, and 18.”

(2) In the next sentence, Dusserre’s “If it comes upright” is literally, “If it comes from top to bottom,” (Si elle vient du haut en bas). That sounds to me like “upside down.” Also, the next sentence says “Si elle est a cote de no. 50, egalement renverse...”: if it is near no. 50, equally reversed.” Dusserre resolves the issue by removing the “egalement” (“equally”) from the later sentence and saying that “du haut en bas” means “upright.” I do not think that is justified. The rest of the sentence about the supposed “upright” interpretation is “...the card asks you to keep on your guard.” Looking at the synonym-lists for card 8, only the reverseds give any indication that one should be on one’s guard. The Uprights have “repose, tranquility, solitary life,” etc. The reverseds have “Imitation, Gaden of Eden, effervescence, seething, fermentation, ferment, leaven, acidity." So I think the correct translation is “If it appears upside down...”

And in fact in the exposition of card 5, the Dusserre translates “du haut en bas as “inverted,” which is the same as “reversed.” The meaning is more obvious there, but the translator didn’t think about no. 5 when he was translating no. 8! I will discuss that passage a few posts from now.

To sum up, here is my English version of the entire explication of card 8, as I see it, basing myself on the c. 1438 and Dusserre French texts. The parts in square brackets are my comments and interpolations:


This card is the person for whom you are doing the reading. If it does not appear among the cards you have drawn, and the Enquirer is a woman, you will put this card into play [from wherever it is, out of play] and place it at the head of the line that you are interpreting. If the Enquirer is a man, you will replace it [with card 1 and do] as is said on p. 9 [which says to put it at the head of the line and replace it with a card drawn at random from the pack].

The circles that surround this woman represent the labyrinths of the future in which her imagination is entangled; but soon the oracle will have spoken, [and] this future will be known to her.

Beside nos. 9, 13, 35, it is a good omen. It is a bad sign when near nos. 14, 17, and 18.

If it appears upside down, it asks that you keep on your guard, for you are surrounded by traps which you must search out and remove by every means possible. However if it is found near no. 50 equally reversed, your enemies will themselves be victims of the traps they have set for you.

The ancients much discussed this card; but they nearly all mistook its true signification; Etteilla alone succeeded in grasping its true meaning.”

So far, I would agree with Cerulean that the Dusserre’s English translations are not reliable, at least for cards 1 and 8. In part that is because of carelessness, and in part because of unclarities in the French text. Translating this stuff into clear but precise English requires a lot of thought. But perhaps cards 1 and 8 are the hardest of the bunch.


Thanks for the scans, Coredil. That is very much what I was asking for. I will study them, to see what they tell me about why the cards are the way they are and how they relate to the milieu of French cartomancy with tarot cards in which the “seven days of creation” played a part. Some of the French doesn't look too difficult. These pages are very relevant to understanding the Etteilla I cards, i.e. the original 1789 and its close variants.

In the meantime, I want to say why I like examining the texts of Etteilla’s followers. I am interested in the history of cartomancy with tarot cards before Levi, Papus, and the Golden Dawn. The Etteilla decks are part of that history. This thread, which was initiated by Cerculean, is mostly about tracing the various Etteilla deck variants. An important aspect of the Etteilla decks is that they come with handbooks for how to use them, which connects them with the rather extensive (compared with the Marseille) writing on the cards. So we have the history of these handbooks to consider along with the decks themselves.

The “Julia Orsini” texts have variants and a timeline just like the decks they were attached to. So just like tracing the changes in a card, we can trace the changes in the writings about that card. We can trace a text back in time, and find out what parts of it got revised or suppressed, and what parts are new. We can see new interpretations of old symbolism, or see what part of the old has been retained and what forgotten.

We can also use “Julia Orsini” to discover the sources of later writings on the tarot, notably Waite’s. James Revak has done the most to connect Etteilla and Waite. However he only used Papus as his source; it is quite clear to me that Waite also used “Julia Orsini”—but which version, I have yet to know.

Another thing is that the texts, parts of them, have English translations. So we can evaluate how good the translations are, what their limits are, and what more is needed. Reading books in translation is for me a lot easier than reading the original. I will be able to find where “Julia Orsini” is similar to Waite a lot faster from a translation. Learning about French cartomancy is a lot easier from a translation. There is only the question of the accuracy and completeness of the translation, and how far it extends to the various versions of the text. That’s what I’m working on.

My own interest in Etteilla is primarily in the divinatory keywords associated with his name, as one expression of a tradition that goes backwards as far as the time of the real Giulia Orsini (I hypothesize) and forward to Edgar Waite. For that, the 19th century “Julia Orsini” texts are quite relevant, not only for their extensive word-lists but also for the accounts they give for a card in the exposition section on the cards. For this part of the cartomancy, I wish I could consult O’Doucet and La Salette, but I don’t know where they are available.

