Re: Use of Tarot de Marseille as a divinatory tool ???

EUGIM wrote:Hello Mary ...

Again as I said earlier :

Thierry Depaulis in the catalogue "Jeu Tarot et Magie" said that the deck of François Tourcaty of 1770,was used intentionally for divination purpose prior to the French Revolution.
Where are you getting this from Eugim? The 1984 catalogue doesn't say this at all.

On pages 137-138 (item number 138), the card shown is the 2 of Deniers, and says "François Tourcaty fils" (Frank Tourcaty Junior) - the date is missing. Depaulis says "début du XIXe s(iècle)" - beginning of the 19th century. This corresponds to the dates of a François Tourcaty of Marseille, whom D'Allemagne dates to between 1801 and 1809. D'Allemagne knows two other Tourcaty, François (active between 1701 and 1736) and Jean-François (active between 1734 and 1753). In no case is the date 1770 mentioned.

The divinatory meanings are handwritten, in two distinct hands. There is no indication of the date of the inscriptions. But from the writing on the 2 of Deniers shown, it is clear they are a fountain pen (not ball-point), which would normally mean anytime before 1960, or even 1950 in some places. The meanings and the order of cards according to the inscriptions follow a curious order "which owes nothing to Etteilla." The Bateleur, for example, is labelled with the number 10. The first hand has written "sickness" at the top of the card. The second hand has crossed out this word and rewritten it at the bottom of the card, adding also "2nd good news". On the top (for a reversal) the same second hand has written "religious ceremony".

The card numbered 1 is the King of Cups, and labelled "Consultant". The card numbered 78 is the 5 of Deniers, and is given the meaning "don't act foolishly."

The deck has perhaps come from a block in the revolutionary period, because the titles for the Papesse, Pape, Imperatrice and Empereur are missing, along with the titles for the Kings and Queens (which was typical in the anti-royalist period). There are examples of such decks dating from "Year X" (1802-1803).

I guess that the divinatory use is mid-19th century. The Tarot de Marseille is indeed used for divination, but not in itself - the cards are reordered and the meanings seem random.

I think Mary's point still stands - Tarot de Marseille occultism and divination is contemporary with the Golden Dawn, and it is even arguable that "pure" Tarot de Marseille divination is a much later development.

Re: Use of Tarot de Marseille as a divinatory tool ???

Mary Greer wrote: Enrique, what do you get from all this? I think it throws everything up for grabs.
Hi Mary,

It is good to see you here!

Well, in order to talk about the Tarot de Marseille tradition we need to travel back, far far away, to the 20th Century! :D

To be honest, I suspect that the ‘pure Tarot de Marseille divination’ brand is a 20th Century development intended as a response to the other divinatory tarots in the market. The tarot‘s printed history has always being about appealing the market. I am not familiar with Joseph Maxwell’s book, but I am inclined to think that the Tarot de Marseille brand is Paul Marteau’s doing. I even wonder of the distance between the printing of his Veritable tarot de Marseille and the publishing of his book wasn’t a marketing response: he had a bunch of decks he needed to sell, so he provided the discourse that validated the divinatory use of deck. By this I mean that the idea of going ‘back to the origins’ by using the Tarot de Marseille as divination tool may very well be a modern, even contemporary, commercial development.

I will write more about this later. Now I have to deal with laundry!


What’s honeymoon salad? Lettuce alone
Don’t look now, mayonnaise is dressing!

Re: Use of Tarot de Marseille as a divinatory tool ???

EUGIM wrote:Hello Mary ...

Again as I said earlier :

Thierry Depaulis in the catalogue "Jeu Tarot et Magie" said that the deck of François Tourcaty of 1770,was used intentionally for divination purpose prior to the French Revolution.
The thing about cards with divinatory meanings inscribed on them by hand is that they are a typical manifestation of amateur parlor games. The fact that someone jotted down these meanings in a deck of cards doesn’t automatically supposes that these meanings were part of a comprehensive understanding of the Tarot de Marseille as a divination tool separated from the post-Gebelin trend. It just means that someone used that deck, not that edition but that specific deck, to play with divination.


