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Tarot Symbolism

BulgariaColors FrenchColorsAntoine Court de Gébelin

Antoine Court de Gébelin was a professional scholar who wrote nine volumes of an encyclopedia of which one in particular has been skimmed for a passage on the Tarot entitled Monde primitif analysé et comparé avec le monde moderne considéré dans divers objects concernant l'histoire, le blason, les monnoies, les jeux, les Voyages des Phéniciens autour du Monde, les langues Américaines, etc. ou dissertations mêlées Tome I, remplies de découvertes intéressantes; avec une carte, des planches, et un monument d'Amerique.41693.56

Le Monde primitif title page

The title translated in its entirety is:

Primitive World analyzed and compared against the modern world considering various subjects of history, heraldry, money, games, circumnavigating voyages of the Phoenicians, American languages and more.

It was published in 1781 and we fail to appreciate how far back in time this was. As a reference point, it was during the American Revolution when the United States population was a fraction of 1 percent of today's population or roughly Jamaica's current population. Napoleon was twelve years old, James Watt patented the steam engine and Howard Carter would not be born for another 93 years.

Antoine Court de Gébelin was a scholar in the origin of everything, not only that of the Tarot's. He was interested in the origins of language, writing, mathematics, religions, religious holidays, religious rituals, maps, science, and was a scholar of history written and unwritten. This was his lifelong endeavor.

As implied by the title, de Gébelin realized ancient civilizations were not as "Primitive" as we would prefer to believe. Even today, our scientific literacy is quite low despite an overabundance of internet gadgets. If the Phoenicians circumnavigated the globe he wondered, how primitive could they be? Although Antoine Court de Gébelin's works were sanctioned by the Royal Court, they fell on death ears. No one cared to know the sophistication of the past.

De Gébelin was a man of the cloth and a Freemason was devoted to research. He had unfettered access to works preserved by the powerful organizations. He was the quintessential free thinker which is the primary reason he is so unanimously criticized. He raised fascinating and controversial issues that remain unanswered to this day. In his day, being inquisitive about ancient history was heresy punishable by death. With the concurrent American Revolution and a French one in the making, would the world plunge into another dark age as it had when a revolution occurred in Alexandria? Would any knowledge from the ancient past be preserved for future generations?

De Gébelin researched subjects that are very pertinent to anyone doing research on origins. Identifying the origin of an artifact requires tremendous background information on a multitude of subjects. His formation was perfectly suited for him to know a thing or two about ancient civilizations which in his day was far from common knowledge and rarely taught.

A translation of de Gébelin's dissertation on the Tarot follows. It begins on page 365 of volume viii and ends on page 394. Another essay by an anonymous author follows his. It starts on page 395 of the same volume. It is by a different author and has a completely different quality. In the translation below of de Gébelin's authored text notice when (if any) he mentions Thoth or a Book of Thoth (see the list of references with incorrect citations on the Book of Thoth). Even though he was quite familiar with Thot as he spelled it, could he believe the Tarot was the Book of Thoth and fail to recognize Thoth (Hermes, Hermes Trismegistus) as the Magician (a generally accepted fact today as evidenced here) in the first card of the deck?

Translation Notes.

De Gébelin's dissertation on the Tarot has been translated before but with some significant errors.

For example, the word Fleuve is a large river, or more specifically a waterway flowing to a sea or an ocean. Translating Fleuve to stream significantly deteriorates the allegory. De Gébelin specifically accentuates the massive water flow in card XVII by calling them two "Fleuves" rather than using terms like "Rivière" (river) or "Ruisseau" (stream). Holding two jars outflowing the Mississippi of the Nile for example gives this woman an entirely new dimension: she is not mortal. She is an awesome benefactor of the celestial waters to a drought prone landscape. She is occasionally rendered as "a washer woman on a knee" however, the original text does not use the word "washer" at all. An allegory fit for a Goddess is diminished to a mortal woman doing the wash obfuscating the otherwise obvious affiliation to an ancient Egyptian axiom. Who might be the issue of such a Goddess? None other than the Nile himself, the Savior. Without her, the Nile would not be reborn each year and the Valley would be dominated by death and destruction. Recognizing her allegory is a huge clue to deciphering the allegories in the Tarot puzzle.

Double negatives, sarcasm and expressions cause translation errors. For example, "It's raining cats and dogs" could be translated literally at the risk making the author sound unhinged. In such cases, translating the nuance rather than a literal translation is more meaningful.

French can be spoken in run-on sentences and sentence fragments. De Gébelin wrote for content rather than technique leaving the reader to fill in some blanks. These blanks and alternate words to hone the nuance have been inserted using square brackets [].

Another factor obscuring is the fact de Gébelin wrote about controversial subjects. He was not the first to suspect the Tarot's ancient origin but published the oldest extant document. De Gébelin introduced intentional obscurity, avoided terms like Gods and Goddess and coded meanings to minimize censorship. The deck he described is not the one included in volume viii for the obvious discrepancies between the two.

De Gébelin could have included illustrations of an actual commercial Tarot deck. It would have been a simple matter to bind such pages into the book. However, his admonition of the card manufacturers (whether real or feigned for the entertainment of his censors) may have made them unwilling to help. The engravure's poor craftsmanship hints these were made just in time for publication. They are devoid of much of the very symbolism he describes and is readily apparent in the Jean Noblet Tarot for example. For example, he states the Fool is clearly recognizable from his marotte, which is a stick or staff with a face carved on it. The Fool card in volume viii clearly has no face carved on any of his sticks. Yet, looking at the Jean Noblet Tarot, the marotte is clearly visible. Adding a sanitized Tarot would also help to discredit his claims should anyone care to carry on his line of inquiry.

De Gébelin was walking a fine line between demonstrating allegories in the Tarot were of ancient Egyptian origin while making them Christian as if they were one continuum (and perhaps the very same philosophy that caused the demise of the Knights Templars). In the Hangman, he contrived a fourth Christian Cardinal virtue or a Knights Templar creed: Prudence. Given his Freemason background, he probably honestly believed this card was Prudence. He avoided honestly discussing The Tower card, called it avarice and delved into the details of an elaborate and characteristically Greek tale. Ironically, the Tower card, named God-House in French, was avarice. If the Tarot contained four Christian Cardinal virtues, a devil, and a lesson about avarice might it be worthy of publication albeit on a topic about an ancient Egyptian origin?

Card XXI, the card that caused de Gébelin to instantly identify the Tarot as ancient Egyptian is almost ignored by the end of his allegory descriptions. He did not explain why this card is quintessentially Egyptian. Instead, he described it as time—not a particularly Egyptian idea—and the four seasons. He must have known from his studies of the calendar, ancient Egyptians only had three seasons: Akhet (flooding), Peret (planting) and Shemu (harvest) and such creatures were not associated with them.

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[p. 365]

Of the Game of Tarots.

[Contraction for "What do we make of ..."]

We consider its origin, explain its allegories and demonstrate it is the source of modern playing cards, etc. etc.

The surprise [shock] discovery of an Egyptian book.

