Re: Deciphering the Sola-Busca Pips

Thanks, Steve. I'll try to find the relevant passages in the French editions, as reproduced by Trionfi.

So would you conclude that when I see correlations between the SB cards and the corresponding Etteilla' words, at least for the twos, fours, and five, they are probably just coincidences, or my relatively arbitrary impositions of meaning onto the SB cards, because Etteilla took the words he used from the context of totally different numbers (i.e. the sevens, nines, and tens)? Or might he have gotten his piquet Reverseds originally from words traditionally associated with the twos, fours, and fives of a full 52 card deck, and then in the later work restored what he had found? And what about the threes and sixes?

I may have somewhat arbitrarily interpreted the SB in terms of Etteila in some cases. But I know I did not for the Five of Coins, because I didn't have him as the lover originally. I had him as a spreader of gossip about lovers, in the way a parrot might repeat something it has heard to someone who isn't supposed to know. I presented my interpretation to a few other tarot enthusiasts, and they thought what I said was too contrived. Then I remembered how the lover himself was compared to the bird in the troubadour songs; my friends found that more acceptable. They did not know the Etteilla words. They only knew Waite, who doesn't associate that card with the lover at all, but rather with destitution. And later still, I found the 15th century Italian drawing of the phallus-shaped bird and the couple engaged in copulation. These--troubadour song and drawing--are independent justifications for the interpretation.

The SB Sevens and their Temperaments

I have said most of what I want to say about the Sola-Busca Sevens at viewtopic.php?f=23&t=523#p7295. Reviewing that post, I would change one thing, namely the correlation between the cards and two of the four temperaments. I would also add a few details, drawing on some comments by Sofia Di Vincenzo in the booklet Sola-Busca Tarot.


Although the figure on the Seven of Coins looks Melancholic, or at best Phlegmatic (the temperament I assigned him), I suspect that such was not the intention of the original designer of that card. As Marco points out (viewtopic.php?f=12&t=530&start=0#p7367), the falcon was associated with the Sanguine temperament. We can see that on a tarot-like representation of the four temperaments, from the 15th century. I get this image from Laurinda Dixon, Bosch, p. 81. She says that the temperaments are, from left to right: sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic. There is also an assignment to elements, obviously. (And yes, I know that some of the suit-signs that may be suggested here--the falconer's stick and the merchant's or money-lender's coins, don't correspond to Marco's overall schema. For our purposes, what matters is that the falcon is associated with the sanguine one.)


For its part, the "Etteilla" word-list for Coins fits the Sanguine temperament just as well as it does the Melancholic. Here it is again.
ETTEILLA 7 OF COINS, UPRIGHT: Money, Wealth, Sum, Silver.—Silverware.—Whiteness, Purity, Naïveté, Innocence, Artlessness [ingénuité], Moon.—Purgation, Purification. REVERSED: Anxiety [Agitation], Mental Torment, Impatience, Trouble, Despondent, Worry, Concern, Care, Attention, Diligence, Applying Yourself.—Apprehension, Fear, Distrust, Mistrust, Suspicion.
This list is Sanguine in the Uprights and Melancholic in the Reverseds. Perhaps it takes the Uprights from the association of the SB falcon with Sanguine, and the Reverseds from looking at the SB man's face.

Di Vincenzo makes some observations about this card that connect its Sanguinity to the theme of the "seven metals," which I would extend to the corresponding "seven ages of man." She says that the rod on which the falcon is perched controls ventilation into a circular store, which heats the coins that are above it. What the young man is doing is purifying the metals of their defects, corresponding to "the passions, the instinctive elements of the personality, the base thoughts generated by the struggle to assert one's external ego" (p. 76). That explains the red wings around them: they represent the uplifting heat, serving as wings to make them take flight as they are purified. So he is also purifying himself as he goes through the "seven ages" in his own life, a task about which he must feel some trepidation, as expressed in the "Etteilla" Reverseds. If successful, it will culminate in what Di Vincenzo says is the alchemical rubedo, represented by the highest disc, around which there is a red ribbon. In the seven stages, I would add, that one corresponds to lead or Saturn, which now instead of being "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything," as Shakespeare's Jaques would have it, is a purification transcending all the senses. In the Theology of Arithmetic, however, this state is not reached until the Eights and Nines. The Sevens are the realm of the "rational soul" (p. 73).

If Coins is Sanguine, I need to make one other change to my earlier post: to reassign Phlegmatic to Cups (which I had as Sanguine). I saw the boy or young man in Cups as poised for action; the pose reminds me of the various Davids done around that time (Michelangelo's was 1504).


But the boy could also be seen as in a calm, dreamy state. Many of the words in the "Etteilla" Uprights do fit the Phlegmatic temperament; however the words of the Reverseds suggest that perhaps someone along the way did see this card as like the David statues.
ETTEILLA 7 OF CUPS: Thought, Soul, Mind, Intelligence, Idea, Memory, Imagination, Understanding, Notion, Meditation, Contemplation, Reflection, Deliberation, View, Opinion, Sentiment. REVERSED: Project, Design [Plan], Intention, Desire, Will, Resolution [Decision], Determination, Premeditation.
Batons, the man bent over from his load, is still Melancholy, as I had him originally. Di Vincenzo (p. 103) observes that he seems to be placing these bulky arrows on the ground, relieving himself of the load. That is a good move for someone leaving the prime of life, when it is time to take on new roles. And Swords, the man running as though after a raid, or perhaps before one (if the shield he is running over is more recent) is still Choleric. The suit assignments for the Sevens now fit Marco's schema 100%.


The SB Eights

Among the Sola-Busca Eights, I am starting with Batons because it is the only one of the four SB Eights to have all eight of the suit-sign objects together. Swords and Coins are both 7+1; Cups is 6 + 2.


From the perspective of Renaissance popular art, not drawing on Greek myth or philosophy, the most obvious interpretation is that the batons are phallic symbols, and the cup a vagina. The batons might also be children and the cup a uterus.

Sofia Di Vincenzo runs with this line of thinking:
First of all, the vase is a symbol of the uterus in which a new life is formed; symbol of the secret forces of nature, receptacle of the drink of immortality, image of the universal heart, of the secret center from whence the souls of the just come and in which they return. (Sola-Busca Tarot p. 105)
Commenting on the flower petals that adorn the vase, she adds:
The lotus, or waterlily, in Egyptian iconography represents rebirth...[(p. 105)
The rest of her comments relate the card to Buddhism, with its "eightfold path," etc. Since I am doing a historical investigation, these are of no relevance here. I know of no Buddhists--but plenty of Pythagoreans--in the milieu in whch the Sola-Busca was likely to have been conceived and used.

In connection with another of the Eights, the Eight of Cups, she also observes:
There being eight orifices in the female body, this number is traditionally associated with the vagina--the door through which a new life enters into the world. (p. 48)
Because there are no sticks shown outside the vase, or in the process of falling out, the Eight of Batons shows us something different, something prior to the birth canal.

Examination of the Theology of Arithmetic's chapter on the Ogdoad, the Eight, shows that Di Vincenzo is on track in the passages I have cited. The Theology says:
Hence they used to call the ogdoad 'mother,' perhaps referring to what has already been said (for even number is female), but perhaps, since Rhea is the mother of the gods, because although the dyad was shown to belong to Rhea seminally, the ogdoad does in extension. [Translator's note: see p. 46: 8 and 2 cubed.] And some think that the word 'ogdoad' was coined to resemble 'ekdyad'--that is, the one which is generated 'out of the dyad,' when it is cubed.

Page 46 of the Theology is in the chapter on the Dyad. The Triad, or enformed matter, is the product of the Monad, pure form in the mind of God, and the Dyad, unformed matter: God is the father, matter the mother. In the ancient world, Rhea was more than the mother of the gods: she was the Great Mother, the mother of all nature ( P. 46 of the Theology says that the Dyad is Rhea because it is flux, i.e. matter in flux, with no definite form. A note by the translator informs us that the Greek word for "flux" is similar to "Rhea." Then Rhea reappears in the Ogdoad, which is the cube of 2. Here she is not mere matter, but a strong personality with her own myth.

Rhea's myth is that of a mother who sees her husband, mindful of a prophecy that one of his children will overthrow him, eat his children one by one shortly after giving birth. She doesn't like it; she argues with him, we imagine, but to no avail. For her the situation is of crisis proportions.

One thing that doesn't fit the myth is the presence of all these foetuses in one uterus. Rhea, as her myth is told, conceived her children one at a time. So the womb here is perhaps a super-celestial womb, holding all her children prior to conception. Another thing is the number of swords. Rhea had six children, not eight. But there have to be eight swords, to direct our attention to Rhea, goddess of the Ogdoad.

Perhaps we are to include two other swallowed deities: Athena, whom Zeus, Rhea's youngest son, swallowed in embryo (see again), along with her mother Metis. Yes, combining that myth with the other is something of a stretch. The number of children is a technical detail; and 6 is close to 8.What is most important is the reference to Rhea, whose number is 8.

On the one hand, Rhea is the source of all life, all things fruitful. We see these enumerated in the Etteilla Uprights. On the other hand, for her husband Cronos/Saturn, she is a source of marital strife and of regret for her part in this infanticide. This side of her is indicated in the Etteilla Reverseds.
ETTEILLA 8 OF BATONS: Countryside, Field, Plain, Agriculture, Cultivation, Plowing, Landed Property, Real Estate, Solid, Farm, Garden, Orchard, Meadow, Woods, Grove, Foliage, Pleasure, Divertissement, Amusement, Pastime, Relaxation, Festivities, Peace, Calm, Tranquility, Innocence, Country Living.—Forest, Small Valley, Mountain, War Camp. REVERSED: Domestic Dispute, Examination, Reasoning, Discord [Quarrel].—Regrets, Remorse, Repent, Internal Trouble, Indecision, Uncertainty, Inconceivable, Incomprehensible, Doubt, Scruple, Troubled Conscience.
The Sola-Busca's harmoniously placed arrows flanked by flower petals reflect the side of Etteilla Uprights, Rhea as Great Mother. The Reverseds reflect the problem with her husband. The Waite-Smith is quite different. In Smith's image, there is a country background, as though playing lip-service to the "Etteilla" (although Waite's Uprights owe nothing to that list), but the emphasis is on the arrows, arrows of discord, flying swiftly to their unseen target.


And here, clearly illustrating the arrows rather than the background, is Waite's word-list itself:
WAITE 8 OF BATONS: Activity in undertakings, the path of such activity, swiftness as that of an express messenger; great haste, great hope, speed towards an end which promises assured felicity; generally, that which is on the move; also the arrows of love. Additional meanings: Domestic disputes for a married person. REVERSED: Arrows of jealousy, internal dispute, stingings of conscience, quarrels; and domestic disputes for persons who are married.

Only the Reverseds reflect Etteilla, and there is nothing at all to suggest the Sola-Busca.

So let us move on to the SB Eight of Swords:


Again I think some of what Di Vincenzo says is instructive:
....the naked youth (like truth) embraces seven swords, symbols of the indispensable virtues for achieving the inner balance (strength, justice, prudence, temperance, faith, hope charity) which is inevitably reflected outside the self. The eighth sword represents the will erquired for fighting against one's own defects. (p. 133)

So this card is actually referring to the Seven, with the addition of a personal response by the human figure.

