Re: New Book: Theory and Practical Instruction on the Book of Thoth

I am busy reading the book now, comparing it with Etteilla's original text. It certainly helps in making Etteilla accessible to someone who doesn't think in French. There are also some passages lost in translation - in a translation of a translation, that's bound to happen. To save others the trouble, here are some notes. I am not correcting Nitz, but Nitz or Hisler, in relation to Etteilla's own text

p. 12, first paragraph, should be "You will read there [the Book of Thoth] what the fanatical, so-called illumined ones wait for in vain from the mouth of God himself, the science that the creator has spread throughout the universe."

"spontaneous men" should be "idle men". Then a paragraph is left out, but no great loss.

p. 13. The prayer is "I desire to learn the things that are, understand their nature, and know [connoitre] God." Hisler omits Etteilla's explanation that this "prayer" is by Trismegistus at 1.16 (presumably the line number; the prayer is at (Corpus Hermeticum 1.3 in Mead's translation, online). It is not addressed to God, Etteilla says: it is addressed by Trismegistus to his own understanding and thought and to his "Genius". (It is to Nous, Mind, in the Corpus.)

In the next paragraph, the quote is not "the uppermost is like the lowest" but "what is above is like what is below" - from the Emerald Tablet, obviously.

In the paragraph beginning "1" (it should be "1."), instead of "wise person who sees into the future and in prophesying unveils its mysteries" Etteilla has "Magician"; instead of "thirster after knowledge who strives to learn the destiny of his life from the former" Etteilla has "Consultant." This terminology continues throughout, except that sometimes instead of "Magicien" he has "Cartonomician" or both.

Instead of "living and lifeless beings" Etteilla has "sensate and non-sensate beings".

Hisler omits Etteilla's paragraph listing three of his books, with dates and the price of the last

p. 14: "from your head" should be "on your head".

Instead of "strong sublime human" (describing the Magician), Etteilla has simply "strong human."

p. 15: the paragraph about the first cut ends "0, the image of the circle." The paragraph about the third cut ends, "2, the image of man."

p. 16: Hisler omits a two page discussion about the fire in the depths of the universe, whether in man or stone, and the spirit, soul, and body of everything, where it is important that the magician connect with the spirits. Again, he includes only the last paragraph of the discussion, which is fairly unintelligible without the rest. Even here, Hisler puts words in Etteilla's mouth: Etteilla does not declare that "the youthful bodies of humans urge for the deepest union of sensation" - it is only about spirits. It is possible that he is thinking of bodies, too, but if so he doesn't say it. The passage is rather dense.

p. 17 omits a page or two of Etteilla's prose, too, for example his explanation that the wisdom started under the pharaohs, then to Moses, then to the grandson of Trismegistus-Athotis.

p. 18. Hisler omits Etteilla's dig at the Masons, for not understanding the origin of their "three times three" in the triple triplicity of the cutting of the cards (on which the translator has a helpful note).

p. 19: instead of "laying" of the cards" read "division" of the cards, in all three paragraphs. The "second laying of the 54 cards" should be "the second division, of 52 cards," as Etteilla correctly states. "54" makes no sense here.

In the paragraph about the "third laying" (i.e. division), instead of "the person" read "man" (or, if you wish to be politically correct, "humanity"). Then the sentence makes sense.

The part about the "white woman and the black man" is of considerable interest. These are terms in alchemy for the albedo/purification and the nigredo/putrefaction respectively, between which is "the fire, the soul, the spirit of the universe," in other words the rubedo/rebis. He says this can be seen on card 14, i.e. the Devil, which has a white woman on one side, a black man on the other, and between them, above, the figure holding the torch, the hermaphrodite, who is the spirit or soul of the world. This analysis may also be what is being conveyed in the Sola-Busca Ace of Coins, which we have discussed at length in another thread, with a melancholy putto on one side (i.e. black), a phlegmatic putto on the other (white), and a sanguine putto (red) holding the world on his shoulders in the middle.

In the next paragraph, for "idea" read "circle".

In the next paragraph, for "the halves; the halves..." read "gives half; the half..."

p. 20, first paragraph: again, for "the person" read "man" or "humanity".

For 26 as the number of the soul he cites Flamel. For life as the fourth term, with body, soul, and spirit, he cites Plato. Perhaps others will know the precise references.

For "strange" read "astonishing", here and later.

For "11+11, according to the hieroglyphs, is greater than all the remaining parts of the Book" read "11+11, corresponding to the hieroglyphs, 22 major atouts [trumps], in three volumes".

Just before the last paragraph on the page, Hisler has left out more than a page of Etteilla's number-juggling and invective. I don't understand it very well either.

p. 21. The four divisions are not philosophy, theology, medicine, and jurisprudence; they are "agriculture, the priesthood, the nobility, composed of the sovereign, the magistrates and the military, and the people, composed of the arts and commerce." He is referring to the suits.

Hisler has omitted Etteilla's reference to "Abraham the Jew", i.e. Flamel's source, and of another of his books, called Le Tharoth in 2 volumes, 12 livres (the cost). I do not know this work; perhaps it is a reprint of the Cahiers.