What’s honeymoon salad? Lettuce alone
Don’t look now, mayonnaise is dressing!

Re: Use of Tarot de Marseille as a divinatory tool ???

Hello Ross and Mary :
On monday I will scan to both the page of the book.
Thanks you very much Ross about the date deck correction !

"Tarot de Marseille avec mentions divininatoires manuscrites " :

Les 75 cartes de ce Tarot de Marseille du debut de XIX siecle ont reutilisees a des fins divinatoires et numerotees a la plume de 1 a 78,selon un ordre des plus curieux qui ne diot rien a Eteilla.

Au revoir...
The Universe is like a Mamushka.

Re: Use of Tarot de Marseille as a divinatory tool ???

Depaulis nothing advice regarding inaccurate dating of the deck.
Even if you are right and the ball or fountain pen is by discuss or not,the point and an answer is why this deck.
Why Tourcaty ? / Why not Conver ?
Aren t both closer in terms of time ?

Btw: So which is for you the deck most right date for this deck ?

-Eteilla did his lie smashed potatoes at around 1785.
His new brand new bag of lies.

-He did stole the reformation of the Tarot as a game occured barely years before as you knows.
So he having the double headed cards,he added titles to both sides of the cards.
The Universe is like a Mamushka.

Re: Use of Tarot de Marseille as a divinatory tool ???

Mary Greer wrote: Someone back on Aeclectic mentioned Joseph Maxwell's 1933 Le Tarot (Paris). This book featured the Marseille tarot explained according to color symbolism, numerology and the geometric associations (of the Minors).

Edmond Billaudot (c. 1865) attempted a synthesis of the Tarot de Marseille and the Egyptianized cards of Etteilla and Paul Christian. I don't think his work was published until 1966 (Grand Tarot Belline) but I believe he was a teacher and may have had an influence on others.

Eudes Picard used the Marseille Majors but created his own idiosyncratic Minors. J.-G. Bourgeat referred to the "Tarot Italien" Majors, which were similar to the Marseille (and created some Egyptianized designs of his own). Papus compared several decks, including the Marseille (1889), though he eventually created his own deck (1909).

So, except for Maxwell (which I understand is terribly mangled in the English version so I can't judge it), Marteau's 1949 work does seem to be the first presentation of the Marseille deck as a divinatory tool in which the specific Marseille symbolism of all 78 cards is to be used in interpreting the meaning of the cards.

I think this is a very significant point. It seems to undercut the idea of the Marseille deck as being an older and therefore "more correct" divinatory tradition than the Egyptianized or Golden Dawn traditions.

Good summary of some of the previous discussions, Mary - thankyou.

I think there's a number of various points that need to be taken and separately considered. I'll start with the last first.
It seems to undercut the idea of the Marseille deck as being an older and therefore "more correct" divinatory tradition than the Egyptianized or Golden Dawn traditions.
I'm not sure who may be suggesting that there is a 'more correct divinatory tradition', irrespective as to what deck or decks are used. There are certainly suggestions made for ways to specifically interpreting cards by Etteilla (I suppose that this is what you mean by the 'Egyptianised' divinatory tradition) back in the early 1800s, which was an expansion of his late 1700s divinatory book on how to interpret (non-tarot) cards: ie, pips and courts. These are NOT Egyptianised, and the 'egyptification' occurs as a result of De Gebelin's Monde Primitif essay that claims that tarot (specifically the Marseille-type in terms of the images therein used) 'originates' from Egypt. Picking this up and incorporating the same within a broader divinatory context he had earlier written, and later still developing what we now know as the Etteilla decks, there is a process of movement in the divinatory views of Etteilla that is entirely based on pips-and-courts, and then his divinatory 'insights' into what is inevitably based on the Marseille that he then in time modifies to allow De Gebelin's views of its 'origins' to somehow be incorporated.

Does this make his views more accurate than the divinatory views suggested by GD proponents? not at all: they both suffer from the same type of suggestion that locks extraneous considerations onto the image rather than working from the active-imagination based on the image that opens one to inspiration and developing intuitive insights.

There is no 'more correct' divinatory 'tradition' in my personal view.