I think that the Pythagoreanism that the card is drawing on is something that Aristotle said about the Pythagoreans, in a lost work quoted by others, that seven is the number of kairos, translated as "opportunity" or "critical time" (Pythagoras: his life Teaching, and Influence, 2005, p. 81, in Google Books). In his surviving works, Aristotle alludes to this doctrine in Metaphysics Book I sect. 5, mentioning "kairos" but not associating it with a specific number. The Theology, however, clearly associates the concept with the Heptad:
Hence many things, both in the heavens of the universe and on the Earth--celestial bodies and creatures and plants--are in fact brought to completion by it. And that is why it is called 'Chance,' because it accompanies everything which happens, and 'critical time,' because it has gained the most critical position and nature.
Among its numerous illustrations of this point are the critical points in the development of the human organism: semen fertilizes the egg within seven hours or not at all, then come seven days before the embryo is stable in the womb, after which abortion is more difficult; then seven months until a viable birth, seven hours before the severance of the umbilical cord, seven more months until teeth are cut, 2x7 for sitting up, 3x7 for talking, 7 years for shedding the first set of teeth, and so on, through the seven stages of life( pp. 91-94). In each case, seven marks a critical point, when something must happen if the organism is to develop.

So: in the myth of Rhea, she is at a crisis point, associated with the number seven even though she is pregnant with her sixth child. Similarly, in the alchemical illustration Di Vincenzo gives for the Seven (which she continues in the Eight), after the purification of all the metals, the work is at a crisis point: something must come next, the result of living conformably with all the virtues, the three Christian virtues and the four pagan ones.

The "Etteilla' word-list reads like a reflection upon this situation:
ETTEILLA 8 OF SWORDS: Criticism, Regrettable Situation, Critical Moment, Critical Time, Decisive Moment, Unfortunate Situation, Delicate Circumstance, Crisis.—Examination, Discussion, Investigations, Blame, Censure, Commentary, Conclusion, Monitoring, Disapproval, Condemnation, Abrogation, Judgment, Contempt. REVERSED: Incident, Difficulty, Exceptional Situation, Conjunction, Event, Accessory, Unconscious, Obstacle, Delay, Waiting.—Abjection.—Dispute, Contradiction, Opposition, Resistance, Squabble.—Unexpected, Unforeseen, Fortunate Occurrence, Destiny, Fate, Accidents, Misfortunes, Disgrace, Unfortunate, Symptom.
In comparison to the drawn sword and determination to act in the Sola-Busca, the lady in the Waite-Smith card is a passive victim of fate! This card, like Batons, owes little to the Sola-Busca, in iconography or spirit.


We can see where this imagery comes from if we look at Waite's own word list.
WAITE 8 OF SWORDS: Bad news, violent chagrin, crisis, censure, power in trammels, conflict, calumny, also sickness. Additional Meanings: For a woman, scandal spread in her respect. REVERSED: Disquiet, difficulty, opposition, accident, treachery; what is unforeseen; fatality. Additional Meanings: Departure of a relative.
This list does borrow from the "Etteilla", but in a purely negative way. He has put the "Etteilla"--and the Sola-Busca as well--through the filter of his own narrative for Swords (Kaplan Vol. 1). The Sola-Busca is more ambiguous, a feature which to me speaks in its favor.

Coins also has the 7+1 motif. But this time the one outside the main group has a skull next to it.


What are we to make of that skull? I think we can get something of a clue from the "Etteilla" word-list, which here is uncommonly short.
ETTEILLA 8 OF COINS: A Dark Girl, Passive, Great Night. REVERSED. Lack of [Voided] Ambition, Avarice, Usury.
"Great night" is the first clue. The eighth sphere of the heavens is the sphere of the Fixed Stars, which are mostly visible only at night. It is also the boundary of the universe as it is knowable by reason and the senses. "Passive" and "lack of ambition" are also clues. It is the defeated ego, Rhea's in fact, powerless against the will of her husband. Seven, in the basket, is the number of Athena, rational intellect. The Eight is reason come up against its limit. The defeat of the ego feels like a death. Rhea's crisis is a negative situation, crying for illumination.I will ignore the other words in the list: "dark girl" comes from Coins' equivalent in French suits, Clubs (from the pattern on some Italian suits of coins); and "Avarice, Usury" are negative words connected with money, corresponding to the basketful of riches on the SB card, but nothing in Rhea's myth.

Di Vincenzo has some eloquent comments about the Eight (among others which I don't think fit):
The tree, which sheds and bedecks itself with leaves each year, represents the continuous evolution of life (death and regeneration)... {p. 77)
She also says that Eight is
..the symbol of the resurrection of Christ and the promise of the resurrection of man transfigured by grace. (p. 77)

It seems to me that the tree on the card is that of the crucifixion, the tree of death which will become the tree of life. The card shows us the part of the process pertaining to death. The bird is most likely a vulture, which picks the flesh off of dead bodies, transforming it to its own living substance and leaving the bones. The vulture was worshipped as such by the Egyptians.

Despite my quibbles, what Di Vincenzo's ends with for this card eems to me excellent:
From an alchemic point of view, this card represents the Nigredo, or the black Opera, that is, the total dissociation of inner activities from external ones that leads to the sleep of the consciousness, a trance state similar to death. The so-called Regime of Saturn is, in effect, an essential element in the transformation of the individual through the passage for the eighth form, as is evidenced by the initiatory rites of every tradition, which all foresee the symbolic death of the candidate. (p. 78)
Her divinatory summary also seems to me appropriate
Significance: a skull under a basket--a serious loss, but trust survives. Moment at a standstill, sense of impotence, closing up within oneself, or more simply, inertia due to laziness, fatique or illness. Difficult recovery of energy. (p. 78)
Waite and Smith's interpretation of the 8 of Coins is totally different.


This of course is the scene on the Sola-Busca Six of Coins, without the Pythagorean triangular arrangement of the plates. Waite does what he can to express this view of the Eight while giving lip-service to the "Etteilla" in his Reverseds.
WAITE 8 OF COINS: Work, employment, commission, craftsmanship, skill in craft and business, perhaps in the preparatory stage. Additional Meanings: A young man in business who has relations with the Querent; a dark girl. REVERSED: Voided ambition, vanity, cupidity, exaction, usury. It may also signify the possession of skill, in the sense of the ingenious mind turned to cunning and intrigue. Additional Meanings: The Querent will be compromised in a matter of money-lending.
Finally we come to the Sola-Busca's Eight of Cups:


In terms of the myth of Rhea, what I see is hope. Six cups, representing her five children already born, are on the ground, but two remain, representing her one pregnancy left. (The added cup in both places is probably there simply so that the total will add up to 8. Alternatively, the one on the ground could be Metis, the Titan goddess and first wife of Zeus, and the one above her unborn child Athena, swallowed in embryo by Zeus along with her mother.)

In her impotence and despair, Rhea asks her mother Gaia and father Uranos for a way to save her child. The answer is to give her husband a stone wrapped in swaddling clothe instead of the newborn ( Then her child will be raised in a remote place where her husband will not find her. All that remains is to execute the plan, in fear and trembling, yet with great hidden joy.

The "Etteilla" list is consistent with some of my interpretation in terms of Rhea's myth, but not all of it, especially the idea of "public joy, spectacle, pomp." Rhea's joy is now still of a hidden nature.
ETTEILLA 8 OF CUPS: Fair Girl, Honest Girl, Practical Girl, Honor, Propriety, Modesty, Restrained, Timidity, Fear, Apprehension, Sweetness [Mildness], Attractiveness. REVERSED: Satisfaction, Happiness, Contentment, Gayety, Joy, Elation, Festivity, Entertainment, Feast.—Apology, Atonement, Exoneration.—Public Joy, Spectacle, Pomp, Dressing, Preparation, Arrangement.
I don't know how Di Vincenzo did it, but some of her comments are quite consistent with what I have just been saying
...The column represents the axis that connects terrestrial life to celestial life, and it is the boundary that separates the two worlds. It is also a phallic symbol and in certain cases represents the spinal column.
The violet color of the column, composed in equal measure of red and blue, represents the balance between heaven and earth, the coincidentia oppositorum. It is a twilight color, laden with ambivalent significances: suffering, penance and death on the one side, and moderation, harmony and temperance on the other.
This card represents the physical or spiritual birth (or rebirth) of the individual called upon to reveal himself in his completeness or regeneration. It also symbolizes initiation and submission to the laws of nature. (p. 49)
Her "celestial" vs. "terrestrial" distinction corresponds to what I call, in Rhea's myth, unborn vs. born. The birth that is portended is that of Zeus, who will grow up to fulfill the prophecy and overthrow his father.

Inexplicably, what Di Vnicenzo has for the divinatory significance is totally different, seemingly out of nowhere:
Significance: Children placing ewers on the ground--a moment of joyous distraction. Amusement, entertainment, pleasurable activities. Sensitivity to the charm of others, impressionability, seduction. An interest in magic, mysticism and esoterism. (p. 49)
Perhaps part of where this comes from is the "Etteilla"; but her words are even closer to Smith and Waite. Here is Smith, followed by Waite:


WAITE 8 OF CUPS: The card speaks for itself on the surface, but other readings are entirely antithetical—giving joy, mildness, timidity, honour, modesty. In practice, it is usually found that the card shews the decline of a matter, or that a matter which has been thought to be important is really of slight consequence—either for good or evil. Additional Meanings: Marriage with a fair woman. REVERSED: Great joy, happiness, feasting. Reversed Meanings: Perfect satisfaction.
In the tradition I seem to be finding, the card is neither as negative as Waite's Upright comments, nor as positive as his Reverseds. Smith's card. with its gloomy nighttime scene, relates more to the theme that I have described for the 8 of Coins.

There remains the task of seeing whether we can assign specific temperaments to these four cards. Here it seems to me that Coins is obviously melancholy, with its skull. Swords is choleric. Batons is hard to place; it is either phlegmatic or sanguine. Cups is probably the cheeriest of the bunch. Even though it is simply cherubs playing, in my interpretation it is the most sanguine. These results are 25-75% in conformity with Marco's schema.

5 of Coins

[I know this is a little late in response, but this post sat in my Drafts for a month (-| ]

I actually like the association of the 5 with Lovers, and not only because the Minchiate has the V. Love ;)
The fives, for me, can mean "thoughts pertaining to the body." This can be body consciousness or a particular over-comfortableness with one's sexuality---not in today's terms but something that certainly would have played a part how one would have been perceived then. [I prefer looking at meanings in the context in which a deck was created.] This would then have brought down probable condemnation for lax sexual mores, "sexual gossip."

Also, then as now Love is often compared to illness, so it's not too far off the mark to compare the Waite meaning of illness with this card: "love sick," broken heart," "love hurts," etc.

Re:Five of Coins

"Thoughts pertaining to the body" equals, in Neopythagorean terminology, "thoughts pertaining to the vegetative soul," i.e. the body as a living, growing, reproducing entity. This is one thing the Pentad is about, according to the Theology of Arithmetic. I would say, with you, that it is the main thing the SB Fives are about. If you have any particular thoughts about the other fives in this context, I'd be interested.

