Etteilla Tarot Reconstruction: Sacred Seven in the Coins

I previously posted my first complete drafts of the first seven Major Arcana cards in my reinterpretation of the Etteilla Tarot, here.

Instead of continuing on to the second septenary of Majors, in order, I realized that practically speaking, I had better try my hand on some of the pips early on, because the last thing I want to happen is to finish the artistic labor for all the Majors then start on the pips, only to realize I hated the direction I was going in and having to abandon the project altogether, after all that work had already been done.

So I thought, okay, let me see if I can even come up with a good approach to the pip cards first, before committing to this deck project.

But where do I start? I started at the tail end of the deck (but not Card 78 or Key 0 The Fool). I started with Card 77, the Ace of Coins, then worked backward to Card 76, the Two of Coins, Card 75, the Three Coins, and so on.

This blog post will showcase the first drafts of the seven Coins cards corresponding with the Sacred Seven (in the order of Sun, Mercury, Venus, Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn).

In my previous post I mentioned that the first 12 keys of the Majors, in order, correspond with the 12 zodiac signs. I’ll get more into that in a later post when I get further in to the Majors.

“Etteilla I” – 1860-1890, Jean Henri Pussey

The last 10 cards in the Minors correspond with 10 key astrological points that’s typically considered when you do a natal or horary chart reading.

Etteilla’s Astrological Correspondences


Card No.

Livre de Thot

(Basan Engravings, 1791)

Astrological Correspondences
Minor Arcana – Planets & Hermetic Lots
68 Ten of Coins Lot of Fortune
69 Nine of Coins South Node
70 Eight of Coins North Node
71 Seven of Coins Saturn
72 Six of Coins Jupiter
73 Five of Coins Mars
74 Four of Coins Moon
75 Three of Coins Venus
76 Two of Coins Mercury
77 Ace of Coins Sun
Grand Etteilla 1860-1890 (Jean-Henri Pussey, Paris)

You’ll see in the above iteration of the Grand Etteilla that the coin icons feature the astrological glyph correspondence. I believe this is a colored-in version of the Grand Etteilla I.

Grand Etteilla 1750 (Basan engravings, Paris)

Originally, the top third featured the coins with astrological glyph correspondences and the bottom third featured an illustration of the corresponding god or goddess (except for the Ace of Coins, which reverses that). There’s Hermes on Card 76, Aphrodite on Card 75, and Selene on Card 74.

Grand Etteilla 1850 (Lismon engravings, Paris)

In the above version, which I think is often dubbed Grand Etteilla II, you see the astrological intentions, but starting with the Three, there are no glyphs. With respect to the Ace of Coins (Card 77 above), it features Apollo with a sun as his crown.

Top Row: Conver Tarot 1760, Tarot of Paul Christian 1863 engraving, Le Grand Tarot Belline 1881, Etteilla I (Basan Engravings) 1750s, Etteilla I (Jean Henri Pussey printing) 1860-1890, Etteilla II (Lismon Letterpress) 1850s

One of the key distinctions between decks like Etteilla and TdMs and the popular RWS system of approaching tarot is narratively-illustrated pips.

Decks like the Etteilla are, for the most part, not narratively illustrated in the pips, whereas the RWS system’s key distinguishing point would be narrative illustrations, or Minor Arcana card art that tells a story related to its assigned meaning.

So, because to my analysis, that was one key distinguishing point, I could not go the route of narratively-illustrated pips for my Etteilla.

But of course I also did not want the Minors to be a sparse, minimalist afterthought to the Majors.

And for the Etteilla specifically, that one thing you immediately spot that makes an Etteilla “an Etteilla” is that two-thirds and one-third division of the card. In my mind, for me to call this an Etteilla, the pips had to have that two-thirds and one-third line division.

I have that two-thirds and one-third division of the space, but allowed the boundary line to get crossed. This continues that “breaking the fourth wall” concept from the Majors, and you see it with Inanna in the above Three of Coins.

The coins in the Inanna card feature rosettes, which are symbols associated with the goddess. For the Two of Coins, you’ll see two Pentacles of Mercury, and in the Ace of Coins, Greek coinage with a nod to the Four of Coins with crescent moons, which will feature Selene. (And then in Selene’s card, there’s a nod to the Ace of Coins.)

Update: (I’m writing up this blog post over the course of weeks.) The previously posted Two of Coins underwent a revision. See above left before and right after. Very minor coloring tweaks, but to my eyes, makes a big difference.

The artwork for my Etteilla is a lot more loosely allegorical than narrative. So, for those familiar with the RWS and can picture the Three of Pentacles in your mind right now, note how that illustration tells a story, or you can tell a story from it rather easily. That’s not necessarily the case with my Etteilla approach to pips illustration.

My SKT Three of Orbs illustration was intended to be narrative and tell a story, even though this particular card doesn’t feature people (for cultural specific reasons). But the Etteilla Three of Coins just spotlights the goddess association to the planet Venus, which in this case is expressed through Inanna.

