Progress Notes on My Etteilla Tarot Redux

You can ignore the misalignment issue with the card numbers (like what you see above between 7 and 8) because I need to change the layout design entirely.

Above for reference you’ll find Cards 7 & 8 from Etteilla II on the left and how they look in Etteilla III on the right (these are illustrations from the Lemarchand text). I’m slowly translating the card meanings found in the Orsini and Lemarchand texts from French to English for the guidebook.

Eighteen cards in and I realize my initial vision for the layout design is not going to work. The font size right now is at 64 pts. By my estimations, it needs to be at 85 pts.

Ignore the keywords, card #, image combination above. I took the longest keyword phrases from the done cards so far, plus the highest #78, and the most recent illustration I completed to test out layout design.

I don’t like it. Maybe it’s the font type I chose. I’m also trying to avoid fancy, curly font. It needs to be very easy to read. But if the font type is too modern, or it doesn’t match the aesthetics of the Etteilla deck I’m trying to create, it’s not gonna look good. Maybe I can’t go with all-caps. My reasoning for all-caps was purely superficial– it’s easier to align in terms of spacing. When you use lowercase, the y, j, looping down, and fs looping up can make it a little harder to look right.

A signature feature in the Etteilla decks is the upright and reversed keywords. Whether or not he was the first to introduce reading reversals, Etteilla popularized reading with reversals.

So for every card I draw, I’ve been turning it upside down to consider the reversed perspective of the illustration as well as the upright. And because the keywords are such an iconic feature in the Etteilla decks, they need to be legible. In this particular system of tarot, the keywords are as much a part of card interpretation as the illustrations.

Coming up with the “just right” keywords is sooo hard. You want it evocative and precise enough that anyone picking up this deck will be able to understand what the keywords are referring to. Yet it also needs to be as universal and general as possible, so that there’s space for people to read into the cards in their own personal ways. And because people are so different, that’s next to impossible.

That Ten of Coins, by the way, took me forever. In the Etteilla, this card corresponds astrologically with the Hermetic Lot of Fortune, and the reversed card meaning has a “Wheel of Fortune from the Majors” vibe to it. But then I didn’t want it to be too similar to what I’d do for the Wheel of Fortune card,

In my previous status update blog post, I shared the first seven pip cards from the suit of Coins, here.

Picking up where I left off, here is the Eight of Coins and Nine of Coins, corresponding with the north lunar node and south lunar node respectively.

At the time of this status update posting, I’ve completed the first 12 cards in the Major Arcana and the ten pip cards from the suit of Coins.

I’m writing both the long-form guidebook and the LWB at the same time while drawing each card. The entries feature the Etteilla II card images, only because the Lismon engravings are the only full-deck version of Etteilla that I could find that’s a high quality resolution. I cover the key symbols and what each one means, then the card’s divinatory meaning upright.

I also feature the deck art in reverse for the section on the reversals, hoping that will help the reader get acclimated to seeing the images in reverse.

Now let’s talk about the Four Virtues that are prominent in the Etteilla but not so much in the more popular versions of the tarot.

Etteilla I (Livre de Thot 1750s Basan Engravings)

A legend accompanying the 1790s Petit Oracles des Dames version of Etteilla notes that the cards representing the Four Virtues (Justice, Temperance, Fortitude, and Prudence) are encoded with a summary of all secrets of the Book of Thoth. In the Etteilla I engravings, all four Dames are wearing a belt inscribed with the word THOTH.

Etteilla I (Jean Henri Pussey 1860-1890)

The above coloring shows “THOTH” on the first three virtues, but seems to be missing from Prudence’s belt.

Etteilla II (1850s Lismon Letterpress)

Then when you get to Etteilla II, or at least the Lismon version, only Fortitude is wearing the THOTH belt. There’s also a significant change in Temperance between Etteilla I and Etteilla II. Here, Temperance is holding the Bridle of Restraint (rather than the more familiar two vessels with liquid poured between the two) and accompanied by an elephant (a popular 17th century animal correspondence for Temperance).

In Etteilla I and II, there are a few common features between the Justice and Strength/Fortitude cards: the checkered floor tiles along the bottom and the purple curtains along the top. (The curtains are missing in some iterations of Etteilla II, such as the Lismon version pictured here.) So that’s why you see these features recurring between Justice and Fortitude in my illustrations.

Oh, and here’s a one-minute animated clip of my drafting process for Fortitude. For this deck, I begin by hand-sketching the key subjects in the composition. Then I scan them in at high-res and digitally color the images.

Estensi Tarot (also Charles VI or Gringonneur Tarot), 15th c.

Even though none of these Etteilla Fortitude depictions feature the broken column motif, you’ll find it in several historical tarot decks. Plus, it was a popular way of depicting Fortitude during the Renaissance.

I was also inspired heavily by the Fortitude depiction in the Tarot de Mantegna, which you can check out here. Scroll all the way down to “The Cosmic Principles (Cardinal Virtues)” to see Cards 34 through 37.

And here’s my Temperance and Prudence:

I’m still on the fence about the red triangle and green hemisphere thing on Temperance, but you can see how I did that to stay consistent with the Temperance depiction in Etteilla I. It’s not in Etteilla II or III, so I might just give myself permission to edit that out. Not sure yet.

Tarots Egyptiens or Princess Tarot (1875), published by Lo Scarabeo (2018)

Here is that triangle and sphere situation under the feet of Temperance in the Princess Tarot version of Etteilla.

Etteilla III (Grand Jeu de L’Oracle des Dames), engravings from the Lemarchand text

Etteilla III departs from Etteilla I and II quite a bit, so I’ve been mainly keeping to the symbolism from I and II. The above engravings of Etteilla III are from the Lemarchand text, one of the books on Etteilla card meanings I’m translating and integrating into the guidebook.

Etteilla III, Jeu de l’Oracle des Dames (1870s)

I am loving how these four virtues came out. Now on to The Lovers equivalent and The Devil, which in the Etteilla are consecutive cards.

Kinda funny how on 4/22/2022, I have completed exactly 22 cards from my Etteilla redux deck. =)

4 thoughts on “Progress Notes on My Etteilla Tarot Redux

  1. shadowrose

    Really like that project! 🙂
    I can see, you decided for geomancy symbolism in coins 8&9… cauda draconis (-> southern lunar node) and caput draconis (-> northern lunar node).
    Why did you decide against seating Justice and Fortitude on a throne? It seems to be a common feature in Etteilla I, II and III. And if you don’t like that triangle/sphere symbolism, why don’t you include an elephant instead?
    Regarding the font: Is it really too tiny to be readable in its current size? I actually like the font you’ve chosen so far and also that capitals only style. In order to keep it readable you might try different sans serif fonts. However, I believe they might look indeed too modern.
    I’m looking forward to your next steps. Keep up the good work!


    1. Haha you saw that too huh! Yeah I really debated whether or not to have Justice and Fortitude seated on a throne. I ultimately decided I want all four of them to be standing. For kind of a superficial shallow reason. 🙂 I just thought as for art prints framed and hung on my wall, it would look better if all four were standing lol.


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