Reading the Tarot

By M. K. Van Rensselaer.

To consult the Tarot, the Initiate must invite the Inquirer to designate what the cards are to be asked to reveal, and, as has been mentioned, this calls for the selection of one of the four suits that in this case must be separated from the other leaves. The suit selected must be shuffled thoroughly and cut by the Initiate, who then passes them to the Inquirer, with the request that they be shuffled and cut three times. The cards are then ranged or spread out on a table, after which the Atouts are shuffled and cut according to the above directions, to be dealt according to the rules of the game, remembering that the first card to the left indicates commencement or childhood, the second one to the right and above it is youth or apogee, the third on the right signifies decline or maturity, while the fourth position means old age or fall; in short, past, present, and future.

A simple way of reading the cards is as follows: With the pip (minor arcana) and Atout (major arcana) cards shuffled and cut separately, the Juggler (Magician), or first card of the Atouts, must be taken from the pack and laid in the middle of the table, so that the other cards may be dealt around it; for it represents the Inquirer, and the cards that fall close to it reveal the events in life most nearly connected with him.

After the cards are cut, the Inquirer may select seven cards from the Atouts without looking at them. The Bagatleur represents the Inquirer. Deal four of them one by one, beginning at the left side, so as to fill the following diagram:

I       III


Then take three Atouts, selected without looking at them, and place them in the centre, as follows:


I   V   VII   VI   III


The last three show past, present, and future; the other four indicate the character of the person or the events about which the cards are being consulted. The diagram demands seven Atouts besides the Bagatleur or Inquirer.

Then, without seeing them, twelve pip cards must be taken by the Inquirer from the suit that has been selected, and these must be laid in a circle around those already in place, commencing on the left and working downwards and towards the right. The first card should be next to No. I; the fourth should be under No. IV; the seventh should be opposite to the first one and next to No. III; the tenth should be on the top, above No. II, while the twelfth card falls beside the first one, completing the circle. The Juggler is then supposed to be placed in the middle of the diagram or laid above the circle.

The twelve pip cards indicate the different phases through which the person will pass, or the evolution of the events during the four great periods of life. Commencement is indicated by the Atout in position No. I; apogee, by the Atout in position No. II; decline or obstacle, by the Atout in position No. III, and fall, by the one in position No. IV. Then the three other Atouts indicate the special character of the person; in the past by No. V, in the present by No. VI, in the future by No. VII.

The pip cards should be studied where the future is indicated by the cards in the circle occupying places from seven to twelve, the present by those occupying positions from four to seven, the past by those occupying positions from one to four. (These numbers refer to the positions occupied, and never to the number of the pips on the cards, or to the numbers placed on the Atouts.)

The above is a short and hurried method of consulting the cards, but Etteila had a second one that was used when a whole career was to be revealed, as well as the character, or the influence of education, friends, and family. It also indicated the future position and chief events of life. In short, it was supposed to be a repetition of the scene when a young man, on reaching maturity made a solemn sacrifice in the temple, when the “Tablets of Fate,” that had been inscribed by Nebo, Thoth, or Mercury at his birth, were consulted. In this way their wishes were obtained that should govern his career in life. This ceremony was never repeated, although the orders of the gods were often requested on particular occasions without going through the entire performance or the full consultation that had been made at maturity.

According to Papus, four deals are required for this process of divination, but his methods are unnecessarily complicated, so they may be simplified without altering the results.

Shuffle all the Tarots without making any distinction between the Atout and the pip cards. Let the Inquirer cut them three times, and then cut them in three packets of about equal size. Take the central heap, deal out twenty-six cards, and lay them to the right in a pile. Shuffle those remaining with the rest of the pack, and let them again be cut, and then again cut into three piles. Select the centre and deal seventeen cards, placing them in a pile beside the one containing the twenty-six cards. Shuffle the stock again together, and let them be shuffled and cut as before, taking again the centre packet and dealing eleven cards. Collect the remaining twenty-four cards and put them aside. This is the Widow, or Stock, and these cards represent the events that might have happened in the life of the Inquirer, but were eliminated by luck or chance, and these often prove most interesting.

The first packet, containing the twenty-six cards, represents the soul or the character of the Inquirer, and of those most closely connected with him. The pile containing the seventeen cards represents his mind or the events controlling him. And the pile of eleven cards represents the body, the ills or annoyances of life, or the events to take place, such as the profession to be chosen, the journeys to be taken, with other happenings.

The cards should be spread out on a table, so that they can easily be seen and interpreted according to their value, as given on pages 000-000, the upper row containing the “soul” pile, the second row the “mind” pile, and the third row containing the “body” pile.

“From this system,” says Papus (page 330), “Etteila deduced his subtle arguments upon the creation of the universe, the Kabbalah, and the Philosopher’s stone.” If any person can emulate him in these deductions, they must be “wise in their generation,” and must have established direct communication with the great god Nebo himself, the “writer of the Tablets of Fate.”

For the second deal, the whole pack of seventy-eight cards must be shuffled and cut three times. Deal seventeen cards, laying them on the table face up. Then take the eighteenth card and the seventy-eighth card that should be on the bottom of the pack, and “the meaning of these two cards,” says Papus, “will tell you whether any fluidic sympathetic communication is established between the Initiate and the Inquirer.” Then the seventeen cards laid out can be deciphered and disclosed.

The third deal is “Etteila’s great figure,” which gives the key to the past, present, and future of the person about whose fate inquiry is being made.

Take out the Atout numbered One, or the Juggler. Deal ten cards side by side on the left of the table. Shuffle and cut three times, and then deal ten more across the top. Then shuffle, cut, and deal ten more on the right side, thus forming a hollow square, with the thirty Atout and pip cards falling indiscriminately, but arranged side by side.

Deal thirty cards in a ring in the centre, leaving seventeen cards besides the Juggler, or on one side for the stock, which has the meaning ascribed to it in the other deals.

To read the cards, they must be picked up one by one, beginning with the last one dealt on the right side of the open square and the last one of the ring, explaining their meaning and significance as they are placed together in pairs, and then discarding them entirely. The twenty cards that are first taken up relate to the past.

The next twenty should be lifted in the same way, starting with the top card of the square, and mating it with the one nearest it of the centre circle, which should be the eleventh one dealt. These twenty cards represent the present.

The remaining twenty cards, that should be selected in the same way, foretell the future.

The fourth deal is simple, and through it answers may be obtained to any queries that are put that have not been covered by the three preceding revelations. Shuffle all the cards together and cut three times. Then deal seven cards from right to left and read the answer.

Papus declares that the above system of fortune-telling is based upon Etteila’s method “as given in his Book of Thoth that is very rare,” and that his method has “never before been seriously elucidated by any of his numerous disciples.” Papus, therefore, is one of the first to explain it upon “simple principles,” which, however, require further simplification to be practical, probably owing to some misprints in his volume.

The manner of telling fortunes by cards, according to the supposed rules of the priests of the temple of Thoth, requires a complete pack of Tarots that are at present difficult to obtain. Spanish, French, or picture cards issued for games are without real value or connection with one of the earliest cults of the world. Fortune-telling with cards is useless unless divined through the emblems of Mercury or his predecessor, the great Egyptian god Thoth, by reading the signs and symbols pictured in his Book of Thoth Hermes Trismegistus called

The Tarots.


This is taken from Prophetical, Educational and Playing Cards.





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