Jean-Baptiste Alliette - Etteilla

(1738 – 1791)

  Jean-Baptiste Alliette (Etteilla is a pseudonym drawn from his surname) had worked great deal of his life as a merchant but was also the first publicly renown occultist doing card divination.

   His booklet, Etteilla, ou manière de se récréer avec un jeu de cartes (Etteilla, or a Way to Entertain Yourself With a Deck of Cards) in 1770 was the first serious review about cartomancy. He described a method using 32 playing cards with addition of the special "Etteilla" card, using spreads and distinct meanings of the cards depending on reversed/upright position thus laying a foundation of the card divination. He claimed he didn't invent this method by himself but he obtain it from an Italian he met. After publishing the book he earned his living as an author and teacher. In 1781 when Court de Gebelin published an essay about the Tarot cards and connected them to divination, Etteilla promptly released another book Manière de se récréer avec le jeu de cartes nommées Tarots (How to Entertain Yourself With the Deck of Cards Called Tarot) in 1785. It was the first book about the card divination with the Tarot. Etteilla claimed in the book he knew about this kind of divination from 1751, long before that essay was published.

  Etteilla conceded with Monsieur le Comte de Mellet who proposed that along with the Egyptian origin, tarot cards also had strong connection with the Gypsies and that the Tarot cards are imprinted book of Hermes Trismegistus.

   Around 1790 he published Cour théorique et pratique du Livre du Thot, where he tried to interpret the Egyptian book of Thot. This book included his vision of what we today consider Major and Minor Arcana and their connection with four elements and astrology. By the end of his life he succeeded to create his own deck for occult purposes.