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Interpreting Minors in Marseilles Decks

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I would suggest that Lee's post of today stay in this thread, even though his approach doesn't use the pictorial elements of the Tarot de Marseille.

Many tarotists using the TdM interpret the pip cards based on an approach based on number, suit (or suit and element), AND pictorial details. By using the pictorial elements, you better utilize the unique genius of the Tarot de Marseille. And this is the approach I personally favour.

However, the number/suit/pictorial element approach isn't the only possible approach to the TdM pip cards. Alain Brêthes' voluminous _L'interprétation des arcanes mineurs: des Nombres et des Quatre Élements_ uses strictly a number, suit/element approach to the Tarot de Marseille pip cards.

Moreover, there is no functional reason why the TdM can't be used to retrofit Etteilla or GD/RWS/Thoth meanings for the pip cards. Many of the Order of Golden Dawn members used decks with non-illustrated pip cards such as the TdM, Wirth or Italian decks. Also, it should be noted that the picture cards of the RWS minor arcana show only a subset and not the full set of possible GD meanings for the cards; thus, it can be more liberating and less confusing to use a deck such as the TdM. In his GD-based books on tarot, Gareth Knight's deck of choice (besides his own co-created deck) was the Tarot de Marseille.

Lee ... If your post of today ends up staying on this thread, I suggest that you also copy and paste the post and start new thread in the forum Using Tarot Cards, as this could benefit those who use other tarot decks (besides the TdM) that don't have fully illustrated pips.
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Re: Aaaaahhhhhh.....


Quote:
Originally posted by Moonbow*
Are there not rules?
There are no rules.
Quote:
Originally posted by Moonbow*
Can we pick up any style of card and read just as we like??
Yes.

With the RWS deck, the author (Waite) left us with a book (a rather obscure one, but anyway) which gives us his guidance for divinatory meanings for the cards of his deck. One may agree or disagree with his meanings, but at least we have something to go by, something to start with.

With the Marseilles and other antique decks, there really is no set-in-stone method or rule of how one should read them. There are various traditions of divinatory meanings, but all of them were created centuries after the decks in question were printed, so none of them can be thought of as authoritative in the same way that Waite's is authoritative for his own deck. This is liberating but at the same time difficult, because we have nothing to guide us or to provide a jumping-off place except the suits and the numbers.

There's nothing particularly sacred about the suit meanings, either. Element-based meanings are common nowadays but there's no reason that one couldn't use any meanings one liked for the suits, for example enjoyment for Cups, violence for Batons, craftsmanship for Swords, etc.

Quote:
Originally posted by Diana
If someone wants to read the RWS way, then why should they read with a non-illustrated deck? Isn't one of the reasons one wants to read with a non-illustrated deck is to get away from these meanings?
One justification for bringing in RWS elements is that, as I wrote in my post, I'm looking at reading with several non-illustrated decks, not just the Marseilles, and this means I can't rely on pictorial elements on the Marseilles pips to help lend some individualization to the suit+number meanings. So by bringing in the RWS elements, it helps to make up for that. For example, one would be hard-pressed to find pictorial meaning in the Prediction pips (I think Diana would agree ).

-- Lee
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Quote:
Originally posted by Rusty Neon
Lee ... If your post of today ends up staying on this thread, I suggest that you also copy and paste the post and start new thread in the forum Using Tarot Cards, as this could benefit those who use other tarot decks (besides the TdM) that don't have fully illustrated pips.
I agree, but I'd like to get some feedback from moderators before doing so, since technically posting the same post in different forums is (I think) violative of forum rules. Moderators, what do you think?

-- Lee
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There is no separate study group for the Tarot de Marseille. It is merged into the History and Iconography forum. I think it's a good idea for the study of the TdM to remain in the H&I forum, as there is some overlap with History and Iconography, and it's nice to find most of the TdM posts in one place. However, the overlap isn't 100 percent and there are many approaches to the TdM that are not strictly historical or iconographic. While the general historic/iconographic theme of the H&I forum needs to be respected for posts generally, posts about the use of the TdM for divination (e.g., Lee's post of today) should be permitted in the H&I forum even if the post isn't dealing with history or iconography. In fact, we've been told that the reason why there is no study group for the TdM is that it's _already here_ on the H&I forum. Thus, let Lee's post of today remain on this thread (with permission for Lee to cross-post, of course). Thanks.
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Lee: perhaps a solution which would get all members to see this thread, and also not do the cross-posting thingy (which creates confusion on the boards, according to past experience which is why there is a rule like this), would be to make a thread in the minors giving them a link to this thread? That way they can also enjoy the whole of this thread from the beginning to the end? And give them an opportunity to visit this particular forum, which is unfortunately not visited by most members.
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Re: Aaaaahhhhhh.....