"Sexual gossip": as in "a little bird told me." That was another association I had for the SB 5 of Coins. I think we're on the same page.

The SB Nines

he SB Nine of Batons shows a man crossing a stream carrying a heavy load of sticks.


In the Renaissance, the most familiar picture of someone crossing a stream with a load was that of St. Christopher carrying the child Jesus across a swollen river. According to the Golden Legend, he felt like he was carrying the weight of the whole world. ( The child then told him that not only had he carried the whole world, but also He who made it.

In the Theology, we learn that the Ennead is associated with Oceanus, the god that governs that which borders our world and than which nothing further can be conceived.
Hence they call it 'Oceanus' [Translator's note: Oceanus was envisaged as an expanse of water encircling the outer limits of the world] and 'horizon,' because it encompasses both of these locations and has them within itslef. [Translator's note: Because all things are made from number and 9 is the furthest limit of number.] (P. 105),
It is similar to what is beyond the sphere of Fixed Stars, the void ( It contains the whole cosmos in its expanse.

It is also the super-celestial region leading up to the One. For the Christian Neoplatonist pseudo-Dionysus, this region was filled with nine choirs of angels, in three groups of three. For the Theology, rationalizing myth, this was the realm of the Curetes, the initiators of Zeus:
Both Orpheus and Pythagoras made a particular point of describing the ennead a 'pertaining to the Curetes,' on the grounds the rites sacred to the Curetes are tripartite [Translator's note: the Curetes were Cretan deities who in myth looked after the infant Zeus], with three rites to each part, or as 'Kore' [Translator's note: Persephone]; both of these titles are appropriate to the triad, and the ennead contains the triad three times. (p. 107)

However the "Etteilla" list takes a less cosmic approach.
ETTEILLA 9 OF BATONS: Delay, Waiting Time, Distance, Adjournment, Deferral, Suspension, Extension, Slowness, Slowing Down.REVERSED: Crossing, Obstacle, Difficulties, Vexation [Displeasure], Disadvantage, Adversity, Pain, Bad Luck, Misfortunes, Calamity.
Here it is only the Reverseds that fit the SB image, and even then not its last three, which are really negative, words. It is possible that in the Uprights he is thinking of a river as something that slows one down. You have to wait for the ferry, or spend a long time finding a place and time to ford it. Spiritually, that may mean a long time between incarnations, or before getting out of Purgatory and into Heaven, or a long time climbing the rungs of Heaven. In terms of the Theology, there is the question, what does one do in the 216 years between incarnations? The author doesn't ponder this question.

Di Vincenzo takes a similar approach as Etteilla, seeing the card in terms of obstacles to be overcome. However she adds that the river "separates two existential conditions" and compares the river crossing to baptism (Sola Busca, p. 108). She mentions that Dante's Divine Comedy had nine infernal regions and nine heavens (p. 107). Another interesting detail she notices is that the person has a white ribbon in his or her hair: white ribbons symbolize purity (as in a recent German movie by that title); the person is undergoing a rite of purification.

Smith's card uses only the "Etteilla" words associated with waiting, as does Waite in his word-list. To me her illustration is hardly as rich as the SB's.


Let us move on to Swords. I see very much the same Neopythagorean world-view as in the case of Batons.


The container is here the large vessel containing 8 swords, perhaps corresponding to the 8 spheres between the earth and the void. But the man is not in that vessel. He, and the 9th sword, are mostly outside. Only his hand is inside. It isn't clear what that hand is doing. Di Vincenzo says he is taking swords out of a well (p. 135). I see little basis for saying this. I have no idea what he is doing. Maybe he is feeling the bottom, to see if it is on terra firma--corresponding to the Neopythagorean interpretation of the 9th sphere, as the earth itself. To me the important thing is that he is in both worlds, the world beyond our consciousness and the domain that can be part of our awareness. The figure is like a person who lives in the world, but who is mostly not of it. Or as the "Etteilla" Uprights have it:
ETTEILLA 9 of BATONS: Unmarried Person, Virginity, Abbott, Priest, Monk, Hermit, Religious Person, Temple, Church, Monastery, Convent, Hermitage, Sanctuary.—Cult, Religion, Piety, Devotion, Rite, Ceremony, Ritual.—Cloistered Person, Anchorite, Vestal Virgin. REVERSED: Justified Mistrust, Justified Suspicion, Reasonable Fear, Misgiving, Doubt, Conjecture.—Scruple, Troubled Conscience, Innocent, Timidity, Propriety.— Disgrace, Shame.

Di Vincenzo makes an interesting point about the putto and what she takes to be a key hanging from the wall. She says that the putto is a beneficent angel that is helping him to unlock the red ribbon (the color of the rubedo, completion of the work) that ties the swords together. In that way the card is about learning to be conscious of the whole, and the need for divine guidance, That point is indeed consistent with the Theology. Wisdom is in part to know and discriminate among the spheres. However I still do not see any action implied in the card; it is about knowledge, not action, perhaps including musical knowledge, listening to the harmony of the spheres, for the Ennead, the Theology proclaims:
...brings numbers together and makes them play in concert, it is is called concord' and 'limitation,' and also 'sun,' in the sense that it gathers things together.[Translator's note: Helios] (sun) is linked with halizein gather together. (p. 106).

Smith's design for Swords draws at best on the Reverseds, which Waite copied. But the design here mostly seems to me intended to accommodate the narrative that Waite thought up for Swords (Kaplan Vol. 1 p. 272: "the nine of swords shows a grieving sister waking up in bed after a dream has revealed to her the terrible fate of her brother.").


On to Cups.


Di Vincenzo says that the sea-creature is a Triton. The figure may have been copied from a an Italian engraving of the late 15th century, according to Hind (Early Italian Engraving, vol 2, Pl 149) done in the North of Italy but derived from a Florentine original. I reproduce here the relevant detail of the engraving, its central image. The circle containing the Triton is flanked by winged putti along with a man on the left offering a ring and a woman on the right offering a wreath.


"Triton" was a generic term denoting a class of sea-demigods with the above appearance. However it also denoted a particular demigod, the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite ( A complication is that Poseidon had another son, Proteus, by the goddess Tethys, who was represented in the same way. Proteus had a special ability that makes him a more attractive candidate for the sea-creature on the card (and here I am agreeding with He could change his shape at will, thereby making him a candidate for the alchemists' elusive Mercurius. The legend was that whoever caught him, despite these changes, would be able to make him prophesy. Here is how Alciati depicted him in his Emblemata of 1551 ( (And yes, I know that he is shown with horse's legs here; But Triton, too, was sometimes shown that way; see


Alciato's text (first published 1531) below the image reads:
O Proteus, old man of Pallene, with the form of an actor, who at one moment takes the limbs of a man, at another those of a beast, come tell us why you turn into all shapes, so that, forever changing, you have no fixed form?

I bring forth symbols of antiquity and a primaeval age, of which each man dreams, according to his wishes.
The motto, above the image, reads: "All that is most ancient is a lie." That's quite a statement for someone like Alciato who makes his living concocting emblems based on ancient mythology. However it fits in with Proteus's answer in the text, that the earliest myths, like dreams, are just wish-fulfilment fantasies.

And here is an alchemical reference to Proteus as a form of Mercurius, by Heinrich Khunruth (1560-1605) (
The SB character, whoever he is, has five cups in the air. while he holds onto four with ropes. He is like an accomplished juggler. But it seems to me that the upper cups may also be balloons, held down by similar ropes as hold the lower ones. Then is the character an impostor? Or is it we who jump to conclusions too soon?

Di Vincenzo's comments that the creature "represents the end of a course, the completion of a cycle, and the beginning of a new life." For in the Nines, besides completing something, as befitting 3x3 (3 as the number of beginnings, middles, and ends), we are starting a return to the Source. She sees the creature as a representative of "Primitive energies preserved by the water," yet in a merely personal way, as "hereditary components, aspects of the personality present in the individual even before birth" (p.51).

The perspective of the Theology is similar, but also grander. We see the similarity in some of the names it gives the Ennead. One is
Similarly, it is

Both as Proteus and as number, it is the origin of everything, the beginning that contains, like St. Christopher's Christ-child, all the spheres of being.

Di Vincenzo shows some awareness of this cosmic aspect of the card when she comments that nine

Similarly the Theology says:

Etteilla has some of the limitations of Di Vincenzo's concluding remarks on this card (I mean the merely personal perspective, from her p. 51).

Smith's card strikes me as having much the same sense of victory and confidence as the SB and the "Etteilla," although in a totally different design.


The last of our Nines is Coins. Here is the SB's:


If the 8 of Coins was a Mortificatio, the 9 looks even more so. A human-identified figure in a fire is not that uncommon in alchemy, for example in Emblem 23 of Michael Maier’s Atalanta Fugiens, where the wolf is Antimony, another form of alchemical Mercury, whom we saw in Cups as Proteus.


Another example from the same work is Emblem 33, where the figure on the fire is more human; it is the Rebus, the alchemical two-in-one, two heads of opposite gender on one body. The fire promotes the further unification of the opposites.


In the SB image, the discs above the fire have the appearance of the triangular Hexad, one of the "perfect" numbers, but there are actually seven. Besides them, there is one above and one below, suggesting the goal, heaven, and the starting-point, earth. The realm of soul is in between. The next perfect number, in fact the most perfect, is the Decad.

The man in the fire is an approximation of the wolf in Meier's image, alchemical Mercury, the purifier of metals. In alchemy, the result is a return to the beginning in purified form. That was one of the roles of Proteus, whom we met in Cups. The discs above the fire are like the Rebus, a one-in-many that will emerge purified and perfected, as he was in the beginning, like the King who walks away in Meier's other image.

In the Theology, one deity associated with the Ennead, we have seen, is Terpsichore, which it says means "turning around." Nine is the number which begins the return to the Monad on a higher level, actualized and purified by its ascension through the numbers. Another deity that the Theology associates with the Enneud is Haephestus:

Thus we see the ninth disc at the very top of the pile, perhaps corresponding to "evaporation" in the Theology. The discs in the container are like the Rebus. The man on the fire is like Mercurius, the agent of transformation. The alchemist is like all of these.

That the fire, however painful, burns to a good end is reflected in the "Etteilla" Uprights. The Reverseds, it seems to me, describe the false alchemist, the deceiver or "puffer," as other alchemists called them, who claimed to be able to turn base metals into gold--and even gave demonstrations if pressed enough.

The Reverseds perhaps also owe something to Alciato, for whom Proteus was a symbol of primordial wish-fulfillment.

Smith gets the Uprights in her image but not the Reverseds.


A nice touch is the three sets of three, which indeed were part of the Neopythagorean analysis of the Nine, as the square of three and the Curetes, who in Chistianity correspond to the three sets of three choirs of angels.

Waite's own word list essentially copies the "Etteilla." (See

I suppose now I should say something about what temperaments are reflected in each of these cards. In this case, Discs is certainly not sanguine, but if anything melancholy. The sea-serpent is certainly not phlegmatic, as Marco's schema would predict; he is full of extraverted energy, so I would guess sanguine. The person crossing the river is perhaps sanguine as well, in that he is actively achieving his aim. If his aim were aggressive, he could he be called choleric; but none of the associations I have found suggests aggression. The man in swords looks to me phlegmatic rather than choleric. None of these cards fit Marco's schema.