In French and German, the word "esprit" or "geist" can correspond to various words in English - spirit, mind, intellect. Just know that when the translator uses one or the other of these various words, Etteilla's word is "esprit."

Well, so much for Lesson One. Nitz's translation of Hisler does indeed help to unravel the mysteries of the master, and to the extent one or the other has muddled him, I hope I have helped a little. To be continued.

Re: New Book: Theory and Practical Instruction on the Book of Thoth

Continuing from my previous post:

p. 23. In lesson 2, about a page's worth of material has been omitted between the first paragraph and the second, including a reference to card 8 as depicting "man in the middle of the terrestrial paradise," also known as the "paradise above the earth," "the garden of Eden," and "the garden of nature in which we have been placed." The next paragraph, about revelation, speaks of regulation in the singular and not, as Hisler would have it, in the plural.

P. 24. The law is not, as Hisler has it, "that we shall find everything when we react to it and strive after it", but rather, Etteilla says "Do right (well, good: bien), and you will find right (well, good: bien)." And also "You will eat your bread by the sweat of your brow."

p. 25. Between the last paragraph of p. 24 and the first of p. 25, Hisler has omitted about five pages of the French, in which the author discusses further the existence of spirits.

p. 26. Hisler's (or Nitz's) translation seems fairly accurate and complete until we get to the description of the Book of Thoth: not, "22, the greatest, 16, the smallest of all, and 40 more insignificant cards," but rather "22 major atouts [above-alls], 16 minor atouts, and 40 low [bas] cards." The 16 are the court cards.

Then everything is ok until he speaks again of the "four divisions," which Hisler says are those "that we find in every science." That clause is not in the French. The reference is to the four suits.

p. 28. The part on the number 5 as representing the godhead in the middle of the four main points seems an anticipation of Levi's analysis of the Pope card, where the pope is in the center of the four points defined by the heads of the columns and the two acolytes.

p. 29. When he speaks, top of page, of a center in the middle of a perfect number 6, he may be referring to a card, but I do not know what it would be.

For "shown in the artwork in the mysteriously significant cards", read "offered in the cartonomancy, in order to be identified in the chain of life of his consultant." Then instead of "when he does not have enough comprehensive knowledge" read "when he does not have a strong enough memory."

p. 30. A characterization of "a great man" (omitted by Hisler) to which Etteilla adds his observations about nuances, etc., is attributed to one of Etteilla's disciples, a certain M. de St. M. (Etteilla p. 43.) Who is this? (All I can think of is Saint-Sauveur, even though there is no M).

p. 32. Left out by Hisler, on how our alphabet is different from those of the ancient peoples: The letter O, for zero, was originally the first letter; then it became the last simple letter (Omega?), and finally was replaced by T (Tau?), which had been first. However, I do not quite grasp what he is saying.

Note that besides synonyms, he says it is legitimate to interpret the card in terms of a keyword's homonyms. The spirits, like Freud's subconscious, enjoy making puns.

Third lesson

p. 35. Hisler leaves out the observation, in the second to last paragraph, that card-reading, one card at a time, has been going on for a half-century (Etteilla p. 53). This is in 1790.

p. 36, for "if I were not bright," read "if I were not Etteilla."

p. 37. Just before the paragraph about Galileo, Hisler omits a sentence in which Etteilla says that he gave his 1770 book the false title of How to draw the cards. I am not sure how he then justifies giving it that title (Etteilla, p. 56).

p. 40. Instead of "since we here in contrast accept and recognize 2, 4, before them" read "on the contrary, here it is 2 and 4 that are stronger than 1, 3, 5." (The meaning is the same, but clearer.)

p. 48. The last paragraph of the lesson does not correspond to anything in the French version. Instead, from the middle of its p. 94 to the end of p. 95, it is something different.

Some parting thoughts: My main question at this point is, how do we know that Etteilla wrote the first three lessons, as opposed to Hugand? The author only refers to himself as Etteilla once, and that is in a place where Hisler oddly uses a different word entirely (see my note for p. 36). Also, there is no title page with Etteila's name on it, and his name does not appear at the end.

What strikes me is that the author says, at the end of the third lesson, that he has no time then to write more, so there will be a gap between 72 and 145. But then the fourth lesson starts on precisely p. 73, is set in a different type than the rest, and with the "s" in the old-fashioned format where it looks like an "f". What we see is a rambling diatribe of 18 pages, in Etteilla's usual style, signed at its conclusion with the printed word ETTEILLA. Some of it is a repetition of examples given earlier, but in more detail. Then comes the resumption of the discussion of card layouts, the fourth procedure (which Hisler put at the end of lesson three). There is no signature at the end. Then the next page, the same type as the first three lessons resumes, and with the modern "s"; it is an endorsement of "Jejalel" (Hugand) as a true Cartonomancian, listing how much he charges for different types of readings and where to contact him in Lyon. It has the printed word ETTEILLA at the bottom.

Then comes another essay, "Le Jeu de Tharoth, suivant une des manieres des premiers Egyptiens" (the game of tarot following one of the manners of the first Egyptians") in smaller type but with the same modern "s". It looks pretty silly.