Quote:
Originally posted by Moonbow*
While I think its a great idea to have combined meanings (it would certainly make my life easier in the long run) can we do this? Are there not rules? Can we pick up any style of card and read just as we like? I know this may be correct for oracles but with Tarot - I thought there was something static about it. Am I wrong?
I think the best way to find out is to experiment. It's like anything scientific (and Tarot is in my mind just as scientific as anything else). You need to experiment, experiment, experiment.

Never believe anything that people tell you without proving it for yourself. (Of course, there are cases where it is hard to prove and where we must have blind faith - like I don't know how a car works, but I trust the car-maker does.)

But with Tarot it is easy for you to make your own experiments - basing yourself, if necessary, on other people's experience.

No, there are no rules - except the ones you make. If you don't have some rules to go by, some framework, then you're going to have some pretty odd readings. But your framework can be big or small, depending on who you are and your needs and tastes.
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Some conventions - reading Major and Minor Arcana


As others have noted, there are no rules for the interpretation of the cards of the Tarot de Marseille. However, there have been conventions floating around for the interpretation of the 78 cards of the TdM deck since at least the time of Paul Marteau's book published in the 1940s. Those conventions are oftentimes based on traditional significances, e.g., meaning of right and left, top and bottom, etc.

Sédillot in her _Ombres et lumières_ book has admirably tabled some of those conventions.

Right / Left --
Clarify which side is right and which side is left. Do we mean right or left hand side as seen by the person looking at the upright card (i.e., the "mirror" viewpoint) or, alternatively, as seen by the person in the card (i.e., the subject's viewpoint)?

In his book, Marteau uses a hybrid approach: When it comes to hands and other body parts of a subject, Paul Marteau determines right versus left by reference to the subject's viewpoint. However, when determining which direction the subject is facing towards or moving towards, Marteau uses the mirror viewpoint.

But feel free to use your own methods.

RIGHT:
Masculine
Becoming
Action
The Future
Reason
Consciousness
Movement
Going Towards
The Father
Authority
Dynamic
Will, Assurance, Security
Being decisive and decided
Presence of desire to win and to conquer

LEFT:
Feminine
Passive
Receptive
Listening
Availability
Remembering
Experience
The Past
Intuition
Unconsciousness
The Mother
Origin
Childhood
Interiorization, Introspection, Reflection
Presence of affective desire; Presence of need to share

TOP:
Heaven
Propulsion
Rising
The Spirit
Spiritual World
Leaving or fleeing reality
Progression

BOTTOM:
The Ground
The Earth
Matter
The base/support of all earthly destinies

STANDING:
Movement

SEATED:
Slowness
Calm
Reflection
The will is concentrating itself; Activity is interior

KNEELING:
Attitude of prayer, humility or submission
Meeting with the ground or the earth

There are various other conventions too, which we can get to as time permits.
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I love you Rusty

This is all the sort of info I need. I can be more intuitive when I have some background. I really need to print this whole thread now!

Moonbow*
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I'm quoting Diana from another thread, because for me to reply in that thread would have taken that thread entirely off-topic.

Quote:
Originally posted by Diana
Interesting point here, firestorm. It made me think of when one learns a language - let's say German - (Tarot is a kind of language, isn't it?) If we want to learn how to conjugate, for instance, and in order to understand the German conjugation, we decide to go for help in French, Japanese and Russian grammar books - we're going to end up very confused indeed.

It can be interesting and even fascinating to study how different languages conjugate their verbs - but one cannot transpose their rules into other languages.

Which is probably why I feel so strongly against transposing Rider Waite meanings onto the Marseilles cards. Wrong conjugation.
Diana:

I know I said that I wouldn't argue if one wanted to say that using elements of RWS meanings for interpreting Marseilles decks resulted in an ill-bred hybrid, but I just can't resist.

