Sunday, July 1, 2012


You read this blog like a book, from the top down. It has three sections:

(1) Introduction
(2) The Pyramids
(3) The signs at the edges 

(Also, here are links to other blog-essays of mine related to Etteilla:, in which I transcribe and translate Etteilla's comments on the trump cards of his deck, in his 2nd Cahier. , with the original French and my translation of Etteilla's 3rd  Cahier, pus its supplements. These discuss the keywords on the cards and how to do readings., discussing Etteilla's followers' word-lists for the numeral cards and connects them, by means of Neopythagorean writings, with the corresponding images of the Sola-Busca deck of c. 1491 and the Waite-Smith deck of 1910.
And, translating and discussing the portion of Etteilla's 1785 book Philosophie des Hautes Sciences that deals with the "72 angels of God".)


I found in the c. 1838-1840 edition of Le Grand Eteilla, ou l'Art de Tier les Cartes, by "Julia Orsini" (probably a pseudonym) the following picture. It purports to be the original layout of the cards as wall images "on the right of the Temple of fire at Memphis."

The first 21 cards form an inverted pyramid of sorts, with the Fool (78) as the apex and merging with some of the suit cards (54-62) as the base. The 21 are divided into the first seven, the next five (8-12), then the next group of five (cards 13-17), and a group of four (18-21). They are in numerical order except for three cards: 1, 8, and 15, all in the same column, out of order, likely for some special purpose. I notice that exactly seven cards separate each from the one before or after.

In addition, there are four other inverted quasi-pyramids, each with an odd multiple of 7 at its apex. The other four images in each quasi-pyramid start with the number after an odd-numbered multiple of 7.

Then along the sides we have three more groups of nine cards, each in consecutive order going down from the number just below an odd-numbered multiple of 7.

It looks at first glance like homage to the number 7. Obviously only the pyramid-obsessed ancient Egyptians could have thought up such a clever arrangement. QED.

The signs of the zodiac seem to have been added by a 19th century artist.

Later I found the same diagram in a 1785 book by Etteilla himself, minus the signs of the zodiac but with some very strange signs instead.

Here is the diagram:

So what are those signs around the border? Are they supposed to be letters in some "divine alphabet"? Or s set of alchemical symbols? A wide variety of both were present at the time, but I can't match them up with any I have looked up.

Here is the other title page for this same book, giving the date. There's no author listed, but since Etteilla is referred to as the author on the page to the left,I think it's safe to assume it's by him. Also, the title is one that Decker, Depaulis, and Dummett list as one of Etteilla's books..

The Pyramids

A friend sent me a document that I think explains at least part of what I have been puzzled about. First, here is the "Temple" again.

Notice the four small squares of four cards each plus one more at the bottom. One is cards 22-25 plus 33. Another, clockwise to its right, is cards 36-48 plus 49. Another is cards 64-67 plus 77. The fourth is cards 50-53 plus 63.

These are the court cards and the aces in each suit.

Now I come to the document that my friend sent me, an essay called Faites-mieux, j'y consense, ou Les Instructions d'Isis, Divulgees par un Electeur de la Commune de Lyon, en l'annee 1789:which means, "Do better, I agree, or The Instructions of Isis, Divulged by an Elector of the Commune of Lyon, in the year 1789." It is reportedly by Claude Hugand-Jejalel, a member of Etteilla's "Intepretes du Livre de Thot" residing in Lyons. That is the place the author claims to live, and Hugand is the only one of Etteilla's known disciples who lived there.

Etteilla referred to Hugand as "H. Jejelel." "Jejalel", according to Decker, Dummett, and Depaulis in Wicked Pack of Cards , p. 100, was Hugand's "cabalistic name," borrowed from the 44th of the Spirits surrounding the Throne of God in Etteilla's "Cabala." Actually, this Spirit is the 40th, as can be seen on p. 65 of Etteilla's Haute Phlosophie des Hautes Sciences, 1785 ( That number 40, we will see by the end of this essay, is of some significance in Etteilla's system.