So that is why I am doing what I am doing.



I have now looked at 4 versions of L'Art de Tirer les Cartes (The Art of Reading the Cards), by “Julia Orsini.” I checked the English translation in the c. 2001 Editions Dusserre booklet (56 pp.) against the French text (56 pp) on the facing pages. (The Editions Dussere booklet comes boxed with an Etteilla III deck, but it was obviously written for an Etteilla II, as we can tell by references in the text to two children on card 2, a woman on card 5, etc.—neither exist in the Etteilla III version.) I have checked both against the French text in the c. 1838 book I copied in Las Vegas (212 pp.). I have also checked all three against selected pages of the “Lismon” booklet that a reader of this thread was kind enough to send me copies of. (It am unsure just when this booklet was printed. The deck it comes with has a date stamp on the 2 of Swords with the year 1890; however without a tax stamp I don’t think a date stamp is an official dating. I will call it “c. 1890” until I know more.)


I find that the Dusserre English translation agrees with the Dusserre French text at least 99% of the time. (I have so far closely read half of both texts.) All that is needed to make that 100% is a short sheet listing errata. That is of some importance, because the mistakes the translator does make are often big ones. For example, he or she translates the French phrase “du haut au bas” (literally, from the top to the bottom) once as “upright” and then again as “reversed.” Surely the sense of “du haut au bas” does not change that radically from card to card! To do so would make the phrase useless.

Otherwise, the only odd thing about the two Dusserre texts is the paragraphing. The English translation is divided into many more paragraphs than the French is. In the French, unrelated sentences are put together in one paragraph and then some related sentences are put in a new paragraph. That is less true of the English. It is as though the editor, finding that the French text had more words than the translation, kept them parallel by arbitrarily combining paragraphs on the French side.

Comparing the c. 1838 French text with the Dusserre French text has been totally fascinating. The Dusserre is based on two sections of the c. 1838, one on how to lay out the cards (I compared the texts in post ) and the other a series of 78 “explications.” Once one gets past the explications of cards 1 and 8, the differences are quite colorful. The Dusserre is clearly based on the c. 1838: 90% or so of its wording is exactly the same. The other 10% can get wild. In general, the Dusserre source text smoothed out the extremes in the c. 1838. No longer, in the majors, do we get predictions of ladies’ honor being ruined, of best friends fighting duels, and of precious “moments filled with the delights of love” (changed to “pleasant daydreams” in Dusserre). Later, in the minors, the Dusserre does have one duel, predicted to end in a “good lunch” (bon dejeuner); in the c. 1838, the Enquirer is predicted to “vanquish” his opponent. Certain explications are extensively rewritten from the c. 1838, notably those for cards 14-19, from the Devil to the Ruined Tower. “Julia Orsini” in the 1830s did not mince words in predicting particular fiendish activities, very specific disasters, etc. At the other extreme, to accompany the cards for the four cardinal virtues, the c. 1838 gives us extensive sermons about these virtues, omitted from the Dusserre.


Then there is the question of how the c. 1890 “Lismon” booklet relates to the other two French texts. (I say “c. 1890” for want of anything more definite; and please understand that the information and images that I am posting from this rare booklet are for educational purposes only.) Looking at the sample pages, it is clear to me that it is an abridgement of the Dusserre’s source text. The c. 1890 leaves out many sentences of the Dusserre, occasionally even parts of sentences (e.g.s: for no. 28 Dusserre has “a sign of quarrel, of domestic dispute,” c. 1890 has “domestic dispute” only; where Dusserre qualifies a prediction by saying “when following no. “, 1890 leaves out the qualification). But in every case (except two very short cases ), when the wording of the Dusserre differs from that of the c. 1838, c. 1890 corresponds to the Dusserre. Only one thing is different, besides leaving many sentences and a few phrases out, and that is the paragraphing (except, as I have said, in two places, both in the instructions, one in a footnote and one immediately after)

As can be seen in the example below, the c. 1890 (top right below) divides its text into many more paragraphs than the Dusserre French text (bottom left), and even a few more than the Dusserre’s English text (bottom right). The paragraphing, but not the wording, of the c. 1890 corresponds exactly to that of the c. 1838 (top left). (For differences in the wording notice the first and third paragraphs of the 1838 vs. 1890; then look at the Dusserre below. I will discuss one of these differences in a moment.)


As you can see, the c. 1838 (top left) and the c. 1890 (top right) are the same in paragraphing; the c. 1890 merely leaves out passages. The editor's main objective was to have one page per card. In the Dusserre (lower pair), the editor’s main objective was to have the two texts start and end on the same line. (You might also notice that in the discussion of no. 67 at the bottom of the page of the c. 1838, the beginning is the same as the Dusserre but then changes. That sort of thing happens often and is not relevant to the c. 1890, since the passage doesn't occur there.)

