Marseilles : only a predictive deck?


Diving deeper and deeper into the TdM study, I watched a bit around. Here is what I read on, I would really like to hear from those of you have experience with both Marseilles and RW : do you agree with wicce's statement on the nature of the reading provided with a TdM deck ??

Here we go : "There is very little archetypal illustration here; most people who work with the Marseille type of tarots work mainly by intuition and memorization, since there are no real pictures of the meanings of the cards depicted in the decks. It is my opinion (take it or leave it) that the readings given with the Marseille type tarots are more predictive and fortunetelling-oriented rather than psychologically analytical. However, this is based on my own experience and many readers are able to access tremendous amounts of information with these cards, so..... " (wicce on

The link to the complete article about various Marseilles is :

Thanks !


PS : if you know of any thread about this earlier, don't bother repeating anything, just give me the link, thanks !


To investigate only some of the incredible depths of the iconography of the Marseilles, read through each thread for each of the Major Arcana cards (I've conveniently indexed them in the Table of Contents).

In terms of the statement 'no real pictures of the meanings of the cards depicted in the decks', I presume what is being referred to are the pips of the minor arcana. Here, I suggest that for most people it is not only 'intuition' (in whichever sense was intended) at work, but also, and importantly, an understanding of the card through progressively deepened reflection. In a similar vain, the Runes are progressively understood, as are the I Ching hexagrammes.

Some initial work may be done with 'remembering' certain attributes, but any such comments can be said of any illustration: a small number of people depicted between four poles with upraised arms means nothing to one unable to recognise something beyond the depiction - likewise for all cards, irrespective as to whether they 'merely' depict four staffs or scenic imagery.

In terms of the cards' usage for either psychological analysis or otherwise, this is, on the one hand, undoubtedly correct, in the sense that they incorporate, in my opinion, more than mere psychological understanding - but embeds deeply spiritual impulses.

On the other hand, the statement also reflects the uses to which a person places the cards. If, as is possibly the case, Tarot tends to be put to psychological usage more in anglophonic countries, and if, also, these countries tend to have more users of Waite/Colman-Smith type decks, then it is likely that less people who use Tarot for psychological analysis will use the Marseilles.

I strongly suspect, given their own writings, that both Jung and Campbell would certainly consider the Marseilles to have a plenitude of what they would consider archetypal depictions.

Having said all this, I'll now go and read the links you give :)



Even though the abstract patterns on the Marseilles decks' numbered suit cards don't have intrinsic meanings -- at least not ones that are clearly hinted at -- the numbers and the suit signs do. So if you combine the meaning of "five" with the meaning of "cups" you get an interpretation that's just as specific as anything you'll find in the modern decks.

And as jmd pointed out, even though the trump cards might look, at first glance, flat and devoid of personality, they are actually extremely rich in content, and possess remarkable depth. I find them much richer and deeper than the great majority of modern decks, as they carry the weight of venerability and tradition. I would second his suggestion that you take a look at some of the threads pertaining to the individual trumps posted here.

So what I'm saying is that Marseilles decks can be put to the same uses as any other tarot deck.


Kissa: When you decided to come back to Aeclectic (and don't you ever dare leave us again!), did you say, "and while I'm there, I'll try and give Diana one fright a day"?. :D

I visited your link, although the actual web-site is such a eye-sore, I visited it as quickly as possible.

I don't know what this person is talking about. Stuff and nonsense.

Unless they are meaning that Marseilles decks are not used for Magic(k)al purposes, or for meditation. Then I would say I have no idea if they can be used for that. As I don't do Magic, and I don't use my cards for meditation purposes either. (I tried when I joined Aeclectic, but I prefer more traditional methods for my meditation).

The pip cards have as much depth as any illustration, if not more. And yesterday, when the 9 of Cups came up in a certain position for a reading I did for someone with my Kris Hadar deck, it had nothing to do with fortune telling when the card revealed to me a deep loneliness because all those Cups were empty. If that's not psychological, then I don't know what is.

Can art not be abstract? Does one need to have constant instant gratification? Can one not chuck out the remote control just for once, and pick up a book instead?

The Marseilles pips are full of stories.