But, hopefully, if you know a thing or two about the myths associated with Inanna, that can help supplement card meaning associations, upright and reverse. She was powerful, kind, a goddess of both love and war, and of fertility. Yet she could be quite spiteful. Provoke her and she won’t even listen to other gods who tell her to stand down!

I’m loving how Selene on the Four of Coins turned out. The coin design in this card is a tribute to the Triple Goddess.

Key features in each of the cards are still hand-drawn and scanned in. After I scan them in, I remove the white background to create a transparent layer, and then go in to refine the image digitally. Color is also added digitally.

One of the “cheats” with digital art is fixing up errors in the hand-drawn version. So, for example, I can re-do some of the line work for her hair, delete stray lines, and just all around clean up the drawing.

I don’t know if I should be showing you this, but here we go…

Hey now. I am definitely not the only one who does this. I couldn’t find a good reference for feet arranged in the way I wanted, so I had to take a selfie of my own stupid feet and that’s how I drew Selene. And eeks– my mirror needs to be cleaned! (That’s embarrassing…)

Update: The previous reversed third for the Three of Coins was too sparse, so I revised it to give it a “descent into the underworld” vibe.

Initially I had this concept of pairing Lady Zhurong, a warrior queen from Chinese Taoist mythos, with Tyr, the Norse and Germanic god of war, law and order, and treaties. But the composition just ended up looking really messy. So I decided Lady Zhurong can make her appearance in another card, and Tyr would be the main focus in the Five of Coins, along with Fenrir the wolf.

Upright, one divine aspect of Mars would be more present, and reverse, the other aspect. Some might recognize the sketch of Zhurong from Tao of Craft. This is a sketch I did in my personal private grimoire.

I scanned it in, touched it up, and digitally colored it for this Etteilla deck.

Fenrir the wolf monster is Loki’s son. I thought it was kind of cool how they align along the reversed bottom third of the Coins.

As for the guidebook, that’s coming along. The guidebook is going to be both applicable to the traditional Etteilla decks, so one is pictured alongside my version, and with notes on the features specific to my reinterpretations.

Progress has been slow, as I am translating three different books on Etteilla card meanings from French to English, reconciling the three, and then including card meaning notes from my own tarot journal on the Etteilla system.

Minor tweaks make such a big difference. It’s kind of crazy how much details matter. Take the above before and after images, for example. On the left, the composition looks crowded and the coins are overwhelming the image of Saturn / Ba’al Hammon. But on the right, even though I really didn’t change all that much, now it looks a little more balanced. Sure, it’s still really busy, but in my defense, there’s a lot that needs to be included here. =) The requirements checklist is long. =P

In case you were wondering, every one of those coins are based on actual coins. There’s a reference to the Punic Wars (Rome vs. Carthage) here. =) One hint: The two coins “facing off” around Saturn’s head is the Roman god Mars on the left and the Punic goddess Tanit on the right.

I drafted 8 coins, though only used 7 of them. Top row left-most coin is Ishtar. Top row right-most coin is an owl, a reference to Athena. Bottom row: Medusa is obv., right? The elephant is a reference to the Punic Wars. Same with the next one over ft. a Phoenician war galley with 3 hoplites (Greek city-state soldiers), and a hippocamp in front. There’s also a Murex shell in front of the hippocamp, symbolic of Phoenician imperial dye, which was made from the highly-prized Murex shells.

Just a reminder: the keywords along the top and bottom right now are temporary placeholders. The core meaning I’m intending won’t change much, but wording probably will.

Case in point, the Seven of Coins– right now I can’t think of more poetic wording to convey that meaning. So I’ll have to revisit with fresh eyes later on and see if I can come up with anything better.

One challenge is the inconsistency between the keywords printed on the  cards and Etteilla’s own written card meanings. And then in the Orsini text, not only are there page by page card meaning entries that don’t always align with the keyword printed on the card, but in the back of the book there’s an additional summary listing of the multiple keywords attributed to each card… and all of the above often contradict each other to the point where I have no idea what the intention might be.

So I kinda have to make my own judgment calls.

Am I reading too much into this, or is there a slight nod to Saturn’s scythe in the RWS Seven of Pentacles? Hidden in plain sight? I can follow the reasoning for changing the scythe to a hoe, to avoid confusion with the Death card…

My plan right now is to continue with the Coins to finish Eight, Nine, and Ten (corresponding with the north and south lunar nodes respectively, and the Hermetic Lot of Fortune).

Then I’ll hop back to the Majors and draft the Second Septenary.

8 thoughts on “Etteilla Tarot Reconstruction: Sacred Seven in the Coins

  1. Sister Nobody

    Oh, please don’t abandon this project!! It’s waaaaaayyyy too worthy. Even if it’s print your own through Make Playing Cards, and of course the guide book through Lulu. I love them already, even though I don’t know the Etteilla system yet. There’s no rush, however you decide to have them published. I know you’re enjoying this creative process!


  2. hecate1972

    The cards are looking amazing! I’m glade you decided to use the two-thirds and one-third divisions I think that is important. I cannot wait to see them all when done.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Progress Notes on My Etteilla Tarot Redux – benebell wen

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