From this data we can conclude that the source of the c. 1890 was a text of which most sentences were like their counterpart in c. 1838 but had the changes that we see in Dusserre.

Is it possible that the Dusserre text itself is the source of the c. 1890? That would not explain the exact correspondence we see between the c. 1890’s paragraphing and the c. 1838’s. The source was something with the c. 1838’s paragraphing but with the Desserre’s wording. It was a revised version of c. 1838.


This hypothesis of a source text that I have not yet examined is confirmed by the exceptions to the two rules I already gave (rule 1: when the wording of the Dusserre differs from that of the c. 1838, the c. 1890 wording corresponds to the Dusserre; rule 2: where the 1890 differs from the Dusserre, it is only in leaving out sentences and phrases, and in the paragraphing,) These exception occur in the sample card-reading given in the preliminary chapter (unnumbered in the c. 1890).

The meaning of card 77 is given as “bonheur,” with the word put next to a rectangle standing for the card. And there is a footnote saying “Cette carte signifie parfait contentement, felicite, bonheur, etc., etc.” (“This card signifies perfect contentment, felicity, happiness, etc., etc.”). A scan is below, upper right.

In the Dusserre, the words “Bonheur, parfait contentment, felicite” are written next to the rectangle and no footnote, See lower left below.

In the c. 1838, what is next to the rectangle is “bonheur” with a footnote saying “Voyez les synonymes de cette carte qui signifie parfaite contentement, felicite, bonheur, etc., etc.” (“See the synonyms of this card which signify perfect contentment, felicity, happiness, etc. etc.”). The relevant scan is at the upper left below.



The source text common to the c. 1890 and the Dusserre retained the c. 1838’s way of putting the additional meanings into a footnote. The c. 1890 left them that way, even keeping the words “cette carte ... signifie” from c 1838. The Dusserre removed the footnote, put the synonyms in the text, and discarded the “cette carte...signifie,.” This difference is mainly one of formatting, like that of the paragraph differences. However the 1890 has the words “cette carte ... signfie,” retained from the c. 1838, and the Dusserre doesn’t. So it is one exception I have to my rule that the c. 1890 uses only phrases and sentences that are also in the Dusserre. In this case, the c. 1890 has three words (cette, carte, signifie) that are not from Dusserre; they derive from the c. 1838.

This example is additional support for my hypothesis that the c. 1890 does not merely have the Dusserre text as its source. The c. 1890 needed something more like the c. 1838, in order not only to know where to put its paragraph breaks, but also to know to put the synonyms for “bonheur” in a footnote and to use the words “cette carte...signifie.” This source was indeed exactly like the Dusserre, but with the c. 1838’s paragraphing and with a footnote where the Dusserre does not have one.

The other exception is shortly after this footnote, on top of the next page. In giving the reading, the c. 1890 says “8 La Questionnante, n. 42 est une jeane fille blonde, 13 lui annonce mariage,...” and so on (8 the Enquirer, n. 42 is a young blonde girl, 13 announces marriage,...) The Dusserre reads, “La Questionnante, une jeane fille blonde (42), lui annonce mariage (13), ...” The c. 1838 is the same as the Dusserre. It is a case of the editor of the c. 1890 trying to put things more clearly, adding an 8 (the number of the Questionnante card, although he forgot the "n.") and putting the numbers in front of the descriptions instead of in back. Actually, the reason an 8 isn’t there is because the book hasn’t explained that part yet. Since both the c. 1838 and the Dusserre are the same here, it only shows that the c. 1890 editor was thinking as he edited. We already know that; abridgers do have to think a little. Probably there are other examples of this type that I have not noticed, additions and subtractions when he thinks that they are part of good but minimal editing.

What I conclude is that after the c. 1838 was published, a second edition came out that toned down its wording to better fit Parisians’ conceptions of themselves. The c. 1890 is an abridgement of that second edition, including the elimination of the reference to the “synonymes” in the footnote just discussed. The Dusserre is the complete text of two chapters of that second edition, word for word, except for changing the paragraphing and removing one footnote by putting at least part of its content into the main text.