Hugand was one of Etteilla's two favorite disciples, the other being Hisler in Berlin. The present article is first a communication from Lyons to Paris, then Etteilla's enthusiastic reply, and finally Hugand's summary at the end. It is possible that the first part was written in early 1789 and the second in later 1789, after the storming of the Bastille on July 14. It is from the summary at the end that I take the page below, the next to last page of Hugand's article.

If the above is too blurry for you, here is a larger resolution version.

The first paragraph on this page reads:
Let us separate the Notables. In place of a single tableau, dangerous, we obtain four perfect tableaus under the domination of the virtues.
Earlier, he had presented the 20 "Notables"--i.e. the court cards--as one triangle, equally "perfect," i.e. equilateral, when the Fool, card 0 here, was added as its apex (6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1). In the four small triangles that follow (at the top of the page above), notice that the numbers are the same as in the four small pyramids of the "Temple of Memphis" diagram, except that a sixth card has been added, so that the array forms a "perfect" triangle, 3 + 2 + 1. (There is also a mistake in group 4, Commerce: the first card should be 63 rather than 62. In the triangle of the Notables, p. 37, 63 is included but not 62.)

Significantly, the name of a social class has been associated to each of the groups, as well as a virtue. The sixth card in each group is one of the virtue cards. So we have Justice associated with Agriculture, Temperance associated with the Priests, Strength with the Military, and Prudence with Commerce.

All of this makes total sense, from the standpoint of someone in sympathy with the French Revolution. The peasants require Justice in how much of their crop they give to the Priests and the Military, and the just rewards for their labor. The priests, who eat and drink up the money given to them to help the poor (our author declares indignantly), need Temperance. The Military, of course, needs the Courage to do what is right. The Commercial people need Prudence to manage their goods and investments properly.

Here is what our author says about the priests:
C'est dans l'emploi de ces biens d'église qu'il y a abus, & l'abus est énorme; car nos ecclésiastiques d'aujourd'hui n'ambitionnent d'être nommés pour desservir les bénéfices des pauvres, qu'afin de pouvoir se les approprier. Il semble que le revenue en dîme ou en rente, dont ils ne devroient être que les distributeurs, avec une réserve modique pour leur aliment, soit destiné uniquement à leur jouissance personnelle, à leur dépense fastueuse, & à leurs aisances, plaisirs ou amusements sans cesse multipliés.

(It is in the employment of these goods of  the church that there is abuse, and the abuse is enormous; because our clerics of today aspire to be appointed to service the benefices for the poor, so as to be able to appropriate them. It seems that the revenue in tithe or rent, of which they should be the distributors, with a moderate reserve for their food, is only intended for their personal enjoyment, for their luxurious spending, and for their ease, pleasures or ceaselessly multiplied amusements.)
Such people, of course, are in desperate need the virtue of Temperance.

In an earlier part of the essay, the author talks about the rights and responsibilities of agriculture, those who farm the land. 
Examinons les besoins & les ressources particulieres de chaque order, & d'abord commenÇons par l'agriculture. Les citoyens laborieux qui exercent cette utile profession, demandent la liberté de semer, planter, cueillir & débiter leurs récoltes à leur plus grand avantage; ils demandent à être propriétaires paisibles, maîtres & seigneurs des champs qu'ils cultivent: nullement envieux des jouissances des citadins, le ravissant spectacle de la nature remplace pour eux les frivoles amusements des villes.

(Let us examine the needs and particular resources of each order, and first let us begin with agriculture. The laborious citizens who exercise this useful profession, ask for the freedom to sow, to plant, to gather and to sell their harvests to their best advantage; they ask to be peaceful owners, masters and lords of the fields that they cultivate: by no means envious of the enjoyments of the city-dwellers, the charming spectacle of nature replaces for them frivolous amusements of the cities.)
He goes on to talk about the other classes. In the priestly class he includes all engaged in arts, sciences, and letters, not just priests: doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, writers, and so on. They provide important services to the community and ask for an honest subsistence proportionate to the needs of their families and the security of their old age, as well as 

In the military he includes all those who risk their lives with arms for the public good. They deserve protection in their old age and in case of disability, and the honors that customarily go to heroes.