In contrast, Hisler's version omits the 18 page diatribe (no loss there) and includes the rest of the fourth lesson as the end of lesson three. His fourth lesson is then about dreams, which is probably at least part of what the author of the first three lessons said he didn't have time to write. Hugand and d'Odoucet did write about dreams.

At the end of the book, Nitz has an appendix with a rough translation of de la Salette's "synonyms". I will compare them to the original and see where I have questions.

Re: New Book: Theory and Practical Instruction on the Book of Thoth

I was interested about "K. A. Nitz"

His Etteilla production was combined with "Carl du Prel (1839-1899)",_Freiherr_von_Prel

In the catalogue of K.A. Nitz ....
Prel, Carl du. The Puzzle of Humanity: An Introduction to the Occult Sciences. Auckland, New Zealand: K A Nitz, July 2022. ISBN: 978-0-473-63520-6
A translation of Das Rätsel des Menschen: Einleitung in das Studium der Geheimwissenschaften (first published 1892)

Das Rätsel des Menschen : Einleitung in das Studium der Geheimwissenschaften
Author: Du Prel, Carl
Publisher: Leipzig : Reclam, 1892 103 S. ... 1:1-535635

Also mentioned in ....
Title: Sphinx, Ausgabe 15
Publisher: T. Griebens Verlag, 1893 ... 20&f=false


An old discussion between us ...
"I found "Baumgärtner" ... Etteilla's German connection. ... tthelf.pdf
DDD notes p.113, that one of Etteilla's work was translated 1793. It was published in Leipzig by Baumgärtner and it contained the card-illustrations in hand-colored manner.
It looks to me, as if Baumgärtner had personal reasons to make just this project. He was 29 years in 1788, when he started a journey to Spain. He crossed France, likely twice. He came back 1789 and experimented. Etteilla died 1791 and Baumgärtner opened a book production 1792. Etteilla's work should have belonged to his first business operations (1793). Baumgärtner wrote himself, so his book producer and book merchant role should have been dedication. After 1806 he founded a playing card factory and 1819 a second in Berlin. He's given as a little strange ... but very successful.
The cards of Etteilla were given in the book as copperplate engravings and colored by hand. Similar technology he used for other books.
DDD assume a possible connection to Hisler (a German in Berlin), whom Etteilla called one of his best pupils. ... 02/page-23

Somehow the reference has changed meanwhile .... so the old link doesn't work properly. has a version ... ... tthelf.pdf

This is the wiki about Baumgärtner ... ... aumgärtner
Some cards produced by Baumgärtner ... 9n4w?hl=en

And a longer collection to the theme from 2012 ...

This is the Baumgärtner catalogue 1793 with the book of Thot ... ... ot&f=false
... one page later appears a Lotto card game and in this article the names Eteilla and Hisler are mentioned.


Modern name distribution of "Hisler" in France ... ... r&s=Suchen
The most persons with this name appear in the region of 'Strasbourg.
Etteilla was in the region of Strasbourg, probably searching for an artist of his cards.
Hisler, the Etteilla pupil, is said to have been a Prussian. The name is very-very rare in Germany, there are 6 notes and 2 of them are also in the region of Strasbourg.
Naturally Hisler or his ancestors might have gone to Prussia with the emigration of the Hugenottes.
Last edited by Huck on 08 Feb 2023, 10:19, edited 1 time in total.

Re: New Book: Theory and Practical Instruction on the Book of Thoth

Thanks for the additional information, Huck.

Here are my notes on the Appendix to Nitz's translation of Etteilla, Theory and practice instruction in the book of Thoth, i.e. the word lists in de la Salette's Dictionnaire Synonymique (online in For the first 27, I examined both the keywords and the synonyms, after that, just the keywords. Added next day: but I missed seeing that Nitz had taken the keywords from the German cards. Some of them do not reflect Etteilla's meaning very well. In other cases, they capture it better than de la Salette and Etteilla themselves. Having missed the footnote, I found much fault with Nitz's keywords. The fault is not his, but Hisler's - although frankly I think it was a mistake to use only his, because in some cases Hisler's keywords end up not fitting de la Salette's "synonyms" very well. I will go back and correct my comments when I have time, as well as adding some additional comments on his translations of de la Salette..

Added day after: I have now made the corrections. With the keywords, I distinguish Etteilla's (E) from Hisler; otherwise the additions and corrections to my previous post are in bold. When I give Hisler's German, it is from Kaplan, Encyclopedia of Tarot, vol. 2, p. 402, which has some of them.

In what follows, I leave out the accent marks on the French words.

For card 0 (which de la Salette puts between 21 and 22, not first), "Neant" is better as "Nothingness."

For card 2, E's keyword "Eclairissement", "enlightenment," is better than Hisler's Aufschluss, "explanation," given what is on the card, a blazing star. Then the first synonym should be "explication," the same as the French, instead of "information." In the reverseds, the first three synonyms should be "Hot, heat, small enlightenment," not "heat, clarification."

For card 3, E's keyword "propos", "purpose", is better than "intention." The German is Vorsatz, Plan. "Intention" is the second synonym.

For card 4, E's "depouillement" has several meanings: analysis, despoilment, counting. There is also Hisler's Beraubung, for which "deprivation" is better than the more specific "robbery." "Despoilment" is closest to the French. The synonyms then capture the variations. Instead of "despoil" in the synonyms, "dispossess" will work.

