(Added in 2014: Please note that I also have other blogs related to Etteilla.
http://thirdcahier.blogspot.com/ has the original French and my translation of Etteilla's 3rd Cahier, pus its supplements. These discuss the keywords on the cards and how to do readings.
http://neopythagoreanisminthetrot.blogspot.com/ discusses Etteilla's followers' word-lists for the numeral cards and connects them, by means of Neopythagorean writings, with the corresponding images of the Sola-Busca deck of c. 1491 and the Waite-Smith deck of 1910.
http://templeinmemphis.blogspot.com/ discusses a diagram that is the frontispiece to Etteilla's Leçons Théoreque et Pratique du Livre de Thot in terms of an essay by his follower Hugand, of which I translate the relevant portion.
And http://etteillasangelology.blogspot.com/ translates and discusses the portion of Etteilla's 1785 book Philosophie des Hautes Sciences that deals with the "72 angels of God".)
I am by no means a professional translator of 18th century French. But I going to make a stab at translating what Etteilla says about the fitrst eight of his cards as representing the seven days of creation, pp. 8-21 of Etteilla's Second Cahier (Deuxieme Cahier). I make no claims for my translation, but it is a start. I am especially uncertain about the beginning; so for that part I give a transcription of the French as well. 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.
|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.
|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 others 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.
We can see how little the Etteilla No. 6 reflects “the stars” created on the fourth day of creation: there are only two, one big and one little; the rest are indicted by astrological signs. On the Marseille-style Star card, there are more that look like stars. Also, in the Marseille we don't know whether they are supposed to be stars or planets. In Etteilla’s version, they are planets, identifiable by their astrological signs, except for the sun and the moon, which look like they do in the sky. There is also one more, without a sign. That tells me that this design was made after the discovery of the eighth planet, Uranus.
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.|
I turn now to Etteilla's discussion of the eighth sheet.
|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.
|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.|
The other possibility is section 14 in G. R. S. Mead translation (http://www.gnosis.org/library/hermes1.htmlQ), which is section 23 in the 1660 version. 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. Correspondingly, I see eleven circles around the lady in card 8. Here an earlier section, a footnote that I translated earlier, might be 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.|
So when the “Julia Orsini” says
|The circles around the lady represent the labyrinths of the future in which her imagination finds itself ensnared...|
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.
|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
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.
And of instead of eight orbits, we have nine, plus the one at the top of her head and the soles of her feet. They are the ten levels of the Poimandres and Renaissance cosmology, plus the one drawn in the earth as that of Physis herself.
MORE REFLECTIONS ON THE ABOVE
Given the foregoing, a question arises (my thanks to Sumada on Aeclectic Tarot Forum (ATF) for raising these): Why aren't the days of creation and the elements in sequential order?
Let me illustrate. First, here are Etteilla’s assignments of days to cards. The parts in parentheses are from sentences in the Bible to which Etteilla is implicitly linking, although he doesn’t say so explicitly.
1. Chaos : beginning of 1st day. Clouds giving way to light. (“darkness was on the face of the deep.”)
2. The Sun. enf of 1st day. The light was called day, and the darkness night.
3. The Moon, Water. 3rd day. “that it gives its jet.” Or, let the waters be gathered in 1 place. (Etteilla forgot dry land and plants, which the Etteilla II cards emphasize: “Les Plantes.”)
4. Stars. (2nd day, not said explicitly). Firmament.
5. (Man and quadrupeds; Marseille World card.) 6th day. “God made man in his own image.”
6. 4th day. Sun, Moon, and the Zodiac. “Two Great Lights.”
7. Birds and aquatic animals. 5th day.
8. Repose. 7th day.
So why this order? I have something of an explanation. Here is the short version.
(1) He heard from someone that the first 7 Marseille cards represented the 7 days of creation, but the person was bound to secrecy, because what the tarot signified was not the way it was according to Genesis.
(2) He believes de Mellet's theory that the cards are in reverse order.
(3) Ergo, the seven days are in the last 5 cards of the Marseille plus the male and female Enquirer.