If we intended to announce that there exists contemporarily a work of the ancient Egyptians, one of their books which escaped the flames which devoured their superb libraries and which contained their purest doctrine on interesting subjects, everyone will be, no doubt, compelled to know such a precious and extraordinary book. If we added that this book was widely spread in a large part of Europe, that for several centuries it has been in the hands of everyone, the surprise would certainly be heightened. Would the surprise [shock] be compounded if we assured it was never suspected to be Egyptian, that we possessed it unknowingly, that no one had ever sought to decipher a sheet; that the fruit of exquisite wisdom is looked upon as an insignificant pile of extravagant trumps? Would you not be inclined to believe we were toying with your credulity?

Such an Egyptian book exists.

It is unbelievably true; this Egyptian book, the last remains of their superb libraries, exists in our time; it is even so commonplace that no scholar has bothered to notice it; no one before us has ever suspected its prominent origin. This book is composed of 77 sheets or compositions, practically 78, divided in 5 classes which each representing objects as disparate as they are amusing and instructive: in a word, this book is the Game of Tarots, admittedly unknown in Paris, but very well known in Italy, Germany and even Provence. [The Tarot] is bizarre not only for the figures represented in its trumps but also because it has such an extensive volume of them.

[p. 366]

Despite the expansive region where they are used, we are no more enlightened of the meaning of their bizarre figures: so ancient is her origin that it has been lost in the obscurity of time. We do not know where nor when it was invented nor the motivation that might have assembled so many extraordinary figures, so little could be made sense of it, that it offers in its entirety only an enigma no one ever attempted to resolve.

This game has been so overlooked that it never was evaluated by experts investigating the origin of [playing] cards: they only mentioned French cards used in Paris whose origin is scarcely ancient. They proved [the French cards] as a modern invention and withdrew [from further investigation of decks like the Tarot]. Admittedly, we continually confuse the common usage of an invention in a country with its original invention: as we demonstrated in the case of the compass [in Article VI of this volume]‡: the Greeks and the Romans have confounded these objects depriving us of the multitude of [actual] possible interesting origins.

But this game's form, disposition and arrangement and its trumps are so magnificently allegorical and these allegories are so congruent with the ancient Egypt's civil, philosophical and religious doctrines that we can only identify this work as that of these wise people: only they could have been its inventor rivaled only by the Indians who invented the game of Chess.


   We will expose the allegories represented in the diversified cards of this game.
   The numerical formula by which it was composed.
   How it was transmitted down to us.
   Its relation with a Chinese Artifact.
   How it spawned the Spanish Cards.
   And the relationship of the latter to French [playing] Cards.

This Essay will be followed by a dissertation establishing how to apply the game [Tarot] to the art of divination: this work from an a General Officer, Governor of Province, honoring us with his graciousness and who has ingeniously reconstructed [or rediscovered] the Egyptian principles used in the art of divination with cards, principles distinguishing the first Egyptian bands misnamed Bohemians who settled across Europe; [principles] of which only a few vestiges subsist in our [French] game of cards but with infinitely less influence which is apparent in their monotony and scant figures.

[p. 367]

The Egyptian game [Tarot], on the other hand, is well suited for [divination] as it somehow represents the entire universe and the various matters affecting the human condition. [Ancient Egyptians] were so unique and profound that they imprinted within the least of their works their timeless trademark while others could barely manage follow in their footsteps.


ALLEGORIES represented in the TAROT Cards.

   If this game which has always remained arcane for those who knew it, was suddenly unveiled before our eyes, it was not the result of profound meditation nor a desire to make sense out of chaos. We never sought to decipher it a moment before [its revelation]. A few years ago, we were invited to meet a Lady friend, Madame la C. de d'H. who arrived from Germany or Switzerland. We found her playing this game with several others. We played a game that you surely do not know...Is that possible? What game is it [you ask]?...the game of Tarot! I had the occasion of seeing it in my youth but I had no idea...It is a rhapsody of the most bizarre and extravagant trumps: here is one, for example, carefully picked as the most highly charged [trump] and having nothing to do with its name, it is the World: as soon as I saw it I recognized the allegory: everyone left their game to see this marvelous card where I perceived what they never saw: each [person] showed me another [card]: within fifteen minutes the deck was examined, explained and declared Egyptian: and since this was not a trick of our imagination but the result of deliberate and sensible harmony of this game with all that we know of Egyptian creed, we promised ourselves to share it with the public someday; [we were] persuaded it would be a well-received discovery; a gift of this nature [magnitude], an Egyptian book which had escaped barbarity, the ravages of time, the accidental fires and intentional ones, [and] the worst yet, permanent obscurity.§ The trivial and slight nature of this book enabled it to triumph over the ages and to pass down to us with rare fidelity: the ignorance up to this day of what it represented was a fortunate conduit enabling it to safely and peaceably traverse the centuries without the thought of making it disappear.

   It is time to rediscover the allegories [the Tarot] was destined to preserve and demonstrate the wisest people, even in their games, were entrenched in allegories and these scholars knew how to distil the most useful knowledge into a simple entertaining game.

[p. 368]

   We mentioned the game of Tarot has 77 cards, even an 78th, divided in trumps and 4 suits. To enable our readers to follow, we engraved the trumps [and the ace of each suit in plate VIII]. Per the Spaniards, we call the ace of each suit Spadille [spades from the Spanish espadilla, espada sword], Baste [club], and Ponte [4th suit name is missing].


   The XXII Trumps represent in general temporal and spiritual chiefs of society, the physical Chiefs of agriculture, Cardinal virtues, marriage, death, the resurrection or creation, games of fortune, the Sage and the Fool, time which consumes all, etc. Our initial understanding are the cards are just as much allegorical compositions relating to the entire aspect of life as [representing] its infinite combinations. We will examine them one-by-one to decipher the allegory or the specific enigma represented in each.


Monde primitif FoolJester Marotte
Marotte (staff)

№ 0, Zero Fool

   We cannot fail to recognize the Fool in this card, for the marotte1 [scepter with jester face carved albeit missing in the diagram], for his hoqueton1 [sleeveless, thigh length coat] garnished with shells and bells: he walks very fast like the fool that he is, carrying behind him his little pack while imagining he is escaping a tiger biting his hindquarters: as to the sack, it symbolizes his mistakes that he prefers not to see, and the Tiger [symbolizes] regrets galloping and jumping on his hindquarters.

   The beautiful idea that Horace framed so well in gold, was not from him, it had not escaped the Egyptians: it was a common idea in a common place; but always found to be true in nature and presented in the best possible light, the agreeable and sage poet appeared to have the idea from his profound judgment. [Maybe a reference to "Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero" - Horace Ode 1.11. "Seize the day, put no trust in tomorrow".]

   As for this trump, we call it ZERO even though we place in the game after XXI because he does not count by himself. He only gives value to other cards precisely like our zero; indicating that nothing exists without folly.

