The Influence of Etteilla &
His School on Mathers & Waite
By James W. Revak



Etteilla apparently was the first to integrate Tarot and astrology.  In the fourth book of Manière de se récréer . . . Tarots (1785/1993), he presented a synthesis of the two, with emphasis on its application to divination.

Specifically, he presented a fairly complex method of conducting a consultation, which employed both Tarot and astrology and required use of his deck.  Etteilla, in both Manière de se récréer . . . Tarots (1785/1993) and his deck (c. 1788/c. 1975), assigned zodiacal correspondences to twelve of the Trumps (see the discussion of Trumps in the main body of this paper and Appendix B) and additional astrological correspondences (including the planets) to the numerical (pip) cards of the suit of Coins (see Table 11).  The correspondences are integral to his deck and essential components of his synthesis.  A brief, simplified summary of his method follows (see Table 12).

Table 11—Selected Astrological
Correspondences from Etteilla’s
Suit of Coins Astrological Correspondence
Ace Sun
Two Mercury
Three Venus
Four Moon
Five Mars
Six Jupiter
Seven Saturn
Eight Head of the Dragon
Nine Tail of the Dragon
Ten Part of Fortune


(a) From Etteilla (1785/1993, c. 1788/c. 1975).  Kaplan (1978) presents different, apparently incorrect, astrological correspondences, for which he cites no source.

Table 12—Summary of Etteilla’s Method for Conducting a Consultation Which Integrated Tarot & Astrology(a)
  1. The querent (consultant) poses a question.
  2. The reader removes from the deck, the zodiacal Trumps and places them clockwise in a circle with Aries at nine o’clock, Taurus at ten o’clock, etc.  He/she uses these Trumps as indicators of the astrological houses into which the remaining cards are placed (see next step).
  3. The reader shuffles the remaining cards and places the first one outside the Trump, which corresponds to the zodiacal sign which the Sun is currently transiting.  This will be known as the first house.  Moving clockwise, he/she then places the next card in the second house by placing it outside the next Trump, etc. until the cards are exhausted.  Concentric circles of cards placed in the twelve houses around the zodiacal Trumps result.
  4. He/she reads the cards by interpreting specified card pairs in a specified order without special reference to astrology.
  5. He/she then notes in which houses the pip cards from the suit of Coins appear.  The astrological symbols from these cards are transferred to a chart where they are placed in the appropriate houses.  Such a chart may show, e.g., that Saturn is in the second house, Venus is in the third house, etc.
  6. The reader interprets the chart according to astrological methods (which are explained in great detail in the text).


(a) Adapted from Etteilla (1785/1993).

In a somewhat heretical move, Etteilla separated astrology from ephemerides and used the astrological houses, planets, etc. as a complex symbol system—not unlike how he treated the Tarot pack (Halbronn, 1992).  Although later occultists discarded the specifics of his system, they did follow his example when they created their own syntheses between Tarot and Astrology.  Such occultists included Christian (1870/1952); Papus (1889/1910, 1909); Mackenzie, to whom the GD Cipher Manuscript (c. 1870/1996) is attributed; Mathers (c. 1888a, c. 1888c); and Wirth (1927/1985).  In his assessment of Etteilla, Hollbronn noted:

“Etteilla places himself within a group of 16th century astrologers, which we have already touched on, and which decided to simplify calculations, without renouncing the use of traditional astrological treatises.  In effect, the French school of astrology followed in the footsteps of Etteilla and elaborated upon his discourse on astrology through the entire 19th century, from Lenain to Christian.”  (p. 9).

He also concluded:

“Eighteenth century French esotericism is not as insignificant as one would like to say.  The School of Etteilla comprises a sufficiently important current on the condition that one not seek to judge it against only the norms of astrology of ephemerides.”  (p. 105).

In light of his synthesis of astrology and Tarot, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate Etteilla’s contributions to Tarot and esotericism in general.

Copyright © 2000 James W. Revak.  All rights reserved.  Version 1.1 (8/19/00).