Mellet: Research on the Tarot

#1
Researches on the Tarot
and on divination by Tarot cards.


by M. LE C. DE M.***

I.

The Book of Thoth.
The desire to learn develops in the heart of man as his mind acquires new knowledge: the need to preserve it, & the desire to transmit it, conceived the characters of which Thoth or Mercury was regarded as the inventor. These characters were not, in the beginning, conventional signs which expressed, like our present letters, only [the sound of] words; they were so many veritable images with which they formed pictures, which visually represented the things they wished to speak about.

It is natural that the inventor of these images was the first historian: indeed, Thoth is considered to have painted the Gods [1], that is, acts of omnipotence, or Creation, to which he joined moral precepts. This book appears to have been named A-Rosh; from 'A', Doctrine, Science; & from 'ROSCH', Mercury [2], which, joined to the article 'T', means Pictures of the Doctrine of Mercury; but as Rosh also means Beginning, this word Ta-Rosh was particularly dedicated to its cosmogony; just as the Ethotia, History of Time, was the title of its astronomy; and perhaps that Athothes, who was taken for a King, Son of Thoth, is only the child of his genius, & the History of the Kings of Egypt.

This ancient cosmogony, this Book of Ta-Rosh, with a few slight alterations, seems to have reached us in the cards which still bear this name [3], either greed for profit from an idle amusement or superstition has preserved from the ravages of time the mysterious symbols which, as once for the Magi, served to deceive credulity.

The Arabs communicated this Book [4] or Game/Deck to the Spaniards, and the soldiers of Charles V carried it to Germany. It is composed of three upper series, representing the first three ages, of Gold, Silver & Brass: each series is made up of seven cards.[5]

But as Egyptian scripture was read from left to right, the twenty-first, which has been numbered only with modern figures, is nevertheless the first, and must be read as such for the intelligence of History; as it is the first in the Tarot pack, & in the kind of divination that one operates with these images. Finally, there is a twenty-second card without number as without power, but which increases the value of the one that precedes it; it is the zero of magic calculations: it is called madness.

1. The Gods, in scripture & in hieroglyphic expression, are the Eternal & Virtues, represented in corporeal form.
2. Rosh is the Egyptian name of Mercury & his festival which was celebrated on the first day of the year.
3. Twenty-two pictures form a very small book; but if, as it seems likely, the first traditions were preserved in poems, a simple image that fixed the attention of the people, to whom the event was explained, was sufficient to help retain them, and the verses that described them.
4. Livret au Lansquenet, or Lands-Knecht, is still the term for the series of cards that are dealt (? - donne aux pontes).
5. Three times 7, mystical number, famous among Cabalists, Pythagoreans, & c.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Mellet: Notes to Introduction

#2
Reserved for notes and comments.

M. LE C. DE M.***
Identified as M, Le Compte de Mellet by Lhote.

Re: 'from left' to right' ? [se lisoit de gauche à droite]
Surely he meant to say 'from right to left' (as with eastern scripts such as Hebrew or Arabic).

While he refers to the age of brass (or bronze) here [d'Airain], he later refers to it as the age of Iron [fer].

On the Ovidian Ages of Man (Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron), see for example here:
https://www.shmoop.com/metamorphoses/summary.html
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Mellet: The Age of Gold

#3
First Series: The Age of Gold


The twenty-first, or first Card, represents the Universe by the Goddess Isis in an oval, or an egg, with the four seasons in the four corners, the Man or Angel, Eagle, Ox & Lion.

Twentieth, this one is entitled Judgment: indeed, an angel sounding the trumpet, & men coming out of the earth, had to induce a painter, little versed in mythology, to see in this picture only the image of the resurrection; but the ancients looked upon men as children of the Earth [1]; Thoth wanted to express the Creation of Man through the painting of Osiris, or the Generating God, the voice or Word that commands matter, & by tongues of fire that escape from the cloud, the Spirit [2] of God reviving this same matter; finally, by men coming out of the earth to worship and admire omnipotence: the attitude of these men does not announce guilty men who will appear before their judge.

