Monday, December 7, 2015

Marseilles Tarot Resource List

Marseilles Tarot example card
An example Marseilles Tarot card (Dodal; The Papess). A Wikimedia file



A Marseilles Tarot Resource List


By Viv Dulac


When we think Tarot, we tend to think Rider-Waite-Smith or Thoth, and we forget that before those traditions, there was Marseilles Tarot (also spelt Marseille). After all, outside of the English-speaking world, Marseilles is Tarot. There were also all of those beautiful, mysterious Italian decks - Sola-Busca, Mantegna, Minchiate, and the Visconti ones; but as far as we know it is highly unlikely that they were used for divination at any point.

In any world, however, Marseilles lacks the extensive bibliography and the many resources that other systems have, so for Marseilles lovers, learning can be a frustrating experience. With them in mind, I have tried to assemble a quick list of essential resources and possibilities.

 Let’s get started!


  • In the beginning, even before Court de Gébelin and the Comte de Mellet, there was Jean-Baptiste Alliette (1738 – 1791), better known by his nom de plume, Etteilla; he created the first card deck designed specifically for divination that we know of. If you want to go all Etteilla on your Marseilles, the easiest way could be through consulting Paul Huson’s Mystical Origins of the Tarot. A shorter, easier read is his Dame Fortune’s Wheel extended LWB, available for free through this link. There is also a lot of Huson’s own juicy Tarot knowledge there that will not hurt anybody to study.
  • Paul Marteau’s Le Tarot de Marseille (1949) remains a milestone, although it has of late come under criticism by hard-core Marseillites. A serious critique can be found here. The English translation is, regrettably, very hard to come by. Paris Finley has gleaned and compiled from it a list of keywords available on his website (temporarily down?). It is, in my humble opinion, invaluable, and, for $2, hard to resist. Full disclosure: I bought it!
  • Tarot - the Open Reading, by Yoav Ben-Dov. Ben-Dov studied under Jodorowski but later decided to carve his own path. His book is shorter and much more focused than his mentor’s, and is equally easy to find.
  • Enrique Enríquez has expounded his highly visual and intuitive method in many books. I would recommend starting with Tarology - not the book, but the fascinating documentary made about Enríquez by filmmaker Chris Deleo. It is readily available everywhere, even through iTunes.
  • Last but not least, I would say - if you love your Marseilles cards, just read them using your own system. After all, probably about half or more of the RWS meanings come straight from Etteilla and other traditions. If non-scenic pips do not provide the visual quick you need, you can either choose to read majors only (a time-honored Marseilles tradition, after all) or brush up on your Kabbalah. The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford, by Lon Milo Duquette, is a fun but hardly lightweight way of doing so. Thoth buffs, of course, should have no such problem.

The above list is hardly exhaustive, of course, but it is a start. I hope you find it useful.

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