The SB Tens

From what the Theology of Arithmetic says about the Ennead, that it marks a turning around to the beginning, the source, one might expect that it would talk about the Decad as the Monad in another form. There is some of that, in that it refers to both as "God." But the Decad is not a new beginning; it is rather the fulfillment of what the Monad began: it is the actuality of that which the Monad was in potentiality. We can tell that by the epithets that it lists for the Decad:
Hence the Pythagoreans in their theology called it sometimes ‘universe,’ sometimes ‘heaven,’ sometimes ‘all,’ sometimes ‘Fate’ and ‘Eternity’, ‘power’ and ‘trust’ and ‘Necessity,’ ‘Atlas’ and ‘unwearying,’ and smiply ‘God’ and ‘Phanes’ and ‘sun.’(pp. 109-110)
Counting to ten on our fingers, when we complete the count we are still on our fingers. It is only at 11 that we start over, either on our toes or our other hand again. It is the same in the Greek way of writing numerals. One is alpha, Two is Beta, and so on up to Ten, which is Iota ( Then Eleven is not Kappa but rather Iota Alpha. The series starts over, on a new level. It is not until Twenty that the letter Kappa is used, and Twenty-one is Kappa Alpha, etc. Iota represents the entirety of what has come before, and that letter followed by Alpha is the new beginning. The Decad is thus the whole, of which the prior numbers are the parts, and after which is only a repetition of what came before.

In that spirit, I see the SB Tens as expressing different interpretations of life's wholes.

First, in Swords, the man's bent head suggests sorrow. All ten swords are in his bag; the job is completed; what next? It is hard to let go of a project once it is done. You want to keep going over something you've written, for example, perfecting it, adding things you missed, etc. You realize its imperfections; it was not as grand as you had hoped. One might imagine the Creator-god feeling that way, surveying his creation in these latter days. It all works, but with such suffering, such antagonisms, such refusal to accept what he has wrought. The demiurge grieves.


The "Etteilla" Uprights very much capture the feeling of the SB card. The Reverseds suggest the other side of affliction when it occurs by virtue of force of arms. One man's sorrow is another's victory. The Reverseds draw on a tradition that the suit of Swords connoted the soldier and warfare. So the most of Swords would be the most of warfare, which results in the most of sorrow for one side and the most in victory, if not always happiness, for the other.
ETTEILLA 10 OF SWORDS: Affliction, Tears, Crying, Sobs, Groans, Sighs, Moans, Lamentations, Complaints, Ailments, Grief, Sadness, Distress, Jeremiad, Lay [Poetry], Desolation.REVERSED: Advantage, Gain, Profit, Success.—Favor, Gift, Kind Deed, Influence, Ability, Empire, Authority, Power, Usurpation.
Smith has given expression to the object of sorrow rather than the one sorrowing. A murder victim, it is one example of the antagonisms let loose upon our world.


Waite's list copies Etteilla, adding, "It is not especially a card of violent death," to qualify Smith's image, lest people think that the card is a predictor of murder. In the Reverseds he adds a moralization about the temporary nature of gains obtained by the sword. Waite's design is conditioned by the narrative he imposes upon swords, which opens with a murder (Kaplan vol. 1 p. 272). Then the Nine of Swords has the man's sister waking up with a start after dreaming the murder. Waite's putting 10 at the beginning is not, of course, in the Neopythagorean spirit, where the Decad is unequivocally end rather than beginning.
WAITE 10 OF SWORDS: Whatsoever is intimated by the design; also pain, affliction, tears, sadness, desolation. It is not especially a card of violent death. Additional Meanings: Followed by Ace and King, imprisonment; for girl or wife, treason on the part of friends.REVERSED: Advantage, profit, success, favour, but none of these are permanent; also power and authority. Additional Meanings: Victory and consequent fortune for a soldier in war.
Waite's list does not at all utilize the Golden Dawn tradition in which Swords represented thinking and the world of intellect. That is another possibility, the completion of an intellectual task; Di Vincenzo interprets the card in this fashion. It is possible, because as we will see, the other Tens all have to do with other "parts of the soul": Batons with the "spirited" part, in the Platonic sense involved with courage; Coins with the material part; and Cups with the immortal spirit. However, from the SB and the Theology, I see reference to the completion of an intellectual task in only one sense: that of submission to a fate that one has apprehended through the intellect.

It is a peculiarity of the Theology's concept of Fate that it is an apprehension of the future perceived not by some sort of trance-state but by conscious rationality. In the Theology, one of the epithets of the Decad is Fate.
Again, they called it ‘Fate,’ because there is no attribute, either among numbers or among things which have been formed by numbers, which is not sown in the decad and the numbers within it, and does not also extend, in the remaining series, step by step, to what follows the decad, and Fate is as it were a connected and orderly result. [Translator’s note: Heimarmene (Fate) is here related to heirmos (series). (p. 110)
To the Pythagoreans, number is what makes possible a rational order in a universe with limitless possibilities. Number equals Fate, the law of God to which, like the man in Swords, all must bow down. What physicist today would disagree? The upside of Fate in this sense, according to the Theology, is trust: because God works by numbers, the future will be like the past. The sun will rise tomorrow not because it always has, in our experience, but because the numbers say it will. Again, this is something with which both Newton and Einstein would agree.

What is more, from the ten numbers of the Decad alone, the Theology declares, it is possible to know the laws of the whole universe, in microcosm. For example, if 6x6 results in a number ending in 6, the same will be true of all powers of 6 ad infinitum. A less intuitive example is that the sequence of squares is generated by the successive sums of odd numbers, i.e. 1+3=4, 1+3+5=9, 1+3+5+7=16, and so on. By reason, knowing that the universe is inherently comprehesible, we apprehend fate, with trust that the order will continue. This principle, that the macocosm is like the microcosm, has servd scientists well. The same numeric laws that govern the apple falling on Newton's head govern the movements of the planets.

How, then, can knowing our fate by reason bring sorrow and submission? A mundane example is when one's expenses habitually are more than one's income. One is fated to deal with the debt. In classical literature, a non-quantitative example is Sophocles' Oedipus. He goes about intellectually solving the problem of why Thebes is suffering from plague. In the process, he learns his own origins, and thereby deduces by intellect that he is the problem with Thebes, that he must leave, and that he must atone for his hybris. In self-exiling and self-blinding, he submits to the powers of fate he had previously sought to avoid. Thus indeed, his intellectual task is finished, in great sorrow and all the other words in the "Etteilla" word list.

Now I will move on to Batons. There we see another view of a completed whole. I see it as the commemorative tomb of a man whose life was spent honorably and well. It is the positive side of the Creator-god's work: a world of beauty in which suffering is the ladder toward moral loftiness.


Here I like Di Vinzenzo's statement of the card's significance, which also points to the downside of honor, namely, going after honor too much, with too much self-pride.
Significance: Display one’s successes with pride. Successes in public life, professional rewards, fame, glory. Also, excessive self-love, ostentation of one’s status, narcissism, longing to distinguish oneself at all costs. (p. 119).
I would add that there is the danger of achieving the appearance of honor only, and not the real thing, Plato talked a lot about the life of the man of honor, positively and negatively, in Book VIII of his Republic (545ff).

The "Ettella" Uprights seem to pick up on just the negative side of the man of honor,i.e. the appearance of honor, not its realization. The Reverseds focus on another negative, the difficulties someone might achieve in the completion of one's goal..
ETTEILLA 10 OF BATONS: Treason, Perfidy, Trickery, Deception, Cunning, Surprise, Disguise, Dissimulation, Hypocrisy, Prevarication, Duplicity, Disloyalty, Evil Deeds, Deceitfulness, Subterfuge, Conspiracy.—Impostor. REVERSED: Obstacle, Attentiveness.—Bar, Hindrance, Vexations [Contrarities], Difficulties, Pain, Toil.—Inconvenience, Abjectness, Quibble, Complaint, Stumbling Block, Fence, Entrenchment, Redoubt, Fortification.
Here Waite merely copies Etteilla (see With such a negative take on the card, Smith uses the SB's image for Swords rather than its one for Batons.


In Coins, I think the SB shows us another response to the completion of a task, namely, to keep something undone, so as not to "close the lid," so to speak--or to keep something in reserve, so as not to put all one's eggs in one basket.


The "Etteilla" Uprights seem to me an attempt to reconcile various interpretations.
ETTEILLA 10 OF COINS: House, Household, Economy, Savings.—Dwelling, Domicile, Residence, Manor, Abode, Regiment, Ship, Vessel, Bowl.—Archives, Castle, Cottage.—Family, Extraction, Race, Posterity.—Den, Cavern, Lair. REVERSED: Lot, Fortune, Gambling, Fortunate Situation, Fate, Ignorance, Chance, Destiny, Destined, Inevitability.—Fortunate or Unfortunate Occasion.
We are now in the area of life--for some, the main part--in which the goal is not honor but material things: money, possessions. The tradition that saw Swords as associated with warfare also saw Coins as associated with money an material wealth. De Mellet, in 1781, wrote:
Les Coupes en général annonçoient le bonheur, & les deniers la richesse.
The Cups in general denote happiness, & the Coins riches. ( ... les_Tarots, section IV.)
On the SB card, the box below the putto could be such a person's life savings, or also his house and grounds, all that he will pass on to his heirs. The dog scratching itself in front suggests to me the typical placement of a dog, in front of a house as its guardian--in this case, a rather preoccupied one.

I cannot accept Di Vicenzo's analysis of this card, in which the putto is taking the disc out of the box, indicating that the journey to enlightenment has just begun, and the "dog scratching himself" represents "the impurity of one who is still tied to his instincts"; hence "the work of inner growth is just at the beginning" (p. 82). In Neopythagoreanism, Ten means completion, at least of a stage, here as elsewhere.

To keep back one coin, which is what I see the putto doing, suggests to me a hedge against fate, which seems to pull him to have everything deposited in the one place. If all else is lost, the person will at least have something. Or if the one disc is lost, he will still have the rest in safekeeping.

The "Etteilla" Reverseds refer specifically to Fate. Let us recall the Neopythagorean concept of fate as spelled out in the Theology, which I discussed in relation to Swords. It is a rational apprehension, frequently too late, of what is in store for one. While our fate may be deducible from the numbers,the problem is that we never seem to have all the numbers we need. So perhaps the putto is wise to hesitate before throwing in the last disc. Let us not tempt fate with the illusion of security, i.e. the box guarded by the lazy dog. Perhaps we should gamble our last disc, or invest it riskily, or hold it close to ourselves instead of putting it someplace that appears safer. On the other hand, perhaps our fears are groundless, and there is no place safer than the box.

Waite, I think less interestingly than the SB, merely emphasizes that part of the "Etteilla" Uprights relating to house and family. Smith's card does the same. Superficially it looks quite different from the SB, but if one sees the money-box as symbolizing a house and all that goes with it, there is a kind of connection between the two.


In Smith's arrangement of the discs, she is also giving us the points of the Kabbalah's Tree of Life. This configuration of course is not in the SB card, although the SB 10 of Cups comes closer. Kabbalah, it seems to me, is quite peripheral to the pips, except in the sense that the Kabbalah's ten sefiroth probably owe something in their conception to the Neopythagoreanism that was very much alive during its early years in the southeastern corner of the Mediterranean.