Nineteenth, the Creation of the Sun that illuminates the union of man and woman, expressed by a man and a woman who give their hands to each other: this sign has since become that of Gemini, of the Androgynous: Duo in carne una.

Eighteenth, the Creation of the Moon & terrestrial Animals, expressed by a Wolf & a Dog, to signify domestic & wild animals: this emblem is all the better chosen as the Dog and the Wolf are the only ones who howl at the sight of this star, as if regretting the loss of the day. This character would make me believe that this picture would have announced very great misfortunes to those who might consult the fates, if the line of the tropic was not painted there, that is, the departure & return of the Sun, which leaves the consoling hope of a beautiful day & a better fortune. However, two fortresses that defend a path lined with blood, & a marsh that completes the picture, always present difficulties without number to overcome in order to destroy such a sinister omen.

Seventeenth, the Creation of the Stars & Fishes, represented by Stars & Aquarius.

Sixteenth, the House of God overturned, or the earthly paradise from which Man and Woman are thrown down by the tail of a comet or the Blazing Sword, joined with the fall of hail.

Fifteenth, the Devil or Typhon, last card of the first series, comes to disturb the innocence of man & end the golden age. His tail, horns & long ears announce him as a degraded being: his left arm raised, the folded knot, forming an N, symbol of produced beings, makes us know it as having been created; but the torch of Prometheus which he holds with his right hand, seems to complete the letter M, which expresses generation: indeed, the history of Typhon leads us naturally to this explanation; for, by depriving Osiris of his manhood, it seems that Typhon wanted to encroach on the rights of the producing Power; therefore he was the father of the evils which spread over the earth.

The two beings chained to his feet signify degraded and submissive human nature, as well as the new and perverse generation, whose hooked nails express cruelty; they lack only the wings (the Genius or the angelic Nature) to be wholly like the devil: one of these beings touches with its claw the thigh of Typhon; emblem which in mythological scripture was always that of carnal generation [3] : he touches it with his left claw to mark its illegitimacy.

Typhon finally is often taken for Winter, & this picture ending the golden age announces the intemperance of the seasons, which man driven out of paradise will henceforth experience.

1. The teeth sown by Cadmus, &c.
2. Painted the same as our sacred historians.
3. The birth of Bacchus & Minerva are the mythological pictures of the two generations.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Mellet: Notes to Age of Gold

#4
Reserved for notes and comments

From his description of Tyhon, it is clear, together with his later mention of Juno and Jupiter, that he is referencing a Tarot de Besancon type deck. From his later description of Fortune on the four of coins, it is clear that it is a Franciose Isnard deck, whose moulds were used by most, if not all, of the Strasbourg based card-makers in the 18th century, such as the Benoit family, Cary and the rest.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Mellet: The Age of Silver

#5
Second Series: The Age of Silver

Fourteenth, the Angel of temperance comes to instruct man, to make him avoid death to which he is newly condemned: it is pictured pouring [1] water into wine, to show him the need to weaken this liquor, or to temper his affections.

Thirteenth; this number, always unhappy, is dedicated to Death, which is represented mowing heads both crowned & common.

Twelfth, the accidents that attack human life, represented by a man hanged by the foot; it also means that, to avoid them, it is necessary in this world to walk with prudence: Suspenso pede.

Eleventh, Strength comes to the aid of Prudence, & overthrows the Lion, which has always been the symbol of uncultivated & wild lands.

Tenth, the wheel of Fortune, at the top of which is a crowned monkey, teaches us that after the fall of man, it was already no longer virtue that gave dignities: the rabbit that ascends & the man who is thrown down, express the injustices of the inconstant Goddess: this wheel at the same time is the emblem of the wheel of Pythagoras, a way to draw lots by numbers: this divination is called Arithmancy.

Ninth, the Hermit or the Wise Man, lantern in hand, seeking Justice on Earth.

Eighth, Justice.

