Structure of the Deck
Following the lead of Etteilla, each card in this deck is numbered like the pages of a book.
- Cards 0 through 20: The Trumps
- Cards 21 through 30: The Suit of Batons
- Cards 31 through 40: The Suit of Cups
- Cards 41 through 50: The Suit of Swords
- Cards 51 through 60: The Suit of Coins
- Card 61: Folly
The trumps follow the order of the Bolognese tarocchino, which you may read about on the website Trionfi.
The four other suits follow the order of the Petit Etteilla: within each suit, first come the face cards in descending rank, then the ace, then the numbers in descending order. The suits themselves are ordered in the same way as the Petit Etteilla and the Grand Etteilla. As in the Grand Etteilla, Folly comes last in the deck.
Using the Cards
The cards in this deck have different upright and reversed meanings. For this reason, please shuffle them in a way that allows some cards to become reversed. If riffle shuffling, you can rotate half of the deck with every shuffle.
Either of the two unnumbered ARLECCHINO cards, pictured above, can be used as a significator (a card that represents the querent in a reading). While there was previously a tradition of designating a court card or even a trump to be a significator, the Etteilla school introduced dedicated significator cards so as to not take the meanings of the other cards out of play. (Oddly enough, the significators in the Grand Etteilla replaced the two Popes from the Marseille tarot.) In this deck, the significators are added on to the deck as extra cards, and you can choose to use them or remove them.
You might choose to pull the significator out of the deck and leave it on the table as a visual focus for the querent. You can also shuffle the significator into the deck and use the cards near it for your reading (for example, flipping through the deck until you find it, or laying out all the cards in piles and choosing the pile with the significator).
Linking Card Meanings
Each card has a keyword with a variety of synonyms, as outlined in these pages. Linking one card with another (or more) suggests more particular meanings.
It is recommended to draw at least two cards. Usually, the court cards are subjects or nouns, while the pip cards are verbs, adjectives, and so on. The trumps could be either subjects or larger important themes. When drawing many cards, you can look for face cards (trumps or court cards) to break up the different sentences or ideas.
To practice, you might begin with a single pair of cards. For example, I drew these two.
You might take the whole picture into consideration. Look at the way the two characters face each other, quite symmetrically. Justice appears to be staring down at the Fool, watching his little show when it might be wiser to attend to her sword.
Then, you can combine this information into meanings based on context. On a large, societal scale, this pair could represent laws that neglect human rights, that seem to be set on a whim rather than systematically. On a smaller scale, it could refer to someone who is deliberately acting foolishly, ignoring her better judgement.
A simple three card spread can bring out a variety of meanings, as you examine each of the three different pairs. For example, consider another sequence randomly drawn.
First, let’s make a summary of their individual meanings.
- No. 57, upright: effects, consequences, evidence
- No. 2, reversed: uncovering or bringing to light, blooming, demonstration or visibility
- No. 51, reversed: vice, corruption, a perverse man
Then, try forming pairs.
- No. 57 + No. 2: Uncovering evidence
- No. 2 + No. 51: Visible vices, growing corruption
- No. 51 + No. 57: The consequences of misconduct
Again, you might also consider the overall picture of the characters. In the example, the King of Coins looks away from the Empress who looks toward the Nine of Coins. This triplet seems to illustrate that the truth is coming out about a corrupt man, while he is still trying to deny it.
Using this Guide
Each page in this guide contains the following information.
- English Name(s): the most common translations of the card’s title.
- For the trumps, correspondences with the Grand Etteilla and the Tarot de Marseille are listed. These include cards that match either the subject or the keywords.
- The pips have correspondences with the Grand Etteilla and the Petit Etteilla, based on the keywords. Correspondences with the Tarot de Marseille here are self-explanatory.
- Image Description
- Meanings: synonyms for both the upright and reversed keyword.
Some card pages contain Further Notes. This happens when the card image uses specific historical/mythical references (e.g., No. 3 L’Empereur) or when the card has something particularly odd about it (e.g., No. 34 La Servante de Coupe). The trump card pages also include links to the blog posts I made as I was illustrating the cards, which have much the same content but at greater length. The synonyms provided on these pages are a starting point for your readings. You might add more based on either the card’s keyword or picture – be creative!
The deck is based on the 62-card Bolognese tarocchino. In this “little tarot,” pips 2 through 5 are cut from each suit.
Design-wise, the deck has its own charming peculiarities. The one that I used as a reference is an historic version. Current incarnations of the deck are based on similar art, with two changes:
- They are typically double-headed, for easier gaming.
- The Popess, Pope, Empress, and Emperor were changed to four “Moors,” to avoid offending those in power.
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).
Etteilla introduced a system of meanings for every single card in the tarot deck, which shaped divinatory tarot as we know it today (notably, the Smith-Waite tarot). 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.
For the minor arcana, I generally began with the Petit Etteilla meanings, then added some Grand Etteilla meanings as needed to increase variety.
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 Star).
I used the following sources when creating this deck and compiling the meanings.
- Bolognese Tarot “alla Torre,” 17th century <https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105109607/f6.item>
- Etteilla’s Trumps as Interpreted by him and his followers: pictures, translations, commentary by Michael S Howard, 2012 [webpage] <etteillastrumps.blogspot.com>
- “Grand jeu de l’Oracle des dames,” illustrated by G. Regamey and published by Delarue, 1890-1900 [card game] <https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105431874>
- Le grand Etteilla, ou l’art de tirer les cartes et de dire la Bonne Aventure by “Julia Orsini,” 1850 [book] <archive.org/details/b29321220>
- “Petit Etteilla,” published by B.P. Grimaud, 1860-1865 [card game] <https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10543183b?rk=21459;2>
- Tarot in Bologna: Documents from the University Library by Franco Pratesi, 1989 [webpage] <trionfi.com/pratesi-cartomancer>