So let us turn to the SB Ten of Cups, which is also the last of the SB cards I am considering on this thread.


This card is rather similar to the Nine of Cups, but with a mature man's face instead of the young sea-god. The cups seem to be dancing around him. We may perhaps get a clue to its meaning from the "Etteilla."
ETTEILLA 10 OF CUPS: Town, City, Homeland, Country, Market Town, Village, Place, Site, Dwelling Place, House, Residence.—Citizen, Citizenry, Town Resident. REVERSED: Wrath, Indignation, Strife, Irritation, Rage, Anger, Violence.
A traditional suit meaning for Cups was the town--in contrast to Batons, which was the countryside. This can be seen in d Gebelin's and de Mellet's essays on the tarot of 1781. De Mellet says:
Les Carreaux [Il est à remarquer que dans l'Ecriture symbolique les Egyptiens traçoient des carreaux pour exprimer la campagne.], (les Bâtons), l'indifference & la campagne...Les coeurs & plus particulierement le dix, dévoilent les événemens qui doivent arriver à la ville. La coupe, symbole duc Sacerdoce, semble destinée à exprimer Memphis & le sejour des Pontifes.

Diamonds [note that in the symbolic writing system of the Egyptians diamond squares represent the countryside] (Batons) indifference & the countryside...The hearts & more particularly the Ten, reveal the events that must arrive at the city. The cups, symbol of the priesthood, seem intended to express Memphis & the stay of the Pontiffs. (Section V, at ... les_Tarots).
So in this greatest of Cup cards, we have a townsman, perhaps a shopkeeper and his wares. The Reverseds perhaps indicate the hostility a shopkeeper can generate if his wares are deemed too expensive, or of poorer quality than is claimed for them. I will say more about these Reverseds a little later.

While the SB does not go so far, towns were also the place of large churches or temples, as de Mellet points out; hence there would be an association to the Church and its chalices of baptism and communion. There was also the association of Cups with the Hearts of regular cards, and so also with matters of the heart, i.e. love.


Smith's image, while having a feeling of love, departs considerably from the suit meaning of "town" used by the "Etteilla" Uprights and has nothing of the "Etteilla" Reverseds. However I have nothing to complain about from Waite's list, which seems to me to expand admirably upon the "Etteila."
WAITE 10 OF CUPS: Contentment, repose of the entire heart; the perfection of that state; also perfection of human love and friendship; if with several picture-cards, a person who is taking charge of the Querent’s interests; also the town, village or country inhabited by the Querent. Additional meanings: For a male Querent, a good marriage and one beyond his expectations. REVERSED: Repose of the false heart, indignation, violence. Additional Meanings: Sorrow; also a serious quarrel.

But it seems to me that the man in the center, the still center of all this activity, is not necessarily the "false heart" of Waite's description. It might be the cups themselves, now become the townspeople the man has served so long, who may prove false at any time, and even without provocation from him. For this last possibility, I am thinking of the man as possibly a Jew. I will expand on this point in a moment, but first I want to quote Di Vicenzo on this card (Sola-Busca Tarot, pp. 52-53). She is worth hearing at length:
The number Ten represents fulfillment, the manifestation of the original unity after working out the first nine numbers, the totality of the universe, but also of man. It is the famous Pythagorean Tetraktys, in which the source and the root of the whole of nature is found. The Tetraktys forms a shape with ten points arranged on four planes (1+2+3+4=10)...
The card symbolically represents the achievement of individuality during the last phases of pregnancy. At the same time, it describes the moment in which the individual, perfectly mature and aware, gets ready to resume the road back to the bosom of divinity.
Significance: A face surrounded by ewers—deep reflection is required. Maturity, completeness, end of a cycle, or doubts, perplexity, well-grounded fears, perspicacity.
Additionally, Di Vincenzo again tries to relate the cups to the 10 sefiroth of the Kabbalah. They do not quite fit that configuration even here, but their layout is not that far out of line. And here the comparison is more appropriate, especially if the man is a Jew. Since Jews were generally forbidden to own land, they were the quintessential town-dwellers.

To me the face even suggests Jewishness. It invites comparison to that of King Solomon in one of Marco Zoppo's works. Solomon is conducting a test like that of the true and false mother; here the putative sons of a deceased man are commanded to shoot arrows at the body of their father. Only the true son, protesting at right in the detail below, refuses.


It may only be the beards on the left-hand figures that make me think this, all rather like Solomon's. But Jews were not the only one to wear beards in Renaissance Italy; Alfonso d'Este the duke-apparent of Ferrara, wore one, and also the Doge of Venice,(

The conditions of Jews at that time may be relevant to the card. The numerous Jews in Ferrara had much the same rights as other citizens, and no forced labels on their clothing ( ... tter=F#288). Yet there were occasional indignities--and special taxes to be paid. There was also the ranting of preachers, which Leonelo and Pope Nicholas V had combined to suppress. Ercole lifted the special taxes, as the Jewish Encyclopedia relates:
in 1473 Duke Ercole I. declared, probably in answer to the pope's request for their expulsion, that in the interest of the duchy he could not spare them, and that he would therefore relieve them not only from all special burdens, but also from the payment of the sums formerly extorted as taxes by papal legates.
But the situation could change at any time--and did, after Ercole.

The situation in nearby Venice was much worse; there were occasional forced baptisms, and in 1480, the killing of three in a "blood libel" case ( ... enice.html). They could not build synagogues and had to wear yellow badges, yellow considered the most demeaning color, as that associated with prostitutes (

The moral: those who welcomed one, and whom one benefited, could also turn against one. The "false heart" in the "Etteilla" Reverseds, in other words, may be the cups themselves, representing the townspeople he has served so long.

The Scorecard

By way of summary, I want to investigate three questions. First, how much does the Waite-Smith owe to the Sola-Busca? Second, how well does Marco’s assignment of the four temperaments to the four suits fit the SB pips? Third, how well do the “Etteilla” word-lists describe the Sola-Busca?


For this first question, here is the score, inning by inning, if I may use a North American figure of speech.

Among the Aces, the only one of the Smiths that might owe something to the SB is the Ace of Cups. In that it represents the three persons of the Trinity, it corresponds to the SB Ace of Coins. The relationship is more conceptual than iconographic, so I would score the Aces at .5 out of 4. Or, in another way of counting, 1 out of four with some relationship.

In the Twos, Batons in both has a man looking wistfully off in the distance. I give that .75. Cups has lovers, but with two instead of the one lovelorn putto. A .5. Swords has the common crossed swords pattern; but that is hardly specific to the SB. The motif in Coins is borrowed form the “Marseille.” So about 1.25, or 2 out of 4 with some influence.

In the Threes, of course, Swords borrows heavily from the SB: 1.0. In Cups and Coins, all we have is the equilateral-triangle pattern, .25 each, or 1.5 overall, 3 out of 4 with some influence.

In the Fours, Coins borrows heavily, a score of 1.0. In Cups, Smith carries over the idea of the mssing cup, but it is not very clear: .5. Swords, with the theme of triumph in death, borrows a lot but looks different, .75. So 2.25, or 3 out of 4 with some relationship.

In the Fives, Staves shows a fight, and the SB implies one: .5. Swords shows a loss of weapons in both cases, but otherwise different: .5. There is some connection in Coins, either love as illness (thanks Reece) or illicit love as outside the church and disastrous: .5 again So around 1.5 out of 4, although 3 out of 4 show influence.

In the Sixes, in Swords, we have the sorrowful journey in both cases: about .75 the same, I’d guess. In Cups, the theme of innocent children: .75 again. In Staves, man carrying messages, perhaps .5. Total 2.0 out of 4, or 3 out of 4 with some relationship.

In the Sevens, Smith’s outnumbered youth in Batons has a vague relationship to the SB’s man bowed over by their weight: .25. Smith’s dreamy young man matches SB’s: .75. Swords is a close match: 1.0. Total 2.0, or 3 out of 4.

In the Eights, Smith’s young metal worker in Coins comes from the SB 7 of Coins, 1.0. That’s the only one that bears any relationship. So 1.0 and 1 out of 4.

In the Nines, the exotic man in Cups bears some relationship in mood to the sea-creature. .5. And that’s the only one I see, 1 out of 4.

In the Tens, the flying Cups are about .5 similar. And the 10 of Batons comes from the SB Swords, 1.0. Total 1.5, or 2 out of 4.

Averaging the first figures, we get 14 out of 40 possible. Averaging the second figures, we get 22 out of 40. Or 30% figured one way, 55% the other. Either way, the SB is a major influence on the Waite-Smith. A lot more than the five cards that look similar would indicate.


Based on my previous posts, here are the degrees to which the various pips correlate to Marco’s schema:
Aces: 75%. (The cherubs holding up the club do not seem to me to reflect melancholia.)
Twos: 100%
Threes: 100%
Fours: 0%
Fives: 0%
Sixes: 100%
Sevens: 100%
Eights; 50%
Nines: 0%
Tens: 0%

So Marco’s schema works about half the time; and for a given number, it usually either works all the way or it doesn’t at all. For almost every card, however, it does make sense to assign it a temperament, if not the one that Marco’s schema would predict.


There are actually three “Etteillas.” The one I have been using in this thread up to now is the set of word lists labeled “Etteilla” by Papus in his book Le Tarot Divinatoire of 1909. But there are two more, from the time of Etteilla himself. First, The “Petit Etteilla” list, one word for each Upright and Reversed, for the 7s through 10s and Aces, in all four suits. And second, the “Grand Etteilla” list, one word for each Upright and Reversed for all ten pip cards in the four suits. As SteveM observes, many of the Upright words for the 2s through 6s of the Grand Etteilla come from the Reverseds of the Petit Etteilla.

The question is, how well does the SB imagery correspond to each of these word lists?

I have unfortunately not found Etteilla’s “Grand Etteilla” word-lists in his own writings. All I have is the keywords of the “Grand Etteilla” decks that have been published since the 1840’s. They are not all the same, either; and I am missing many of the Reverseds. However I do have the “Petit Etteilla” in his own words, in his 1773 book (pp. 9-15, at ... &q&f=false). I also have what looks like a credible list of “Grand Etteilla” Uprights, a list given by Cerulean at ... ge=1&pp=10. That list corresponds to an incomplete list of pips, with both Uprights and Reverseds, at the top of A complete deck is given lower down on the page, but the words aren’t the same as in the other and I suspect it to be further from the 18th century original. If anyone has a better source for the “Grand Etteilla’s” 18th century keywords, I would appreciate knowing it.

So what I have done is first, to correlate the “Petit Etteilla” list with the SB cards as I have analyzed them. I come up with about a 75% correlation. Then I compared the discrepancies to the “Grand Etteilla” words and found that they correct all but two of the discrepancies, raising the correlation to 95%. The remaining two, “brown-haired girl” and “blond girl” obviously derive from the suit-colors of the regular deck. If we use instead the other words that Papus adds to these in his lists, the correspondence between Grand Etteilla (only the Upright words, nothing else, certainly not the pictures) and the SB is 100%!