I don't agree with the analogy of Tarot decks with languages. A method of interpreting a deck does not have the same relation to the deck itself as a language's grammar has to the language. To say that it does is to make an unsupported assumption, which is that one's own method of interpretation has been specifically designed for that deck by the deck's creator, and that it is inextricably linked to that deck the same way a language's grammar is linked to the language, and that it is the single correct linkage, and that any other method of interpretation is false.

I can understand and sympathize with the feeling one must have when one has spent years developing one's own interpretation method, and feels so comfortable with it that any other method is inconceivable. But it seems to me that "Wrong conjugation" has a ring of dogmatism to it that I'm sure, Diana, you didn't mean.

Let's examine the whole process of interpretation. In the Marseilles, where the pip designs were not created specifically to suggest divinatory meanings (DMs) as the RWS pictures were, we cannot rely on the pictures alone to provide DMs. (I suppose it's possible to do that, but I think there are not many people who would prefer to work that way.) Therefore we must bring in some correspondences with other systems. These other systems could include:

straight numerology
numerology derived from the Majors
numerology derived from Qabala
astrology
traditional cartomantic meanings (including Etteilla-based meanings)

and various combinations thereof. (Actually, I shouldn't say "straight numerology," because there must always be some outside consideration applied to the numbers in order to give them meaning, whether it be geometry, the shape of the Arabic numerals, etc.)

Now, as I understand it, Diana, you personally use a combination of pictorial details on the cards and numerology derived from the Majors. The Golden Dawn favored a system which included numerology derived from Qabala, astrology, and traditional cartomantic meanings. Waite derived his designs from the Golden Dawn system.

So my question is, why, Diana, is your system of pictorial-details-plus-numerology-derived-from-Majors necessarily the right conjugation, while the Golden Dawn system of numerology-derived-from-Qabala-plus-astrology-plus-cartomancy is the wrong conjugation? I fail to grasp the intrinsic superiority of one approach over the other, unless it's simply that you feel more comfortable with yours, which is perfectly fine for you, but not quite enough of a justification to declare any other approach a "wrong conjugation."

It may seem as if a system which uses meanings for the numbers derived from the Majors is a more self-referential, self-contained, and thus preferable system to use. I have been in the habit of thinking so myself. However, if one examines this approach, it becomes clear that when we use the Majors to determine the meanings of the numbers, we're still using an arbitrarily-defined set of definitions. In other words, we're not really using the Marseilles Majors. We're using our interpretations of the Marseilles Majors. And since, as we all know, there is no one set of Major interpretations which is the "correct" one, and since we don't know precisely how people in the 1500s or 1600s or 1700s interpreted them (we can guess but we can't be sure), and since we don't even have any evidence to say that it even occured to these people to interpret the Tarot esoterically, we have to acknowledge that our personal interpretations of the Majors are just that, personal. Also, we have no evidence to say that people interpreting pip cards in those eras (even assuming they did such a thing at all) would have used meanings derived from the Majors, or would have felt that such meanings were any more valid than, say, astrologically-derived meanings.

Using this reasoning, I've come to the conclusion that in the end, much as we might like to think otherwise, any method of interpreting the pip cards is going to involve an equally arbitrary and personal assignment of correlations.

Even if we were to go strictly by the pictorial details and nothing else, who is going to say which interpretive paradigms are the correct ones? As Rusty Neon points out in this or another thread, how do we even know, when assigning meaning to whether a pictorial element points or faces left or right, whether we should be looking at orientation according to the viewer or according to the subject?

Numerology based on Major meanings and numerology based on Qabala are just two different kinds of numerology. Put in its simplest terms, the Golden Dawn -- and therefore the RWS -- system boils down to using numerology, as does Diana's approach. It seems to me that numerology-plus-pictorial-details is just as awkward a fit, or as graceful, as numerology-plus-astrology-plus-cartomancy.

-- Lee

EDITED TO ADD: I'm grateful to Diana, because responding to her post has given me the opportunity to think more about these things than I would have otherwise. This to me shows the great benefit of the Aeclectic forums -- it gives me the opportunity to challenge myself to see broader horizons and, hopefully, to grow.
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Quote:
Originally posted by Lee
But it seems to me that "Wrong conjugation" has a ring of dogmatism to it that I'm sure, Diana, you didn't mean.
Ah Lee! I certainly didn't think before making my post "how can I be dogmatic?", but I reckon the intention was there all the same -

You know what I'm like when it comes to such matters.....

Will get back to your post later (I'm at work right now - yes on a Sunday. ).
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