D'Odoucet's alchemical interpretation of Etteilla's tarot

The last few pages of d'Odoucet's Science des Signes, vol. 2, pp. 182-193, are an alchemical interpretation of Etteilla's cards. I was curious, and the French was not hard. Just before these pages, there is one paragraph that also has alchemical content, so I will start with that. The French is at https://archive.org/details/b22018529_0 ... 0/mode/2up:
In the macrocosm as in the microcosm there are 4 elements, 3 substances, 2 principles and 1 physical motor which we call nature. The set of these numbers completes the circle of God=10 (1); then considering the unity at the center where God the uncreated principle of the created prince [du prince créé], the motor and the uniting link; 2 agent and patient to engender 3, the philosophical child and bringing it to universal perfection 4. Then nature or the created unity 1 acting in the center of the elements 4, will perfect the philosophical mercury 5, the true quintessence.
The four elements are of course fire, air, water, and earth. The three substances are sulphur, salt, and mercury. Besides agent and patient he characterizes the two principles as fixed and volatile.

The main alchemical narration starts on p. 182, https://archive.org/details/b22018529_0 ... 2/mode/2up. Below, every 3 cards, I have added pictures of the ones he is referring to, from a Grand Etteilla I of sometime in the 19th century.
The 78 hieroglyphic leaves, together forming the book of Thoth, represent the rough stone, from which it is necessary to extract the philosophical stone 6; our salt, virgin earth, by an artificial decomposition and composition of 1 into 2 then into 1, solve coagula therefore 78 is and is not the [start p. 184] matter of the wise: it is the center of 78 which is truly their matter.

The first sheet forms our chaos. Let us mix in all directions the pure and impure parts of our rough stone. Putrefaction, the first key of nature, will operate in everything, or at least will dispose of this first solution; let us examine with scrupulous attention, and meditate on this hieroglyph. It is the chaos, the first divine mixture, in which the imperceptible central point,controling matter, disposes it to separate its constituent parts and to go into dark water.

2nd sheet. Of this dark water obtained on the first sheet, you must extract the fire, which is indicated to us by the hieroglyph of this second sheet, a light emerging little by little from the darkness, a subtle fire emerging with difficulty from the dark chaos which it subjugates with repeated effusions of its igneous tears ; finally a pyramid, emblem of vulgar fire, seems to indicate the natural and easy way to convert all this mass of darkness and change it into limpid and clear water by repeated distillations of the volatile, calcination of the fixed, and cahobation of the volatile on the fixed, to again extract it from more and more accué [?] of its salt, until we have obtained a new unity, water, first element; but germinal water, water and fire containing the fixed and the volatility; finally, our water. (185)

3rd sheet. It is the hieroglyph of the first element; it represents our satellite the moon, wet planet, our water again far from perfect, to which we can reach if we know how to appreciate the merit of the two towers and of the two animals which are at their feet and the clouds which flit at their top. The emblem of this hieroglyph indicates that it is not enough to have obtained this first water, still very impure, but that it must also be circulated by repeated and alternating cohobations until the dark fox has taken on the cossack of the dog [chien] of Armenia, that is to say, until our water has become perfect, limpid and brilliant.

4th sheet. It indicates to the artist that the greatest manual work ended in the previous sheet; that he no longer needs other than to observe and follow nature, to whom we must from this moment entrust our fire, which same nature will make amalgams, and know well without us, drawing not only air but also metals or colors, and by a succession of time make earth appear.

5th sheet. It announces the perfection of our matter, which is changed to Adamic earth, true microcosmic quintessence contained in the same circle as the two principles of all things on which she dominates with majesty and which she rules as sovereign; she is almost naked, a light blue veil covering her with difficulty (186) set more to indicate the contours of her body than to hide her beauty. By her blond hair, we recognize her as Venus, but a modest Venus reserved for chaste embrace of her celestial progenitors, the celestial bodies, planets, or stars, of which her belt is armed; the elements outside the circle indicate that the envelope has been defeated through the center [centre, but possibly a misprint for ceinture, belt], which remains the perfect unity of the quintessence under terrestrial form, virginal, magnetic [aimantine].

6th sheet. It deserves our most serious attention. It presents us with three main objects, the magnetic earth lovingly caressed by the sun and moon under the first seven signs of the zodiac, from Aries to Virgo, until extracting from their ray the most universal steel. Our virgin then, by magical marriage, becomes fit to produce all natural things. In this conjunction it impregnates and attracts to itself the fluid of life which is necessary for its operations, which fluid is dispensed to it naturally in appropriate proportional weight.

Before leaving this 6th sheet, let us not neglect the supply of celestial astral water. Let us not forget that manna had to be picked early in the morning between night and day; because if the sun, this father of the lights, found itself rising on the horizon, he would recall his cherished son, and there would be fear that he will take away from the virgin mother her magnetic faculty. In (187) this last case You would have to make a new magnet, which is no small task. It is still necessary, after each fertilizing embrace or fertilization, to deliver this virgin, and extract this celestial water from her by a slow distillation; finally after one of the fertilizations the son must be enclosed with his mother.

7th sheet [below - MH]. After having enclosed there mother and the child in a room of crystal, without alarming us by their altercations, we will patiently wait for the new fruit which must come from this magic of the sky with the earth. We see in this work in abbreviated form the great work of the physical creation ordered according to sheets 1, 3, 2, 6, 4, 5, 7, 8, i.e. according to their day of creation. A new chaos of heaven and Earth; the separation of light from the darkness; of air and water, of dry earth, dross of the preceding elements; the two large lights placed in the concave of the heavens as well as the other stars and all the meteors of the air; the base water gathered in a basin, on the moderately dry soil, the germination and growth of minerals and plants; the creation of the perfect animals, quadrupeds, and other inhabitants of the earth. All being at its point of perfection in this sixth day of creation, man for which all was made, and placed by God himself in the center of his domain. (188)

8th sheet. Our work is accomplished in this sheet, inasmuch as on the evening of the sixth day, God crowned this work by the creation of Adam and Eve, placed in our little Eden. At this time the works of nature cease, the happy artist can indulge in rest.

