Huguenots, Jews, French expulsion and the Marseille sequence


The title is quite a mouthful, and I suppose a whole thesis on various entertwinings could possibly arise out of its myriad aspects.

Of the many reflections we at times make, it occured to me that I do not recall this specific one being discussed here before.

In Freemasonic research, it is sometimes claimed that the mass expulsions of the Huguenots (protestants) from France (especially many coming from the Languedoc region) was a real boon for the development of Freemasonry in the lowland countries (Holland and others) and Britain.

The dates certainly coincide, for Louis XIV gave the Huguenots a short time to convert to Catholicism or leave - and that in 1685.

Only a few short years before - years which already yielded numerous troubles - saw the earliest extant specifically 'Marseille' pattern, the Chosson, produced in Marseilles in 1672.

Also of interest are that many Jews who went to the southern French areas following the Spanish expulsion in the late 16th century have at times been said to be indeed close to the Huguenots in many ways. Indeed, one of the central Huguenot 'shields' was of the Burning Bush.

A rapport between the Jewish communities of the French southern towns and the likewise enquirings minds of the Huguenots may have yielded more than we may yet realise. It is of course very interesting that the Huguenots are also said to have had significant influence in the development of Accepted Freemasonry (ie, not those who actually worked the stone, but who worked with its symbols emblemetically), and the later developments of Tarot's 're-discovery' from the southern parts of France by the Comte de Mellet and De Gebelin, as well as again later by Eteilla and even later by Levi - all, indeed, Freemasons (by presumably not Huguenots).

Specifically of interest is also the possibility that a number of Jewish immigrants to Southern France may have at least outwardly adopted a protestant mantle - for their own safety.

What I here tentatively suggest is that the specifically Marseille pattern arose out of Jewish-Huguenot considerations, utilising a series of images already in existence, but re-organising it according to the Hebrew alphabet as suggested it reflects by Mark Filipas, at a time of rich cross-fertilisation between the Jewish immigration to the Languedoc region and their partial adoption and cross influence with Huguenot protestant inquiries.

Of initial interest may be Abraham Lavender's paper 'SEARCHING FOR CRYPTO-JEWS IN FRANCE:
', which goes a little into the area (not into Tarot, by the way).

Apart from the possibilities in this opening discussions in areas of Huguenot scholarship (which is far from my area of expertise), it may also bring back some of the local lore connections which may also be indirectly made of the Languedoc area's vast traditions, much of which may only indirectly play into the development of Tarot.


To further assist the connection, by the way, a further short note may be made that there is a long tradition of 'playing cards to tell stories from the Torah' to hide one's Jewish identity in places in which it was claimed to be unacceptable...

As a short aside, here is a short article on the matter :)


Huguenots and cards : interdiction


Your thesis is interesting.
Nevertheless, this point of view is in contradiction with a specific Huguenot prohibition :
"interdiction de la danse, des jeux (cartes, dés, tarots)."


Reference :

Révocation de l'édit de Nantes. 1685 -17-10 édit de Fontainebleau : il interdit tout exercice public du culte, les protestants ne peuvent pratiquer aucune religion " en attendant qu'il plaise à Dieu de les éclairer comme les autres ". Les ministres du culte sont bannis sous 15 jours ; mais ceux qui acceptent de se convertir bénéficient de faveurs. Il est interdit aux protestants de quitter le pays (les hommes pris aux frontières sont envoyés aux galères, les femmes au couvent ou en prison). Émigration : 260 000 (surtout de 1679 à 1700, mais se poursuit jusqu'en 1763). Départs par régions (en %) : Bassin parisien 50 ; Normandie, Dauphiné, Saintonge 40 ; Vivarais, Cévennes 10. Recensés à l'étranger (pays du 2e refuge) :États-Unis 10 000 (en majorité : Caroline du Sud), Suisse 22 000, Allemagne 30 000 (en 1870, 21 généraux allemands sur 144 commandant des unités engagées en France portaient des noms à consonance française), Angleterre 40 000, Hollande 70 000 (40 % des pasteurs), autres pays 2 000 (dont Afrique du Sud 97 familles), soit au total 170 000. Une régie des biens des fugitifs est instituée en 1690 (devenue 1790 Régie des biens nationaux). Après la victoire protestante en Angleterre (1688), beaucoup profiteront, pour partir, d'un relâchement aux frontières dû aux hostilités. A Paris, à la fin 1685, 16 000 (sur 30 000) protestants partent, 7 300 se sont convertis dont 300 notables (dont les banquiers Samuel Bernard, Crozat frères, Legendre frères). En janvier 1686, il reste seulement 45 protestants déclarés, mais il y a de nombreuses fausses conversions et un culte clandestin. Le culte luthérien est toutefois maintenu durant tout l'ancien régime à la chapelle de l'Ambassade de Suède.

