Tarocchino Arlecchino

Arlecchino in a horned mask, holding his baton.

Tarocchino Arlecchino is a 64-card “little tarot” (based on the Tarocco Bolognese) dedicated to the mischievous Arlecchino, a.k.a Harlequin, a.k.a. Erl-King. To complete the project, the cards include divinatory meanings based on the Etteilla system. This pseudo-historic deck combines a few of my loves, and I hope you enjoy seeing it!

Jump to:
The TrumpsThe Minor ArcanaMore About the Deck

A large spread of cards from the Tarocchino Arlecchino deck

The Trumps

All of the cards in Tarocchino Arlecchino are based closely on the 62-card Tarocco Bolognese. This gaming deck is an abbreviation of the 78-card tarot: the numbers 2 through 5 are removed from each minor suit, while all 22 trumps remain.

But there are differences between the popular Marseille pattern of trumps and this tarot. It has its own ordering and numbering, and many of the traditional cards have their own unusual compositions. You can view my reference at BnF Gallica, and keep scrolling to see my Harlequins!

A compilation of the 22 trumps and two Significators, with their titles and keywords.

I have arranged some collages of the trumps without their borders below, if you wish to see the larger image sizes. You can also browse the blog to see the posts I made as I was illustrating the trumps.

First, some roaming cards: The Fool or Folly (center) and two Significators. Following the tradition of Etteilla decks, I have separated the Fool from the rest of the trumps, placing him at the final number in the deck (61). The two Significators are without number.
The first sequence of Trumps (0 through 6): the Magician, the (Female Pope), the Empress, the Emperor, the (Male) Pope, Love, and the Chariot
The Four Cardinal Virtues: Temperance, Justice, Fortitude, Prudence. Prudence will not be printed in the deck, but she still belongs here on this webpage.
Next, five allies or adversaries (10-14): Fortune, the Old Man or Time, the Traitor, Death, and the Devil. The Old Man is one of the most interesting cards of the Bolognese deck, showing more Saturnine features than your typical Hermit. The Devil also has a special place in my heard.
Then come the four Forces of Nature (15-18): the Lightning, the Star, the Moon, and the Sun. The Bolognese compositions show some intriguing alternatives to the Marseille pattern, and I especially love the spinner beneath the Sun.
The final trumps are the World and the Angel. The former depicts Harlequin-as-Mercury above the four elements. The latter shows Arlecchino with some of his companions of the Commedia dell’Arte.

The Minor Arcana

Each of the four minor suits consists of four court cards, an Ace, and numbers six through ten. In the ordering of these cards, I follow the Etteilla Decks

The Suit of Batons is based on an Autumnal woodland theme. The most famous Harlequin costume is a diamond pattern, but historically Harlequins have worn different sorts of patchwork motley. The Court of Batons all wear motley featuring fruits and leaves.
The Suit of Cups is a dreamy one, full of Moons, Stars, and (probably poisoned) wine. And the Ace – to quote Cher’s father in Moonstruck, “Birds fly to the stars, I guess.”
The Suit of Swords features a classic Harlequin look with a serpentine and spiraling theme. This was the suit I completed first – I love the Bolognese design of the Ace of Swords, where the sword becomes a serpent coiling back on itself!
The Suit of Coins also features the classic diamond motley, in a Wintry hunt theme. The Bolognese Ace is also very intriguing, with a hare and hound in a chase around the large coin. The Queen is also based on the Queen of Batons, as the library copy was missing this card.

Card back design for the deck

More About the Deck

About Tarocchino

The deck is based on the Bolognese Tarocchino, which I am accessing via Gallica. The main difference between this deck and your typical Tarot is that there are fewer cards – pips 2 through 5 are cut from each suit. Design-wise, the deck has its own charming peculiarities. The one that I linked is an historic version. Current incarnations of the deck are based on similar art, but they are typically double-headed (for gaming) and, to appease the papacy, changed the Popess, Pope, Empress, and Emperor to four “Moors.” You can see a modern version of this deck on Trionfi, and read more about the history of the cards from Tarot Heritage. This Bolognese deck is linked to early divination (read more by Franco Pratesi on Trionfi), with some claiming that this was the deck with which Etteilla learned his divination system (how far you trust Etteilla is up to you).

About Etteilla

Etteilla introduced a system of meanings for every single card in the deck. These synonyms shaped divinatory tarot as we know it today, with their traces visible throughout the iconic Smith-Waite minor arcana. The meanings are idiosyncratic, and it is difficult to discern logic behind their assignment to the numbers. Moreover, while Etteilla and followers altered the trumps to fit his new conception (read more on the Etteilla’s Trumps blog), the minor arcana remained comparatively minimal pip cards. As you can imagine, it could be difficult to remember each card’s meaning. So, Etteilla decks came with the unique feature of an upright and a reversed keyword printed upon each card. This gives them a distinct look among tarot decks. More than other decks, it emphasizes both their connection to fortune-telling and to games.

My card layouts imitate this look that I love, particularly the thin borders and neat sans-serif titles of Grand jeu de l’Oracle des Dames (also called Etteilla III). I have chosen to use the keywords and titles in French to preserve this same feeling.

About the Keywords

The keywords that I’ve used for Tarocchino Arlecchino are based on both the Petit Etteilla and the Grand Etteilla.

The Petit Etteilla is a 32-card piquet deck. The Grand Etteilla is a 78-card tarot deck, though with greatly altered trumps. The Petit Etteilla preceded the Grand Etteilla. With more pip cards available in the tarot, some of the upright/reversed meanings from the Petit Etteilla were broken up and placed on different cards in the Grand Etteilla, with new meanings added.

Neither deck has an exact correspondence with the 62-card tarocchino, so I improvised.

Generally, I began with the Petit Etteilla meanings, then added some Grand Etteilla meanings as needed to increase variety. For example, the 7 of Coins has the exact keywords from the Petit Etteilla ARGENT /EMBARRAS. In the Grand Etteilla ’embarras’ became the upright meaning for 2 of Coins, which we don’t have in the tarocchino. On the other hand, the Petit Etteilla meanings for 8 of Coins are FILLE BRUNE / FILLE CHATAINE-BRUNE. Besides changing the girl to a boy to accommodate the Bolognese replacement of Knave by Maidservant, I changed the reversed meaning to the one from the Grand Etteila, USURE, to add more different meanings than simply different shades of brown hair.

The trumps use Grand Etteilla keywords wherever possible. However, there are some deviations, where I instead used the Bolognese meanings (via Pratesi). Sometimes these deviations are due to a card not exactly existing in the Grand Etteilla (e.g., the Old Man), sometimes simply to better fit the imagery (e.g., the Stars).

I will give English synonyms in the guidebook!