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



Apparently, contemporary Tarot practitioners use, at least occasionally, some DMs from the SE to this day.  For example, carefully compare the DMs of the SE for the Four of Cups with those of a selection of relatively recent authors.

The School of Etteilla (Papus, 1909):


“This card signifies, with regard to medicine of the mind [i.e. D’Odoucet’s Science des signes, ou médecine de l’esprit (Science of signs, or medicine of the mind)]: Weariness, Displeasure, Discontentment, Disgust, Aversion, Enmity, Hate, Horror, Anxiety, Mental Suffering, Mild Dejection, Vexation, Painful, Annoying, Unpleasant.—Distressing, Troubling.


“New Instruction, New Light.—Sign, Indication, Conjecture.—Omen,
Presage.—Premonition, Prognostication, Prediction, Novelty.”  (p. 135)

Gray, The Tarot Revealed (1960):

“[Upright:] Divinatory Meaning: Discontent with environment, but hesitancy to embark on a new venture.  Contemplation, dissatisfaction with material success, re-evaluation of one’s earthly pleasures.

“Reversed: New instructions, new relationships, novelty.”  (p. 60).

Pollack, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom (1997):


“In the main . . . the card shows a situation when everything in life has come to appear the same.  The card sometimes shows apathy resulting from a dull, unstimulating environment.


“. . . .  New things offered, new relations, new ideas.  Most important, the reversed card shows enthusiasm and the seizing of opportunities.”  (p. 202)

Douglas, The Tarot: The Origins, Meaning and Uses of the Cards (1972):

Upright: Emotional happiness and fulfillment which has reached its peak and can proceed no further.  The establishment of a family.  The passive enjoyment of that which has already been attained.  But the card also indicates a new dissatisfaction which the things of this world cannot assuage.  Fulfillment having been attained, what can follow?  Love is perhaps turning into familiarity.

Reversed: Satiety, excesses of all kinds.  Fatigue or ill-health resulting from over-indulgence.  (p. 165).

Louis, Tarot: Plain and Simple (1998):


“Upright: In a shell.  Dissatisfied.

“Key Words and Phrases: Boredom.  Weariness.  Withdrawal.  Social isolation.  Declining social invitations.  Reassessment.  Reevaluation.  Turning inward.  Apathy.  Walled off.  Lost in thought.  Silence.  Distraction.  Distance.  Anticlimax.  Something is missing.  An empty feeling inside.  Feeling in a rut.  Resentment.  Depression.  Feeling jaded.  Ennui.  Introversion.  Looking within.  Lack of motivation.  Feeling fed up.  Nobody understands me.  The honeymoon is over.  I never promised you a rose garden.  The grass is greener on the other side.  The winter of our discontent.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Four of Cups Reversed: The end of discontent.

“Key Words and Phrases: (+) Renewed relationships with others.  Something to look forward to.  Accepting a social invitation.  Motivation.  Initiative.  Socializing.  Verve.  Readiness for challenge and new opportunities.  Revitalization.  Feeling energized.  Turning outward.  Coming out of your shell.  Letting down the wall.  Satisfaction.  No longer in a rut.

“(-) Self pity.  Fatalism.  Satiety.  Excess.  Apathy.  Lethargy.  Despair.  Depression.  Exhaustion.  Lack of enjoyment.  Lost opportunities.”  (pp. 170-171).

DMs for the upright orientiation from recent authors include weariness and discontentment, which are among the upright DMs from the SE .  Additionally, recent authors often refer to concepts related to weariness and discontent, e.g. ennui, apathy, lack of stimulation, fatigue, and boredom.  DMs for the reversed orientation from recent authors refer to new things or novelty, which are also among the reversed DMs from SE.

Of course, these authors also avoid some DMs from the SE, e.g. hate, horror, omen, and premonition.  They also suggest many DMs which may not be related to those of the SE (at least as found in Papus, 1909), e.g., contemplation, enthusiasm, and seizing opportunities.  However, their repeated use of such themes as weariness, discontentment, and novelty supports the idea that contemporary Tarot practitioners, at least occasionally, use some DMs from the SE to this day.

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