[p. 369]

Monde primitif Bateleur

№ I, The Thimblerig or Bateleur

   We start with number I and follow up to XXI because [our] actual practice starts with the lowest number and rise from there; it appears however Egyptians started counting from the highest [number] and descended from there to the lowest. Similarly, they [played] the octave descending not ascending like us. In the following dissertation, we follow the Egyptian practice and we draw on the largest part. We will then use here the two methods: ours which the most practical when we want to consider the cards individually; and [the one described in the following dissertation] which is useful in perceiving the overall picture and interrelationships.

   The first of all the Trumps when counting up or the last when counting down is a THIMBLERIG; we recognize him from his table covered with dice, goblets, knives, balls, etc; [we recognize him] from his cross-staff 1 [Jacob's staff] or Magician wand and for the ball he holds between two fingers that he will conjure away. We call him BÂTELEUR in card maker circles; it is the common name for persons of this type, is it necessary to mention it comes from Baste [Bâte*], stick?

   At the head of all the States [of life], he indicates that life is but a dream or a fleeting experience: that [life] is like a perpetual game of chance or a choice of a thousand circumstances we have no control over and upon which has great influence on all general administration.

   Doesn't Man belong between the Fool and the Bateleur?

Tau-rho symbol on coin 383 A.D.
Tau-rho cross Theodosius I period coin with Aelia Flavia Flaccilla (Theodosius' first wife)
Tau-rho cross Arcadius coin
Tau-rho cross Theodosius I period coin with Arcadius (Theodosius' eldest son)
Monde primitif III IV


 II and III represent two women: IV and V their husbands: they are the temporal and spiritual leaders of society.


   № IV represents the King and [card] III, the Queen. They both have attributes of an Eagle on a shield and the scepter mounted with a THAUified1 globe or crowned with a THAU cross the sign by excellence.

   The King is in profile and the Queen de face: they are both seated on a

[p. 370]

Throne. The Queen wears a long train dress; the back of her Throne is elevated. The king's [throne] is like a gondola or an egg-shaped chair [coquille] the legs crossed. His Crown is semi-circular surmounted by a pearl with cross. The Queen's [crown] ends in a point. The king carries a Chivalric Order.


Monde primitif II V

High Priest and High Priestess.

   № V represents the LEAD Hierophant or the High Priest. № II the High Priestess or his wife. We know Egyptian High Priests were married. If these cards were a modern invention, we would see no High Priestess, and much less one entitled PAPESSE, as the German Card makers have named this card ridiculously.

   The High Priestess is seated in an armchair. She wears long robes with a sort of veil behind the head which crosses over her stomach1. She has a double crown with two horns as seen on Isis2. She holds a Book open on her knees. Two scarves garnished with crosses cross over her chest forming an X.

   The High Priest wears long robes with a large coat held with a clasp. He wears the triple Tiara. With one hand he leans on a triple cross Scepter [papal cross]1, with the other hand he gives two extended fingers for the benediction to two persons we see at his knees.

   The Italian or German card makers who gained knowledge about this game, have interpreted these two characters which the Ancients would call FATHER & MOTHER much as we would say ABBOT & ABBESSE (Oriental words denoting a singular thing), they [manufacturers] interpreted them to be, in my estimation, a Pope & a Papesse.

   As to the triple cross Scepter, it is an absolutely Egyptian artifact. We see it on the table of Isis, under the Letter TT 3. [The Isis Table is a] precious Artifact that we have already engraved [plates for printing] in its entirety to someday reveal it to the Public. [Triple cross scepter] relates to the triple Phallus paraded in the famous Feast of Pamylies4 where they celebrated finding Osiris and where he was the symbol of regeneration of Plants and of all of Nature.

Monde primitif VII


   Osiris follows; he appears under the form of a triumphant King, Scepter in hand, wearing a Crown: he is in his War chariot,

[p. 371]

drawn by two white horses. No one denies that Osiris was the grand Egyptian Divinity and even of the Sabaean People or the Sun, physical symbol of the supreme invisible Divinity but which manifests in this masterpiece of Nature. He was lost in winter; he reappeared in spring with a new glow having triumphed over all that warred against him. [resurrection]

Monde primitif VI


   A young man and a young woman pledge they mutual faith: a Priest blesses them; Love pierces them of its traits. The Card Makers call this painting, the Male Lover [masculine & singular, plural is les amoureux and is not contracted, the feminine version is l'amoureuse]. They appear to have added themselves this Love with its bow and arrows to render it more expressive in their opinion. [Bow & arrow is Egyptian symbolism for coitus]

   We see in the Antiquities of BOISSARD, a Artifact of the same nature, to paint a conjugal union, but it only has three figures.

   The Male Lover and the Female Lover who exchange their faith: the Love between them serves as Witness and Priest.

   This painting is entitled FIDEI SIMULACRUN, Picture of conjugal Faith: the figures are designated by these handsome names, THRUTH, HONOR, & LOVE. Needless to say TRUTH here, is the woman rather than the man, not only because the word is feminine [la vérité rather than le vérité] but because reliable Fidelity is truer in women. This precious Artifact was raised by a certain T. FUNDANIUS EROMENUS or the beloved to his very dear spouse Poppée Demetrie and their daughter dearest Manilia Eromenis.


Monde primitif XIMonde primitif XI
shepherdess hat


The four Cardinal VIRTUES.

   The trumps we have united in this Plate are related to the four Cardinal Virtues.

   № XI represents Strength. It is a woman who

[p. 372]

tamed a lion and opens [the lion's] jaw with the same ease as she would open that of her small spaniel. She has on her head a Shepherdess hat.

Monde primitif XIVMonde primitif VII

   № XIII [sic]7 Temperance. It is a winged woman who transfers water from one vase to another, to temper the liqueur it contains.

   № VIII Justice. It is a Queen, [she] is ASTRAIA seated on her Throne, holding in one hand a dagger and a balance in the other.

Monde primitif XII

   № XII Prudence is of the numbers of the four Cardinal Virtues: Could Egyptians have omitted it in this portrait of Human Life? However, we do not find her in this Game. We see in her instead, under the № XII, between Strength and Temperance, a man hanging by the feet: but what is this hangman doing here? It is the handiwork of a wretched, presumptuous Card Maker, who failing to understand the beauty of the allegory represented in this painting, took it upon himself to correct it and thereby disfigured it completely.

   Prudence could only be sensibly represented but by a man standing with a foot before the other held suspended while examining where to place it safely. The title of this card is therefore the man with a suspended foot, pede suspenso [Portuguese pede suspensão]: the Card Maker unfamiliar with this term, made it to be a man hanging by the feet.

   Then we wondered, why a hangman in this Game? It was abundantly said [by the manufacturers?] it is the Game's Inventor rightful punishment for having represented a female Pope [Papesse].

   But placed between Strength, Temperance and Justice, who cannot see it was Prudence that was intended albeit represented primitively?


Monde primitif IX


The SAGE or the Seeker of Truth and Justice.

   № IX represents a venerable philosopher in a long coat, a hood on the shoulders. He walks bent over his [walking] stick while holding a lantern in his left hand. It is the Sage who seeks Justice and Virtue.

