Tarocchino Arlecchino: The Forces of Nature

Welcome. After a time of not wanting to write, I decided to cluster together these four new thematically-linked cards. In these pictures near the end of the trump sequence, Arlecchino becomes disembodied, playing out the interaction between humans and the forces of Nature.

First is Lightning, unequivocally destructive. According to the Etteilla meanings, the Tower which the Lightning strikes down is no paradise either. Reversed, the card signifies prison, or enslavement.

The Lightning or the Tower from Tarocchino Arlecchino

Keywords (translated from Julia Orsini)

Upright: destitution, indigence, poverty, scarcity, need, necessity, distress, calamity, adversity, misfortune, bad luck, grief, pain, torment, suffering, affliction, unpleasantness, punishment, punishment of God, correction, penalty, setback, disgrace, severity, rigidity, harshness

Reversed: prison, imprisonment, detention, arrest, captivity, slavery, oppression, tyranny, despotism, yoke, chains, dungeon, Maison de Dieu, servitude, dependence, subjection, constraint

After the Lightning, we look to more benevolent horizons. Three characters like the biblical Magi lift an offering in the bottom of the card.

The Star from Tarocchino Arlecchino

For this card’s upright meaning, I refer to the Bolognese meaning (recorded by Pratesi), which fits the picture best: a gift. In the Grand Etteilla, such keywords belong to No. 74, the Four Coins. For the reversed, I used the upright meanings of the corresponding trump.1


Upright:2 a present, gift, generosity, benefit, good deed, donation, bonus, service, the color white, lunar medicine, precious stone

Reversed:3 stripping-away, counting, inspection, development, sorting, picking-over, separation, untangle, deepen, sort out, remove, deprive, take away, abduct, dispossess, violence, privation, removal, abduction, theft, larceny, swindling, fraud, infidelity

After this, we can see Arlecchino watching us from the sky, behind a mask. The horned crescent moon-mask is a pale green shade, flanked by black stars observed on the ground by two lesser Harlequins with astrological implements.

To be honest, I was not sure what the round item in the left one’s hand was supposed to be (maybe it was an astrolabe?), so I turned it into a serpentine model of the heavens.

The Moon from Tarocchino Arlecchino

The upright meaning can be either a plan, a conversation, or just words themselves. I am also keeping the reversed meaning of Water here. Though we do not have the pool that is visible in the Marseille Tarot, the Moon is itself tied to the water and tides (and the other obvious meaning of nighttime has been given already to the Empress).

Keywords (translated from Julia Orsini)

Upright: aim, design, intention, resolution, will, language, words, speech, reasoning, talk, discuss, babble, chat, gossip, idle talk, slander, calumny, defamation, moon

Reversed: water, fluid, humid, ablution, dew, rain (pouring), deluge, inundation, sea, river, torrent, stream, fountain, source, spring, lake, marsh, flat of water, pond, waterfall, waves

Finally, my personal favorite, we meet a lady spinning beneath the blazing sun. This one was sketched “on site” at the beach. I did some odd color blocking here as well, to try and capture the immense energy I get from looking at the original.

The Sun from Tarocchino Arlecchino

Happily, the metaphorical upright meanings of the Etteilla trump find a perfect literal representation in lady-Harlequin untangling and developing her thread.

The list of reversed keywords is lengthy, some of them entangled with what one would expect for the Lightning. Oh, well, I reproduced them.

Keywords (translated from Julia Orsini)

Upright: brightening, clearing, explanation, untangling, development, instruction, opening, analysis, discovery, interpretation, revelation, clarity, elucidation, light, fire, sun, temple of heat, sky and earth

Reversed: hot, heat, small brightness, spark, ray of light, glow, flame, blaze, burn, ardor, embrace, fire of love, passion, light up, inflame, fires, meteors, lightning, thunder, thunderbolt, storm, electricity, Saint Elmo’s fire, fire of nature, magnetism, exterior fire, internal fire, central fire, salamander, dissent, discord in spirits, throw one’s fire, pass one’s anger, make fire and flame, apple of discord, heat up, cook, heating, inflammation

That’s all for today! After this, there are two more trumps to go.


1The reversed meaning for the trump in question is Air. Due to the unique Bolognese imagery, I have decided to remove this elemental meaning.

2Adapted from Julia Orsini, upright meanings for No. 74 (le quatre de denier).

3Translated from Julia Orsini, upright meaning for No. 4 (le Ciel).

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