The commercial class are those citizens who work in the lucrative profession of commerce of manufacturing.
Les citoyens industrieux qui se livrent à la profession lucrative du commerce & des manufactures, demandent au gouvernement liberté pour leurs échanges, & protection pour leurs manufactures. La moindre entrave dans la circulation leur est très-préjudiciable; & dans l'importation & l'exportation des marchandises, leur cote-part de contribution doit être prélevée de la maniere la moins gênante.

10 pour 100 de la valeur sur tout ce qui est importé ou exporté, paroît un tribut convenable.

(The industrious citizens who are engaged in the lucrative profession of commerce and manufacturing ask the government for freedom for their exchanges, and protection for their factories. The slightest obstacle to circulation is very-harmful to them; and in the import and the export of the goods, their part of the contribution must be taken in the least annoying manner.

10 for 100 of the value on all that is imported or exported, appears a suitable levy.)
So I think we can see what the fifth cards are doing at the apexes of the four pyramids in the "Temple of Fire" diagram. These Aces constitute exactly one tenth of the number cards in each suit. So they represent the tenth of the wealth that is administered by the representatives of each class..

In the case of agriculture and commerce, a tenth is given by them to the government. The other classes, however, are not engaged in making and selling goods for profit, and already get just enough for their needs. So their tax, in this ideal society, should be less.
Les ordres, quoique également utiles, ne peuvent offrir un tribut égal; parce que ce tribut est proportionné aux richesses, & que les richesses sont spécialement le partage des deux orders extrêmes, l'agriculture & le commerce; tandis que les distinctions honorifiques sont les principaux biens possedés par les deux orders moyens, le sacerdoce & la milice. Ces Derniers ne peuvent guère, en conséquence, offrir qu'un léger don à la patrie, lorsque les premiers offrent la dècime de leurs récoltes, de leurs échanges, 35, 49, 63, 77: Réglez, au contraire, les dépenses du gouvernement sur la contribution perÇue, & jamais les terreurs de la dette publique ne troubleront votre repos.

(The orders, although equally useful, cannot offer an equal levy; because this levy is proportioned by wealth, and because the wealth is especially the share of the two extreme orders, agriculture and commerce; whereas honorific distinctions are the main goods possessed by the two orders in the middle, the priesthood and the militia. The latter can hardly, accordingly, offer only a light donation to the homeland, when the former offer the tenth of their harvests, of their exchanges, 35, 49, 63, 77: Adjust, on the contrary, the expenses of the government to the contributions received, and the terrors of the national debt will never disturb your rest.)
That explains the four small pyramids (5 numbers each) of the "Temple of Memphis" (which Hugand sometimes calls "colonnes", columns, of that edifice). They are the noblest members of the four classes, "notables" rather than "nobles", extracted from the four classes themselves. They are the most notable persons, the most distinguished citizens in each class, in four ranks, two crowned and two not. The crowns do not mean that they are sovereigns; that distinction is elsewhere. But they act on the Monarch's behalf; they "determine and balance the needs and resources of the government" (p. 16) The uncrowned ones serve under them and aspire to their position. And since they embody the virtues, "their virtues are their titles" ("ses virtus sont ses titres", p. 17)..

In the "Temple of Memphis" diagram, the large upside down semi-triangle is of course the trumps, 22 of them. Then the four rows on the outside are the common people in each class.

What we have is the social structure of ancient Egyptian society, which is an ideal to which the socially concerned people of all nations should aspire. The lack of such a government in France is perhaps why the author calls those represented by the court cards "Notables" rather than "Nobles": the implication is that those who call themselves Nobles in France are often not such.

But more needs to be said about fifth inverted pyramid, the large one in the center, in relation to the Monarch himself. Here is our author (pp. 14-15):
1, 8, 15, Dieu se repose sur le monarque du bonheur de son peuple.

2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Image sensible du Créateur, & son représentant sur la terre, le Monarque doit correspondre à son divin exemplaire; il doit, en quelque sorte, créer un nouvel univers, en procurant à son peuple tous les biens qui sont en son pouvoir.