   This Egyptian scene inspires the fable of Diogenes, who lantern in hand, seeks a man [of virtue] at high noon. Witty remarks, especially epigrams, are ageless: Diogenes was [the picture perfect] man to put this portrait into motion.

[p. 373]

   The Card Makers transformed this Sage into a Hermit. It goes without saying Philosophers [often] voluntarily retreated from society where they were not subject to the shallowness of their time. Heraclidus was thought to be insane by his beloved peers; even in the East, to dedicate oneself to the speculative sciences or to "Hermetize" were one and the same thing. Egyptian Hermits were not lacking in that respect to those of India or the Bonzes [Buddhist monks]: they were just as [reclusive] as Druids.

Monde primitif XIX

№ XIX The Sun

   We have united in this plate all the compositions related to light: after the Hermit's primal lantern we progress to the Sun, the Moon, brilliant Sirius or the sparkling Dog Star, all figuring in this game under diverse symbols.

   The Sun is represented here as the biological father of Humans and of Nature: he enlightens Civilized man, he presides over their Cities. Tears of gold and of pearls are distilled from its rays: such is the positive influence of this Luminary.

   This Tarot Game is here perfectly congruent to Egyptian doctrine as we will show in more detail in the following article.

Monde primitif XVIII

№ XVIII The Moon

   The Moon which follows behind the Sun is also accompanied of tears of gold and pearls to demonstrate she contributes equally to the positive influence on Earth.

   PAUSANIAS taught us in the Description of Phocide [Chapter XXXII §18], that according to the Egyptians, it was the TEARS of ISIS which swelled the waters of the Nile each year and rendered Egypt's countryside fertile. Sister civilizations also speak of a [water] DROP or tear, which fell from the Moon at the moment when the Nile crested.

   At the bottom of this scene, we see a Crayfish or Cancer, either to punctuate the retrograde motion of the Moon, or to indicate that it is the moment where the Sun and the Moon leave the sign of Cancer announcing the flood

[p. 374]

caused by their tears with the rising of the Dog Star seen in the next painting.

   We might even compound the two events: it is typical to attribute meaning to a series of events occurring together that might be embarrassing to explain otherwise?

   Two towers occupy the center of the [card], one at each extremity as in the famous columns of Hercules [tropics of Cancer and Capricorn], beneath and above which these two luminaries will never cross.

   Between the two columns are two Dogs which seem to bark at the Moon and to safeguard it: perfectly Egyptian ideas. These people who are known for their unique allegories, compare the Tropics [of Cancer and Capricorn] to two guarded Palaces with each a dog which like faithful Doormen, held these Luminaries in the center [band] of the Sky without allowing them to slide towards either Pole [North and South poles].

   These are not our visions as Commentators. CLEMENT, himself an Egyptian who was in Alexandria and who by consequence must have known something about it, assures us that in Tapestries Egyptians represented the Tropics [of Cancer and Capricorn] under the form of two DOGS, who like Doormen or faithful Guards, prevented the Sun and the Moon from leaving their limited path and to drift to the Poles [North and South poles].

Monde primitif XVII


   We have here, before our eyes, a Painting that is no less allegorical and absolutely Egyptian: it is entitled the STAR. We see, in effect, a brilliant Star surrounded by seven smaller ones. At the bottom of the Painting is a woman leaning on one knee holding two upside-down vases, of which outflows two [large] Rivers. Next to this woman is a butterfly on a flower.

   It is the purest Egyptianism.

   This quintessential Star is the DOG STAR or SIRIUS: the Star which rises when the Sun leaves the sign of Cancer and the continuation of the preceding Painting and immediately followed by this Star.

   The seven Stars that surround it, and which seem to form its court, are the Planets: she is their Queen so to speak, since she fixes in this

[p. 375]

the instant of the start of the year; they seem [7 Stars] to receive their orders to fix their account on her6.

   The Lady who is underneath diligently spreading the waters from her jars, is the Sovereign of the Skies, ISIS, is the godsend to which we attribute the flooding of the Nile, which start at the rise of the Dog Star: as such this rising announced the [annual] flooding. It is for this reason that the Dog Star was consecrated to Isis and her quintessential symbol.

   And since the year also opened by the rising of this Luminary, it was called SOTH-IS, opener of the year and it was under this name it was consecrated to Isis.

   Finally, the Flower and the BUTTERFLY she supports were symbols of regeneration and resurrection: they indicated along with the favors of the benevolence of Isis, the rising Dog Star. The Egyptian countryside, which was absolutely bare, would cover itself with the new harvest.


Monde primitif XIII


   № XIII represents Death: she scythes Humans, Kings and Queens, the Large and the Small; nothing resists her murderous scythe.

   It is not surprising she was placed under this number; the number thirteen was always regarded as unlucky. An ancient great calamity must have happened on such a day and that its memory influenced all ancient Nations5. Was it as a result of this memory that the thirteen Hebrew tribes were ever only counted as twelve?

   Let's add that it is also not surprising Egyptians had inserted Death in a game which should only awaken agreeable ideas: this Game was a game of war, Death had therefore a part: like the game of chess ends with check mate or better yet, Sha Mat [shāh māt]; the death of the King. Besides, we had the occasion to recall the Calendar, in their feasts, the wise and introspective People made a skeleton appear named Maneros, no doubt in order to motivate convives to not kill themselves of gluttony. Everyone has their own taste and one must never argue [matters of] taste.

[p. 376]

Monde primitif XVHarpy


   № XV represents an Egyptian celebrity: TYPHON; brother of Osiris and Isis, the bad Principle, the great Demon of Hell: he has the wings of a bat, the feet and hands of harpy, nasty stag horns on the head. He was depicted as ugly and as devilish as possible. At his feet are two little Devils with long ears, long tails and their hands tied behind their backs. They are bound by a cord around the neck to Typhon's pedestal. He does not let go of his minions. He likes those who belong to him.

Monde primitif XVI

№ XVI God-House or Castle of Plutus

   We have here a lesson against avarice. This painting represents a Tower called GOD-HOUSE, meaning the quintessential House; it is a Tower filled with gold; it is the Castle of Plutus: it falls into ruins and his admirers fall crushed under the rubble.

   At this sight, can we cannot ignore the Fable of the Egyptian Prince Heredotus spoke of, named RHAMPSINITUS [thought to be Ramses III], who having built a tall Tower of stone to enclose his treasures of which he had the only key, noticed his [treasures] diminishing before his eyes without [anyone] passing by the only door that existed for this building [Fable of The Treasure Thief]. To expose the clever thieves, the Prince was advised to set traps around the vases containing his riches. The thieves were the two sons of the Architect who worked for Rhampsinit [to build the Tower]; he had rigged a stone in such a way that it could be removed and replaced at will without being noticed. He instructed his children of the secret who put it to marvelous use as we can see. They robbed the Prince and threw themselves from the Tower: such is their representation here [in the card]. It is the most beautiful truth in History; we find in Heredotus the rest of this ingenious story; how one of the two brothers was caught in the nets [traps]; [when trapped] how he convinced his brother to cut off his head [to avoid identification]; how their mother wanted her son to retrieve his brother's body [which had been impaled]; how he went with wineskins strapped to an ass to inebriate the Palace and cadaver Guards; how after they

[p. 377]

emptied the wineskins despite their artificial tears and [the guards] fell asleep and he cut everyone’s right side of the beard and retrieved his brother's body; how shocked King engaged his daughter to have each of her lovers describe the best trick they might have pulled; how the youth spending the night by his lover told her all he had done; when she wanted to arrest him, she found herself holding a fake arm; and in order to end this big adventure happily, this King promised his daughter to the young ingenious man who had tricked him, as if he were a person more dignified than her; [and a happy ending] to the grand satisfaction of all.