(4) He had to remove "Last Judgment" because it didn’t fit as part of the creation (despite Etteilla’s attempt), and make up another card to replace it, although it doesn't correspond to any Marseille image. That will be for the 4th day, the creation of the Sun, Moon, and Stars.
(5) And the World card is obviously out of order, since it has to do with the creation of man and the quadrupeds, which happened on the 6th day.
(6) And since there are two cards for the first day, he will have to make up another card, not in the Marseille, for the 5th day. Since he has misplaced the 6th day, and has 2 cards for day 1, the card for this 5th day is number 7. and the card for the 4th day is number 6.
Why card 5, corresponding to the World, is where it is, is not totally clear to me. If it can be moved from 1st place, as in de Mellet, to 5th place, why couldn’t it just as easily be moved to 7th place? All I can think of is that he wanted to keep the images that were similar to the Marseille together, even though World is out of sequence.
That is my short answer. My long answer is, of course, longer.
I need to provide a justification of why Etteilla would have heard from people that the seven first cards represent the 7 days of creation, and in what system that is, and why it is confusing around day 5.
The explanation is a little complicated. It has three parts. (1) What the numbers 1-7 meant in Pythagorean number symbolism. (2) How this symbolism is expressed in the 7 days of creation; and (3) how this number symbolism is expressed in the first seven trumps.
An account was readily available in Latin of the first seven numbers, by the Roman philosopher Macrobius, in his Commentary on the Dream of Scipio. However I cannot relate it very well to the Marseille tarot. No doubt Etteilla couldn’t either. But in Paris 1543, by a “Chr. Wechelus” according to WorldCat, a book was published in Greek called Theologumena Arithmeticae, ”Theology of Arithmetic” or “Arithmetical Theology”), allegedly by Iamblicus. It is not by Iamblicus, but is authentically ancient, from the 4th century, according to the introduction to the English translation. I have traced the manuscript version back to Bessarion’s collection, mid-15th century Italy, probably brought by him from Greece, then willed to Venice (see http://forum.tarothistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=613). It remained untranslated into any language until Robin Waterfield’s translation into English in 1988. Some people on Aeclectic have noticed that work’s affinity with some of Etteilla’s interpretations of the number cards. I agree.
I also find evidence of that work’s content in Etteilla’s First “Cahier” (using the link to the Bibliotheque Nationale provided by Kenji). On page 17 we read:
|1 est rapporté à Dieu; 2 à l'homme & à la femme, & 3 à la génération qui a pour but un enfant.
1 is related to God; 2 to the man and the woman, and 3 to the generation which aims at a child.
|Le Créator forma Adam, mâle & femelle; & sépara ce nombre a
afin qu'il pût s'étendre au nombre 3, la génération. Après le nombre 3
vient nécessairement 4, l'univers, que l'on retrouve de même dans le
nombre 2 microcosmique...
The Creator formed Adam, male & female; and separated this number so that he could extend to the number 3, generation. After the number 3 comes necessarily 4, the universe, which we also find in the microcosmic number 2...
That, for his exposition of the numbers, Etteilla is drawing on Pythagoreanism (more specifically, Neopythagoreanism, the Hellenistic-Roman era revival of Pythagoreanism) is clear a little earlier, p. 16, where he says of 1
|Si nous posons le premier nombre, ou mieux la source des nombres, 1,
pour descendre ou monter au premier nombre 2, nous y trouverons l'homme
ou son nombre qui est mâle & femelle; le premier comme agent, &
le second comme patient;...
If we put the first number, or better the source of the numbers, 1, in order to descend or rise to the first number 2, we shall find man or his number there which is male and female; the first one as agent, and the second as patient;...
In that same paragraph Etteilla talks about the number 2 in different terms than he does in the quote I gave earlier. The male is agent, the female is patient. The Theologumena says a little more: 2 separates what was mixed in the 1. So 1 contains all the forms of things, the archetypes. 2 separates the ideal, which pertains properly to the 1, from matter, which is the lack of form, on which the one who shapes matter may work. 3 is then what results: enformed matter; matter which is not only differentiated from form, but in its different parts is shaped by different forms (e.g. water, sand, various minerals at various temperatures: these are all conceived as different combinations of the four elements). 4 is then the extension of this process to include the whole universe.