Here are the details. In what follows, for each card, the first pair of words are in Etteilla’s French, in the 1773 book. The second pair of words, in parenthesis, is my translation of these words. Then come the correspondences between these Uprights and Reverseds to each of two cards, using the lists given by Papus. Then, in bold type, is my comment about the correlation or lack thereof between the “Etteilla” words and the corresponding SB cards. At the end of each suit-discussion, after I have gone through all the cards of a particular suit, I consider what is missing and how that lack is made up by the words given in the Grand Etteilla decks.

A. Carreaux (Tiles, i.e. Diamonds or Batons)

Ace. Lettre/Billet. (Letter/bill.) No correspondence Upright; but the word “bill” appears in Papus’s list for the 2 of Clubs, Reversed. Neither is depicted in SB (the SB 2 of Coins is the two medallions of two people).

10. Or/Trahison. (Gold/Betrayal.) 10 upright/5 upright. Either of these meanings fits the SB 5 (the man with the gourd). Gold could also fit the 10, although less easily (the tomb-like container of 8, with 2 on the front; it could be the tomb is of a wealthy person.)

9. Retard/Enterprise. (Delay/ enterprise). 9 upright/3 upright. Good fits (9 is river-crosser, 3 the pierced infant).

8. Campagne/Chagrin. (Countryside, sorrow). 8 upright, 2 upright. The eight (the petaled container of 8) might fit, associating flowers with the countryside, but it is a stretch. The 2 (the man looking sorrowfully into the distance) is a good fit.

7. Caquets/Naissance. (Prattle, Birth.) 7 upright, Ace upright. “Caquets” is an odd word in French; I’m not sure what it means, or whether it fits anything in the two SB cards. “Prattle,” from Papus’s list, is my best guess. The English word “cock-sureness” comes up on Google. Perhaps it indicates someone, as in the SB 7, who takes on more than he can handle, or talks more than he can do. (The SB 7 is the man bent over with 7 batons on his back.) On the other hand, perhaps “Caquets” in the 18th century meant “preliminary talks,” as in the English translation of the Grand Etteilla Upright; if so, it fits as well, although less neatly. The French, perhaps Etteilla’s, is “Pour Parler.” “Birth” is a possible interpretation of the Ace, which shows a club held by two putti.

There are 4 strong fits here, 4 so-so. What is left out are the 4 and the 6, the Grand Etteilla’s Society and Servant, the SB’s snail-shell warrior (protector of society) and guy with the lantern. These additions are both good fits, for a total of 6 good and 4 so-so fits to the Grand Etteilla.

B. Coeurs (Hearts or Cups)

Ace. La personne est laborieuse/table extraordinaire. (working-woman, extraordinary table in the sense of feast). ?/Ace upright.The SB Ace has a large cup with three putti on it, a possible correlation to “feast.” But where does “workingwoman” fit?

10. Ville/Heritage. (City; Inheritance or Heritage). 10 upright; 5 upright for inheritance, reversed for heritage. The Cups fit, as townsmen in my interpretation of the SB 10; 5, the man with two cups behind and three in front, fits as the man looking for a wife or his parents.

9. Victiore/Ennui. (Victory; discontent.) 9 upright; 4 upright. The SB sea-creature is perhaps victorious; the 4 of cups, the man looking disappointedly in his bag, fits “discontent.”

8. File blonde/chataine blonde. (white blonde, chestnut blonde). 8 upright; unidentified. No relationship to SB that I can find

7. La Pensee/Desir. (thought, desire.) 7 upright; 2 reversed. The SB images--the young man standing on a cup, the lovelorn putto playing his fiddle on a cup—definitely fit.

There are 5 good fits, 2 so-so ones, to the Petit Etteilla. The 3 and 6 are missing, Success and Past in Grand Etteilla, as well as the 8: “blonde girl” means nothing in the SB. The SB 3 is the 2 plants growing out of one plant below; 6 is the putti playing on the cups. They fit so-so, for a total of 5 strong fits, 4 so-so ones.. The addition to “blonde girl” of Papus’s “restrained, modest, practical” fits the mood of the SB card (putti lowering cups); “fear, apprehension” fit it to the Theology of Arithmetic[/i[ myth of Rhea. If blonde = good, as opposed to dark and bad, the additional words make sense. It is Rhea as good wife, complying with Saturn’s murderous wishes. She is a bad wife, dark, when she stops complying.

C. Pic (spades or swords)

Ace. Venus/grossesse. (Venus, Pregnancy). Unidentified, perhaps Ace upright; Ace Reversed ?. The SB as I see it has a man and a woman. That could be Venus and her lover Mars, the warrior god. “Pregnancy” is suitable for an Ace, and a male-female pair might suggest such a condition.

10. Pleurs/Pertes/ (tears, losses). 10 upright; 5 upright.The SB 10, the sorrowful man, fits strongly. The swords in the pot, to be melted down, as losses—well, perhaps.

9. Ecclesiastique/Saturne ou mortalite de ce qui tombe sur elle. (cleric; Saturn, or death of that which falls on it). 9 upright; 4 reversed. The 9, the man with one arm in the container, fits so-so; the 4, the wreath and skull, strongly fits the idea of Saturn and death. In this case the fit is better than in the case of the Grand Etteilla, which has Solitude.

8. Maladie/religieuse, femme cloitree. (sickness; religious woman, cloistered woman). 8 reversed; unidentified, perhaps 9 upright again. The SB 8 is a man holding 1 sword outside a pot and 7 inside, connecting more with “religiuex” than “religieuse.” I don’t see any connection to “Maladie.” I see no correspondence to “cloistered woman.”

7. Esperance/amitie. (Hope, friendship). 7 upright, 2 upright. The SB images—the young man on the attack, the two men looking at each other—strongly fit Etteilla’s words.

4 strong fits, 3 so-so. What is missing are the 3, 6, and 8: the Grand Etteilla’s Removal, Journey, Critical. The SB 3 is the heart stabbed by three swords, indeed a removal (of Jesus); the 6 is indeed a man journeying; the 8 does correspond to “critical time.” Perhaps “critical time” is the link to “illness”: an illness is for sure a critical time. So we have 7 strong, 3 so-so, for the Grand Etteilla, if the Grand Etteilla’s “Critical” is understood as “Critical Time.”

D. Trefle (clubs or coins)

Ace. Bourse d’argent/noblesse. (Money purse; nobility). Ace reversed; 3 upright. SB Ace of Coins is three discs held by three putti. Not the same; but perhaps the three discs together constitute a purseful of money. The SB 3 of Coins is a putto holding up a heavy load. It fits the idea of “noblesse.”

10. Maison/amant. (House; lover). 10 Upright; 5 upright. SB 10, the money box, fits the sense of “house.” 5 is the birdman, which fits “lover” strongly.

9. Effet/Un presente. (Effect, like jewelry; a present.) 9 upright; 4 upright. 9 is the man on the fire, perhaps correlated with “effect” in the sense of result; 4 is the woman offering a disc—strong fit.

8. Fille brune/fille chataine brune (brown-haired girl; chestnut brown-haired girl). 8 upright; unidentified. As usual, no fit with this 8 either.

7. Argent/embarras. (Money; embarassment.) 7 upright; 2 upright. The 7, the man with the falcon, fits in a general way, if the discs represent money or products for sale; the 2 fits if the interpretation is Ercole + Savonarola.

2 strong fits, 6 so-so. What is missing is 6, in the Grand Etteilla, the Present (Time), and 8, with its “brown-haired girl,” meaningless in the SB. The SB 6, a man focused on hia hammering, fits Present Time well. The 8, brown-haired girl, doesn’t fit the SB 8; but the additions in Papus, “passive” and “great night” do connect it to the SB 8, which shows a skull on the ground and a basket of 8 discs above. And in a sense brown, as dark, goes with night.


In general the 10s fit with the 5s; the 9’s go with the 4’s; the 7’s go with the 2’s. There is no particular pattern for the 8s and the Aces, that I can see.

The Petit Etteilla connects, however well, with the SB on average 75% of the time (8 out of 10, 7 out of 10, 7 out of 10, 8 out of 10). If we add data from the Grand Etteilla, read “critical time” for “critical” in the 8 of Swords, and take the Savoranola interpretation of the 2 of coins, that increases the average to 95%. Of these 38 fits, 19 are strong fits. The two main non-connecting words, “dark girl” and “blond girl”-–obviously related to the suit colors--do connect with the SB if we add words that Papus added to the Grand Etteilla keywords. That raises the degree of correlation to 100%.—with only a couple of these, like the 5 of Swords, rather weak. So what we end up with is not only a coherent set of mostly Neopythagorean interpretations of the Sola-Busca pips, but of the Grand Etteilla pips as well! Given a Neopythagorean framework, the Grand Etteilla and the Sola Busca pips have, with a few minor adjustments, related cartomantic meanings.

A set of pips with SB pictures and Grand Etteilla Upright words would not look incongruous. I suspect that such cards would still not look incongruous even with the Reversal keywords added upside-down at the bottom. I certainly would like to know what the Grand Etteilla Reversal keywords were!

Why is there such a high degree of correspondence between the two? I don’t think it is simply that I have tailored my interpretations so that the SB and the “Etteilla” fit together. The images and the lists are too specific. In the process of writing drafts of my posts, I occasionally made mistakes and tried to fit an SB card with an “Etteilla” word-list for some other card. In most cases I couldn’t make it work.

Could Etteilla have made up his lists by looking at the SB? I doubt it. The SB images weren’t general knowledge then; and Etteilla’s own imagery is radically different from the SB’s. Moreover, the correspondences are rougher at the beginning of his career and get better, as though he had obtained more information from somewhere. The only conclusion I can think of is that the SB was part of the Italian cartomantic tradition from which Etteilla said he drew in constructing his keywords. In his first book, I theorize, he invented the notion of “Reversals” but took them mostly from standard meanings then in use, upright or reversed not distinguished, from the cards not used in the Piquet deck. Then in the full deck he introduced later, the so-called “Grand Etteilla,” he restored the meanings to the cards that originally had them, with a few improvements derived from his sources, and added reversals probably of his own invention.

Whether the words that Papus added to Etteilla’s “brown-haired girl” and “blonde girl” were his invention, perhaps obtained from looking at the SB, remains to be seen. Perhaps they do indeed come from Etteilla in some writing I have not yet examined.

The SB and Marseille pips compared

For another look at the whole, I want to compare the SB pips with the more usual “Marseille” ones. How well does the Pythagorean framework I have developed fit those more abstract designs? The short answer is: with mixed results. The Aces and Twos are differentiated enough to see the same Neopythagorean point expressed in different ways in the two decks. The Threes through Sixes also express a Neopythagorean idea, but not differentiated among suits as we see it in the SB. I see no comparable Neopythagorean point expressed in the Sevens and Eights. The Nines and Tens are like the Threes through Sixes: there is something there, but not differentiated among suits.

There is also the question of the flowers and vines that slither among the suit-objects. I know that people--e.g. Jodorowsky, Way of Tarot--have developed ingenious interpretations of these arrangements, but I see very little that relates either to the Neopythagorean properties of the numbers, the SB pip designs, or any historical set of cartomantic interpretations, such as the "Etteilla." The flowers and vines look to me mostly like an attempt to fill in blank spaces in a pleasing way. The only meaningful exception might be the twos and the fours, as we shall see.