   I do not know if Heredotus took this fable as real; but a People capable of inventing such Romances or Milesian Fables, are capable of inventing any game.

   This Writer [Heredotus] proves another point we have mentioned in the History of the Calendar, that the statues of the Giants paraded in various Festivals, almost invariably designate the seasons. It is said that Rhampsinit [Ramses III], the same Prince we just spoke of, raised two statues twenty-five cubits tall to the North and the Midi of the Temple of Vulcan [Temple of Ptah] called Summer and Winter: [Summer] was worshipped and sacrificed to, he added, [Winter] the opposite: it's like aboriginals who know the good Principle and behold it but only sacrificed to the bad [Principle].

Monde primitif X

№ X The Wheel of Fortune

   The last [Card] of this Plate is the Wheel of Fortune. Here, human personage under the form of Monkeys, Dogs, Rabbits, etc., rise at their turn on the wheel to which they are tied. It looks like a satire against fortune and against those she rises rapidly and she lets fall with the same rapidity.


Monde primitif XXMonde primitif XXI

№ XX Painting badly titled The LAST JUDGMENT

   This painting represents an Angel playing the trumpet; we see immediately as if coming out of the ground in the nude an old person, a woman and a child.

[p. 378]

   The Card Makers who had lost the meaning of these paintings, and even more so their overall meaning; interpreted this as the Last Judgment; and to render it more realistic, they added some sort of tombs. Remove the tombs, this painting serves equally to portray contemporary CREATION, otherwise [creation] at the beginning of time is represented in № XXI.

№ XXI TIME misnamed the WORLD

   This painting the Card Makers called the World, because they considered it as the origin of everything, represents TIME. We cannot fail to recognize it as a whole.

   In the center, is the Goddess of time, with her floating veil and which serves of belt or peplum as the Ancients called it. She is in the pose of running like time, & in a circle that represents the revolutions of Time such as the egg where everything came from in the Time.

   At the four corners of the Painting are the symbols of the four seasons forming the revolutions of the year, the same which composed the four heads of the Cherubim. These symbols are:

The Eagle, the Lion, the Bull, and the Young-Man.
The Eagle represents Spring when the birds return.
The Lion, the Summer or the ardor of the Sun.
The Bull, the Fall when we till and when we sow.
The Young-Man, the Winter where society reunites.



   Other than the Trumps, this game is composed of four Suits differentiated by their symbols: we call them Sword, Cups, Baton and Coin.

   We can see the Aces of these four suits in plate VIII.

   A represents the Ace of Swords, surmounted of a crown encircling palms.
   C, the Ace of Cups: it resembles a Castle; this is how large silver mugs were made in the past.
   D, the Ace of Sticks; it is a real club.
   B, the Ace of Coin; with garlands.

[p. 379]

   Each of the suits has fourteen Cards, in other words ten numbered Cards from I to X and four Face Cards called King, Queen, Knight or Cavalryman, and his Squire or Valet.

   These four suits relate to the four casts by which Egyptians were divided.

   The Sword designated the Sovereign and Military Nobility.
   The Cup the Clergy or the Priesthood.
   The Baton, or Hercules' Club, Agriculture.
   The Coin, Commerce designated by money.

This Game is based on the number seven

   This Game is absolutely based on the sacred number seven. Each suit is two times seven cards. The Trumps are of a number of three times seven; the number of cards is seventy-seven; the Fool counting as 0. No one ignores the significance of this number to Egyptians, and it became for them a formula to which they brought back the elements of all the Sciences [seven liberal arts].

   The sinister idea attached to the number thirteen in the Game brings us back equally strongly to the same origin.

   Therefore this Game could have only been invented by Egyptians since it is founded on the number seven; that it is related to the habitants of Egypt in four classes; that the majority of the Trumps are absolutely Egyptian, such as the two Chief Hierophants, man [V] & woman [II], Isis or Dog Star [XVII], Typhon [XV], Osiris [VII], the God-House [XVI], the World [XXI], the Dogs demarking the Tropics [XVIII], etc., and that this Game, entirely allegorical, could only be the work of Egyptians.

   Invented by a genius, before or after the game of chess, and reuniting utility and leisure; it has arrived to us through all the centuries; it has survived the entire ruin of Egypt and the knowledge which differentiated it and while we had no idea of the wisdom of the lessons it enclosed, we never grew tired of playing the Game she has invented.

   It is with ease we can trace the road by which it arrived in our neighborhood. In the first centuries of the Church, Egyptians were

[p. 380]

widespread in Rome. They had brought their ceremonies and the cult of Isis; hence the Game we speak of.

   This Game, interesting in itself, was limited to Italy until the relations between the Germans and the Italians were such to let it be known to this second Nation; and until [relations] between the Counts of Provence [perhaps a reference to C. de M., author of the next essay in volume viii] with Italy, and especially with the Avignon Papacy, it was naturalized in Provence and Avignon [when de Gébelin published volume viii, Avignon still belonged to the Papacy from a move in 1305 starting with Pope Clement V who persecuted the Knights Templar in 1307].

   If it did not come to Paris, it was for the bizarre figures and high number of cards which was not of a nature to appeal to the vivacity of the French ladies. Also we were obliged, as we soon will see, to reduce this Game in their favor.

   Meanwhile Egypt itself would not reap the fruit of its invention: reduced to the most deplorable servitude, to the most profound ignorance, deprived of all Arts, its Inhabitants would be in no state to manufacture a single Card of this Game.

   If our French Cards, infinitely less complicated [than the Tarot], require the sustained effort of a multitude of hands and the concurrent effort of several Arts, how could these unfortunate People could have conserved their own [Card Game]? Such are the ills that befall a slave Nation, that it loses even its objects of leisure; having failed to conserve its most precious advantages, why should it claim what is just a relaxing pastime?


   This Game has preserved a few names which betray its Eastern origin if we had no other proof. [De Gébelin's use of the word Eastern highlights they are not of the Western tradition.]

   These names are TARO, MAT and PAGAD.


   The Game's name is pure Egyptian. It is composed of the word TAR, which means course or trail [in Sanskrit Tara is Road] and of the word RO, ROS, ROG which means King, Royal [Minoan Language mwi-nu ro-ja (Minos the King)]. It is word-for-word the Royal trail of life.

   It pertains in effect to the entire life of [Egyptian] Citizens, since it is based on its differentiated classes [suits] and that this game parallels them from birth to death, displaying all the virtues and all moral & physical mentors by which they were bound to [live by], such as the King, the Queen, the Religious leaders, the Sun and the Moon, etc.