Here is a time-line, such as it is, for those that like such things.

c. 1838. “Julia Orsini,” ps., Le Grand Etteilla. Art de Tirer les Cartes et de Dire La Bonne Aventure, 212 pp. plus 78 “Etteilla II” type wood engravings, publisher Blocquel, chez Larue, Lille and Paris.

c. 1850 (no date in book). Hypothetical second, revised edition of c. 1838, probably same publisher, 212 pp. plus “Etteilla II" engravings. May be the book referenced in Papus, Tarot of the Bohemians chapter 7: "Grand Etteilla, ou L’Art de Tirer les Cartes, 8 vols., by Julia Orsini, 1853."

c. 1890: Booklet entitled Art de Tirer les Cartes (omitting “Le Grand Etteilla”), included with “Lismon” Etteilla II deck of that estimated year. Publisher Larue, Paris. Abridged version of c. 1850 book. It consists first, after title pages (with Julia Orsini as author) and 3 announcements of other publications, of about 16 unnumbered pages, unabridged except in one footnote and omitting the third method of reading the cards included in c. 1838. Corresponds to pp. 11-12, 41-50 of the c. 1838. Then come 78 numbered pages of “Explications des tarots ou Cartes Nomme Egyptienes Formant Le Livre du Thot,” one explication per page. Much abridged. Corresponds to pp. 52-152 of c. 1838.

Sometime between c. 1850 and c. 2001: Editions Dusserre booklet, same author, same title, included with its Etteilla III deck, “”Grand Jeu des Oracle des Dames.” French text and English translation on facing pages of 112 page booklet. Includes same sections as the c. 1890, but unabridged from c. 1850, and including the third method of reading the cards, omitted from c. 1890.

And a flow chart, for those who like that sort of thing (as for me, I’m pictorially challenged, not to mention unable to do much on a computer):



So what about the c. 1850 book I am hypothesizing? In fact, I think I saw just such a book, a second edition of the c. 1838, in the University of Nevada at Las Vegas library; I just didn’t have time to examine it. The library catalog lists its date of publication as c. 1850, and the number of pages as 212. I assumed that it was a reprint of the earlier edition that is also there; it has the same title, author, and number of pages. It probably isn’t. The date corresponds well to an entry in the bibliography of the second edition of Papus’s Tarot of the Bohemians (, which gives a Grand Etteilla, ou L’Art de Tirer les Cartes, 8 vols. (?), by Julia Orsini, 1853 (Cerulean’s reference.) This book was edited and revised by Waite. Waite drew on this edition, the previous one, or both, in his Pictorial Key of the Tarot. , as I showed in post 11 in this thread. There are suggestions of both editions in what I have looked at so far. I don’t yet have a more specific answer favoring one edition over the other; he may have used both.

Another thing I don’t know is whether this second edition has the lists of “synonymes et differente significations” that are contained in the c. 1838, or the same lists if it does, because both the Dusserre and the 1890 have eliminated all reference to such lists.

I could try to verify my hypothesis, that the c. 1850 book uses the same revised wording as the c. 1890 and the Dusserre, by going to Las Vegas again. Yes, I am obsessive, but not that obsessive. I will phone the librarian, even email. I will ask if the c. 1850 edition that they have has a section of synonym-lists. I will ask about the wording on a particular page where I know the two lists I now have (Papus and c. 1838) are different. I will ask for a couple of pages from the “explications” where I have examples of different wording. I will ask about the writing on an engraving, to see if it is the same. I will ask for xerox copies. I will do it next week (waiting to make sure I have thought of everything I need to ask). If I don’t get what I need, I will leave the matter alone (for now).

In the explications, one page I will ask for is that for card 15, the “Magicien.” Here the c. 1838 text and the Dusserre are both about mental derangement, but otherwise almost totally different.

Another request I will make is for the page discussing card 3, “Les Plantes.” Here one of the two wording differences is especially intriguing: c. 1838 has the word “diffamations” (defamations): c. 1890 and Dusserre have “cancans.”

Cette carte represente la lune, la terre, la nuit; elle signifie maivais propos, diffamation, discours.”
c. 1890, Dusserre:
Cette carte represente la lune, l’eau, la terre, la nuit; elle signifie mauvais propos, cancans, discours.
Cette carte represente la lune, l’eau, la terre, la nuit; elle signifie mauvais propos, cancans, discours.
The Dusserre translator at this point in his work apparently didn’t know what the word for “cancans” was in English, given that it didn’t mean a kind of dance. So he left the word out, translating the sentence as:
This card represents the moon, water, land, night, and means bad talk or gossip.
I would like to see what word the Las Vegas c. 1850 uses. If “cancans,” then probably the systematic revision of the c. 1838 happened then. If “diffamations,” then not.


Perhaps you are wondering what the word “cancans” actually means, in the c. 1890 and Dusserre French texts, the word that didn’t get translated in the Dusserre English version. Well, I can at least tell you what the translator eventually thought it meant. He translated it in a later section of the text, concerning card 40. The Dusserre French text has:
Si le jeu est fait pour une femme, cette carte l’avertit, si elle se presente accopagnee du no. 29, que des cancans repandus dans le pays qu’elle habite viendront mettre le trouble dans sa famille.
And now the Dusserre English:
If the reading is for a woman, this card informs her, if accompanied by no. 29, that tittle-tattle, spread in the country she lives in, will cause trouble in her family.
So cancans = tittle-tattle.

