This deck brings back memories of when I purchased my first tarot deck, many years ago. I almost bought this deck instead of the Waite-Smith because I felt it had better art. The only thing that stopped me was that there was no separate book available for it. I still think it has better art, but I now know that it is on the very edge of what can properly be called Tarot. It does have 78 cards, and its creator is usually mentioned in any detailed history of the Tarot. Etteilla, a French wigmaker whose name was in fact Alliette, helped to popularize the Tarot. He devised his own "rectified" Tarot deck, which had some unorthodox changes that fortunately did not catch on. He added cards for each of the elements, assigned card number 1 to be the male significator and 8 to be the female significator, assigned zodiac symbols and upright and reversed interpretations to each card. The interpretations are purely predictive in nature and some of them are quaint. The card pictured to the right has the following interpretations:
The art in this deck is good. It is more detailed than the Waite-Smith and has better color. The scenes on those cards that have them are rather small due to the large border required for the interpretations on the top and bottom of each card in English and French, with additional information sometimes being provided in the left and right margins. The cards themselves are 4 3/4" X 2 1/2", but the scenes are 1 5/8 X 3 1/8. Most of the Major Arcana have been changed, though the scenes are recognizable. Card 78 - Madness is recognizable as The Fool, even being assigned the number 0 in addition to its card number. Card 14, Violence, is clearly The Devil, and Card 5, Voyage, is obviously The World. Many of the Major Arcana are recognizable by scene, if not by interpretation. The Court cards are King, Queen, Knight and Jack. The Court cards also have upright and reversed meanings written on the cards. Sometimes they are interpreted as people and sometimes as events. Some of the Majors are recognizable, others are peculiar to this deck. The first 12 cards are also assigned the signs of the zodiac, the days of creation, the elements, and time (day or night). The suits are Sticks, Cups, Swords and Shields, though the shields are variously called by other names such as sequins and ducats.
The booklet that comes with the deck provides more detailed interpretations like the one above, as well as several complex reading methods and spreads. The changes Etteilla made in order to "correct" the deck make it so different that it is really stretching to call this a tarot deck at all. A divination deck, yes, but Tarot, probably not. I include this review because of the decks historical importance, both to Tarot development and to me personally. I recommend this deck for those interested in the history of Tarot and its development.
The Grand Etteilla: Ou Tarots Egyptiens
Available from US Games Systems, 179 Ludlow St., Stamford CT, 06902, (800) 544 - 2637, Fax (203) 353 -8431.
Copyright 1996/97 Michele Jackson