Rabelais and Tarot


In our discussions about the earliest date of playing cards, Namadev gave a link to a (francophonic) lycos Tarot history site:Tarot de Marseille

On this site is an article Rabelais and Tarot, which shows some fantastic caricatures of tarot cards from a funny book written in 1565 called " Les Songes drolatiques de Pantagruel --- "The funny dreams of Pantagurel".

It is the work of François Desprez, illustrator. The full title is
  • "les Songes Drolatiques de Pantagruel où sont contenues plusieurs figures de l’invention de maistre François Rabelais : & derniere oeuvre d’iceluy, pour la recreation des bons esprits"
  • The funny dreams of Pantagruel containing many figures invented by Master Rabelais and his last work, for the enjoyment of people of good humour (and wit)
Take a look at the Rabelais and Tarot article on the lycos site, Temperance and the Tower are shown side by side with illustrations which caricaturise them.

The entire book may be viewed on line: Les Songes Drolatiques

There you can see full size versions of those illustrations, plus many many more that might prove relatable to the tarot with a little (or a lot) of imagination.

The Lycos article also points out that Rabelais's works are considered by some to be hermetic texts full of alchemical references, that the tarot game (spelled tarau) is mentioned in the 22nd chapter of the book, (significant number to tarotists).


jmd said:
As ihcoyc mentioned, Freemasonry and Tarot appear to arise out of a similar milieu but, as an analogy, just because the Golden Dawn and the Theosophical Society arise at around the same time and within a 'similar' milieu doesn't mean that there is a closely interweaved connection.

As Westcott, one of the originators of the GD, was a theosophist and a friend of Blavatsky's its probably not the best analogy;)

[but i get your point].



Has anyone taken a look at the book I mentioned above? Les Songes drolatiques?

(If not, perhaps my post is too off-topic?? Maybe the subject deserves its own thread?)


The links you give are certainly not off topic to this thread... and the Songes drolatiques well worth a dreamy afternoon's browse :)

The word 'Taraux' is mentioned in two places in Rabelais's book, but will have to dig out my references to be very specific - it may also be on Huck's site, as I e.mailed him the references last year.

In many ways, those with especially esoteric historical interests probably need to read through Rabelais, for therein is contained many bits and pieces which only later emerge (such as the Abbey).

With regards to Wescott being a theosophist, many individuals which shared esoteric interests supported and joined other people's orders or Societies - seemingly especially at that time, with a proliferation of these, with some striving to obtain a 'complete' set under their belt. Wescott remained far more, in his orientation, a Freemason. Blavatsky, though herself also apparently a Co-Mason, nevertheless principally remained a Theosophist (in the T.S. sense of the word). The analogy was intentional, for here we have two orders, with some of their members in common, yet quite distinct (it should be noted that this sharing of membership was later a source of conflict between the two orders).

Influences from one order, via the influence of some member or other, thus also played into the way in which certain things may have been carried out or developed in the other order, yet each order remain distinct. This was my analogy between Freemasonry and Tarot. Certainly the individuals concerned (whoever they be) may have, directly or indirectly, been influenced from one to the other, but this shows at most just that, and not a closely interweaved connection.

My experience and friendship with some who have some quite important contributions to the history and development(s) in Freemasonry only affirms that any connection seems more remote or indirect - save that some important Cathedral images also find their way in Tarot, as they do in other illustrations.

How Rabelais plays in all this may be for an interesting topic of research, for he seems to have been interested in many aspects pertinent to each.