For card 5, Etteilla is favoring alchemical meanings. So for matiere, instead of material, "matter" is better. Instead of raw material, "first matter" is better, for premier matiere.

For card 7, uprights, Nitz omits the last two: help, assistance. E's reversed keyword is Protection; the German Vermebrung, Increase, is simply a mistake and makes no sense in relation to the synonyms.

For card 8, E's reversed keyword is "Legiste," Jurist, a little different from the German Obrigkeit, Government.

For card 10, uprights, E's keyword is Temperance, the cardinal virtue. That is important to convey; Maesigkeit, Moderation, doesn't quite do it. The second synonym is discretion, not difference. E's reverseds keyword is The Priest; the German has Geistlichkeit, Spirituality. The first synonym is "conductor of sacrifices". The last synonym is "sect," singular.

For card 11, uprights, E's keyword is Strength; the German "Die Staerke", "The Strong," is even further from the cardinal virtue Fortitude than Etteilla, who simply copies what is on the Marseille card. In the Reverseds, the last word should be "discordance," not "discrepancy."

For 12, E's keyword is Prudence. The German Klugheit, Cleverness, has a different connotation.

In 13, for gene the word "embarrassment" does not fit the context, which is that of slavery, captivity. A more appropriate translation would be "torture," even if that is not a common meaning these days. Also, "shackle" is probably better than "chain."

Putting "sign of death of" between the two numbers 13 and 14 is a stretch. What de la Salette says is "13 sign. de mort. 14". What I wonder about is the second "of", which is not in the original. It is unclear which is the sign of death of which. It is possible to read the phrase as "13 sign. de mort.: 14." That is to say, 13 has 14 as its sign of death, i.e. 14 is the sign of death of 13. Nitz has the reverse. That 14 (force majeur) is the death of 13 (marriage), in the sense that a marriage would be destroyed by unforeseeable events that prevent the fulfilling of an obligation (force majeur, which Nitz makes no attempt to understand, beyond "major force"), is possible, given Etteilla's disastrous marriage; but that marriage conquers or is the death of unforeseeable misfortune, an "act of God," seems to me the greater stretch, although to be sure one can recover from unforeseeable bad debts by a suitable marriage. That interpretation presumes that the unforeseeable has happened; but that is not the card at hand.

Decker, Depaulis, and Dummett simply say, p. 93 of Wicked Pack, "These numbers [the extra ones] are explained ... as 'signes de mort' ('signs of death')." That seems to say that it is the second number that is the sign of death, not the first. But it would help if they said more: death of what?

For 14, "major force" is the literal translation, but the phrase means an unforseeable event that makes it impossible to fulfill an obligation. In the reverseds, for legerite, "nimbleness" doesn't fit with the rest of the meanings. "Frivolousness" is preferable.

Again, unforeseeable misfortune changes to, leads, to sickness. Sickness can also change, lead to, produce, unforeseeable bad debts. But the card at hand is unforeseeable bad debts.

For 15, "antedeluvian generations" should appear at the end of the uprights, to match "biblical flood" in 16 (an example of how 15 leads to, has as its death 16, 16 as the death of 15). Again, sickness leads to judgment, judicial or otherwise. Sickness is not the death of judgment. We learn from adversity, in Etteilla's thinking.

For 17, E's reversed keyword Neant , the German das Nichts, the Nothing, would be better as "Nothingness", as in Sartre's L'Etre e le Neant, Being and Nothingness.

Mortality is not the death of marriage, except in the trivial sense that the death of one partner ends the marriage. Mortality leads to, is ended by, marriage, in that one thinks about one's old age and what one can leave behind (children), or one gets an inheritance, or rid of a bad spouse, either of which can lead to marriage. But I admit that my interpretation of "sign. de mort." is not clear-cut in any of these cases.

For 18, E's keyword both upright and reversed is "traitre," which is obviously "traitor," not "forger, libeler." I don't know what Hisler had.

For 19, E's keyword "misere" means "poverty." As for "maison dieu," a synonym in the reverseds, there is much debate on what that means. Simply writing "house of God" is misleading. In the present context, "hospice" would be the best fit (a place people went to die), or perhaps "hospital," with maison dieu in square brackets after it.

For 22, E's reversed keyword in French is "severe", so "good, strict man", not "good, serious man."

For 23, E's reversed keyword is just "good woman," not "good, beautiful woman."

In 24, E's "deplacement" is better as "moving" or "displacement" than "journey," given the other synonyms.

In 25, for "etranger," "Stranger, foreigner" is better than just "stranger." Likewise in the synonyms, "strange or foreign."

For 26, E's keyword is "betrayal," not "female betrayer." In the reverseds, the English for "chicane" is "chicanery", not simply "chicane", which has no current meaning in English.

For 27, the keyword "crosspiece" brings to mind a horizontal beam in a building, not relevant here. E's "Traverses" is a perfectly good English word, even if uncommon, with the same meanings the same as in French. But people may not know the word; in that case, "going through something" captures the main idea.

