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.
My physical copy of the Book of Fate printed via makeplayingcards.com 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. =)
Back in 2018 I had the great privilege of reviewing the Majors Only version of Hans Bauer’s The Lost Tarot. The deck is premised on a fictionalized back story of an English merchant, William Bradford, who purchases from Leonardo da Vinci an optical device and early prototype of the modern camera.
This certain Mr. Bradford takes a series of photographs with da Vinci’s device, which was then lost in time, and only rediscovered in 1994. After some restoration efforts of those medieval photographs, The Lost Tarot is born.
Finally in 2022, the full deck is realized, accompanied by a fantastic full-color guidebook written by Carly Fischer. The guidebook is absolutely amazing. Not only does it make for a great primer on the tarot, following popular RWS card meanings, but it supports Bauer’s deck beautifully.
I do love the parchment design for the card backs. It works well with the premise of the deck. Love that Ace of Cups!
I’ll be taking a several-month hiatus from working on the Etteilla deck project because I have a book manuscript to complete. But before I take that hiatus, I want to “leave off” on a happy card.
And the last card of the Second Septenary in the Etteilla– The Devil– isn’t quite the happy card I’m thinking of. =)
So I’ve started the Ace of Cups, and am intentionally leaving it incomplete. That way it’s the prolonging energies in my space until I return. More about that. Keep reading.
POLL #1: Should I call the suit Chalices or Cups? I think technically for this deck, it’s supposed to be Chalices, right? But Cups just flows off the tongue better than Chalices, and much easier to verbalize. Let me know what you think.
This masterpiece reproduction of the Jean Dodal Tarot by Justin Michael and Shell David (of East Tarot) is everything to me right now. It’s a fixture on the corner of my personal reading desk and when I’m catching up with old friends via zoom video calls, I’ll reach for this particular deck, sling some cards while we virtual-klink wine glasses, and read about Life.
I wish I could tell you that they’re selling these and you can buy one for yourself, but I’m not sure. You’ll need to reach out to either Justin Michael or Shell David directly to find out. Whatever the cost, having just one of such decks is worth your investment.
It becomes that prized tool. You’re not paying for just another tarot deck for your collection. Something like this is special. It’s the artisan craftsmanship and the personal touch that you’re investing in, which I truly believe is converted into energy and gets infused throughout the deck.
Dating back to around 1701, the Jean Dodal deck, one of the early iterations of the Tarot de Marseille tradition of tarots, were printed from woodcut engravings and hand-colored by stencil, produced primarily for export. Shell David’s restoration project is top notch, and Justin Michael’s printing and production– just, wow.
What we call the “Petit Etteilla” refers to a class of 32-card piquet decks for cartomancy based on Etteilla’s 1770 text, which used the courts (Kings, Queens, Jacks), Aces, Tens, Nines, Eights, and Sevens from a playing card deck. To the 32-card pack, Etteilla added a 33rd card called “Etteilla” to designate the querent. And thus he proposed that the original Egyptian tarot pack consisted of 33 cards.
UPDATE: I referred to this deck as a “Petit Etteilla” because that’s how the British Museum referred to it. However, one of our community’s preeminent tarot historians, with a particularly vast amount of knowledge on the Etteilla, John Choma, came back with some clarifications.
This is not a Petit Etteilla deck, but an unrelated deck called the “Livre du Destin” (or Book of Fate), created some time in the mid-1800s. You can check out a few historic examples (thank you, John, for the links!): here (M. Violet, éditeur), here (Le Livre du destin), and here. These images are also notably similar to other 19th-century oracle decks like the 53-card Sibylle des Salons and the 36-card Petit Cartomancien.
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.
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).
I’ve started a new project– a reconstruction of the Grand Etteilla. (The deck name won’t be “Etteilla Tarot Reconstruction,” I assure you. It’ll have some overly fancy name. That’s just a placeholder for now.)
The project premise I defined for myself was “reconstruction of the Etteilla,” but the first challenge presented was, which Etteilla? What do you mean by a “reconstruction” of the “Etteilla”? And then, like, the deeper I tried to philosophize on those questions, the faster my brain melted. =(
Here, I’m saying reconstruction because I will be rebuilding the deck with more overtly Hermetic references from the Divine Pymander, which I believe was Etteilla’s original intention. And while I want to stay true to the original imagery– I do– I’m also adamant that the overall approach needs to be updated.
