Tarot History Rant #5: Etteilla the hairdresser

Excellent rant!

Tarot Heritage

At least three times in the past few weeks I’ve heard people refer to “the hairdresser Etteilla,” mindlessly repeating disinformation that Eliphas Levi and A. E. Waite rather viciously spread about the founder of modern tarot. Etteilla-bashing hit its stride in the mid-19th century when Eliphas Levi published statements like:

Etteilla or Alliette, an illumine hairdresser, exclusively engrossed by his divinatory system, and the emolument he could derive from it, neither proficient in his own language nor even in orthography, pretended to reform, and thus attribute to himself the Book of Thoth.

This illuminated hairdresser, after working for thirty years, only succeeded in producing a bastard set, the Keys of which are transposed, so that the numbers no longer answer to the signs.

The writings of Etteilla, now very rare, are obscure, wearisome and barbarous in style.

Generations of authors have mindlessly parroted Levi without bothering to learn about the…

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