 9, 10, 11, 12. La justice, la tempérance, la force & la prudence, vertus départies aux hommes par la munificence d'un Dieu, composent le diadème invisible & sacré qui couronne sa tête auguste.

13, 14, 16, 17. Son peuple multiplié sait sa véritable force; il en est le juge supreme. La vie du dernier des citoyens est sous la protection immédiate du chef. La faulse meurtriere & vengeresse, attend ses ordres pour moissonner les ennemis de son peuple; mais la prudence seule a droit de les dicter.

18, 19, 20, 21. Instituteur de son peuple, il doit en surveiller l'éducation; il peut, il doit punir & récompenser. Arbitre de la paix & de la guerre, ce n'est qu'à l'extrêmité qu'il doit s'y résoudre.

0 -- Cette lame, par ses significations apposées, prévient le monarque, qu'après avoir jugé son peuple pendant son court passage, il en sera lui-même sévèrement jugé; & que, selon qu'il aura bien ou mal usé son pouvoir, il sera l'objet du mépris ou de la vénération de son peuple.

(1, 8, 15, God reposes on the monarch the happiness of his people.

2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, The sensible image of the Creator, and his representative on the earth, the Monarch has to correspond to his divine exemplar; he must, in a way, create a new universe, by getting to his people all the goods that are in his power.

9, 10, 11, 12. Justice, temperance, strength and prudence, the virtues allocated to the people by the generosity of a God, compose the invisible and sacred diadem which crowns the august head.

13, 14, 16, 17. His multiplied people know his real strength; he is the supreme judge. The life of the lleast of the citizens is under the immediate protection of their chief. The murderous  and vengeful scythe [An old meaning of "faulx" per Wiktionary] awaits its orders to harvest the enemies of his people; but prudence alone is entitled to dictate them.

18, 19, 20, 21. Teacher of his people, he has to watch their education; he can, he must punish and reward. Arbiter of peace and war, it is that in the extremity that he has to be resolute.

0 - this card, by its affixed meanings, warns the monarch, that having judged his people during his short passage, he will be severely judged himself; and that, as he will indeed have well or badly used his(its) power, he will be the object of the contempt or worship of his people.)
So the large pyramid is all about the Monarch and his power. The Monarch himself is denoted by card 15, as he says explicitly later on (p. 37, which I will quote a bit later): the Magician, who has the power to heal or cause illness. In this application, the question is: Will he rule according to virtue against those who are vicious, or will he be ruled by the vices himself? Both are there, both are in his power, in the universe of which he is the sole creator.

There are here  two senses to the 0 card, the Fool (numbered 78 in the deck, however). It can represent defective judgment, or it can represent the sagacity to be expected of the representative of God. Hugand is basing himself on something Etteilla had written in 1787, in Lecons Théorique Practique du Livre de Thot, p. 57:
Le Fou, ou mieux l'Homme, a de même deux côtés opposés: celui de sa nature matérielle se lie avec ses vices moraux & physiques, & le côté de sa naature spirituelle se lie avec sex vertus morales & physiques.

(The Madman, or better, Man, has two opposite sides: that of his material nature is bound up with his moral and physical vices [or defects], and the side of his spiritual nature is bound up with his moral and physical virtues.
In a reformulation of this point in a later section (p. 37), Hugand makes the point without employing the 0 card, a number he put at the apex of a pyramid representing the notables instead, so as to make the same point about them. In this new configuration, he says of the Monarch's own pyramid: 
Le 0, employé dans la pyramide précédente, il reste pour celle du Souverain 21 lames. Ce nombre étant triangulaire, voyons à les ordonner.

*    *    *    *   *    *
--5.  4.   1.   3.  2.
----12. 11 10. 9.
       7. 8.  6

Reste six lames à employer, absolument subordonées à la lame cotée 15, que nous avons dit représentative du Monarque. Elles peuvent être placées de deux maniéres: ou en une seule ligne, à la base de la pyramide, aux places marquées *; mais alors les vices moraux domineront le Monarque, & le livreront, ainsi que son peuple, à tous les fléaux physiques qui en son la punition inévitable; ou bien ces lames formeront une nouvelle pyramide inférieure & dépendante de celle ci-dessus, en cette forte:
18.   17.    16
----20. 19.