According to the on-line Collins dictionary (, “cancan” means “bavardage malveillant,”—malicious gossip--and so not just “gossip,” which is what the English word “tittle-tattle” means (according to my 1967 Webster’s New World Dictionary). Has our translator then mistranslated “cancans” slightly, so as to remove the implication of evil, an intent certainly implied by the c 1838’s word “diffamation”?

I looked in Robert’s Grand Dictionnaire de la Langue Francaise. According to Robert, its first verified use as one word, close to “cancans,” is in 1544, spelled “quanquan”: “quanquan de college.” It is an old pronunciation of the Latin “quan quam,” a conjunction often used in school debates. By 1821, Robert says, it meant “grand bruit a propos de quelquechose” “great noise with regard to something.” This is certainly a pejorative meaning, but so far with no suggestion of evil intent. Next, in 1829, it gets applied to an eccentric dance, a kind of quadrille. That would seem to qualify as an idle amusement (rather like tarot forums). Robert does say that the word is used, especially in the plural, to mean “slanderous gossip, talk marked with vilification, with maliciousness” (bavardage colomnieux, propos empreint de medisance, de malveillance), but his earliest example is in an 1873 novel by Zola, [/i]Ventre de Paris[/i]. “Cancans” was probably in the tarot books before that (hopefully I will find out from the Las Vegas librarian). For 1850, then, it would be hard to say for sure one way or the other that “cancans” meant “malicious gossip” as opposed to just “gossip.”

But now at least we know that it means some sort of idle talk, and that is precisely what the sequence of words says otherwise: bad talk, for sure, and probably that is what “discours” means here as well. That word can mean “discussion” but probably, given the rest of the sentence, means “gossip,” as the Dusserre translation says. And the same goes for the keyword that heads the list, “propos”: if it reflects the text, it probably has the sense of “talk,” as the Dusserre translator suggests, rather than the more elevated “discussion” (many sources) or “comments” (Revak) that we often see given (Kaplan’s “design,” and the Papus translator’s “purpose” are even more off the mark).


Two minor points people can correct me on for MikeH's summaries

Two pieces of info I provided based on questions--but may have to correct answers as better info emerges.

1. I may have to correct a note on date or tax stamp for the Lismon decks that I am researching.

I was asked about dates and I realize now

-Kaplan 2006 Auction catalog reference (to be inserted)_Tax stamp good until 1917.....

2. Tarot of Bohemians and Waite

I was asked about citation for Julia Orsini 1853. It came from Papus' Tarot of the Bohemians which I see AP Morten translated. But I may be not clear on if crediting Waite is correct...(I shall returrn after checking some further attributions or references.)

that I have with PCS' gilded World card on the cover and the Revised Second Edition note with preface by A.E. Waite that I have assumed Waite also did editorial work on.


Belated congrads to MikeH and deep thanks!

Thank you for answering and providing so much of your early research notes here to inspire others to adjust and check their information.

I look forward to studying what you provided here and if you have further questions and others care to share any bits and pieces, hope it becomes a richer shared experience for all.

But for this moment, a huge THANKS and next, hopefully next some better data to add or supplement to your excellent studies.

Best wishes,



The 7 days of creation

Thanks for engaging, Cerulean.

I have finally pulled myself away briefly from my beloved Julia Orsini (even if she never existed), to look at the scans Coredril posted. Coredril wrote,
To contribute a little I would like to answer to the question Mike H, the starter of this thread asked in #34:
Originally Posted by MikeH
So my question now is, where does Etteilla himself, or his immediate disciples, write about the seven days of creation? I want to know more about his rationale for putting them in the tarot.
Here is one answer I founded in "Le Second Cahier" (pages 8 to 21). These are explanations from Etteilla himself.
I attach scans of these pages in two post.

Maybe someone has enough time to transcribe the text in todays french and even translate it.
I am going to make a stab at translating what Etteilla says about the seven days of creation, using these. I probably have not linked all the clauses in the first sentence together right, so I give the French as well as the English for that sentence, in case anyone can improve it. After the first sentence, it got easier. I am presenting a very literal translation, but I hope not to the point of incomprehensibility. I will interrupt occasionally to put in my own reflections.
L'ignorance, car c'est toujours elle qui conduit au mal, insinuant indifférenment son caractere dans différens hommes, a d'abord troublé l'ordre des nombres; et non contente de ce crime, que ne lui paroissoit pas assez grand pour se venger de ce que ses honteux prosélites n'avaient pas se reconnaître que le Livre de Thot était la source de ces milliers de volumes à la voracité du feu, l'ignorance enfin a effacé du Livre de Thot le premier feiuillet, coté no.1, l'ignorance enfin a effacé du Livre de Thot le premier feiuillet, coté no.1, qui representait, comme on le justifie par les numéros 9, 10, 11, & 12, une lumière environnée d'un nuage épais, ou le chaos qui se refoulait sur lui-mème pour faire place à la Vérité, au moment que le Créateur manifestait sa gloire & sa bonté souveraine aux Créatures de tout l"univers qui sommeillaient & sommeillent encore dans son intelligence: vérité allégorique, bien digne de nos premiers Maiîtres.

