Rabelais and Tarot


Google is ever a potent ally, a very present help in times of trouble.

There is a chapter of Rabelais that lists all of Gargantua's favourite games online here. Unfortunately the list doesn't tell much about what Gargantua did with the cards. This French book also came up. The blurb seems to put forth a new-to-me esoteric theory involving Bacchus and the Sileni as being related to the Tarot in Rabelais' book.

IIRC, Uncle Al got his famous line "Do what thou wilt" from Rabelais, where it translates his line "Fay ce que voudras." This was the motto of an Abbey of Thélème in Rabelais, which was the inspiration for Crowley's Abbey of Thelema at Cefalù.


I don't think the odds are that great that I will be reading Graal et Tarot anytime soon. Esoteric French books are not that easy to come by in Indiana, I fear. I would very much like to know more about the theory involving Rabelais and Bacchus being involved with Tarot.

A Google search on Rabelais and the Triumph of Bacchus brings forth a wad of references to Sir Francis Dashwood, founder of the Hellfire Club and another influence on Aleister Crowley. An English etext of Gargantua and Pantagruel can be had from Gutenberg.


Not only is the Tarot mentioned by Rabelais, but one of the early figures so reminiscent of the Fou is there: the Colporteur!

With regards to Crowley's reference to Rabelais, I know not whether he explicitly referred to him, but he could have presumed that many would have read Rabelais's (1530s!) Gargantua and Pantagruel... how things have changed over merely one century!

In case I didn't attach it in that thread, here is the Colporteur:


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Diana said:
Well, I am more and more convinced that Tarot and Free Masonry are historically linked together - kind of members of the same family. Whether the blood-line is direct, or if they became family through adoption, I have not made up my mind yet.
My suspicion would that both Tarot and Freemasonry stem from similar sources in the common symbolic language of European guild pageantry.

The relationship of the Tarot trumps to symbolic triumphs of the Renaissance has been the subject of extensive commentary. My understanding is that Masonic ritual and imagery originated in a similar milieu, in the guilds of skilled masons, the people who carved and built the cathedrals and filled them with symbols as well.

While it might be anachronistic to project "esoteric" or "magical" motives into this symbolic language, a high degree of symbolic literacy was obviously demanded of the people who built those churches. This symbolic language proved attractive to others long after the guild had served its purpose. It is no surprise that they spoke different dialects of the same language.


It is interesting to also note that the two St John's have their festive days coinciding with the Solstices, and that, therefore, there also develops another connection between Christianity, Mithraism and Dionysian mysteries.

As ihcoyc mentioned, Freemasonry and Tarot appear to arise out of a similar milieu but, as an analogy, just because the Golden Dawn and the Theosophical Society arise at around the same time and within a 'similar' milieu doesn't mean that there is a closely interweaved connection.

Freemasonic symbolism is clearly different to Tarot iconography.