Le Monarque, alors digne par ses vertus de représenter sur terre le Monarque des Cieux, tient enchaînées les vices & les fléaux; ordonne son petit monde; répand sur son peuple la fécondité par d'heureux mariages; les connoissances & les lumières par de sages instructions; & voyant son peuple multiplié & instruit, le Monarque jouit alors d'un repos inaltérable dans le sein des vertus; & s'élève par la religon, jusqu'au souverain & unique Créateur de toutes choses, qui, dans sa bonté, l'a institué son représentant.

(The 0 being employed in the previous pyramid, there remain for the Sovereign 21 cards. This number being triangular, let us see their arrangement.

*    *    *    *   *    *
--5.  4.   1.   3.  2.
----12. 11 10. 9.
       7. 8.  6

There remain six cards to be used, absolutely subordinate to the card listed 15, that we called representative of the Monarch. They can be placed in two manners: in a single line, at the base of the pyramid, on the places marked *; but then the moral vices will dominate the Monarch, and will deliver him, as well as his people, to all the physical plagues which are the inevitable punishment; or these cards will form a new pyramid, lower and dependent on that above, in this way:

18.   17.    16
----20. 19.

The Monarch, then deserving by his virtues to represent on earth the Monarch of Heavens, holds enchained the vices and plagues; orders his small world; spreads fertility on his people by happy marriages; knowledge and light by wise instructions; and seeing his people multiplied and educated, the Monarch enjoys then an unchanging rest in the breast of the virtues; and rises by religion up to the sovereign and unique Creator of all things who, in his kindness, established him as his representative.
In the large inverted pyramid that ends Hugand's presentation, there is again the 0 at the apex. It is not only a question for the sovereign, but for the whole people, whether it is to be ruled by ignorance or wisdom.

Of course all this is in the context of revolutionary France, in which the monarch will in fact be brought before the people's representatives and tried for his acts of omission and commision.

Hugand observes, in the middle of the page I presented, that the Egyptians knew very well the power of triangular configurations, in fact equilateral ones such as he used in his later presentation. Their own Great Pyramid was nearly as high as it was wide.

I will end by noting two things. First, Etteilla himself comments on Hugand's analysis, as an attachment by him shows; he commends it enthusiastically. Secondly, the large triangle of 78 cards at the bottom of the page (p. 38, reproduced above) is the same as one made by Alain Bougearel at . He shows what he says is a similar one from an edition of Ptolemy, 1515, 12 letters on a side. He says the structure is Neopythagorean. To be sure, this system of number theory in which theorems are demonstrated for triangular numbers, square numbers, etc., was developed by the Neopythagorean mathematician Nichomachus of Gerasa in the first century b.c. It was the first of three books, one more advanced and another a book of Neopythagorean philosophy, or perhaps theology, that he also wrote. These last two books are lost, although another book that is extant, the Theologumena Arithmeticae, quotes him extensively ( Nichomachus's "arithmetic" text (really, mathematical number theory, not Etteilla's "algebra" but not far removed), in the form given it by Boethius, was used in schools even in Etteilla's and Hugand's time.

The signs on the edges

On the top of the "Temple of Fire" diagram are 12 strange signs. In the book to which this diagram is a frontispiece, these same signs appear on p. 43 of the same book (Lecons Theorique Pratque du Livre de Thot), and under them the Arabic numerals from 1 to 12. Below I is a photo of the part of the "Temple" diagram I am talking about, and below it the lines on p. 43 that I am talking about.

Etteilla is saying that these unfamiliar symbols correspond to the numbers 1-12. He also calls them an "alphabet" of the ancient Egyptians, in fact the second such alphabet possessed by this ancient people. The first "alphabet" he calls the "numerique" and has only seven letters. This then expanded to twelve in the second alphabet, which he calls the "cabalistic" alphabet. kept secret by the priests of Egypt, whom Etteilla calls "choens"--perhaps a variation on the Hebrew "cohens", also meaning priests. Then after that was a third, the hieroglyphs that we see on the old monuments, allegorical pictures such as are also seen in the first 21 cards of the tarot.