Ignorance, because it is she who always leads to evil, insinuating her character indifferently in different men, first disturbed the order of the numbers; and not content with this crime, which did not appear great enough for taking revenge, those shameful proselytes not recognizing that the Book of Thoth was the source of thousands of volumes all delivered to the voracity to the flames, Ignorance finally erased from the Book of Thot the first sheet, listed no. 1, which represented--as may be justified by numbers 9, 10, 11, 12--a light surrounded by a thick cloud, or the chaos which was turned back in order to give place to the Truth, at the moment when the Creator manifested his glory and his sovereign bounty to the Creatures of the whole Universe, who slept and will sleep again in his intelligence: allegorical truth, indeed worthy of our first Masters.

This allegory, formerly no. 1, was listed as no. V; and in place of the emblem of a unique Motor, a pure light, dreadful Ignorance was first to put on this card a Jupiter, then a Pope, and in third place a Swordsman (Fr. Spadassin); error that seems to us ridiculous, as if these images when reunited did not offer us a precious Book, containing all the Philosophy of the first People of the Earth, seen after an inundation over at last half the Globe, if one ought not believe a general judgment.

After this Divine image, came the six allegories offering the six days of universal creation of all the Worlds peopled by Creatures, following the places and Globes that they inhabited, this sentiment being not only that of the Philosophers, who carried it from point to little point on the earth that we occupy, but that of all the Physicians, who are in accord that the Sun is the instrument by which the Creator appeared in order to light up the life of all Beings; as the Sun, it carried itself to all the Globes of our Universe. These Globes can be nothing other than the proper matrices to receive life, that one might compare to a fluid that contains and transfixes all of Nature, since it is the true spirit of the Lord, the Sun that vivifies all the embryos, enfuses itself so that all the Globes are necessarily people, or matrices, which the order of all things demonstrates: gold, and also coal, being matrices, from the moment that Nature animated them, or Art revived them.

The second sheet of the Book of Thoth bears effectively the number of 2 in the translation, and not that of XVIIII. It had, following the Ancients, and has at present according to our studies, a second number, which is also 2, and finally a third number, which is 1: it is the same for the other sheets, pages, or cards; we explain this fully in the Supplement to the third Cahier, page 97. But here is another more intellectual object that presents itself in reading attentively the Book of Thoth.

1 is immutable; but in order to aid the intelligence of the Disciples, the Egyptians instructed us that it was necessary often to confide it as number 12, thus 2 as 11, and 3 as being the number 10; but here is a Tableau that here will help the understanding, noting however that it is here a question only of human intelligence; for such is the Divine intelligence, 1 bears itself to 10, etc. (footnote 1)

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
12. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1

Footnote 1: It is humanly the sign of Sin, but divinely, it must be the sign of Purity. Take then care, in following the true Science of Numbers, for the truth and its mixture, or good and evil. If you are attentive, you will be yet instructed on this subject by another Note.
I am not sure what Etteilla is illustrating in his “Tableau” of the numbers from 1 to 12. It might just be a "secret code" to which Etteilla claims access. It might also be a kind of upper world/lower world comparison: God to Prudence, the Sun to Fortitude, the Moon to Temperance, the Stars to Justice, etc. That is what the footnote suggests: a world of Purity vs. a world of Sin. But then what does the right half mean? I haven’t yet seen a second note. Let us go on.
This second sheet, listed number 2, offers for allegory a Sun. If we engrave this precious Book, we will demonstrate 1st, that the Stars lasted to become the first allegories of the Ancients; 2nd, that we have rendered truly the four Cardinal Virtues, each put a the head of a volume; and 3rd, that we explain more interiorly than superficially the allegories that have been proper to the high Sciences.

This second sheet, as we have said, bears also the number 1, relative to the six days of creation: the light was called day, and the darkness night; and it bears the number 2, the Fire, second Element.

No 3. The third sheet has for allegory the Moon, and bears the number 3 for the third day of creation; [that it gives its jet; and thus the number 1 Water, first element.
Here the phrase I translate literally, “that it gives its jet,” is qu’elle donne son jet. It should be a quote from Genesis, concerning the third day. I can’t find anything like it in my King James. [Note added May 2014: Kwaw resolved this mystery. See] The closest is verse 9: “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together in one place...” But it is obvious enough that water is a theme of that day (along with plants), namely, the creation of the Seas by separating the water from the land. I continue:
No. 4. The fourth sheet has for allegory the Stars, and was by the Cardmakers called “The Star,” because it showed there some Stars: I explain otherwise the figure in its proper nomination, titled by its day of creation: expanse [etendue, probably a word for “firmament”]; the number of the Element that it bears is 3, Air.