I have not yet found where Etteilla discusses the numbers 5 through 7. In the Theologumena, 5 is the number of the vegetative soul, 6 the number of the animal soul, and 7 the number of the rational soul.
As to how this theory relates to the seven days of creation: Philo of Alexandria had already applied Pythagorean number theory to the days of creation in his work On The Creation. (http://www.deeperstudy.com/link/01-creation.html). The Pythagorean language in that work is evident all through; one good example is section 13. But the French esotericists, I hypothesize, tried to improve on his somewhat ad hoc account, which tried to reconcile two versions that were really a little different.
The first day is about God at the beginning. No problem there. Genesis and the Theologumena Arithmeticae agree, and so does Etteilla.
The second day, in the Theologumena, is about separation, specifically that of form from matter. In Genesis that corresponds to separating day from night, and the above from the below. The day and the above correspond to Etteilla’s male agent; in Philo, it is the perfect forms in the mind of God (section 20). The Greek for “active” and passive” actually occur in Philo, section 9 in the version I have given the link to. Genesis has this first separation (day from night) in the first day, but the second one (above from below) in the second day. Etteilla follows Genesis, unproblematically except that the stars that he mentions in the firmament have not been created yet. But that is a minor issue.
The third day, in Genesis, is about the creation of nature in all its variety, including land vs. water and all the plants. Before that, matter was a big mess, like mud, in Philo’s image (his section 38; the creation of nature’s variety is expressed in section 40). Etteilla has no problems here; even though he forgot about plants, his disciples added them. In the Pythagorean account this is the generation of particular things, enformed matter. However for the Pythagorean, it is still not alive, in the biological sense: on earth, creation is on the mineral level; things have at best a mineral soul. Plants come later.
The fourth day extends creation to include the whole universe, i.e. the sun, moon, and stars. That is Etteilla’s “Universe”; in Philo, see his section 45. Whether the planets and stars have higher-level souls is a matter of debate. Etteilla seems to view them mechanically, influencing us astrologically in a way analogous to how magnets affect iron.
The fifth day, corresponding to the Pentad in the Theologumena, is about the vegetative soul, i.e. the soul as expressed in plants. It has no correspondence in Genesis, since there, plants are created on the third day. Etteilla, following Genesis, thus has to depart from the Pythagorean account that I think guided the Marseille cards (to be explained later in this post). I think that is where Etteilla’s problems really affect him, in knowing what to do with the 5th day of creation. He can’t follow the Marseille cards’ Pythagoreanism (to be explained later in this post) and Genesis both. Philo ingeniously found another aspect of the Pythagorean Pentad expressed in fishes and birds, namely, the five senses (sect. 62). Etteilla follows Genesis (and Philo) and gives the 5th day to aquatic animals and birds. But if he's going to keep the Marseille images together, and leave room for the 5th day, that's going to have to be the 7th card!
The sixth day in the Theologumena is about the animal soul. In Genesis, we have the creation of man and the quadrupeds. Etteilla can follow both traditions, even though he now, keeping the Marseille cards together and with two cards for the first day, he puts put this 6th day on the 5th card.
In the Theologumena, the number seven is about the rational soul, i.e. the creation of human beings. Well, in Genesis humanity is created on the sixth day, and on the seventh, God rests. Philo simply talks about the rational soul as the crowning point of the sixth day (sect. 69). What does Etteilla do? He puts “Repos” on the 8th card (following Genesis) but also has a picture of a human being (as in the Theologumena), male in the “Cahier” but female on the card. It is the day when God rests and humanity gets into trouble.
So we see, Etteilla had a hard job, fitting Pythagoreanism with Genesis and also de Mellet’s reversed order of the cards. Not having a clear road to follow, he stumbled a little. I stumble a bit myself at times.