Here is a summary statement by Etteilla about the second and third alphabets:
Le second alphabet, l'écriture cabalistique, est un peu plus à notre connoissance que l'alphabet numérique-cabalistique; le peu que nous en avons dit, fruit de beaucoup de tâtonnemens, doit être, nous nous le persuadons, d'un grand secours pour ceux qui cherchent à developper cet antique alphabet, qui, nous le maintenons, est antérieur aux caracteres Chaldéens & autres. Quant au troisième alphabet, les Allégories, le Soleil, un Arbre, &c. nous en avons autant que le bon sen & la lecture des Ouvrages sur les hiéroglyphes égyptiens peut en donner à ceux qui s'y appliquent.

(The second alphabet, the cabalistic script, is a little more in our knowledge than the numeric-cabalistic alphabet; the little that we said about it, fruit of much groping, has to be, we are persuaded, of a big help for those who try to develop this ancient alphabet, which, we maintain, is previous to the Chaldean and other characters. As for the third alphabet, the Allegories, the Sun, a Tree, etc. we have it as much as good sense and the reading of Works on Egyptiens hieroglyphs can give it to those who apply themselves to it.)
In more detail, Etteilla says earlier of the second alphabet:
Les nombres étoient les lettres, & les lettres étoient les nombres, & les uns & les autres ne surpassoient pas la quantité de douze, tels que nous les offrons: Les nombres étoient fixes, & les lettres variables; c'est-à-dire, que ces caracteres en tant que nombres ne faisoent uniquement que changer de place, & au contraire comme lettres, non-seulement de changes & même de rester droites, comme si elles eussent été des nombres, on étoit le plus souvent obligé de les renverser, d'en lier plusieurs ensemble, & enfin d'en employer une seule plusieurs fois; mais ces lettres à côté les unes des autres, comme nous faisons de deux ll dans le mot elle, ou de deux tt dans le mot lettre, &c., ne formoient pas seulement un seuls mot, mais sourvnet plusieurs, ou tout un discours.

(Numbers were letters, and letters were numbers, and the ones and the others did not surpass the quantity of twelve, such as we offer them: The numbers were fixed, and the letters variable; that is, these characters as numbers were made uniquely only to change place, and on the contrary, as letters, not only changes and even remaining straight, as if they had been numbers; some had to be knocked down, connected together, or one used several times; but these letters close by others, such as we have two ll in the word elle, or of two tt in the word lettre, etc. formed [informed?] not only one word , but often several, or a whole discourse.)
Even though there were only 12 letters, they generated many more, through combinations and variations, For example, a circle (0) and a vertical line (1) combine to make something like the Greek letter phi. And two horizontal lines, with the addition of an oblique line between them, could generate our Z or N.

Then, after the "hieroglyphic" alphabet came the next level of alphabets, formed from the first. From the process of combining elements of letters in the second alphabet, of which he has already given examples, there comes, as the sixth, one of 40 letters. Here is Etteilla (p. 60):
Le troisième alphabet du second rang, ou le sixième alphabet, est, comme nous avons dit, le mélange des quarante dernieres & basses Cartes, ou les dix dernieres de chaque séquence, lesquels hiéroglyphes remis tels qu'ils éroient jadis sur les lames, & placés en totalité ou en partie sur l'autel dans la première enceinte du Temple, annonÇoit les sujets d'allégresse ou les fléaux de la nation.

(The third alphabet of the second rank, or the sixth alphabet, is, as we said, the mixture of the forty last, lowest Cards, or the ten last of every sequence, hieroglyphs that when put as they anciently were, and placed, wholly or in part, on the altar in the first first circuit of the Temple, announce the subjects of enjoyment or the plagues of the nation.)
This number 40, divided into four groups, happens to coincide with the total number of symbols ranged around the edges of the "Temple of Fire", plus one more in the middle. So we have an answer to our puzzle about what the strange letters are.