Sheets 9, 10, 11, 12: Here let us penetrate, if possible, into the understanding of these four sheets. These are the four virtues, the center or quintessence of all natural mixtures. Justice presides over the vegetative rods or staffs; temperance, augural cups; strength, swords, and prudence, coins or talismans. Let us apply this preliminary knowledge to the four classes of natural mixtures which are plants, animals, minerals, and metals.

Justice, sheet 9, armed with a sword and holding a balance in its right, indicates a certain proportion or suitable measure in the weights of the determining ferment, represented by the small cube placed in the triangular black basin, and the universal elixir represented by the white sphere hanging from the other end of the beam. The white sword, emblem of philosophical fire, indicates that she alone can perfectly operate on one and on the other.

It seems that one needs, for this work, three things:
1. The quintessence or salt of the thing, impregnated with the other substances of the mixture determined as leaven (189)
2. The universal elixir or sulphur of the philosophers, obtained on the 8th sheet; and
3. universal mercury put in reserve on the 6th leaf.
These three objects together entrusted to nature, will be by her amalgamed in just the right temperament on sheet 10, and will pass, through putrefaction, to the color black and successively to white [and] the richly ornamented volatile parts of the colors of Iris [the rainbow], by the rubification of the work will acquire at leaf 11 a supernatural and divine strength: finally prudence invites the artist on sheet 12, not to lose by his own fault the fruit of so much labor, and to use with great circumspection this specified medicine.

Let us examine the accessories of this twelfth sheet. A reptile moving on a dry terrain; a lake terminated by vegetation, and a rocky escarpment, raising its imperious head in the haze of the air.

The reptile indicates the last efforts of the impure parts that precipitate to the condemned ground in the lower part of the vessel; the lake, that the pure parts, perfectly dissolved in water, have vegetated; the rock, that this vegetation has changed into a glorious, celestial quintessence, corporified sky or the philosopher's stone.

After thus traversing the zodiac in his work, the artist has indeed, it is true, got a medicine, but it is still of weak virtue. It must therefore aim at multiplication in quality and (190) quantity. The 13th sheet offers him the happy means: This is the wedding of the handsome Gabricius and the white Beia by the bishop of the diocese. It is a new union of the salt obtained at the 12th sheet, from the sulphur formed at the 8th, and mercury stored at the 6th; but as nothing in nature can pass to a new generation except by putrefaction, it is of necessity that Death 17 pass through this second notebook 13, 14, 15, 16. Three multiplications needed to obtain a medicine to the test of all judgment. The first multiplication gives it force majeur, the 2nd, an empiric for illnesses; the 3rd puts the seal to its perfection, putting it in a position to submit to all judgment.


The second notebook 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17, having given us the multiplications of the physical stone, it is in the order of the 3rd notebook 18, 19, 20, 21, which gives us the way to improve the imperfect natural mixtures.

In the previous notebook, death 17, having had the right to wander [MH: he had earlier associated it with the number 13; 0 or O is also 78 and here put between 21 and 22] , likewise in this third notebook madness, O, uses this privilege and warns us that by making inconsiderate use of physical stone for vegetation, we render ourselves guilty of betrayal towards the other children of nature by a partial predilection, by lavishing on some Individuals an essence to which all have the same right. By making use of it for the construction of our body, we only (191) prolong our misery and captivity. By projecting it onto the minerals, this is the way to achieve an increase in fortune: an increase that we must be wary of. Finally, by projecting it onto metals, this excess of opulence is the source of contentions. Such are the bitter fruits of the tree of knowledge; to make them sweet and good, one must use the knowledge acquired wisely.

The sheet marked O is in a way the image of the artist: he is a madman; he is a sage. He is mad if he wants to be known as wise. He is wise if he consents to pass for mad. The middle and best would be to be ignored.

It remains to survey the last 56 leaves that complete the book of Thoth. They are naturally divided into 4 notebooks: from 22 to 35, plants; from 36 to 49, animals; 50 to 63, minerals; and 64-77, metals. It is 14 sheets for each notebook; but this number is not triangular. indicates to us that it is necessary to add the corresponding virtue or astral center suitable to this earthly subject, by putting sheet 9 in the batons; to the augural cups, 10, the 11 to the swords, and the 12 to the coins. Then we will have the following four pyramids each composed of 15 sheets. (To see these arrays of numbers, go to https://archive.org/details/b22018529_0 ... 0/mode/2up, bottom of 191 and the following page.) (192)

Just as in the total pyramid the first row is representative of the intellectual virtues inspired by the sensible universe, so also this first row of each specified lower pyramid is the representative of the virtue or astral essence of the mixture that the artist wants to submit to his operations, these first 5 sheets by analogy from small to large designate that the celestial body of the mixture is endowed with the 4 elementary qualities hot, cold, dry and humid: intellectual and non-palpable qualities, which give birth to 4 elements, partly visible fire, air, water, and earth, which by their combinations produce three palpable substances, mercury, sulfur, and salt, which must be reduced to two corporeal principles, the fixed and the volatile.

To bring about the perfection of unity; but material unity = 6: 1 + 2 + 3 -+ 4 + 5 =15= 1 +5 = 6. salt, virgin earth, Adamic earth vivified by the spirit 6.

We see that the analogy is perfect if we remember that 78 = 7+8 = 15 = 1+5 = 6, (193) six being a hieroglyphic figure composed of a circle or globe and a higher spirit that penetrates it.