For 28. Reversed should be "internal disputes," not Hisler's "inner unease." It includes disputes within an organization.

For 29, Upright: "Parley" is the closest equivalent, at least in American English. Pour-parler is discussion for the purpose of reaching an accord.

For 31, reversed, "Trial," not "Process", for E's "Proces."

For 32, reversed, "Prosperity," not "Happy progress," for E's "Prosperite."

For 33, upright, "Enterprises" is good in English, for the same in French. No need to change it to "Undertaking," although the latter is not incorrect, in the plural.

For 34, upright, "Chagrin" is perfectly good for French "chagrin", meaning "distress"; "displeasure" is different.

For 35, "Fall," is the translation for E's "Chute", as opposed to "Falling down."

For 36, "Man of position" conveys the sense of "homme en place" better than "man in place," even if the German is "Mann aus dem Ort."

For 37, same for "femme en place."

For 40, E's "Courreux" is "wrath", not just "disfavor."

For 41, E's "Projet" is "project". "Proposal" is slightly different.

For 46, E's "Ennui" is not Hisler's "Long while," but "Boredom." The synonyms fit the latter.

For 47, "Desir" is "desire." Given the actual synonyms, Hisler's Sehnsucht, "yearning," seems unjustified. Then "convoitise" as a specific form of desire is covetousness, not desire in general.

For 48, The French "Table" would be better as "(banquet) table". Hisler "Banquet" without "Table" makes some of the synonyms very puzzling, even if "Table" by itself makes it puzzling what that has to do with cups. In the synonyms, I have not found "picnic table" as a definition for "table de nature." From the online articles in French, it seems to be a table for objects of nature, i.e. flowers, rocks, whatever. So "nature table." Another problem is "bouchon" as "cork." While that is the usual meaning today, in Lyon it referred to a cheap sausage and chicken restaurant (see wikipedia). There is no precise English equivalent, unless "pub" or perhaps "bistro". These words fit with the words around it, cabaret and tavern, unlike "cork." Finally, one important synonym is left off the list, the last one, which dominates the card for Waite: "sainte-table", i.e. communion table. People need to know that it comes from Etteilla.

For 50. E's "Homme de robe" is a magistrate. "Man of standing" is too broad, essentially the same as 36.

For 51, E's "veuve" is "widow". Then the first synonym is "widowhood", not "period before which a widow can remarry."

For 52, E's "Militaire" means "military man," not "military." E's reversed "Ignorance" is the same in English, not "Intemperance." In the reversed synonyms, "satellite" in English suggests a celestial body; "hanger-on" is better.

For 53, E's "Espion" is just "Spy" not "Spy, forger".

For 55, E's Ecclesiastique is "cleric," not "clerical class" (but it makes little difference).

For 56, translating E's "critique" as "sharp judgment" is genius. E's "Incident" is "Incident," not "Indecision." Again, "chicane" is "chicanery."

For 57, E's "Declaration" is "declaration," not "explanation".

For 58, E's "Solitude" is solitude, or perhaps, considering the other words, isolation, but not loneliness, considering the synonyms.

For 63, E's "Extreme" is "Extreme", not "highest degree."

For 64, E's "Homme brun" is "dark-haired man", not "brown man".

Same for 65, the woman, 67, the boy, and 70, the girl.

In 68, the synonym "bouchon" is not "cork," but "bistro" or "pub", as in 49.

In 70, after "more than" comes "more of" and "again."

In 75, "nobility of process" should be "nobility of conduct" (procédés). "Rampant" is "crawling", not the English "rampant", which means something else.

In 77, "pierre accomplie" is "stone accomplished," meaning the philosopher's stone, not "polished stone". The context is that of "red color, perfect medicine, solar medicine," all having to do with alchemy.

Since the astrological signs were given for cards One through Twelve, the same would seem to be in order for the suit of coins, which has the planets, the part of fortune, and the head and tail of the dragon, right on them. Neither is in de la Salette.

Note added next day: I made some corrections and additions. But they didn't save when I went to submit. Since I am out of time for today, I made one addition at the beginning. I will do the rest over again when I get a chance. I didn't notice where Nitz said he got his keywords. And I found a few more places to correct his translations of de la Salette.

Note added day after: Corrections and additions done. I made it clear that I was talking about Etteilla's (E's words) keywords; other corrections and additions in bold. What seems to me particularly worth further discussion is the meaning of de la Salette's "sign. de mort."

Etteilla's arithmology

What especially interested me in reading this book was to understand better Etteilla's arithmology, the supposed basis for his "cartonomancy." I am going to list what I found, giving the English translation and the page number to Etteilla's original, which Tarot John put online at ... tpratique/. Hisler's translation of this work, as translated by Nitz, is sometimes even more obscure, although in some cases it did help me to understand what Etteilla was saying. I have double-checked the page numbers, but if there is an error it is is probably one page before or after.

Before beginning, might help to know the spread Etteilla presents. After shuffling, he lays down 3 piles of 26 cards each and puts one aside. After shuffling the 52, he lays down 3 piles of 17 cards each, and puts one aside, adding the remaining 1 card to the ones to shuffle. After shuffling the 35, he lays down 3 piles of 11 cards each, and puts one aside. These three piles that were put aside, one of 26, one of 17, and one of 11, he then interprets according to the numerological significance of 26, 17, and 11, which themselves have to do with the 0, 1, and 2 remainders. The 24 others are not interpreted.

