Traditional Tarot

Desultory Notes on the Tarot

Mercuranus: The Minor Arcana of the Tarot

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Translator’s Introduction

Previously, we published the preface to the book Les Cartes et les Tarots : méthode des maîtres de la cartomancie, by the author who signed as Thylbus, first published in 1912. That little book contained an intriguing appendix, the only theoretical part of the work, by the pseudonymous author Mercuranus, none other than Patrice Genty, alias Basilide.

Patrice Genty (1883-1964), an inspector for the national gas company of France, was a 20th century author interested in esoteric matters; a member and later leader of the Gnostic Church founded by Jules Doinel, he wrote works on Gnosticism, the Templars, the Celtic tradition, and two books on the Tarot, as well as a number of articles on alchemy and other topics for the occultist periodicals of the time. Some of his works have been republished in French, and a biography may be found here (in French).

This brief appendix is worth considering, treating as it does of the much-neglected Minor Arcana, as well as elemental, seasonal and astrological attributions. We have already published excerpts from the works of Gérard Van Rijnberk and Jean Chaboseau in this respect, so it is not without interest to pursue this examination with the following text. Readers will note that the division of the four suits into either active or passive categories according to their design – a straight line or a curve – is attributable to none other than Eudes Picard.

Patrice Genty would later continue his investigations into the Tarot in two short but dense books, Le Profond Mystère du Tarot Métaphysique (1929) and Le Symbolisme du Tarot (1942), both published under the hieronym Basilide, but the burgeoning ideas he had on the Minor Arcana are already present, in nuce, in this appendix. The later edition of this book, which we have consulted for this translation, is available online here.

Various editions of Les Cartes et les Tarots

* * *

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot

Mercuranus

(Patrice Genty)

The Tarot that is most often used is composed of 78 cards, divided as follows:

  • 22 major arcana;
  • 4 x 10 or 40 cards in 4 series numbered from 1 to 10;
  • 4 x 4 or 16 figures.

The Tarot therefore enables the study of transformations (40) of 22 principles and of their realisation in the material world (42). (*)

The minor arcana are subdivided into 4 groups:

Staffs, Cups, Swords, Coins.

The Staff is the active principle: schematised by a vertical line; the Cup, the passive principle, schematised by a horizontal line; the Sword, their union, schematised by a cross; the Coin, the product of this union, is schematised by a circle.

The set is therefore schematised by a cross inscribed within a circle.

In other words, the Staff symbolises action; the Cup, the motive for the action (passion); the Sword the struggle to execute the action, and the Coin, the product, the result of the action.

We could indicate other schemas. The Staff is a straight line; the Coin a closed curve; the Sword and the Cup are mixed, and are composed of straight lines and curves.

Many correspondences have been established between the minor arcana and the elements. All these may be justified, according to the point of view concerned. From the divinatory point of view, the Staff corresponds to fire; the Sword to water; the Cup to air; and the Coin to earth.

 

Note

  • This figure of 42 may be a typo since Genty states elsewhere that it is the deck of ordinary playing cards that represents realisation in the material world, in which case the correct figure ought to be 52, for a standard deck of playing cards, or 32, for a stripped deck of piquet cards. However, the number 42 occupies a special place in the Egyptian, Kabbalistic and Pythagorean traditions, and it is possible that this is what Genty had in mind instead, without specifying the matter further. – Trans.

 
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