Now we get to the third part of my exposition, about how the Marseille trumps express the Pythagorean symbolism of the numbers just fine the way they are.
The number One represents God in many systems. God is One (Judaism and Christianity). God is the One (Neoplatonism). Pyrthagoreanism said the same.
The Bateleur has four types of objects on his table. He is like the Demiurge of Plato’s Timaeus, shaping the four elements into the various types of things of our world. He is like the Logos in John 1:3. ‘All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made.” Medieval illustrations frequently illustrated God as artificer, for example a famous one in which he holds a compass (search “demiurge” at http://christianrockhalloffame.com/). The Bateleur is in the position of the Logos, God shaping our world after he had created out of nothing.
Similarly, the one who deals in a card game has representatives of the four elements in his hands, i.e. the cards, out of which, in apparent randomness, a little world is created, parts of which are apportioned to each player. There was also a famous quote by Heraclitus, expressed differently by different ancient authors, some of them Christian and many readily accessible during the time of the tarot’s development. Proclus put it, “And some, as for example Heraclitus, say that the creator in creating the world is at play.” (http://evans-experientialism.freewe...eraclitus02.htm)/
2 for the Neopythagoreans had to do with separation of he opposites that were contained in the One. The Two was matter as opposed to form, female as opposed to male. dark as opposed to light (and not, as in Etteilla, both together). So we have a woman on the card, esoterically the Virgin Mary, who received the imprint of God in her womb, and later experienced the pain of separation. I think the divine impregnation is the significance of the word “Pances,” French for “Belly,” on the Dodal version of this card.
3 is the child Jesus, the product of the 1 and the 2, the form of God in matter. We see him on the Empress card as the shield on the Empress’s lap, symbolic of the lineage of the Empire which it is her duty to keep going by producing an heir.
4 is for Etteilla the Universe. On the card we have an Emperor holding a globe divided into three, symbolizing Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is the known world of the 15th century, the whole universe as it concerns humanity’s domain. But the Emperor only rules the material side of this domain, the conditions of material life.
5 is the vegetative soul. Plants are born from the earth, grow, and die. Minerals don’t die, they simply get rearranged. The crucifixion is analogous to the plowing of the earth, turning the old plants into the ground. Then new plants emerge. The Pope is the one who governs the institution that protects the vegetative soul, from birth through maturity, death, and finally rebirth.
6 is the animal soul. That has to do with things that can move their whole body from place to place under their own power. Such locomotion is the condition for the ability to make choices, which relatively complex animals have the ability to do, even though it is with very limited ability, guided mostly by instinct. So the esoteric meaning of the Love card is choice, in this case between pleasure and virtue.
7 is the rational soul. The card represents the situation of Plato’s Phaedrus. The rational soul is on top; the soul of honor (when directed by reason) is the light-colored horse; the soul of passion (which resists reason), the dark colored horse. Reason, in touch with the ideal, controls from above. These colors are can be seen in Noblet’s versions of the card. They of course continue in the 19th and early 20th century, with their white and black sphinxes.
In the Pythagorean system, there are actually 10 days of creation, and God, like the numbers, never stops. But we can stop here.
I hope I have made good on my promises. The 7 days of creation, in their Pythagorean version, are already in the Marseille sequence. Etteilla didn’t have to do a thing. That he did do something, trying to make explicit something known esoterically but about which he was guessing, gives us a clue about where to look so as to reconstruct the esoteric tradition he was after.
This “esoteric” interpretation is not based on anything secret. It is there in the Pythagorean documents and Philo, texts readily available all through the 15th-18th centuries. They just happened to be in Greek, which for many was as good as secret, until the availability of translations (and so far, the Theologumena has only been translated into English). The relationship of these interpretations to the cards is not something I find stated as such anywhere then, except confusedly in Etteilla. But if you look at later interpreters of the cards, i.e. Jodorowsky in Way of the Tarot, you will see many of the same themes. I have expanded on this point at http://forum.tarothistory.com/viewto...dorowsky#p8518).