[p. 381]

   From the Magician [I] and the Wheel of Fortune [X], the [Tarot] teaches them nothing is more inconsistent in this world than the myriad States of man: that his only refuge is in virtue which is always available when needed.

2. MAT.

   The MAT the slang name for the Fool, survives in Italian and comes from the Eastern [word] Mat, stunned, defeated, broken [cracked]. Lunatics have always been portrayed as having a cracked brain. [in Pashto (an Iranian language), māt (مات) still exists meaning "destroyed, broken" in the word Checkmate][it does not mean to kill but rather emasculate, incapacitate, hamstring, or neutralize as in defeating Seth].


   The Magician is called PAGAD in the heat of the game. This word which resembles nothing in our Western Languages, is [a] pure Eastern [word] and very well chosen: PAG signifies in the Eastern [language] Chief, Master, Lord: and GAD Fortune [probably a reference to Sanskrit bhaga and bhagavan rather than pagad]. Indeed, he is represented as if casting a spell with his divining rod or Magus Rod.



I° How to deal the Cards.

   One of our friends, Mr. L'A. R. has been willing to explain how to play: it is him who speaks if we understood him well.

   This game has two players, but the cards are dealt as if there were three [players]. Each player has only one third of the cards: during combat a third of the Troops are always resting: we could call them the reserve Corps.

   This game is a war game, and not a peaceable game: because in the entire Army there is [only] one reserve Corps. Besides, this reserve renders the game more difficult since it makes it much harder to guess the adversary's Cards.

   The Cards are dealt by five, or five-by-five.

   Of the 78 Cards, three are therefore left at the end: rather than dealing them to the [two] players and the reserve or the Dead, the dealer keeps them for himself; which gives him the advantage to discard three [cards].

[p. 382]

2° How to count the points

      The Trumps do not all have the same value.
      The 21, 20, 19, 18 & 17 are called the five big Trumps.
      The 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 are called the five little [Trumps].

   If we have three of the big [Trumps] or three of the little [ones], it counts five points; ten points if we have four; & fifteen, if we have five.

   It is again an Egyptian way to count; the dinatre [decad] or the coin of Pythagoras was equal to the quarternary because one, two, three and four add up to ten [a reference to the tetractys].

   If we have ten Trumps in hand, we spread them and they are still worth ten points; if we have thirteen, we spread them as well and they are worth fifteen points independent of other combinations.

   Seven Cards carry the Name Tarot preeminently: they are the privileged cards: and again seven in number. These Cards are:

      The World or Trump XXI.
      The Mat or Fool. 0.
      The Pagad [Magician] or Trump I.
      And the four Kings.
[the top three are Tarot-Aces]

   If we have two of these Tarot-Aces, we ask our [opponent] if he has [the third]. If he cannot answer by showing the third, the one asking the question gets 5 points; he gets 15 points if he has all three. Sequences or 4 figures of the same suit are worth 5 points.

3° How to play the Cards

   The Fool takes nothing and nothing can take it: he is a Wild Card and can be any suit.

   If we play a King, and we do not have the Queen, we use the Fool, that is called excus.

      The Fool with two Kings is worth 5 points, and with three [Kings] is worth fifteen.
      A cut King or a dead one, 5 points for the one who cuts.
      If we take Pagad [Magician] from our adversary, we get 5 points.

   The goal of the game is to take the cards which are worth the most points from the adversary and to focus on producing sequences:

[p. 383]

   The opponent must do all he can to save them: by sacrificing the weakest Trumps or the weakest Cards of that suit.

   We must also renege, to save the strong Cards while cutting those of our adversary.

4° Laying cards down for the dealer

   The dealer cannot lay Kings or Trumps; it would be too easy, since he could save himself without peril. For being first, he is only allowed to lay a sequence: because it counts and could produce a renege which will be a double advantage.

5° How to count the hands.

   The game goes to a hundred, like the [game of] Piquet, with the following difference: it is not the first to arrive to hundred after starting the game who wins, but the one who scores the most points; because all started games must continue until the end: it offers more possibilities than the Piquet.

   To count points of cards in hand, each of the seven Cards called Tarots, with a suit card is worth 5 points.

      The Queen with a card, 4 [points].
      The Knight with a card, 3 [points].
      The Squire with a card, 2 [points].
      two simple cards together, 1 [points].

   We count the excess points of one adversary over the other and record them, and continue to play the game until a hundred is reached.


TAROT as a Geopolitical Game.

   We have seen in a Catalog of Italian Books, the title of a Work where Geography is interlaced with the Tarot: and we were unable to get this book. Does it contain Geography lessons to be engraved on each Tarot Card? Is it an application of this game to Geography? The field of conjectures is endless, and perhaps by habit of multiplying the combinations, we will stray farther than the theories in that Work. Rather than worrying about what it might have said, let's see if we can reconstruct how

[p. 384]

Egyptians might have applied this game Geopolitically such as it was it in their time, approximately three thousand years ago.

   Time or the WORLD [XXI] represented the globe of Earth and its revolutions.

   CREATION, the moment Earth exited chaos, where she took shape [as a sphere], divided herself into Landmasses and seas and where Man was created to become its Master, the King of this beautiful real estate.

   The FOUR Cardinal VIRTUES correspond to the four (IV) sides of the World, East, West, North and South [Midi is noon which indicated South in the northern hemisphere], four points relative to Man, of which he is the center of all that we can call it his right, left, his face and his back and where his knowledge spreads as rays to the ends of everything following the reach of his physical eyes first and foremost and of his equally piercing intellectual eyes.

   The FOUR SUITS are the four (IV) Regions or pieces of the World corresponding to the four cardinal points: Asia [East], Africa [South], Europe [West], and Celto-Sythians [North] or the frozen countries of the North: division which was augmented of the Americas since its discovery, and to loose nothing of the old ways was substituted for the Celto-Sythians polar Territories of the North and the South.

   The Sword represents Asia, country of great Monarchies and of great Conquest and great Revolutions.

   Baton, the Egypt as the breadbasket of the People and symbolic of the South and of colored people.

   Cup, the North where the People descended and where Instruction and Science came from.

   Coin, Europe or the West, rich in gold mines in the beginning of the worlds, that is such a misnomer that we call it the olden days or the ancient times.

   Each one of the ten numbered Cards of these four suits would be a large Territory of these four Regions of the World.

[The following geopolitical analysis is interesting because de Gébelin under this pretext describes the extent of the ancient Egypt's international relations and influence. It also demonstrates de Gébelin own knowledge the evolution of ancient civilizations and ancient Egypt's place in the world. He leaves a still controversial issue today for last on the list. This list also demonstrates de Gébelin's foremost interest in Geopolitical history rather than the occult as many have speculated.]

   The ten Sword Cards may have represented (1) Arabia, (2) Edom who ruled over the Southern Seas, (3) Egyptian inhabited Palestine, (4) Phoenicia Master of the Mediterranean Sea, (5) Syria or Aramaic, (6) Mesopotamia or Chaldea, (7) Media [Medes], (8) Elam, (9) Persia and the (10) Indies.