Tarot historians designate three major iterations of the Etteilla: the Grand Etteilla I, which would be Etteilla’s own pack and its direct descendants, circa 1791; the Grand Etteilla II published as the grand livre de Thot under Julia Orsini, believed to be a pseudonym for the publisher, circa 1838; and the Grand Etteilla III published as the Grand jeu de l’Oracles des Dames, first printed by G. Regamey around 1865. Both II and III were produced by the most notable students of Etteilla’s school of cartomancy. [Decker, Depaulis, and Dummett]
But… (!!!) there’s no real consensus on that. So you’re going to find different Etteilla I, II, III designations in different places. As if I’m not confused enough. =)
There’s also the Jeu de la Princesse Tarot circa 1843 sandwiched somewhere in between II and III, considered an offspring of Etteilla I. Another edition of Jeu de la Princesse Tarot seven years later changed Card No. 1 from the Male Querent (or The Man who Consults) to Thoth and Card No. 8 (previously the Female Querent) to Princess Tarot–“Princess Tarot” being described as a priestess or seer of Thebes and Memphis. After that there were a few more versions of the Etteilla of varying styles.
A 1969 Grimaud version of the Grand Etteilla features astrological correspondences where the first twelve cards are the zodiac signs, Aries through Pisces. So Card 1: Chaos is Aries, Card 2: Light (The Sun card) is Taurus, Card 3: Flora (The Moon card) is Gemini, and so on.
Then the ten pip cards in the suit of Coins correspond with the Sacred Seven planets, Lot of Fortune, and two lunar nodes. So the Ace of Coins corresponds with the sun, the Two of Coins with Mercury, the Three of Coins with Venus, etc.
The first seven cards also signify genesis, expressive of Creation. Then Card No. 8 in the second septenary is the High Priestess (in some versions of Etteilla) or more frequently, titled Rest, for the Biblical seventh day of creation when God rested, which He then made holy.
Card No. 1
In the beginning…
Card No. 2 upright
Day 1 of Creation
Card No. 3 upright
Day 3 of Creation
Land, Sea, and the Plant Kingdom
Card No. 4 upright
Day 2 of Creation
Card No. 5 upright
Day 6 of Creation
Land Creatures & Humans*
Card No. 6 upright
Day 4 of Creation
Sun, Moon, and Stars
Card No. 7 upright
Day 5 of Creation
Sea Creatures & Sky Creatures
Card No. 8 upright
Day 7 of Creation
And here’s how I interpreted the order of Creation that’s expressed in the first seven cards, per the Corpus Hermeticum:
Card No. 1
Void / Chaos
Card No. 2
Card No. 3
Card No. 4
Card No. 5
Card No. 6
Card No. 7
The Tree of Life / World Tree
Card No. 1 is the Male Querent while Card No. 8 is the Female Querent. The left two cards above are two different versions of the Male Querent card and the right two are versions of the Female Querent significator card. If you’re confused and secretly wondering if you’re dumb, don’t worry– I’m right there with you. I don’t get it either.
I’m currently reconstructing an Etteilla tarot deck, and as part of my process, I’m deep-diving into the Divine Pymander (one version of the Corpus Hermeticum) because Etteilla was reportedly obsessed with the Pymander and gave that text a great deal of sacred authority.
And so to do a proper Etteilla deck, I thought I had better get myself familiarized with this text that he personally placed so much importance on.
(Kinda like how, in order to get into Eliphas Levi, I had to first get into the Key of Solomon– hyperlinked Key of Solomon will take you to a free text download)
So I compiled the 1650 Everard translation of the Divine Pymander and the 1906 Mead translation of the Corpus Hermeticum tractates together into a book for convenient referencing. These texts date back to the 2nd century AD, if not earlier, and are discourses in the form of Socratic dialogues on the nature of God (divinity), humanity, the mind, alchemy, and astrology. You’ll also find a lot of crossover with Gnostic doctrine.
As far as I can gather, the Pymander and the body of texts referred to as the Corpus Hermeticum are the same, except there are more tractates, or books, in the Pymander than there are in Mead’s 1906 translation of the Corpus Hermeticum. Since both are included in this compiled book, you can do your own due diligence. In this text download, I’ve also included a few inserts from the Nag Hammadi discovered in 1945 and now added to the Hermetic corpus.