No. 5. The fifth sheet bears the number 6 for its day of creation: God made Man in his image, being then, in regard to human physicality, in perfection; it bears for its Element the number 4, “Earth.”

No. 6. The sixth sheet offers the false hieroglyph of an Emperor, its number of creation, which can serve for replacing it as it was formerly with the Egyptians, is 4, fourth day of creation: God made two great lights. This sheet primitively offers a Zodiac; and I believe, without rejecting anything that I have said about the fourth sheet, that the Cardmakers have moved a part of the sixth sheet onto the fourth; this of which we speak at present, the sixth sheet, has only the third number [i.e. three heavenly bodies]. It is necessary at the bottom of the Zodiac to notice there the allegory of the spirit of the colors, the white; notice that one finds again on another sheet the black, on another the red, and finally on another the seven colors, as Physics conceives them; the most interesting and the most difficult is to discover the true green color, in the center of the others.
Perhaps here some pictures are in order. For Etteilla I, I will use Sumada’s beautiful images of his 1890 deck. No. 4, with its astrological signs that Etteilla says came from No. 6, is in the center. The other, with only three astral bodies, is on the right. One version of the Marseille Star card is at left, for comparison. I don’t know which one Etteilla’s engraver used; the one that looks the most similar to me, oddly, is the Noblet, of c. 1650 or a little later. There is the same masculine-like body.


We can see how little the Etteilla No. 6 reflects “the stars” created on the fourth day of creation: there is only one. On the Marseille-style Star card, there were more, and we don’t know whether they are meant to be stars or planets (there weren’t seven starlike planets!). In Etteilla’s version, they are planets, identifiable by their astrological signs. Well, in astrology planets are part of the zodiac, in a sense, as their rulers.

But I cannot see on Eteilla’s card 6 even part of a true zodiac, i.e. the twelve signs or constellations; nor is there any “allegory of the colors.” Etteilla’s description comes closest to fitting the Etteilla III design (below right, from the “Jeu des Dames” deck put out by Editions Dusserre). There indeed one can see a zodiac, the sun and the moon, a few planets, and of the colors, the white and red at least, along with a special green in the middle. He perhaps has in mind alchemical allegories when he talks about the “allegories of the colors”: black, white and red were the primary stages of the work, and one stage in between black and white was “the peacock’s tail,” showing all seven colors and, one point, a special green.


No. 7, or the seventh sheet of the Book of Thoth, is also an Emperor, badly figured to the purpose [or, figured to a bad purpose?], which was preceded by an Empress; it bears 5 as its number of creation. God created the flying and aquatic animals. There is no third number.
Perhaps he was unhappy about the appearance of a snake here, which neither flies nor swims. In any case, some version of these cards must have existed in 1784, since his comments are so detailed.
The eighth sheet offers for allegory a naked man, in the middle of a superb garden, physical Nature being then formal and in its astral aspect of creation, fixed, without movement, because the eighth day was that of repose.

For this allegory let us imagine eleven circles, an orange cut into eleven horizontal parts and emptied; you will realize what I wish to say, putting the first part on the man’s head and the last under the soles of his feet, so that he sees only nine circles; to help you, consult the fourteenth section of the Pymander translated by Francois de Candalle, 1578.
I am not sure how de Candalle divided his Pymander, but the G. R. S. Mead translation’s section 14 ( is certainly appropriate (the Greek is “Poimandres”). The god Anthropos, androygynous but envisioned as masculine, falls into the embrace of Physis, matter, envisioned as female, and becomes fused with her. Anthropos has within himself the seven gods of the heavens plus three higher ones, the Demiurge, the Logos, and Mind. Physis is then the eleventh. Here an earlier section, a footnote that I translated earlier, becomes relevant:
It is humanly the sign of Sin, but divinely, it must be the sign of Purity. Take then care, in following the true Science of Numbers, for the truth and its mixture, or good and evil.
Whatever the “it” is there, this passage fits the circles around the lady of card 8. Above, the seven gods are good; but once fused with matter and ignorance, they become vices that must be expunged if the soul is to return home. (The 8th orbit, that of the Demiurge, has its bad side, too, e.g. destroying the good with the bad in the Flood); the ninth god would be the Logos, whose Christian counterpart is Lucifer. The vices are described in sections 25-26 of the Poimandres. There the soul passes from inside the spindle of Necessity into the purity of God. In the Poimandres, the soul does not stay in the 8th circle, but eventually moves up from there. In the Renaissance, there were 10 levels; after the fixed stars came the Primum Mobile (First Moved) and the Empyrean. Only a few saints made it to the Empyrean.