In terms of other works on divination that make as their basis the Marseille - though again, as for Etteilla, as also for the GD-derived decks, including the Waite-Smith, consequentially altered to bring it in line with their divinatory views - is the Papus 1889 Tarot des Bohémiens (Cf chapter XX, on divination), on which I personally strongly suspect that even the GD relied at least in part as the latter developed its views. Within the book, incidentally, he uses images from both the Marseille and the Wirth, considered a 'cleansed' or rectified (Tarot de Marseille) tarot.

And to return to De Gebelin for a brief view: he concludes his essay with a brief section titled 'Application of this deck to divination', and links therein not only various other types of decks to what must be the 'original' and Egyptian deck, but also, and therefore, to the Tarot de Marseille-type. The essay in the same volume that follows De Gebelin's own, the C. de M.'s, similarly has sections on using the deck for divinatory purposes, even giving examples of not only meaning, but precise methodology of separating the trumps and suits, shuffling, and drawing in parallel. Again, the deck implied is the Tarot de Marseille.

Does this make it a 'tradition'? no... it makes it the suggestion of a couple of 18th century authors that have been taken up by the likes of the incredible populariser Etteilla in the 19th century, and via others weaved in differing ways by Papus and still others.

Where I agree with others who have said something of the kind is that it is P. Marteau who, by (tediously) outlining 'precise' interpretations to line-detail and colour, provides the Grimaud Tarot de Marseille its own 20th century 'tradition' of interpretation. Is that view, from a divinatory perspective, any the more 'accurate' than any other systems? No, to my view. Divination is not about systemisation, but rather, I would suggest, to opening up to the insights of the spirit of the moment via, in the case of tarot, its imagery.

Does that mean that 'any deck will do'? In terms of divination, even a drop of water running along a cup will do. In terms, however, of seeking to understand tarot, not all decks are equal.

Re: Use of Tarot de Marseille as a divinatory tool ???

Now that the laundry is done I can offer some random thoughts:

JMD has a point in that De Gebelin’s essay was based on the Tarot de Marseille, my only comment would be that even so, he felt that the Tarot de Marseille was somehow not right but more of a deformation of some original set of images that he promptly rectified. So, he wasn’t really interested on discerning the Tarot de Marseille imagery. I don’t mean it as a critic/attack but as a way to point out the fact that there is very little to learn about the actual Tarot de Marseille imagery from De Gebelín writings.

I also agree with JMD in that there is no divination method that can be said to be superior to any other. In any case I would say that there are teaching methods for divination that could be more accessible to a student than others. But this can only be asserted on a person by person basis. My only comment to that would be that most divination system are in dialogue with -which is to say they depend on- a belief system. Many meanings are based on a specific worldview. For that reason some people may not feel comfortable with certain methodologies.

In general terms I am personally interested on an understanding of the tarot that is based on a understanding of the brain. Any methodology would only useful in that it helps to craft narratives the reader uses to ‘feed’ the client’s brain. Understanding this goes down to a redefinition of the whole process of the reading and not so much on the specific meanings for specific images. I am not talking about a dramatic change in how a reading is conducted but about a more informed view of what is happening in a reading at a cognitive level, so we can guide the process in a more precise and useful way.

In the past couple of years I have been very interested on the tarot as a neuroplastic tool, this is, I am interested on how the tarot can help re-shape the mind -if not the brain- by expanding the semantic field of these concepts that may given us trouble at any given time. When we think on something we follow the same thought-patterns over and over, but impacting that field with a random-generated image could serve as a bridge to new words and new thoughts that could re-route these thought-patterns, generating insight. I have also been very interested in the connection between hypnosis, as a technique to engage people’s imagination to elicit physical reactions, and a tarot reading. I have come to realize is that the hypnotic relationship isn’t something you add to the readings at the beginning, middle or end, but it is embedded in the whole reading experience.