0 = the symbol of the circle (p. 8) and its circumference. Also nullity (p. 22).
1 = Number of God (pp. 5, 17), the midpoint of the circle (p. 17). Also of the cartonomancian/Magician (p. 6), the strong person (p. 7). Also of the soul (âme) of the Book of Thoth (p. 21), first in the series of pyramidal and triangular numbers.
2 = number of humanity (p. 17), male and female (p. 18). Also of the inquirer (p. 6), the weak person (p. 7).
3 = number of nature, the third in the series God, humanity (l'homme), nature (p. 4). Also of the strong and weak person (p. 7). Of all men and beings, sensible and insensible, in the chain of circumstances surrounding the Enquirer (p. 6). Pyramidal and triangular number, the spirit (esprit) of the Book of Thoth (p. 21). Also the number of the circle of human wisdom (p. 18). The great trinity of God, Man, and Nature (p. 4).
4 = the idea of the knowledge (or science) of nature (p. 18). Number of principal classes of humanity (p. 22). Number of vols. of the book of Thoth: 4 in 1.
5 = number of leaves in the third vol. of the Book of Thoth (p. 20). Number of leaves in the second vol. of the Book of Thoth (p. 20).
7 = striking (frappant), remarkable, for making from 11 the 77 + the nullity (p. 22), and for something else which divides into 7 "in the figures and in the whole, in short on all sides," for which the reader is referred to a work in two volumes Le Tharoth, selling for 12 livres (p. 23).
10 = circle of God (p. 18).
11 = number of the body (pp. 10, 19); number of the weakness of humanity, and in relation to that weakness, of divine power and strength (p. 18).
12 = sum of 1, 4, and 7: the 4 whose spirit is 3 (p. 23). Number of leaves in the first vol. of the Book of Thoth (p. 20).
17 = number of l'esprit (the intellect, the mind) (pp. 10, 19). 10 (circle of God) + 4 (idea of knowledge of nature) + 3 (idea of human wisdom) (p. 18). Number of leaves in the first and second vols. of the book of Thoth (p. 20).
22 = number of the first three vols. of the Book of Thoth, the hieroglyphs or major atouts, also the sum of of the thirds discarded after the third cut (11+11) (p. 20).
24 = number of life, where body, mind, and soul conjoin (p. 24).
26 = number of divinity, of the name "Jeovah" (p. 17), and l'âme, the soul (pp. 10, 19).
52 = 26x2, two-thirds of the 78, which divides into three piles of 17 remainder 1 (pp. 9, 17).
54 = ternary of 26 + 17 + 11, each derived from a ternary (26x3, 17x3+1, 11x3+2) (p. 16).
56 = number of leaves in the fourth part of the Book of Thoth (p. 20). Number of the four great divisions of humanity: agriculture, clergy, nobility (including military), and commerce (including arts) (14x4) (p. 22).
78 = as pyramidal and triangular number, that of the body of Book of Thoth (p. 21). Number of salt, or incorruptible spirit (p. 17). Number of leaves in the Book of Thoth (p. 21). 11x7 + 0, the card with the null (p. 22). Sum of the first 12 numbers: the whole (78) is the sum of the numbers of the first vol., i.e. 12 (p. 24).

My comment: Of course, we would like to know more about the 7 that "divides the work in the figures and the whole," and the mysterious "LeTharoth." Speaking of "figures" suggests the cards with pictures on them as dividing points, typically including the court cards. In that case, the 7 might be the 3 groups that make up the 22 (12 + 5 + 5) plus the suits, 14 cards per group.

On the other hand, "Le Tharoth" might refer to the four Cahiers when bought in two volumes; for example, the first two Cahiers digitalized by the Wellcome Institute ( seem to be bound in one volume, together with the cards. The price of 16 livres is rather exorbitant for the printed texts alone, which sold for 1 livre 10 sous separately.) Etteilla does speak of dividing the Book of Thoth into 7 volumes in the Second Cahier, p. 140 of that work. It is rather obscure, but seems to break down the first twelve of his cards into 4 groups: card 1, the 6 days of creation, card 8, and the 4 cardinal virtues. Adding to these four groups the three groups already established, we get 7 groups in all. See my post at ... whole.html, toward the bottom, for a transcript of the passage and an English translation. The original is at ... canvas=146 and following. On page 17 of that work we can see the same division of the first 12 cards, but not taken further.

There is also the layout of the "temple of Memphis" that probably was sold with the cards. It is reproduced at There are many more groups than 7 here, however.

On triangular and pyramidal numbers: the textbooks at that time gave 1 as the first of a variety of arithmetical series, even though it is not technically a triangle or pyramid: it went 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, 28, 36, 45, 55, 66, 78, etc.