So when “Julia Orsini” says
The circles around the lady represent the labyrinths of the future in which her imagination finds itself ensnared...
it is saying in an easily accessible way that it is the seven planetary gods and those higher than them, in their demonic transformation, which have her trapped. Etteilla’s double-sided archetypes, the pure and the shameful, at their best capture the contrast between below and above, between ignorance and light.

Let us continue:
From more than fifteen hundred Tableaux that I have been offered to study for twenty years in the Book of Thot, this, in the discourse I have made, has been the most useful.

1 (in center of page)
8 (in center of page)
13.........................14 (centered on page)

I shall speak more about this precious day of repose, and of the four allegories 9, 10, 11 & 12.

“After the souls had passed seven days in a plain (there came the day when it arrived), where they were called to be judged; they left on the eighth, and were four days walking, when they saw a light. The third day, they began walking again; and finally on the fourteenth day, each was rendered to his destination.” Can one, who has even the lightest notion from reading the Book of Thoth, doubt that this precious Book was known by the Greeks, who were able to copy elsewhere this series of metaphors? Recall a few different sheets.
It would have been obvious to Etteilla’s intended audience that he was citing the Myth of Er in Plato’s Republic, 614d-e and 615b-c (
Then he [Er] beheld and saw on one side the souls departing at either opening of heaven and earth when sentence had been given on them; and at the two other openings other souls, some ascending out of the earth dusty and worn with travel, some descending out of heaven clean and bright....
Now when the spirits which were in the meadow had tarried seven days, on the eighth they were obliged to proceed on their journey, and, on the fourth day after, he said that they came to a place where they could see from above a line of light, straight as a column, extending right through the whole heaven and through the earth, in colour resembling the rainbow, only brighter and purer; another day's journey brought them to the place, and there, in the midst of the light, they saw the ends of the chains of heaven let down from above: for this light is the belt of heaven, and holds together the circle of the universe, like the under-girders of a trireme. From these ends is extended the spindle of Necessity, on which all the revolutions turn.
This is one translation. The second to last word is also translated “orbits” (e.g. Grube). In Plato, there are eight orbits, for the seven planets and the fixed stars. In place of the column of light, Etteilla has put his “man,” surrounded by orbit-like circles. The engraver, however, probably was an admirer of Durer and so could be inspired by his “Urania,” whom he also identified, in the upper or “astral” realm, with the lady (whom Etteilla also calls a man) in Card 5.


And of instead of eight orbits, we have nine, plus the one at the top of her head and the soles of her feet. These correspond to all but Mind in the Poimandres, all but the Empyrean in Christian cosmology.

[Added July 15. having looked at Plato's "spindle of necessity" in the Myth of Er, I see another passage in the Poimandres that might be what Etteilla had in mind when he said to look at section 14. In the 1650 English translation (, section 15 says:
15. But the Workman, Mind, together with the Word, containing the Circles and Whirling them about, turned round as a Wheel his own Workmanships, and suffered them to be turned from an indefinite Beginning to an undeterminable End; for they always begin where they end.
These circles are the planets and fixed stars, just as in Plato. Then these whirls, going downward, "brought forth unreasonable or brutish creatures" (Sect. 16) and the same, it turns out, in human beings, as well as other vices (Sect. 60ff). ]

Well, that was very enlightening. So, Coredril, do you have whatever the next footnote is, and the part on the four cardinal virtues, sections in which he promises to shed further light on the subject here? And if you have page 97 of the Supplement to the Third Cahier, that would be nice, too.

Meanwhile, I think I'm ready for a break.


Ross G Caldwell said:
Perhaps because there is no "Chevalier" in French-suited cards?

I don't know why they couldn't have invented a "Knight of Hearts", etc., but they chose not to.

A simple explanation, but I'm sure a very well considered, and most likely correct answer as always, thank you Ross.

I have updated post #65 with a couple of links too


When thanking Kenji, I forgot that there have been recent events in Japan that might have diverted his attention. So I doubly want to thank Kenji.

One more thing. I am preparing to get interested in Etteilla III decks. I can only find 2 versions: the Grand Jeu des Dames, put out currently by Editions Dessurre, and the Spanish deck, whatever it's called, the one that has the Etteilla III images a little smaller, with the Hebrew letters and what I assume are meant to be Egyptian hieroglyphs; there are also many differences in the keywords.

And I can only find one book specifically directed at Etteilla III, namely one in Spanish, El Supremo Arte de Echar Las Cartas by "Dr. Moorne." And are there different versions of that book? The facsimile reprint on didn't look like one on, at least in the sample pages. I notice that in the ads for the Spanish deck, they say that a booklet is included. Is that booklet of any historical interest? Is it by any chance by "Dr. Moorne"?