When you describe an image in a card you are pacing them so they can accept, by extension, what you say the card signifies: “and these six scimitars have a sword trusted among them, so the image suggest you to be careful at poking on the hornet’s nest”. See? Nothing in the image represents a hornet’s nest, but by describing what is in the card I can lead them to expand the description to include certain metaphorical or analogical qualities. When you seamlessly extend what is seen in the card to something that you are projecting in it you are using a hypnotic patter. In the same way, you can say: “and since you got The Tower and The Moon before The Sun, we can see how, no matter how much anxiety you may feel at times, not how little you can see ahead, sooner or later you will reach out and make yourself understood, in a very nice, very warm sense of communion with the world”. Any fact you can describe about the cards: the presence of an element, a color, a attitude of a character, sets the pace for you to throw several positive suggestions in there. These suggestions are never direct advice, yet they are telling the person how to feel and many times are recalled as predictions: “everything went as you said because as son as I lost my job I felt confused, but then I remembered what you said and calmed down and looked at my options.”

All these hypnotic techniques configure the reading. More precisely, these patterns are the reading. Add to that a warm and direct gaze, soft tone of voice, and some rhythmic cadence in the nodding of your head, and you are creating a trance estate. You only break visual contact to show them something in the cards, then back at locking your eyes with them. It is all part of the hypnotic process. This has lead me to my third area of interest: the tarot’s dialogue with our mirror neurons. The current understanding suggest that the same areas in the brain get active when we enact an action or when we see someone else enacting that action. In the tarot we have several characters behaving in very precise ways, ways that -as I pointed out above- can be described to a person as a form of phenomenological advise. My interest right now centers on understanding to what extent a person who is seeing Temperance -for example- pouring water from one jar to the other could embody that movement, enacting these physical sensations and therefore feeling as the image suggest. My readings may not necessarily seem different from the ones given by other readers (they shouldn’t), but in them I am working with these notions to compose an emotional state in my client that may leave her in a better disposition to keep going with her life and enact certain behavior when needed.

In all this, I find that the Tarot de Marseille is a more useful tool because it images are simpler, more iconic, and more likely to be understood and reminded by the client. So, while I cannot say that divination with the Tarot de Marseille is a superior branch of tarot divination, I can say that the Tarot de Marseille has attributes that make it better suited for the kind of work I do. At the same time, all these ideas emerge from something that I saw first explored by Paul Marteau. I would dare to say that Marteau’s book is not very original in its content. The structure of the book follows previous volumes in which each card is analyzed at several different levels: analogical, symbolic, abstract... but there is one level I found ‘original’ and somehow relevant on differencing divination with the Tarot de Marseille from divination with the rest of the tarot decks: this level alludes to the “figure’s orientation.” Marteau includes a visual/optical explanation for each card base don the character’s ‘behavior’ and on the way such behavior links one card to the other in some sort of visual ‘dialogue’. The metaphor of the ‘tarot as a mirror’ is usually used in a projective sense: we see ourselves in the cards at a psychological level. I am interested on a literal approach to that metaphor: the tarot as something we physically mirror so our brain can enact certain emotional attributes linked to a certain physical action.

As far as I know, the ‘following of gazes’ and of the figure’s orientation is something particular of the Tarot de Marseille tradition. I insist on seeing it as a 20th Century idea. This idea is hinted in Marteau and fully developed by Tchalai Unger, Jodorosky, Camoin, etc. Still, their focus was on the symbolic value of the character’s posture while I am interested on the psycho-physiological value of these postures as ways to model behavior. The ‘optical language’ notion is taken to be an ancient idea but I only have been able to trace it back to Marteau. By that I don’t even mean that Marteau invented it, but that all the authors who use these ideas have Marteau as a common reference. The ‘optical’ idea is often linked to the language of the birds but no one has developed a comprehensive understanding of that connection, perhaps because we would need to craft a comprehensive understanding of the language of the birds in the first place and most of what I have personally read on the topic lacks historical validity. On broader terms, the connection between the Tarot de Marseille and the language of the birds is articulated by the ‘language of the cathedrals’ as a bible for the illiterate, which makes mandatory for us to have a clear understanding to the tarot’s connection to Medieval Christian Europe if we want to explore this path in the right direction.