   The ten Baton Cards may have represented the three large divisions of Egypt (1)Thebes or Upper Egypt, (2) the Delta or Lower Egypt, (3) Heptanome [Memphis] or Middle Egypt divided in Seven Governments. Then (4) Ethiopia, (5) Cyrenaica [Cyrene] or the lands of the Jupiter Ammon [Siwa Oasis], Libia or (6) Carthage, the Pacific [?] (7) Atlantes [Morocco], (8) the vagabonds of Numidia, (9) the Moors supported

[p. 385]

by the Atlantic Ocean, (10) the Gaetuli localized South of Atlas [Mountains], spread in the vast territories that we call today Nigeria and Guinea.

   The ten Coin Cards may have represented (1) Crete, illustrious Kingdom of (2) Minos, (3) Greece and its Isles, (4) Italy, (5) Sicily and its volcanoes, (6) the Balearic [Islands] famous for their infantry troups uniforms, (7) Baetica rich in herds, (8) Celtiberia abundant in gold mines, (9) Cádiz or Gadir the quintessential island of Hercules, the most mercantile in the World, (10) Lusitania and the Islands of Fortune or Canary [Islands].

   The ten Cup Cards may have represented (1) Armenia and its Mount Ararat, (2) [Caucasian] Iberia, (3) the Scythians of the Hymalayas, (4) the Scythians of Caucasia, (5) Cimmerians of the Sea of Azov, (6) Getes or Goths, (7) Dacians, (8) Hyperboreans so famous in this high antiquity, (9) Celts wandering their frozen forests, (10) the Isle of Thule at the extremity of the World [Greenland].

   The four head cards of each suit may have contained geographic details for each region[:]

   The Kings the state of each of their governments, the strength of each of the Empires, and since they were more or less considerable since Agriculture was in use a source of inexhaustible and replenishable riches.

   The Queens the development of their Religions, of their Mores, of their Manners, and especially of their Opinions, Opinion having always been regarded as the Queen of the World. Lucky is the one who can direct her, he will be always King of the Universe, Master of his peers. It is the eloquent Hercules who leads man with golden reins.

   The Knight the exploits of the People, the History of their Heroes or Cavalryman; of their Jousting, of their Games and their battles.

   The Squires their History of the Arts, their origins and their type; everything concerning the industrial side of each Nation, those devoted to mechanical objects, to Manufacturing, to Commerce which vary by a hundred ways the form of natural riches, and [which] circulates its riches and industrial products throughout the Universe; who even use Agriculture to regenerate their riches giving them faster outlets than those they already created and how everything is strangled as soon as this circulation is controlled [free market economy] because the Retailers have less business and their suppliers are discouraged.

   The whole of the XXI or XXII Trumps, the XXII letters of the

[p. 386]

Egyptian Alphabet common to the Hebrews and [Sanskrit] serve as [deciphering] letters necessary for the use by so many [diverse] regions.

   Each one of these Trumps also has a unique meaning. Many are related to the principal luminaries of Celestial Geography, so to speak. Therefore,

   The Sun [XIX], the Moon [XVIII], Cancer, Hercules' columns, the Tropics [of Cancer and Capricorn] or their Dogs.

   The Dog Star [XVII], this beautiful and brilliant of the Gateway of the Heavens.

   The Celestial Bear [Little Dipper], on which all the Stars revolve, admirable Constellation represented by the seven Taros [sic], and which seems to publish in fiery characters on our heads and in the Firmament, that our Solar System is founded like the Sciences on the Law of Seven and even perhaps the entire mass of the Universe.

   All the other [trumps] can be considered to relate to the political and moral Geography, the true Government of States: and even to the government of each man in particular.

   The four TRUMPS relating to civil and religious authority highlight the importance for Government unity and of respect for Ancients.

   The four Cardinal Virtues show that the States can only be sustained by the goodness of the Government, by the excellence of instruction, by virtuous practitioners in those who govern and the governed; Prudence [XII] to correct abuse, Strength [XI] to maintain peace and unity, Temperance [XIV] in means, Justice [VIII] toward all. How ignorance, haughtiness, avarice, ineptitude of some engenders in others a fatal disdain resulting in disorder undermining the foundation of Empires where Justice [VIII] is violated, where the ends justify the means [XIV], where force is abused [XI] and where we live for the moment [XII]. Disorder which destroyed so many Families with renowned names for so long on all the Earth who had ruled with such glory on the stunned Nations.

   These virtues are no less necessary in each Individual. Temperance [XIV] modulates duties especially toward one' own body that is often treated like a miserable slave, martyr of inappropriate affections.

   Justice [VIII] modulates duties to one's future and toward Divinity itself to which it owes everything.

   Strength [XI] with which one supports oneself in the center of the ruins of the Universe,

[p. 387]

besieged by the incessant impetuous waves of vain and senseless passions.

   Finally, Prudence [XII] with which one patiently awaits the success of our labors, ready for any anything like a fine player who never risks his game and makes the best of any situation.

   The triumphant King then becomes the symbol of whom by the means of their virtue has been wise towards himself [XIV], just toward others [VIII], strong against the passions [XI], prepared to amass resources for adverse times [XII].

   Time [XXI] which consumes all with an inconceivable rapidity, Fortune [X] which plays with everything; the Bateleur [I] who eludes everything, Folly [0] which is everything, Avarice [XVI] which loses all; the Devil [XV] who is everywhere; Death [XIII] which engulfs all, the singular seven which is of all countries, can give place to observations no less important and no less varied.

   Finally, the one who has everything to win and nothing to lose, the truly triumphant King, is the true Sage with lantern in hand who is continually aware of his moves, teaches no one, knows everything good to enjoy and perceives everything bad to avoid it.

   Such is the geo-political-moral explanation more or less of this antique Game; and such must be the end all. Humanity, you should be satisfied, if only all games ended like this!


Connection of this Game with a Chinese Artifact.

   Mr. BERTIN who has rendered great service to Literature and the Sciences by the excellent Memoires that he procured and published in China, has mentioned a unique Artifact that was sent to him from this vast Country and dated to the first ages of this Empire, since the Chinese look upon it as an inscription about the drainage of the waters of the Flood by Yao.

   [The Artifact] is composed of characters that form large compartments in long squares, all equal, and precisely of the same size of the Cards of the Game of Tarots.

   These compartments are distributed in six perpendicular columns where the first five enclose fourteen compartments each whereas the sixth which is only half full only holds seven. [5x14+7=77]

   Therefore, this Artifact is composed of seventy-seven figures just as the

[p. 388]

Game of Tarot: and it is formed after the same combination of the number seven, since each full column has fourteen figures and the one which is half-full contains seven.

   Otherwise, these seventy-seven figures could have been arranged in a manner as to leave almost no void in the sixth column by making each column of thirteen compartments and the sixth having twelve. [5x13+12=77]

   This Artifact therefore perfectly resembles for its arrangement the Game of Tarots if we glued them to a single Frame; the four suits would be the first four columns with fourteen cards each; and the trumps numbering twenty-one would fill the fifth column and precisely half the sixth column.

