Traditional Tarot

Desultory Notes on the Tarot

Paul-Clément Jagot: Preface to Thylbus: Cards and Tarots: Methods of the Masters of Cartomancy

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Translator’s Introduction

The little work this excerpt has been taken from has had an influence that extends beyond its length. In effect, the book Les Cartes et les Tarots : méthode des maîtres de la cartomancie, by the author who signed Thylbus, first published in 1912, was reprinted quite a few times through the 20th century, and was the chief source of the cartomantic tradition dating back to Etteilla in that century.

Its brief preface by Paul-Clément Jagot, dealing mainly with the form of intuitive inspiration involved in reading cards, was also influential and is mentioned in some of the most unexpected quarters. The pseudonymous author Thylbus is none other than Jagot himself. Paul-Clément Jagot (1889-1962) was one of those French precursors who created a bridge between the occultism of the late 19th century and the nascent self-development movement of the early 20th century, typified by “Positive Thinking”, the Coué method of autosuggestion, and active imagination or guided dreaming; similar to the New Thought movement in the United States.

The work itself consists quite simply of divinatory meanings for the cards of an pack of ordinary playing cards, along with those of the Tarot, understood as the Tarot deck designed by Etteilla, followed by the ways in which the cards may be arranged and questioned. In other words, it is a practical, not theoretical, work, one destined to the cartomancers and the curious. (The appendix, to which we shall return, presents an exception to this characterisation.)

The book was republished at least half a dozen times,but was first published as Traité de cartomancie, ou l’Avenir par les cartes, Eichler, 1912, and later republished as Les Cartes et les tarots, méthode des maîtres de la cartomancie, Drouin, 1924, and continuously reprinted thereafter by Dangles until recently. One of the later editions, which we have consulted for this translation, is available online here. Here we present the preface to this interesting little work.

Cover of an early edition

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Cards and Tarots: Methods of the Masters of Cartomancy

Paul-Clément Jagot

Intuition, clairvoyance, lucidity, these mysterious faculties have barely been touched upon by modern psychology, and yet were widely in use during Antiquity where, in order to provoke manifestations, various so-called divinatory practices were used.

Cartomancy is the simplest and most effective of these methods. It enables everyone to obtain, to a degree relative to their receptivity, the perception of matters situated beyond sensorial perception in time and space.

It develops a certain degree of prescience in everyone.

In the Tarot, the Initiate possesses an admirable symbolism in which his meditations will discover an entire philosophy; a mathematical oracle in which the answers to the most formidable questions are enclosed.

The most humble cartomancer, unconscious handler of the arcana, thanks to the second state in which the traditional ritual places her, realises the necessary psychic conditions in order to grasp the imminent virtualities.

If it is easy for anyone to give themselves a cheap certificate of superiority by criticising the cartomancers and their clientele, it is no less true that the latter is by no means limited to mere mortals alone, but that it also includes fervent devotees ranking among the most enlightened spheres. That is because, in spite of all the mockery and all the short-sighted reasoning, experience shows that by applying the rules of cartomancy, we may truly recover the past, know the present and foresee the future.

The practical manual of divination by cards that I present to the public today and in particular to the readers of my books, was composed according to the most qualified sources. The collaboration of Mr Thylbus – an erudite seeker – and Madame de Karnac – an expert practitioner of fortune-telling, is supplemented by Mercuranus, well-known for his articles in the Voile d’Isis and his alchemical research.

I have read more or less everything that has been published on the subject, and I can say, with the certainty of seeing the reader’s opinion corroborate my own, that no other treatise is at the same time as clear, as complete and as strictly in conformity with the Tradition of the Masters of the Art.

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