Quelques traditions huguenotes. Temples anciens : 4 plans : rectangulaire (Charenton), circulaire (Lyon), octogonal (La Rochelle), ovale (Dieppe). Tenue des pasteurs : semblable à celle des gens d'Église et de robe. Titre officiel :" fidèle ministre du St Évangile " (FMDSE). Contraste avec les catholiques : fréquentation du temple (les Parisiens vont à Charenton) ; refus de tout divertissement le dimanche, de participer aux fêtes religieuses cath. (notamment de décorer les maisons en cas de procession), de prêter serment sur la Croix et de posséder un crucifix ; interdiction de la danse, des jeux (cartes, dés, tarots), de la mascarade. Comparution des coupables d'adultère ou de rixes devant le consistoire.


Re: Huguenots and cards : interdiction

Namadev said:
Reference :

Révocation de l'édit de Nantes. 1685 -17-10 édit de Fontainebleau : il interdit tout exercice public du culte, les protestants ne peuvent pratiquer aucune religion "

my unused skill of speaking spanish gets me through some of this- but I can't follow it......

I am quite interested in the Huguenot-
My grandmother has traced our family history and one of the 'lines' she talks about is the Huguenot. I knew they where french- but nothing else... I could only find ancestors residing in other countries- it confussed me.....but now I know and now I want to know more- ESPECIALLY if they are big players of tarot!!! {this is about just as much as a delight when we discovered relations to John Alden & Pricilla Mullins}{{geez- my family tree has a seriouse problem with religious persecutions and exodus!}}


Some of the list Namadev brings are some of the considerations which precisely lead me to further investigate possible connections.

(I'll translate Alain's post anon., by the way lunalafey, but it basically outlines the interdiction of being protestant and the migrations or conversions which arose as a consequence. The last paragraph mentions that they, as part of their own tradition, were not allowed to dance nor play dice, cards nor Tarot. Huguenots history and research has come quite a long way over the past decade, and it would be well worth the effort to trace trends in the region of consideration.)

Now, if there was indeed already some established clandestine custom amongst some Spanish diasporic Jews to 'pretend' to play cards as a means to retell stories from the Torah - despite their own internal interdiction for graven imagery (which of course is not reflected in some wonderful manuscripts of the period) - then it may likewise have been 'adopted' by Huguenots deciding to remain in situ: what better way to 'prove' you had converted - and yet not use the deck for playing at all.

The cards may then have been used precisely as emblems from which fuller allegories may have been narrated.

Of course, what is interesting of the period is that not only was there a close connection between Navarre and the Medici (and hence, as a threefold connection, a 'link' between northern Italy, the heretical languedoc region and the French throne), but also that the rich diversity and needs as to how to mask, yet reveal, one's own identity may have been eased by such developments as the Marseille Tarot.

It is also interesting, as a sideline, that it is the Huguenot De Gebelin who brings back to popular consciousness Tarot. I have at times seriously wondered whether he may have been aware of 'earlier' depictions than the Marseille, but for some reasons best known to himself purposefully overlooked the same in favour of precisely this sequence.

Of note too, by the way, is the peculiar depiction upon the Huguenot 'coin' which gave its beholder access to the communion - which I have attached to a post I recently made in the Maison Diev thread.