Lesson 2 gives additional information:

3 = God as Trinity, man as body, soul, spirit, nature as sulphur, salt, mercury. Three ternaries. In the Book of Thoth, the division into 22 major atouts, 16 minor atouts, and 40 small cards. 3 divides into even (2) and odd (1). In mathematics: length, width, height (p. 37).
4 = the four elements (p. 39).
5 = number of the Godhead in the center of humanity, surrounded by 4 cardinal points or 4 virtues. 22 major atouts plus 4 sequences (secances). (p. 37)
6 = first perfect number (p. 39).
7 = the sum of the zenith (Godhead) + center (humanity) + nadir (nature) + 4 cardinal points (p. 38). (Analogous to the first vol. 12 + second 5 + third 5 + fourth 56 of the 78?) The key of everything, says Cicero (p. 38). 7 points on a sphere reveal much geometry; 7 high sciences of Cabala, 7 virtues, 7 days of creation. A key to unlock and also lock, a Cabalist says (p. 39).
24 = number of life, and (as the discard) is not explained. (p. 41).

Then in the third lesson we learn that 1, 3, and 5 are strong, in contrast to 2 and 4 (p. 61). The new spread here illustrates his arithmology in various ways: inscribing a triangle on a circle, it utilizes the 7 points and also the division 7x11 groups of cards, with the 8th in the center. Hence both 7 and 8, or 78.

I could not find anything else. How they relate to the tarot is in terms of the results of laying down certain numbers of cards. To reiterate: 26 is what you get when you divide 78 cards into 3 piles. 0 is the remainder. 17 is what you get when you divide 26x2=52 cards into 3 piles, remainder 1. 11 is what you get when you divide 17x2 cards into 3 piles, remainder 2. 24 is what is left uninterpreted after your 3 piles of 26, 17, and 11, by which you interpret the querent's soul, mind, and body, respectively.

A further issue: are these significations made up for this occasion, or are they an enduring part of Etteilla's arithmology?

The First Cahier is another place he talks about arithmology.

On p. 9 he says that the Book of Thoth (the tarot) was designed by 17 sages of Egypt. ... canvas=223

On p. 17, he says that 1 is the number of God, 2 that of humanity, male and female, and 3 that of generation, whose aim is the child. On the next page, 4 is "necessarily" the Universe. In the footnote p. 19 we find that 5 is sacred, the universe (4) supported by God (1). 5 is between the Universe (4) and perfection (6).

P. 21: 7 is the number of the principal divisions of the Book of Thoth, as he says he has already described. I cannot find in the preceding pages such an account. From what he says on p. 27 it may be that he is thinking of 12 + 9 + 1 + 14 + 14 + 14 + 14. There is also 1 + 4 + 7 + 5 + 4 + 1 + 56. "1 + 4 + 7" is a frequent phrase of Etteilla's.

On p. 30, footnote, we have:

1 = God
2 = humanity, male and female
3 = principles: sulphur, salt, mercury
4 = elements
5 = sacred
6 = first perfect composition
7 = science, human wisdom (reiterated p. 33)
8 = multiplication, extension
9 = perfection of simple humanity, following nature
10 = divine seal
11 = discord, defectiveness
12 = call and joining together (appel et réunion).

Then p. 34. 28 = the second perfect number, 4x7.

P. 40: we learn that 3 is strong, 2 is weak.

P. 41: 10 is the circle of divinity, 12 the circle of humanity and hope. 13 = sign of destruction. 11 = sign of weakness, barrier between God and humanity.

Pp. 43 to 54 is devoted to combinations of numbers that are somehow "signs of death": they all add up to either 4 or 13. They would seem to have no relation to the "signs of death" of de la Salette, which are from 13 to 17. And it must not be forgotten that Etteilla's card 13 is not Death, but Marriage.

p. 57: 11 is the sign of sin, citing Augustine. There are 10 works of God.

p. 58. 11 = 5 + 6 = 56, the cards of our follies, followed by the zero.

p. 59: 56 is the sign of tribulation, for Augustine.

p. 61. He cites Agrippa for exalting the number 7. Of course 3x7 = 21, and 4x7x2 = 56. and 7x11 = 77 + 0.

p. 75. 13 is related to death, as a perfection and, for Pythagoras, of regeneration.

p. 81. Not numerology, but of interest to us: He gives an explanation of "Hotel de Dieu": places where the sick are brought.

What is odd about Etteilla's numerology is that almost none of it applies to the numbers on his cards, with the exception of 0 and 1. Otherwise, it only applies to groups of cards, either the results of laying them out (in the Cours) or in the sequence (in the first Cahier).

Conclusion: For the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 22, 56, and 78 in the Cours, there is some precedent in the First Cahier. His analyses of 0 in the two works are perhaps consistent, if folly = wisdom of God. 17 may be related to the 17 sages of Egypt who designed the tarot. His interpretations in the Cours of 24 and 26 are not in the First Cahier that I can find. There is an independent basis for associating 26 with the soul of God, as the sum of the letters of JHVH in Hebrew, for which Etteilla cites an authority, Mersene (Marin Mersenne, 1588-1648, a well-respected mathematician). I know of no source with 24 as life. But it fits the allegory of his spread, as what is not to be explained.