   It should be highly peculiar that such a resemblance was the simple effect of pure chance: it is therefore very apparent that one and the other of these Artifacts have been formed after the same theory and on the attachment of the sacred number seven; therefore they are both apparently a different application of a single and the same law, perhaps pre-dating the existence of the Chinese and Egyptians; perhaps we should find something similar with the Indians [Asians] or the People of Tibet placed between these two ancient Nations.

   We have been tempted to engrave this Chinese Artifact; but for the fear of poor reproduction by reducing it to a size smaller than the original added to the impossibility of our means to make a work requiring nothing less than perfection, we opted not to.

   Besides, the Chinese figures are in white on a black background; which makes them very prominent.


‡ On page 54 of volume viii, de Gébelin reasons Phoenicians had the compass and he again explains there was evidence it was used much before its presumed invention. He argues there were two written references to the device prior to 1300, one in 1260 and another in 1204 where it was described as a well known device, and it may have been an ancient invention, that the Chinese had it but did not know how to use it and must have obtained from a people who navigated the high seas. 2) Ancient Egyptians knew of magnetism and its property of attracting metal. They called the attracting end l'Os d'Orus (Horus) and the repelling end l'Os of Typhon (Set). They called the North Star Orus and calling the attractive side L'Os d'Orus to indicate its behavior for it to constantly pointing North (Orus). For a people as clever, mobile and ingenuous as the Phoenicians, could they have had so many advances without using the compass when navigating the high seas? 3) The Arabs are convinced it is very ancient. Their books attest to many mentions of it in this regard, which are very clear. In a work by Aristotle which is now lost but had been translated into Arabic, it was mentioned. What gain would these Arabic translators have in stating Aristotle has knowledge of it? Aristotle, the teacher of Alexander the Great who had many great conquests, was likely capable of recognizing a compass and could not ignore it but could probably not talk about it either. 4) We then focus on the silence or ignorance of the Romans on the compass. The Romans did not navigate the high seas and never needed it. The Carthaginians were unlikely to instruct the Romans in its use and neither would the Romans be interested in such instruction. We do not know the level of Roman ignorance after they mowed Carthage and Corinth but it is from them that we have decided to take guidance on what constituted ancient knowledge: it sounds as barbaric as the Romans themselves. We have relied on blinded echoes and it is time to see for ourselves.

§ This may have been a very cynical remark.

* The accent circonflexe (ˆ) is often the result of the removal of a following s like hôpital from hospital, fenêtre from fenestre, rêve from resve, and bâte from baste.

3 The Bembine Table of Isis that de Gébelin appears to be referring to as demonstrating the Pope's staff is Egyptian is incongruent. De Gébelin mentions that he saw the Table before its publishing probably when the King of Sardinia possessed it. There may be more than one such table for a size discrepancy or one may have been a crude copy of the other. The Bembine Table does not show the Pope's staff. The Pope staff may have been a crozier as seen in the Jean Noblet Tarot but since Pope Innocent III's edict forbade Popes from using the crozier, censors may have corrected the error. Interestingly, the crozier or heka is also absent in the Bembine Table. De Gébelin mentions the staff is under the letter TT which is also strange. These appear to be two letters rather than one, the letter TT does not appear on the Bembine tablet. Where the letter T appears there is no staff. Perhaps the reason it remained unpublished the Table was not a genuine Ancient Egyptian artifact but a much later version perhaps Greek. As a side bar, it is interesting to read in Voyages de Montesquieu. Tome 2 / publ. par le baron Albert de Montesquieu that the Baron concluded the Greeks did not learn the art of sculpture from Egyptians based on the art or lack thereof he had gleamed in the Bembine Table. Of all the potential sculptures that existed in 1894 when this book was published, he choose an artifact that was not even genuine to make a very sweeping generalization when in fact, the most likely source for the Greeks ability to sculpt are the Ancient Egyptians with the Kouros and Kore sculptures bridging the gap. The Kouros pose with the left foot forward and the fists at the sides is typically Egyptian but the body is nude and more typical of Greek sculpture. Unfortunately, these sort of hasty conclusions are the ones that take centuries to undo.

4 The Feast of Pamylies may not be so famous. There is invariably a Greek version to everything Egyptian and this is called the Phallophoria which may be related to way Osiris conceived Horus or his resurrection. Interestingly, Pamylies or Phamylies is the origin of the current word family. We rarely realize when a word in our current language traces back to Ancient Egypt since we are taught only Latin and Greek and etymology usually stops there. De Gébelin has mentioned Pamyles fable in Volume 4 (p. 504) as it relates to the announcement of the birth of Osiris. According to Plutarch, the phallus of Pamylies was triple to designate the three elements of Earth, Air and Fire [Amon, Shu, Tefnut] who had left the primeval waters and went on to create everything. Another interesting connection between Pamyle and the Great Ennead.

5 Osiris' death was commemorated on November 13th.

7 Notice both the text and the card have an incorrect Roman numeral (XIII) rather than the correct number (XIIII or XIV). He also used XIII for the Death Card. It is unlikely de Gébelin would have made such a mistake himself.

The list of books below incorrectly attribute de Gébelin as stating the Tarot was the Book of Thoth. It is by no means comprehensive, but illustrates the pervasive mis-information and widespread parroting of pseudo-facts about de Gébelin on a simple and easily verifiable fact. It is symptomatic of the lack of genuine research and knowledge on origin of the allegories in the Tarot and how prevailing theories can be prevailingly incorrect.

Helen Farley, A Cultural History of the Tarot: From Entertainment to Esotericism (London: I. B. Tauris, 2009), p. 20.

Diane Morgan, Magical Tarot, Mystical Tao: Unlocking the Hidden Power of the Tarot Using the Ancient Secrets of the Tao Te Ching (New York: St Martin's Griffin, 2003), p. 9.

Stuart R. Kaplan, The Encyclopedia of Tarot, Vol. 1 (Stamford, CT: U.S. Games Systems, 1978), p. 12.

Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, The Essential Golden Dawn: An Introduction to High Magic (St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2003),p. 195.

Lawrence Sutin, Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000), p. 399.

Rosemary Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy (New York: Visionary Living, Inc., 2006), p. 306.

Robert Michael Place, Magic and Alchemy (New York: Infobase Publishing, 2009), p. 107.

Robert Michael Place, The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination (New York: Penguin, 2005), p. 53.

Juliet Sharman-Burke, The Complete Book of Tarot: A Step-by-Step Guide to Reading the Cards (Martin's Press, 1985), p. 12.

Juliet Sharman-Burke, The New Complete Book of Tarot (Martin's Press, 2007), p. 19.

Jesse Molesworth, Chance and the Eighteenth-Century Novel: Realism, Probability, Magic (Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 212.

Dennis William Hauck, The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy of Personal Transformation (Penguin, 1999), p. 263.

Nevill Drury, Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic, p. 18.


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