Etteilla continues:
Oui, les Bâtons ou verges des Mages, les Coupes augurales, les Epées ou Glaives de la Justice & les Deniers ou petite Dieux de la nation (1) ètoient diffèreremment faits & diffèremmenent placés qu'ils ne le sont sur toutes les copies qui nous sont parvenues...

(1) Les petits Dieux, ou comme a mieux dit Iamblique, les diverses manières de rendre aux sens les bienfaits de Dieu; ce qui ne fut pas par suite de temps chez les troisièmes Égyptiens & peut-être encore moins chez tous les Idolâtres, qui, malgré leur absurdité, eurent la force de répudier les Enchanteurs, tantôt comme étant Sorciers, d'autrefois comme des méchans, & le plus souvent comme n'étant que des fripons, sans nulle connoissance de vraie ou de fausse Magie, ce qui est presque génèral aujourd'hui, y ayant très-peu de Magiciens, & je le sais, encore bien moins de Sorciers.

(Yes, the Batons or Mages' rods, the auguring Cups, the Swords or Blades of Justice, and Coins or little Gods of the nation (1) were differently made and differently placed on all the copies that have reached us...

(1) The little Gods, or as Iamblicus said better, the diverse ways of rendering to the senses God's benefactions; that which was not a product of time to the third Egyptians and maybe even less to all Idolators, who, in spite of their absurdity, had the strength to reject the Enchanters, sometimes for being Sorcerers, other times for being evil, but mostly for being only rascals, without any knowledge of true or of false Magic, which is almost generally so today, there being very few Magicians, and. as I know it, still much fewer Sorcerers.)
We learn more about these four groups:
7. Le septième alphabet, ou mieux le premier du troisième rang, étoit simplement composé des dix dernières Cartes de Bâtons ou verges, que l'un posoit depuis: jusqu'à 10 suivant les cas & leur nombre & leur disposition annonÇoit l'abondance ou la disette des denrées.

Un seul Bâton étoit le signe de l'abondance, comme celui de dix formant un T, & celle--ci étoit plus générale, quoique l'une & l'autre donnée à la bonté de Dieu. Sept bâtons annoncent que par l'économie & la bonne administration les magasins publics étoient remplis & qu'on pouvoir aider les étrangers.

Neuf Bâtons sur une ligne diamétrale, annoncoient l'espérance, & déja les apparences de la récolte qui seroit abondante. La file des Bâtons obliques n'annoncoit que l'espérance: si cette ligne étoit directe, elle étoit le signe de la priere pour que le Créateur bénisse les travaux de la campagne.

(7. The seventh alphabet, or better the first one of the third rank, simply consisted of the last ten Cards of Batons or rods, from one to ten; according to the cases, their number and measure announced the abundance or scarcity of foodstuffs.

A single Baton was the sign of abundance, as that of the ten, which formed a T; and this was more general, although the one and the other given in the bounty of God. Seven batons announce that by economy and good administration the public stores were filled and that one could aid foreigners.

Nine Batons on a diameter announce hope, and already the appearances of the harvest which will be plentiful. The line of oblique Batons announce only hope: if this line is direct, it is the sign of prayer, so that the Creator blesses the farmwork.)
We can indeed see the "T" on Etteilla's Ten of Batons, which also represented Ten in his "third alphabet": on the card, it is enclosed in a circle. (To view these cards, go to As you can see, the symbols underneath the suit-sign arrays exactly correspond to the first nine "letters"--which are also numbers--of the second alphabet. The tenth is almost the same as the tenth, except that a circle, the zero, is superimposed on the T. These are his "cabalistic letters" for the numbers from one to ten. People have supposed that these symbols were Masonic; if so, he gives no sign of it here.

His interpretation of particular Baton cards fits very well with the general idea of Batons as Agriculture. However it does not correspond at all with the keywords on Etteilla's cards. For the Ace, the keywords are Birth and Fall; for the Seven, Negotiations [Pourparler] and Indecision; for the Nine, Delay and Obstacles [Traverses], and for the Ten, Treason and Obstacle. This tends to show that Etteilla decided by 1789 to use keywords based on another source (other than his Egyptians!). Given that there is some correspondence with the keywords that he used for his earlier 1770-1773 book, he probably at least used that source.