I am not suggesting that Tarot arose out of this, by the way. As a spiritual impulse, I primarily see Tarot reflected in the Stone Masons' (or 'tailleurs de pierre') work upon Ile de France Cathedrals, specifically the 'Light' Notre Dame cathedrals of Chartres, Amiens, Paris and Rheims.

From hence, its development into what we see in its conjunction with Mamluk decks in, of extant materials, the northern Italian Visconti-type decks, and then its now famous establishment into the familiar Marseille pattern.

I suppose that, for me, this specific pattern, from which all other Tarot have their genesis, needs to be somehow explained.

What I am proposing here - and of course tentatively, though with the enthusiasm of dicsovery - is this possible connection between the Jewish and Huguenot acquisition for reasons of their own...

Much is actually explained, it seems, by considering this possibility.


What you say has earlier historical parallels.

JMD states:

Of course, what is interesting of the period is that not only was there a close connection between Navarre and the Medici (and hence, as a threefold connection, a 'link' between northern Italy, the heretical languedoc region and the French throne), but also that the rich diversity and needs as to how to mask, yet reveal, one's own identity may have been eased by such developments as the Marseille Tarot.
I'm not really as well-suited to give numerous examples yet, but I've been finding one or two art links that the earlier influx of Hebrew-speaking scholars and Jewish merchants/money lenders in the Ferarra communities might have appeared in the art. Certainly there was one supposed citation of Ercole D'Estensi playing cards with a Jewish merchant on a houseboat/barge--whether it was tarot or not, there may be more interaction in Ercole's long reign than I was able to see in conservative Leonello or celibate/church-oriented was Ercole's mother's supposed link to the French regions that allowed for the Fleur de Lys of France to become one part of the insignia's of the Estensi. I believe that would be after 1470...

The Medici were very proud of their links to the French origins, at least they referenced it in one historical negotiation before Italy was invaded in 1494....

And while not directly related to the later periods, given the Jewish populations did have a strong part in the economic balance of Ferarra...although the bitter preaching of Savanarola and the backlash of the Reformation led to terrible injustices, in prior regimes (Niccolo, Leonello and Borso), there was some recordings of the Jewish population being valued, even protected a little from some excess intolerance. A few instances in Ercole times came under the Count Matteo Boiardo in Reggio.

I wouldn't exclude someone uncovering art and card influence from the Jewish population in the proud old Italian family of Ferarra (Ercole was bitterly relunctant to have his son marry the illigetimate twice-married daughter of the Pope)...well, perhaps it might suggest a stronger relational and international pattern than first supposed in many historical tarot pattern developments...

Some meandering threads..hopeful they are helpful.

Cerulean Mari


What would be the significance of a card like V The Pope in such a scenario, I wonder?


'The Pope???

Why of course, we are Catholics!'

...have they left? Good!

'Now as I was saying, God has given the Covenant of the Commandments to the Israelites, and given afresh the New Covenant in the Moshiach/Messiah.'

May be worth also looking at the thread in the Marseilles section on V Le Pape, and the image I attach in the third post in that thread - 'God'.

Of course, all I am doing here is show how the card could not only easily be justified and be seen in ways other, perhaps even opposite ways, to the ways in which it would be viewed through Catholic eyes.

I am not claiming that this IS the way it was perceived, rather than it would not have been a problem. God the Father ('Pope'/'Pape' comes from 'Father'), as possibly interpreted within this card, is consistent with the hypothesis :)


Though I realise what I am about to write is not at question, and does not really provide any additional evidence for the thesis, it is interesting to read the opening of the (modern - but essentially not too different) recent 'Huguenot' views expressed on Prophesies of the Messiah:
  • Christians owe the Jews a tremendous debt. It was the Jewish people through whom God first revealed himself, and their faithful preserved God's revelation. It was from the Jewish people that the Christ (from the Greek for 'annointed' = Hebrew 'messiah') came.

    In token of repayment of that debt, we provide here some of the prophecies of the Messiah from the Jewish Scriptures (RSV), in the hope that they can someday come to share fully in the greatest of almighty God's gifts, Christian faith.