Tsk, tsk. Also ee, ee, and eek. You seem to have been a bit annoyed by the lady. I can only fault her mostly for not expressing herself very clearly. Her assertion that Marseilles decks are mostly used for "fortunetelling" rather than "psychological" investigation prompted me to say, "Whaddya mean?"

However, this thread brings up a topic (one more time) that people tend to be very touchy about. I know that jmd already ran a poll on illustrated numbered suit cards versus pips, but as a hot-button issue I don't think this one will ever go away.

A couple weeks ago I bought my wife a copy of Robin Wood's deck (since nobody should be without a tarot deck), thinking, "Yeah, that's a good one to start with." I started thumbing through them one evening and found myself getting irritated at those dumb illustrations. They remind me of people I used to meet back in my music-playing days who always said, "Well, that song's okay, but I like a song that tells a story...."


The wicca dot com article makes an assumption, that if the deck has pictures, you work with the pictures. It further assumes that different reading styles will occur based on the type of deck.

The internet, allows anybody to post anything…opinions disguised as certainty…including mine…

But I would like to say, good to see you posting again!


Gina Pace's article might have been apt for the time that she wrote it: her site used to review Marseilles-based decks at a time there wasn't much information out there. She's been a reader in the tarot community for a long time and her online reviews also reflect what happened in her experience. She might have meant the historical usage of Marseilles-based decks or been in touch with many different readers who told her this---the Visconti book by Lo Scarabeo does touch on reading with majors and minors, but the slant seems that the minors of a tarocchi deck at some point wasn't normally used for readings.
Lo Scarabeo did prior to the mid-late 1990s release beautiful decks with only little cards of keyword meanings that had a fortune-telling slant. I've seen earlier books (prior to the late 1990s that show Marseilles decks and Rider Waite decks and pentacles are always meaning a dark-haired person, etc...shades of the old gypsy fortuneteller?
From what little that I've read, now Wicce/Gina Pace is working with Lo Scarabeo on a pagan deck, possibly a book or working with the concepts and an Italian it would be interesting if and when she ever updates the old site to see if she's revised her opinion of modern usage of old style decks.
Anyway, the internet and availability of Marseilles-based designs and decks and information has vastly improved since the late 1990s. This forum is a wonderful exploration of historical and Marseilles-style decks.
But I do not know all the historic reading uses or many tarot/tarocchi readers in person, so I take most internet reviews, including my own, with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Bless your questions.
Mari H.


Kissa said:
"There is very little archetypal illustration here; most people who work with the Marseille type of tarots work mainly by intuition and memorization, since there are no real pictures of the meanings of the cards depicted in the decks. It is my opinion (take it or leave it) that the readings given with the Marseille type tarots are more predictive and fortunetelling-oriented rather than psychologically analytical."
In fact, my preference for pip-card decks like the Marseilles stems exactly from the fact that such a deck has no forcing illustrations. Memorized meanings are not at the forefront when I read them. Interpreting the pip carcs of these decks is a matter of relating the force of the number to the subject matters covered by the suit. With this I feel I have a much freer hand attempting to relate this particular card to the matter at hand.

There is less memorisation with an illustrated pip deck mostly because the illustrator has done it for you. A picture has been drawn to remind you of the creator's interpretation. This makes these decks harder to read, from my perspective. You are seldom at an utter loss to figure out how a pip card might relate to a given reading; you may well be when the illustrated card tells a story that seems wide of the mark.


comparison of Marseilles and others
I post the link as James Revak did actually look at the occult-based thinking of Etteilla that influenced the subsequent Waite and other decks...he also has read Dummett and Kaplan extensively and posts a comparison of various meanings, plus tables that match majors from the various formats...Crowley, Waite, Marseilles and Ettiella are among the styles that he compares.
What might be of value to you who are interested in historic occult and Marseilles styles is to see how the meanings are depicted and to see if they differ or not.
I think other people here do not want to use the Marseilles for old fashioned predictive reading styles, so it might be helpful for them to see the various comparisons.
Those who posted about checking sources brought up good points for me. I am looking further at some books to see for instance, does the writer show attribution and among those cited, are Dummett or Kaplan also referenced?
(And because I do have a taste for tarot reading orientation, sometimes I like books like Garett Knight and Rachel Pollack, but then I realize that their bent is not always as historically strict. They are more surveyers of the modern landscape and not like artist/design stylists such as Brian Williams)