Etteilla continues with Cups and Swords:
8. Les Coupes, annonceoient les devoirs du Temple, les besoins des Mges, les schismes, etc.

9. Les Epées annoncoient la paix; la guerre, les troubles, & tout ce qui dépendoit de l"Art militaire & des grandes & premieres charges.

(8. Cups announce the duties of the Temple, the needs of the Magi, schisms, etc.

9. Swords announce peace; war, disorders, and all that depends on the Military Art and big and primary responsibilities.)
And finally Coins:
10. Les Deniers en relief & rond de bosse, n'étoient sans doute pas les petites rosettes, ou, comme on les nomme, les Deniers que nous voyons aujourd'hui sur ces Cartes, c'étoient les petits Dieux d'Égypte (1) ou, pour nous expliques de maniere à être entendus de tous Lecteurs, ils étoient les attributs emblématiques ou allégoriques de la Divinité; enfin, c'étoit dix des principaux antiques en bronze qui aujourd'hui, transportés de l'Egypte en Europe, sont répandus dans nos Cabinets, parmi lesquels, il est vrai, il s'en trouve un nombre prodigieux de semblables ou d'approachans à ceux qui étoient dans le Temple, les autres ayant été fabriqués à leur imitation.

(1) Du tems des premiers Egptiens, on réuniffoit les attributes ou les bien-faits de Dieu à dix objets principaux, comme nous les citerons; & par suite, sous les seconds & sous les troisiemes, en les envisages sur le nombre 40, somme les Hebreux sur 5er, jus'quà ce qu'en on fit sur chaque objet particulier un hiéroglyphe qui se nommois, chez les Egyptiens même.

(10. The Coins in relief and embossed circles were doubtless not the small rosettes, or, as we call them, the Coins which we see on these Cards today; they were the small Gods of Egypt (1) or, for us explain in a manner explicable to every Reader, they were the symbolic or allegorical attributes of the Divinity; finally, they were ten of the main antique bronzes which today, transported from Egypt to Europe, are widespread in our Offices, among which, it is true, there is a prodigious number approaching in likeness to those that were in the Temple, the others having been made in their imitation.)

(1) From the time of the first Egyptians, attributes or God's benefactions were reunified into ten main objects, as we shall cite them; and as a consequence, under the second and under the third, envisaging them on the number 40, like the Hebrews on 50, until was made, by these very Egyptians, for every particular object a named hieroglyph.)
So now we know why the figures of the Greco-Roman gods can be seen below the suit-objects of Coins, while the suit-object itself contains the astrological sign for the corresponding planet. It is because the figures on antique coins have such figures on them in relief. The Batons, however, have only the fist ten numbers below their suit-objects on the card, in the "cabalistic alphabet" of the ancient Egyptians. Also, there are no signs or symbols underneath Swords and Cups because Etteilla didn't think of anything to say about them.

One further paragraph shows another aspect of these little figures on the cards.
De ces attributes hiéroglyphiques de la grandeur & la bonté de Dieu, est venu l'origine des talismans, & de ceux-ci, nos monnois courantes, parce que ces talismans ou porte-bonheur étoient quelquefois échangés pour des choses utiles à la vie, lorsqu'on n'avoit rien autre chose qui pût être équivalent à ce qu'on avoit besoin, & ces petits Dieux furent en grande estime jusqu'au moment où il en fut de fabriquer par toutes les Nations.

(From these hieroglyphic attributes of God's greatness and kindness came the origin of talismans, and of these, our current currency, because these talismans or lucky charms sometimes were exchanged for things useful for life, when one had no other thing that could be equivalent to what was needed, and these small Gods were in high respect untilthe time when they were made by all Nations.)
In Etteilla's cards, these "talismans" are only on the suit of Coins. But from the foregoing I think we have an explanation of one of the innovations of the Grand Etteilla II designs: they, alone among the Etteilla decks, have such small figures on all of the number cards, in all four suits. (For examples, go to