Now for the often tedious details.

The “Marseille” aces are different from the other number cards in that there are more elaborate versions of the suit-objects. The Ace of Cups not only has a cup or chalice, but three splashes of liquid coming out of it (I give here the Conver of 1761, but others, back to Noblet of c. 1650, are similar). These three splashes could well correspond to the three putti on the SB Ace of Cups, and so equally well represent the Trinity as the three-in-one.



The Ace of Swords also has some correspondence to the SB Ace of Swords. If, as I see it, the SB Ace has a man and a woman, the “Marseille” image correspondingly has a phallic sword penetrating a vaginal crown. It is again the theme of the unity of opposites, the male-femaleness of the Neopythagorean Monad.

In the SB Ace of Coins, there are three putti, which I analyzed as the three members of the Trinity. In the "Marseille" Ace of Coins, as Jodorowsky points out in Way of Tarot, there are three circles. Here is his illustration showing the three (p. 278).


Both the three circles and the three putti might again represent the Trinity: in the "Marseille," the flower in the middle might be the Creator, the Sunlike jagged circle beyond that might be the Son, and the four vines might be the four gospels through which the Holy Spirit spread and continues to spread the Divine Word.

Another way in which the Conver Ace expresses the Monad is as the Sun, as de Mellet writes (, Section III):
The One-eyed one or the Ace of Coins, Phoebe 'lampadis instar', devoted to Apollo.

The Latin translates as "Image of Apollo's Light," according to J. Karlin in a note to her translation. A-pollo means in Greek, "not many," and is one of the Pythagorean names of the Monad.

The Marseille Ace of Batons is not the “unity of sames” that I saw in the SB card's two identical putti. Jodorowsky sees a phallic club ending in a vaginal black ellipse at the top (Way of Tarot p. 273). Batons in the Milanese tradition have been the suit of fertility and sexuality ever since the Sforza, as can be seen by the "greensleeves" motif on the PMB court cards. Similarly the "Marseille" club is colored green. In the Noblet, there is a leaf sprouting from an otherwise dead-looking piece of wood. (I don't know why it isn't green, too.) This is a common Renaissance way of indicating the Resurrection (see my post at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=502&start=10#p6849). In both the Noblet and Conver versions of the "Marseille" design, the cuts in the wood are colored red. To me this suggests death, i.e. the crucifixion, conceived here as a lopping off of the extremities. There is a similar effect in the Hanged Man card (3rd from left below), where the cuts that trim the posts are colored red on the Conver. (In the Noblet they are red, yellow, and green, thereby muting the symbolism.)


One difference between the Noblet (the two at left above) and Conver Aces is that in the Noblet, the club is surrounded by what look like tear-drops falling downward. In the Conver, they are rays, pointing up. It is as though Noblet wanted to convey the death-dealing aspect of clubs and swords, while Conver wanted to suggest rebirth. Another detail to the same effect is the green stems coming out of the crown as (in both versions) an olive branch and the palm leaf of victory.

In the twos (below), the crossed-sticks pattern we saw in the SB Two of Batons occurs in the “Marseille” version as well. The way is barred to Paradise, I think both styles of card say. The message is clearer in the SB, with its forlorn-looking man looking off beyond the card. Here the Noblet has an interesting detail (above, far right): the two flowers, one going up and one going down, have the same slash marks as in the case of the Ace of Batons, except painted yellow. It is as though the batons not only barred the way, but created the division into two, Adam digging and Eve spinning, both in their own little worlds, a divinely imposed gap between them. Perhaps that is one reason for the card's reputation as the only evil card among the Batons. De Mellet says, in Section III:
The two alone, in which the batons are the color of red, seems consecrated to evil fortune.
Be that as it may, all the even-numbered Noblet Batons are done the same way, sometimes with the cuts a bright red.



For the remaining pips, I see no important differences between Noblet and Conver. To simplify my presentation, I will illustrate my points with just one of them, the Conver. For reference, I will continue to include the corresponding SB cards. (Here I am using the SB images that were painted in the 20th century and used in the commercially available deck. I had them already prepared in sets of four before I learned about the historical images on Tarotpedia. These are not the SB of history, I know, but in most cases the differences are inconsequential. I include them for reference only. The historical images are in my previous posts.)

In Swords, the two swords embrace at the top and bottom. It is a card of friendship like the SB card, a "unity of sames" across the two sides of the card, corresponding to the two sides of life in the SB, youth and age.

In Cups, we have two cups side by side. The Dyad is an act of separation from the Monad, resulting in two distinct beings. What is missing is the longing for the original unity that we see in the SB Two's cherub. In the Conver they are together.

In Coins, the belt connecting the two coins is much like the chain connecting the two medallions in the SB card. De Mellet, in Section IV of his essay, says that this card was called “the belt of Isis.” The Two of Cups was also consecrated to Isis, de Mellet says (Section II). The Ace, as Neopythagorean creator god, fits de Mellet's description of Osiris: "le Dieu générateur," the generator god (in section I of his essay). It is then the doctrine of male = odd, female = even, as described in numerous Neopythagorean texts (e.g. Macrobius, Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, trans. Stahl, p. 99). Presumably the Three would be Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, to complete the Greco-Egyptian trinity (as expounded by Plutarch in Of Isis and Osiris).



In the Conver Threes, the triangular pattern, one above two in Cups and Coins, or one between two in Swords and Batons, again suggests the mother, the father, and their child: the Neopythagorean/Aristotelian enformed matter, or the Divine Child Jesus, Horus, etc. But there is no differentiation among the suits; the different ways the 2 + 1 is represented are just a function of the how the different suit-objects are shaped. And there is no explicit representation of the child as in the SB Batons and Coins,



In the Fours, the "Marseille's" arrangements of the suit objects all exploit the fourness of the corners of the cards. It is the four directions, the four winds, the four evangelists (as on the World card), etc., as signifying a whole of some kind. That something is in the middle, a plant or coat of arms, might suggest that something is missing, something that will manifest in the fives: the element of soul.



The Conver Fives might perhaps be representing this missing element, soul, as the middle suit-object surrounded by the four arranged as before; but there are no further clues or any differentiation among suits, such as the SB has abundantly.



The Conver Sixes are each grouped as three groups of two, or two groups of three. The Theology explains that in being 3 x 2 and 2 x 3, the Hexad, like the Triad, designates the process of beginning, middle, and end. In the SB and the "Etteilla" word lists, this sequence was expressed in the sixes as the past, present, and future of the animal soul. We get nothing like that in Conver.



The Conver Sevens show 6 + 1 or 3 +4. The first has no straightforward Neopythagorean significance. The second does have meaning in Neopythagoreanism: it is the three parts of the soul plus the four cardinal virtues, the Theology of Arithmetic tells us (p. 100), and also the two sides of the triangle at right angles to each other in the Pythagorean Theorem (p. 87). But these references are irrelevant to the tradition of the "seven ages of man" that I see reflected in the SB and irrelevant to the "Etteilla" word lists. It is also irrelevant to the "critical time" aspect of the seven that is expressed in the SB and "Etteilla" Eight of Swords.



The Conver Eights show two groups of four, or four groups of two. This relates to the concept of Justice as equality on both parts of a scales, and the same for its parts (2 and 2), and its parts (1 and 1), a concept expounded by Macrobius (Commentary p. 98). It relates to the Conver eighth trump, but not to the Theology's exposition of the Ogdoad, the SB Eight, or the corresponding "Etteilla" word list.



The Conver Nines show 8 + 1 in three suits, while Cups is three groups of three. 8 + 1 has the Neopythagorean significance of the leap beyond the cosmos into the unknown beyond. 3 x 3 has to do with the Curetes (Theology p. 107) or the pseudo-Dionysian choirs of angels, again going beyond the cosmos. This result is consistent with the meaning of the Ennead, even more than Cups in the SB and "Etteilla," where the meaning is simply that of success in one's undertaking, like the juggling sea-creature. But in the Conver there is again no differentiation in meaning among suits.



Two of the Conver Tens, Swords and Batons, are grouped as 8 + 2; Coins is 5 + 5, and Cups is 9 + 1. Although the first of these combinations appears in the SB Ten of Batons and Cups as well, it has no particular Neopythagorean significance as such; nor does this combination play a role in the interpretation of the SB Tens. 9 + 1 is the completion of the sequence, seen also in the SB Swords and Coins. But it takes the pictorial details to relate these cards to Neopythagoreanism in a way that is cartomantically significant. 5 + 5 is the same as 5 x 2, which the Theology finds significant:
The decad is potentially generated by the even and odd, for 10 is five times two. (p. 114)

But why this statement is significant is not said. Perhaps it makes 10 one of the "male-female" numbers, as containing both odd (male) and even (female), and thus like the Monad, to which we are returning.

In summary, we can say neither that the pip arrangements in the "Marseille" style design have no relationship to a cartomantic tradition such as that suggested by the SB pips and the "Etteilla" word-lists, nor that it has a close relationship to such a tradition. Since the cards were primarily used in a trick-taking game, the deciding factor in determining these abstract designs was probably what looked good in a rectangular layout.

Neopythagoreanism and the Marseille trumps

Now I want to see how well the Neopythagorean framework I developed for the SB, and which partially explicates the Marseille-style pips, holds for the trumps with the same numbers. I haven't a clue how to relate the SB pips to the SB trumps. Relating them, or the principles behind them, to the "Marseille" style trumps is easier for me. Perhaps someday I will understand the SB trumps better.

I hope to show that it is wrong to discount tarot historians who have claimed a historical, pre-de Gebelin association between Neopythagoreanism and the tarot trumps. It might be that people haven't given adequate historical documentation of the association. It is hard to present a synoptic Neopythagorean view of the trumps while at the same time giving adequate documentation. In what follows, I myself will not give adequate documentation; however I think I have done so in my posts in this thread corresponding to each number, and in posts on other threads, to which I will give links. What follows should not be read in isolation from these previous posts. Also, I am not claiming a Neopythagorean origin to the trumps; what I say applies only to the period 1491 (the time of the SB) to 1672 (the time of the "Chosson," from which the Conver and other "Type II Marseille" decks derive).

Actually, the ten numbers from 1 to 10 correspond to two sets of trumps: the first ten, and then the sequence over again in the second ten, which are simply the same numbers but with an “X” in front of them. And the Monad appears three times, for there is not only a I and an XI, but also an XXI.

I, the Bateleur, if he represents the Monad, is the creator-god, who can make whatever he wants from his bag of tricks. The representatives of the four suits on this card, present even in the earliest known version of this card (the PMB, at left), stand for the four elements that the Platonic demiurge of the Timaeus used to create the cosmos. (The other two cards below are the Noblet c, 1650 and Conver 1761.)