1. Perhaps its attitude relates to the culture of the Vine.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Mellet: Age of Iron

#7
Third Series : Age of Iron

Seventh, the Chariot of War in which is an armoured king, armed with a javelin, expresses dissensions, murders, battles of the age of brass, and announces the crimes of the age of iron.

Sixth, Man pictured wavering between vice & virtue, is no longer driven by reason: Cupid* or desire [1], blindfolded, ready to fire an arrow, will make him lean to the right or left, depending on whether he will be guided by chance.

Fifth, Jupiter or the Lord mounted on his Eagle, lightning in his hand, threatens the Earth, and Kings will yield to him in his anger.

Fourth, the King armed with a club [2], which ignorance subsequently made an Imperial ball: his helmet is adorned at the back with saw-teeth, to make known that nothing could satisfy his insatiability [3].

Third, the Queen, club in hand; her crown has the same ornaments as the King’s helmet.

Second, the pride of the powerful, represented by the peacocks, on which Juno pointing to the Sky with her right hand, & the Earth with the left, announces an earthly Religion or idolatry.

First, the Bateleur holding the rod of the Magi, performs miracles & deceives by the credulity of people. It is followed by a unique card representing Madness which carries its bag or its faults from behind, while a tiger or remorse, devouring its hocks, delays its march towards crime [4].

These first twenty-two cards are not only hieroglyphs, which placed in their natural order retrace the history of the earliest times, but they are even as many letters [5] which differently combined, can form as many sentences; also their name (A-tout) is but a literal translation of their employment & general property.

1. Concupiscence.
2. Osiris is often represented with a whip in the hand, with a globe & a T: all this combined may have produced in the head of a German cardmaker an Imperial Ball.
3. Or his vengeance, if it is Osiris angered.
4. This card has no rank: it completes the sacred alphabet and responds to the Tau which means complement, perfection: perhaps it was intended to represent in its most natural sense the result of the actions of men.
5. The Hebrew alphabet is composed of 22 letters.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Mellet: Notes Age of Iron

#8
Reserved for notes and comments

*l'Amour. literaly Love, is in French used as the name of Cupid/Eros.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Mellet: Application to Divination

#9
II. This Game applied to Divination.

When the Egyptians had forgotten the first interpretation of these pictures, and had used them as simple letters for their sacred writing, it was natural that such a superstitious people should attach an occult virtue [1] to characters respectable for their antiquity, and that the priests, who alone had the intelligence, employed them only for religious things.

New characters were even invented, and we see in Sacred Scripture that the Magi as well as those who were initiated in their secrets, used divination by the cup [2].

That they worked wonders with their staff [3]. That they consulted talismans [4] or engraved stones.

That they divined future things by swords [5], arrows, axes, finally by weapons in general. These four signs were introduced among the religious pictures as soon as the establishment of Kings had brought the difference of the estates into society.

The Sword signified Royalty & Powers of the Earth.

The priests made use of vessels for sacrifices, & the Cup designated the priesthood.

Money, commerce.

The Staff, Crook, Pivot represented agriculture.

These four emblems, already mysterious, once gathered in sacred pictures, must have given hope to the greatest lights; & the fortuitous combination that one obtained by mixing these pictures, formed sentences which the Magi read or interpreted as the Judgments of Destiny; this was all the easier for them since a construction due to chance would naturally produce an obscurity consecrated to the style of the oracles.

Each estate thus had its characteristic symbol; & among the various pictures which bore this image, there were some happy & unhappy ones, depending on the position, the number of symbols & their ornaments, which inclined them to proclaim happiness or misfortune.

1. Also the science of numbers & the value of letters that was so celebrated in the past.
2. The Cup of Joseph.
3. The Rod of Moses & Mages of the Pharaoh.
4. The Gods of Laban & Teraphim, the Urim & Thummim.
5. They did more: they fixed the fate of battles; and if King Jehoash had struck the earth seven times, instead of three, he would have destroyed Syria. II Kings, XIII, 19.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests

cron