In other words, while it may be tempting to say that the ‘tarot’s optical language’ idea has an ancient origin, I see no reason to think so. The visual/semiotic/psychological/cognitive approach to the tarot probably emerged on the second half of the 20Century. How could it be different if all these disciplines developed in that precise Century? But a point I would like to make is: the esoteric market believes in a myth that follows a very precise narrative in which something ancient that was hidden gets revealed. We will find that pattern in all esoteric manuals, from De Gebelín to the 2012 craze. Even so, and as appealing as this narrative may be, antiquity doesn’t necessarily lends validity to a system. (What can be argued is that the impression of antiquity lends credibility to a system. At least that idea seems to inform the creative endeavours of most esoteric authors).

I hope all that is not too confusing.



P.S: (On a related note, if something is clear about the tarot’s history is the effect that one single person may have on shaping its direction. If this is obvious for the occult tarot I see no reason to believe it different for the Tarot de Marseille. Talking about the influence of single individuals, I am very interested in the role that Jean Assens may have played in the development of what is understood as the ‘Tarot de Marseille’s optical language’. Assens, a person who had an interest in theater and psychology -and worked in both fields- influencing Unger, Jodorowsky-Camoin and Flornoy. Perhaps Yves could be of help here, since he knew all these people. The French tarot ‘scene’ was very small in both De Gebelin’s and Marteau’s times. It is still very small today.)
What’s honeymoon salad? Lettuce alone
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Re: Use of Tarot de Marseille as a divinatory tool ???

Hi EE,

I hope you will make an effort to find a copy of Maxwell to read. You might find it quite interesting. It is the first book I ever found that showed meanings elicited from the floral details of the pips of the Marseilles, somewhat like the relationships you, Enrique, see in the abstract aspects of the cards. I also find the color and number symbolism quite interesting.

Re: Use of Tarot de Marseille as a divinatory tool ???

Hi Marcei,

It is this the book you mention?

The cover looks very non-Marseille, but you can expect anything from publishers! :D

I am always very interested on the observation people makes on the details of the cards. I think these are usually very useful. Anything we can point out in a card is good material to pace and lead a client into a certain affirmation or conclusion, even when these observations rarely have any historical credence. Maybe I am wrong and Maxwell is the exception, but they are more exercises of imagination than anything else. All of them have a common basis which is a delight in the Tarot de Marseille’s beauty. The most important thing I have learned through the tarot is that beauty is never useless. These days I have been thinking that beauty is somehow overlooked. I am not talking about being beautiful, but about beauty for beauty’s sake. We are obsessed with profit and we don’t tend to see beauty as profit. I suspect that beauty is the only ‘super’ natural power there is.

I think that is what I truly ‘sell’: the opportunity to experience beauty because beauty has a restorative power. I believe beauty to be contagious. At least, I believe you can make a sense of beauty contagious. This reminds me of something Oliver Sacks wrote in his book “The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat”, in the chapter devoted to “The Lost Mariner”:

“The sisters were right -he did find his soul here. And so was Luria, whose words now came back to me: ‘A man does not consist on memory alone. He has feeling, will, sensibility, moral being... It is here... you may touch him, and see a profound change.’ memory, mental activity, mind alone, could not hold him; but moral attention and action could hold him completely.

But perhaps ‘moral’ was too narrow a word -for the aesthetics and dramatics were equally involved. Seeing Jim in the chapel opened my eyes to other realms where the soul is called on, and held, and stilled, in attention and communion. The same depth of absorption of attention was to be seen in relation to music and art: he had no difficulty, I noticed ‘following’ music o simple dramas, for every moment in music and art refers to, contains, other moments.”

I often find myself taken by the cards’s beauty while reading the tarot for others to the point of loosing my train of thoughts. In these occasions I truly feel that the tarot is one of those realms “where the soul is called on, and held, and stilled, in attention and communion” as Saks says.

There is another word in that quote that I think is relevant here. This is the word ‘moral’, even when Saks doubts it. I am aware of how much we dislike that word these days. The underlying, untold, social premise seems to be that we shouldn’t talk about moral/morals. But I wonder IF a ‘moral sense’ could be seen as an unique quality worth taking into consideration when reading with the Tarot de Marseille, given the original nature of the trump cycle as a moral sermon, or a least, as a narrative in which the moral virtues play an almost catalytic role. (If anybody has expressed that idea with extraordinary eloquence it has been Michael Hurst).


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