II, the Popess, as the Dyad, is the feminine aspect of God who breaks off from the Monad in reckless audacity, and then suffers for it. She is Eve after the expulsion; she is Pope Joan, audaciously disguising herself as a man. She is the Visconti ancestor who proclaims that women have just as much right to be pope as men.She is Isis ruling Egypt during Osiris's absence, frustrating her brother Seth/Typhon's ambition to rule instead; She is Isis grieving Osiris when Seth murders him, finding his body and resurrecting him, seeing him killed again, etc (Plutarch, Isis and Osiris XIII). Sometimes in Western sacred traditions the break already happened, and she is a passive participant. In that sense she is the Virgin Mary in those Renaissance Madonnas and Child in which she appears sad, divining her son's fate even when he is an infant. In the Noblet, she has a pained expression; in the Conver, she looks sad but less severe,


III, the Empress, to the extent she expresses the Triad, is the one who holds close to her the symbol of the divine child, the merger of divinity with her own material substance. Numerous old Roman coins showed Isis with Horus on her lap; Horus was often represented as a hawk, the Egyptian equivalent of the more northern eagle.In Greco-Roman mythology there was Venus and Cupid. Then Christianity has its Mary and Jesus.


IV, the Emperor, represents the stability of the cosmos as a whole, the three-dimensioned world which does not know a fourth. He reigns over and protects the material life of his subjects. But his fullness and claim to totality is stifling.The shield at his side, representing the savior born at the time of the first Roman emperor, will address the soul, The shield corresponds to the plant or coat of arms in the middle of the Marseille Fours.(The card in the middle below is by Dodal, c. 1700.)


V, the Pope, head of the Church, represents the new element of soul, the first form of which is the vegetative soul, which grows and diminishes, dies and is born again. (For a picture of the card, see my discussion of trump 15.)

In the SB, the lover is in the Fives, as the bird-man of the Five of Coins. Sexuality as such is a property of the vegetative soul, which the Theology identified with the Fives. In the Marseille trumps, the Lover is VI, and as such represents the animal soul, that which can choose where and when to exercise its will, so as to do what it wants to do, what and who it loves. This is the Lover of Christian marriage, in which one spouse chooses another, or of the Choice of Hercules, in which the Lover must choose between Pleasure and Virtue. (For pictures, see my discussion here of trump 16,)

VII, the Chariot, the vehicle of the Roman triumphs, represents victory, the overcoming of crisis, the "critical time" whose successful passage enables the full flourishing of each of the seven stages of life. It can also represent ongoing crisis. Seven is, in the Theology of Arithmetic, also the number of the rational soul. Hence the crisis is here to be resolved only if the rational soul, the Charioteer, is in charge over the Spirited (white) horse, in Plato's Phaedrus) and Appetitive (dark or red horse) parts of the soul.


If indeed the Marseille designs derive from Milan of c. 1500, it may be relevant to consider the history of that city in the late 15th century. Francesco Sforza, having chosen Bianca Maria, had his triumph and delivered the city to his bride. But then there was the crisis of keeping what he had won, of getting recognition of his legitimacy. He had the city but was not granted the acknowledgement of his right to it from the Emperor. His sons continued working for that goal, triumphing when the Emperor formally made Ludovico Duke of Milan. But then spirit and appetite, the desire for increased honor and riches, prevailed over rationality and he lost everything.

VIII, Justice was represented in the number Eight by Macrobius (Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, trans. Stahl, p. 98). It is equality as measured by the goddess's scales, expressed first in the Two and multiplied three times, to its fullest extent (among the first ten numbers) in the Eight. It is so depicted in the Marseille Eights, two groups of four, each of which is two groups of two, each of which is two groups of one.


The Ennead, the 8 + 1 breakthrough beyond the eight spheres of the cosmos, is represented by the Hermit, who is in the world, to guide others, but not of it.(For his picture, see my discussion of trump 19.)

The Decad is the return to the beginning, a new cycle on the Wheel of Fortune.


So we start again. The lady’s Fortitude (below) is rewarded by the lion’s willing submission. He is the “lion of Judah,” i.e. Christ, whose aid and comfort will be essential in the trials ahead. The Monad has reappeared in the lion; we require God's strength to see us through what is to come.


In XII, the Hanged Man, we see the outcome of the Annunciation. It is a return to matter and passive receptivity, as he is bound hand and foot and hung upside down, to be lowered into the darkness, like a seed into the soil. Or as Jodorowsky puts it (Way of Tarot, p. 280):
The Hanged Man, degree 2 of the second decimal series, is bound with his hands behind him. He does not choose but dives into himself.

In the Death card, unnamed and unnumbered but in the XIII spot, we have again the child, this time as rebirth. A man’s and a woman’s heads appear above the ground, the rest of their bodies unformed, like the beginnings of a new plant, or still below. Jodorowsky aptly comments,
The figure in Arcanum XIIII is using his scythe to cut down the bad growth so the new being can develop (p. 284).

At least that is what the card shows us, in most instances. Here I include the Chosson, 1672, on which the Conver was based, which has Death's lower leg, missing in the Conver.


With XIIII, Temperance, we are concerned with moderation in food, drink, physical exercise, mental exertion, and everything else concerning our physical body. Of the three parts of the Platonic soul, temperance has to do with the material part, courage with the spirited part, and justice with the rational part. Similarly, the Four is the number of fully realized material existence, of which the Emperor is the guardian.In Fourteen, however, it is one’s own self that must stand guard. As in the centers of the Conver Fours, there is a place in the middle where something new is generating. The Temperance lady offers us the water of life and of the soul; in moderation lies the foundation for immortality. (Here for variety I post the Chosson instead of the virtually identical Conver.)


With XV, the Devil, as has often been said, we are in the realm of the infernal counterpart of the Pope.


I like how Jodorowsky connects the two:
The Pope and The Devil are invitations to go further, to go beyond the limits of the material and the rational. The Pope, without abandoning his disciples who belong to this world, establishes a bridge, a communication with the other world: the divine or cosmic dimension. The Tempter, The Devil, offers a descent into darkness and the subconscious to reach the impersonal magma that is the source of all creativity. (p. 290)
Well, I am not ready to give the Pope all that; nor would have many educated persons in 17th century France. But he, or what he symbolizes, definitely has something to do with the soul’s growth and even rebirth. In the Decad, 5 is in the middle, between material life below it and soul life above it. Five is the number of the vegetative soul, that which grows, dies, and reproduces itself in the birth of a new organism. There is likewise the birth of spiritual consciousness, and also rebirth in the subterranean depths of the unconscious. Given the conscious materialization of the soul in alchemy, a soul hidden in matter, I have no qualms about attributing a belief in the unconscious to the 17th century tarot.



What could the Maison-Dieu,XVI, have to do with the Lover, Arcanum 6? Here again I like Jodorowsky’s remarks:
In The Lover (VI), degree 6 in the first decimal series of the Major Arcana, the cherub is responsible for the descent of the beauty of love from the Heavens. In the Tower, Arcanum XVI, another manifestation of 6, the Earth is sending an explosion of elation and joyful energy from its center towards the heights that causes the two initiates to dance in ecstasy. It is also possible that the sky is responsible for sending this flaming manifestation down. The Tarot allows the same symbol to be interpreted in two different ways without forcing a choice between the two responses, both of which can be right at the same time. (p. 293)
In both VI and the XVI, the soul is in motion, choosing according to a pattern sent down from above, either from an arrow sent from a sunburst, or from a lightning bolt sent from heaven. In the Noblet and Dodal, the smoke goes up as much as it goes down. Here it is not, or not only, the eye-level soul of the conscious ego that does the choosing, but also an unconscious force from below, bursting upwards like an explosion of sexual energy (or the Kundalini of the Hindus), upending the center of consciousness altogether and sending the initiates flying. (For more on this analysis of the Tower, see my posts at viewtopic.php?f=23&t=399&start=10#p7240 and viewtopic.php?f=23&t=399&start=20#p7246.)


What is relevant about the Seven continues to be that it is the number of the “critical time,” the kairos. For XVII (Noblet and Chosson shown above), we are guided by a star, just as Plato's Charioteer in the Phaedrus is guided by his memory of true Beauty. Yet he is also led by his horses, whose minds are not always the most rational. Which is to lead, and in following the star, from which of the star-person's streams, if any, are we to drink? We know from the end of Dante's Purgatorio (see my post at ... stcount=39) that the lady is offering us the waters of forgetting and of remembering, and that the critical time is none other than that of admission to Paradise. Are we then to drink from just one, Mnemosyne, as the Orphic hymn to Mnemosyne recommends, or both, as Dante reports? In any case, as Jodorowsky says, the motion in the card is upwards, just as the course of the Charioteer led downward—to the Wheel and the Hanged Man, I would add.


The Eight, besides being Justice, is also one of two numbers of Rhea (2 is the other). In XVIII, the Moon, we have Rhea as the dark passivity that is complicit in murder. The Ogdoad, the Theology tells us (p. 47), was identified with the Moon. It is another crisis point, as indeed the "Etteilla" word-list for the Eight of Swords proclaims. Both Eights, VIII Justice and XVIII The Moon, proclaim that “The only freedom is obedience to the Law,” as Jodorowsky imagines Justice saying (p. 299). With the first Eight, it is the external law that must be obeyed, that of society. Now it is an internal law that matters, that of our divine being, which lies in the crayfish’s claws. Will we take what the crayfish offers? (See my post at viewtopic.php?f=23&t=401&start=30#p6931.) I am reminded of Kafka’s Parable of the Law ( A guard stands in front of an open door, before which the petitioner waits, as patient as Job, for permission to enter. The guard tells him he is free to go in without an invitation, but there are other doorkeepers more terrifying than he. At the end of the petitioner’s life, he asks why he has seen no one else seeking admission to the Law. The guard says, “Here no one else can gain entry, since this entrance was assigned only to you. I’m going now to close it.” It is up to us to choose to follow the law of our inner being, in fear and trembling, and not wait for an invitation. The guard is also the doorman, the opener of doors. Such also is the crayfish.


In the Nines, we step into the unknown, the world beyond Kafka’s door, into the ocean that is beyond the cosmos. The Hermit has been there, in the world but not of it, shining his lantern that we may have him as a guide. XVIIII The Sun is a similar light, so bright that the darkness flees. What he asks of us is the goat-sacrifice, the sacrifice of the tragos (Greek for goat), the tragic hero, an emulation in love of Christ’s sacrifice, so that we, too, may not be of the world, that we may wander like blind Oedipus, seeing with an inner eye. Whereas the Hermit demanded submission, of our lower being to our upper, the Sun demands sacrifice, of the upper for the sake of the raising up the lower, as in Pollux's willing sacrifice--in the Conver version--for the sake of his brother Castor's immortality. (For a fuller account, see my post at viewtopic.php?f=23&t=402&start=20#p6671.)


In the Tens we are returning to the beginning. This is accomplished by both the Judgment and the World cards, I think. The Judgment is the release of the soul from the infernal region, that it may fly heavenward. As Jodorowsky says
The heavens are opening, the irresistible call is echoing, the new being is rising out of the depths of the Earth to move towards the celestial dimension. In this ending, the new beginning is already present. (p. 306)

And the World, the final trump, is the return home to the Monad, past the fourness of spiritualized matter, the four evangelists, into the Magician’s world again, who stands in the center holding his or her wand. And so we begin again on yet another level.

In the Noblet World card, a red circle tops the two lower figures, and a yellow circle the upper figures. The red circles seem to me to be sunrise and sunset; the yellow ones are the sun overhead. The result is half of the sun’s circular journey; the other half we cannot see, as it is below the card. The sun has gone full circle, above the earth for 10 numbers, then setting and journeying below, then returning to the beginning.

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