Traditional Tarot

Desultory Notes on the Tarot


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Book Review: Marcel Lecomte on Paul Marteau: Le Tarot de Marseille

Paul Marteau, Le Tarot de Marseille, 1949.

Translator’s Introduction

Following on from a first piece on the Tarot by Marcel Lecomte, Tarot Vertigo, we present his book review of Paul Marteau’s classic work, Le Tarot de Marseille, published a couple of years after the first article. A third article, Exegetes of the Tarot, is published here. One will note the repeated insistence on the importance of Jean Paulhan’s preface, which likewise has been translated here.

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Paul Marteau: Le Tarot de Marseille,

préface de Jean Paulhan, Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 1949.

Marcel Lecomte

What makes the problem of the Tarot fascinating is incontestably the link that is established, through the interpretation of the cards, with a Reality that appears to deliver up to us its secret dialectic. It seems that, thanks to the cards, this Reality must open itself up to us in its true unfolding. These cards are a sort of grid, placed onto the world, which responds to the stimulation of the grid. Thus it is no longer a question of knowing if the cards tell the truth, but rather, to what extent they tell that truth.

Jean Paulhan has written a preface for this book in which he adopts a point of view on the Tarot that is outside all esotericism. He wishes to treat of the Tarot in much the same way, more or less, as he would of a language. But he devises these traps and these tricks wherein we find his Taroist position, this bias of attention and distraction by which the mind gives itself its penetration, its surprise.

The Tarot signifies for those who observe Reality. Moreover, it would seem that the singular error of the Marxists, at least those of today, is precisely to not know, or to fail to acknowledge, that everything always exists, that the dialectic they continually put forward never prevents it from integrating into its movement such facts, such structures, as are connected to “lost and recreated secrets”, and on which, for their part, they refuse to meditate, to return to, but these secrets catch up with them, sometimes quite curiously, in the heart of History.

M. L.

84, n° 14, September 1950.

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Marcel Lecomte: Tarot Vertigo

Translator’s Introduction

The Belgian writer and Surrealist, Marcel Lecomte (1900-1966), like many of his contemporaries, had an abiding interest in the Tarot, an interest reflected in his writings. In addition to a volume of Tarotic poems, illustrated by Pierre Alechinsky, Le Sens des Tarots,  Lecomte wrote – and rewrote – a number of texts on the subject, including a book review of Paul Marteau’s Le Tarot de Marseille, an overview of Surrealism and the Tarot, and a couple of other brief texts, often recycling his thoughts and formulations. This piece, published in the first post-war Surrealist journal, is one of the earliest of such writings, and gives a succinct view of his poetic and insightful take on the Tarot.

Le Sens des Tarots, illustration by Pierre Alechinsky, 1948.

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Tarot Vertigo

Marcel Lecomte

When the Tarot cards form the outline of a personal destiny, they are, for me, like a sort of grid placed on top of Reality, on all the infinite complexity of Reality. This Reality reacts, responds to the provocation of the cards in the secret measure of the outline of the grid.

The problem of individual destiny is a mathematical mystery, for the nuance of interpretation of each card and of the cards connected to each other is such that it is no longer a question of knowing if the cards tell a truth, but rather, to what extent they tell that truth.

We also come to think that it is not enough to name a truth in order to say it.

By establishing an attentive examination of a destiny, we very often perceive that the consultant’s consciousness once freely held information which daily automatism, or some personal project linked to shadows hiding delicate zones, has destroyed, without it having been possible for the interested party or someone else to take notice.

The observation of certain Tarot cards brings the initiate to meditate on a secret dialectic of development and the succession of layers of consciousness within him where his inner recreation, his magical recreation occurs, which allows him to welcome the signs of a World in the image of his First Morning.

– Marcel Lecomte, “Le Vertige des Tarots,” Néon, n° 2, 1948.

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