Reading with the Livre du Destin (or Book of Fate)

A while back I shared zip file downloads of the above deck here. I called it the Petit Etteilla, because that’s what it was called on the British Museum page that I got the images from.

And then much smarter cartomancy community members pointed out that it’s actually a deck called the Livre du Destin, or Book of Fate.

Edit: Changed Card 30 to “Gossip” in the downloadable zip file. Made more sense than “To Admonish.”

My physical copy of the Book of Fate printed via arrived and I thought it’d be fun to update you on how I read with this 33-card deck (supposed to be 32-card but I added that 33rd “Etteilla querent” card back when I thought it was a Petit Etteilla deck…oops).

I made my own English version of the deck but I didn’t share it publicly because I took some sweeping liberties with the “translations,” if one can even call it that. =)

For example, Widowed Man became The Enterprise and A Brown-Haired Man is now Social Influence. A Blonde got translated into Charisma. Marriage is Union. Pregnancy is… Abundance. =)

And then I hand-wrote in the divinatory meaning for each card to give it that worn-in vintage aesthetic. If you see historical images of these sorts of decks, they often have those personally written in keywords and phrases, so that’s what I was trying to replicate.

Here’s how the cards look as printed though– with a lot of blank space. Overall, they came out pretty swell, so now if you want these loosey goosey English translations of the French Livre du Destin (circa 1860s), here you go:

Book of Fate Cards

(70 mm x 121 mm)

Formatted with Bleed Margins for MPC Upload

I wanted the cards to have that matte pasteboard texture, so I went with the Eco Heritage E27 option that Make Playing Cards offers. Holy moly was it expensive!!

My final order total was $55 for a little oracle deck of 33 cards! Geez!

But just keep in mind it’s because I went with the crazy luxe version. The cardstock is really thin, but still feels nice. I love the antique-esque matte pasteboard texture. And the fact it has the word “Eco” in the product description means it’s good…right? =P

So how does the deck read?

I like it! Here’s the first way I’ve been reading with the Book of Fate cards:

  1. Find the The Querent card, gaze into it for moment, intending to “imprint” it (or whatever) with your energies. This will be your significator.
  2. Shuffle the cards while focusing on your question.
  3. Turn the deck over and look for the significator (The Querent card).
  4. When you locate it, note the card immediately in front of it and the card behind the significator.
  5. Card immediately in front of the significator is: a short summary of the situation; diagnosis of the matter at hand.
  6. Card immediately behind the signifcator is: the most probable outcome or what’s most likely to happen if the querent stays the current course.
  7. As you branch out on either side of where that Querent card was anchored, you’re getting more supporting insight into the situation.

Here’s a demonstration:

I’m going to keep my question private, because I asked a “real” question. =) Suffice it to say, it’s work related. And I asked a very specific work-related question that is essentially a yes-or-no question.

I turn the deck over, the “top-most card” on the face up deck would be Card 28, Social Climbing. I begin sifting through it looking for The Querent card. I find it and note the card immediately in front of it and the card immediately behind it.

Card 14, Business Letter is a short summary diagnosis of the matter at hand. Card 1, Law & Politics is the most probable outcome–and the pithy answer to my question presented. Then some of the other face-up cards you see, as you get farther from The Querent card just offer more supporting insights.

Let me just say– the synchronicities are eerie with this deck. As many of you know, my day job is lawyer, so what are the odds, really, that the Law & Politics card comes up for my question specific to my professional life.

You can even start laying the cards out into a horseshoe shaped spread. I found this made it easier to read. Also, they “pair off” on either side of The Querent, and you can read them as paired or related energies as well.

I found the little printable card meanings cheat sheet I hastily wrote up somewhat helpful, but also not necessary. These keywords plus the imagery plus the playing card equivalent in the top left corner was more than enough to read this deck straight out of the proverbial box. You really don’t need any prior knowledge to read these cards.

Here’s a slightly more involved way I’ve been reading with the Book of Fate cards. Bear in mind these are just my little ways and I’m sharing in case it helps inspire you to come up with your own ways to read with the deck. None of this is prescriptive.

Yes, these are all photos of actual readings I did for myself, sincerely, and yes, isn’t it crazy that the same cards showed up? I swear I shuffled well, and heck, even if I didn’t, the methodologies for both do a pretty good job randomizing the deck.

I shuffle, and then count cards up to 3. You put down the cards 1, 2, and then turn over the 3rd card. Move over to the next pile. Count 1, 2, and then turn over the 3rd card face up. Keep going until you have 8 cards face up like what you see in the photo above.

Here the eight positions correspond with the eight trigrams of the Ba Gua in the I Ching. The trigram correspondences are what define the card position indications. This approach is more for general readings where you’re getting a little snippet of forecasts into every sector of your life. The first reading methodology was more for specific questions, and lends itself particularly well for yes-or-no questions.

The print quality is pretty good. It looks and feels like an aged vintage deck. The smudges convince you that this was your great grandmother’s deck. If it were bold and bright, with 600 dpi sharp resolution, it wouldn’t look right.

Overall, a fun, accurate reading deck that requires no prior knowledge or skill. I felt like the keywords and illustrations were plenty to go off of.

This is easily my favorite and go-to oracle deck right now. You get quick, punchy readings that answer your questions succinctly.

4 thoughts on “Reading with the Livre du Destin (or Book of Fate)

  1. shadowrose

    Hi Bell,
    well, while not being exactly a Petit Etteilla then, it still belongs to the same family (as does the oracle des dames). I believe those are the “missing links” between Etteilla and Lenormand.

    So, congrats to your new and successful job-related offer (as the cards indicate a clear and positive “yes” to whatever your question was exactly)! 😉

    That pairing or mirror axis effect is interesting. I frequently had the same with the 21 cards spread. Also repetition of certain cards while shuffling well. And isn’t that the reason for us, using cards as divination tool – because we want them to tell us something?

    Where did you change the “to admonish” caption to “gossip”, btw? As far, as I could see the version I downloaded has the original French captions without any translation. And also the lwb is still the same.


    1. Oh noes! I think something wonky happened during my upload of files process. Argh. I am going to have to carve out some time, figure out what happened, and revise this page. Thanks for the heads up!


  2. Thank you for this! I recently acquired a version of this deck with the same images (by Grimaud), and find it really charming. I didn’t know that the original is in the British Museum. I love your keywords and am going to try incorporating them, as well as the two methods you outline. I’m wondering how you would advise incorporating the playing card inserts in a reading? Thanks in advance.


  3. Anonymous

    I have been gifted 2 versions of these in French. they are quite old and I have never really read with them, you have given me the kick up the backside to dig them out and start reading!


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