Finally, his explanation of the numbers from 1 to 12 in the footnote of p. 30 seems of interest in itself, as representative of numerological thinking in general at his time. It does not look to me entirely of Etteilla's invention, notably because its interpretations of the numbers 8, 9, and 12, which I do not see elsewhere in Etteilla's work. If so, perhaps more of Etteilla's numerology corresponds to that elsewhere in his time.
Last edited by mikeh on 04 Mar 2023, 23:35, edited 3 times in total.

Re: Etteilla's arithmology

More information on Etteilla's arithmology is in the Second Cahier, which is the first part of

On p. 110, we learn that 1 is not a number. This is standard Neopythagoreanism. It is the source of number. Guillaume de Salluste, seigneur Du Bartas (1540-1590), in his popular Sept Semaines, wrote, as translated into English ("Weeks and Works," ... w=fulltext, my modernization of the spelling)
Mark here what Figure stands for One, the right
Root of all Number; and of Infinite:
Love's happiness, the praise of Harmony,
Nursery of All, and end of Polymny:
No Number, but more than a Number yet;
Potentially in all, and all in it.
On p. 115 Etteilla mentions the number 9, as the sum of the 3 principles in him (as a human being, I think) and the same principles in the two other realms, which come before him and will go after him. Perhaps these others are animal and vegetable, but I am not sure.

In the course of describing the Book of Thoth in one to seven volumes, we learn the following (pp. 131-32):

2 relates to the beginning and end of all things not themselves eternal. For Etteilla this relates especially to humans, who come from the eternal and return to the eternal. Something similar is found in Agrippa's Three books of occult philosophy (p. 245 of English trans., ed. Tyson, in "It is called the number of man, who is called another, and the lesser world," i.e. the microcosm as opposed to the macrocosm.

3 is the beginning, middle, and end of all things. This is standard Neopythogreanism. For example Du Bartas on the Three:
Heaven's dearest Number, whose enclosed Center
Doth equally from both extremes extend:
The first that hath beginning, midst, and end.
Etteilla says that the middle (Du Bartas's "midst") is nature, as a whole and in its parts, as well as all human thoughts and actions.

4 is the number of extension. Again, standard Neopythagoreanism: it takes 4 points to specify a figure in three-dimensional space (Agrippa, p. 255). Etteilla adds, without explanation, that 4 has rapport with 12.

5 is the number of the combination of 1 and 4, that is to say, 1 in the center of 4, God in the center. This may be derived from the Christian meaning of 5 as that of the cross: its four extremities and the midpoint, as well as the five wounds of Christ ( Agrippa, p. 262).

6 is intellectually the perfection of the great order, and of order and disorder in the finite world. He does not explain why order and disorder, but in Neopythagoreanism 2 was disorder (Agrippa, p. 245), and 3 of order ("God ordered the world by number, weight and measure, and the number 3 to the ideal forms thereof," Agrippa pp. 249-50), so perhaps it is 2x3. 6 as perfection is standard Neopythagoreanism. Here Du Bartas (modernized spelling):
The perfect Six, whose just proportions gather,
To make his Whole, his members altogether:
For Three's his half, his Sixth One, Two his Third;
And One Two Three make Six, in One conferred.
And Agrippa: "Six is the number of perfection," for the same basic reason, and also that it took God 6 days to complete his work and for other biblical examples (p. 265).

7 relates to "perpetual intelligence of science (or knowledge) and human wisdom" (p. 132). He adds "see the table in the preceding volume." I know of no such table in the First Cahier, or anywhere else with the alleged correspondences.. This alleged table gives correlations to the next 8 numbers. 4 "refers to" (se reporte a) 12, as he already said, 5 to 8, 6 to 11, 7 to 14, 1 to 10, 2 to 13, 3 to 16. How he arrives at these correlations is not said. He adds that 15 is the sum of the numbers in 78, 7 + 8.

That 7 correlates with wisdom is found in Agrippa, too (pp. 269, 272): the Pythagoreans dedicated the number to Pallas Athena, who was goddess of wisdom, and Solomon had "seven pillars of wisdom."

I cannot find Etteilla's associations to 8, 9, and 10 in Agrippa. For 10 as "divine seal" the closest I can see is a diagram that Agrippa gives in which the letters of YHVH are arranged in a symmetrical manner emulating the Pythagorean tetrakis (p. 290); whether that diagram is Agrippa's invention, or a seal, I do not know. He does not mention any "ten works of God," but he does remind us of the 10 commandments and, rather obscurely, the 10 sefiroth (he "diffused himself ...into the number ten, as into ten Ideas, . . . which the Hebrews call ten attributes," p. 290). Etteilla's association of sin with 11 is confirmed by Agrippa (p. 292), because it "falls short of the number twelve, which is of grace and perfection." If 12 is the number of grace, that would explain Etteilla's calling it the number of "hope." But Agrippa has nothing about 12 as the number of "simple humanity."

On p. 140 of the 2nd Cahier we have an explanation of why the five cards 13-17 are grouped together - they relate to the "harmony of sensible things." 18-22 are grouped together because they represent "apparent defectiveness in movements in general" and "real defectiveness in particular movements." 23-77 then represent "the virtues and vices compounded by the ignorance of men, and the 8x7 different roads they offer to false happiness."

Note: the second to the last paragraph was added March 3, well as Agrippa on 5 and 6.