Petit Etteilla

Would you like to make a deck that Mlle Lenormand herself might have used? If so, excellent!! What follows is how to make your own Petit Etteilla deck, Mlle Lenormand’s very first divination deck!

Those that have looked into Mlle Lenormand’s life and read her books agree that she probably did not invent the Oracle cards that now bear her name. As a curious student of her arts, I will keep searching for answers, but one thing that has influenced her is another French Cartomancer that was also in Paris before the Revolution. Jean-Baptiste Alliette (1738 – 1791) — Also known as Etteilla — published several books in which he described how to read ordinary playing cards as well as the Tarot. In her diaries, Mlle Lenormand is said to have bought Etteilla’s petit jeu and book as her first divination deck.

It goes without saying that I have investigated this lead with a great deal of personal curiosity.

In his book: “Etteilla, ou la seule manière de se recréer avec les cartes, revue, corrigée et augmentée par l’auteur; sur son premier manuscrit” (Lesclapart, Libraire, Quai de Gêvres, Paris, 1773), Alliette explains how to use an ordinary deck of playing cards as an oracle. Or, how to read cards in the ‘Etteilla Fashion.’

Curious, I set out to recreate such an oracle deck myself and here I show you how to do the same.

The first thing you should do is find an old deck of cards that you don’t mind writing on, preferably in cardboard because it’s easier to write on those, but if you have a good permanent marker, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to use a plastic based card for your deck.

Next: verify that you have all the cards from the Aces, Kings, etc, all the way down to the sevens. You’ll also need a Joker which you should keep for later.

Now: get rid of all the sixes, fives, fours, threes, and twos. (See table at the end of this post if this is confusing).

The next step is putting all the cards in their reversed position:

In some cases it’s easy to determine if the card is reversed or not. For example, I went by the drawings on the back of the cards to help me… You can do the same, but if you’re stuck with a deck that doesn’t have an obvious reversed picture, you’ll have to resort to looking at the cards themselves to see if the card has more upright hearts, spades or clubs. For those diamonds lacking any drawing that could point to a reversed card, look at the back of the card to see if there is a drawing, otherwise, just pick a side.

Once all the cards are reversed, put an R (for reversed) on each of them in the upper left-hand corner. NOTE: the Joker is the only card that you don’t do this to! The Joker is never read with a reversed meaning since the joker represents the person you are reading for.

Below is an example of how the cards should look like once you’re done. On the left is how it will look reversed, and on the right how the same card would look like upright.

8 of diamonds reversed

8 of diamonds reversed

8 of diamonds upright

8 of diamonds upright


Once you have the cards marked as reversed, you are now ready to give each card a numerical value.

Below is a table of the cards’ two upright definitions with their two reversed positions. So, taking the 8 of diamonds as an example:

  1. You would give the card the numerical value of 8;
  2. Write its 1st Definition (Countryside) next to the card’s numerical value (8);/li>
  3. Write its 2nd Definition (Wealth) on the left margin;
  4. Flip the card into its reverse position;
  5. Write the cards numerical value (next to the R);
  6. Write the card’s 1st Reversed Definition (Grief) next to the reversed numerical value (R);
  7. Lastly, you would write the card’s 2nd Reversed Definition (The End) in the Left Margin.

To give you an example of how things should look when you are done: on the left how the same card would look like upright, and on the right is how it will look reversed.

Make Your Own Petit Etteilla 8 of Diamonds Upright

8 of Diamonds Upright

Make Your Own Petit Etteilla 8 of Diamonds Reversed

8 of Diamonds Reversed


List of English Petit Etteilla Meanings

This is the table of meanings Etteilla gives in his book for the Petit Etteilla. I’ve translated them into English to make it easier for you to understand everything.

Petit Etteilla Meanings English

Note: There has been some confusion about the King of Spades 1st definition meaning “Robed Man.” This is a concept in French referring to professionals who wear robes, such as judges, college professors, and the like.


Now that I’m done with mine, I have to go and practice! Once I have, I will let you know how to go about making some readings… but first, I need to make sure that I have understood them and that I can actually apply them to something!!

10 Responses to “Petit Etteilla”

  1. Matthew Bartsch says:

    Well! this is a wonderful bit of information. I’m used to using the classic 78 card tarot, so I’m curious to try this new style. Have you experimented with it at all? How is it going for you?

    • Hi Matthew! I need to update this page, but yes, I have redone my deck a few times, and do plan on using it more. Elzbet on the forum has used it more often and might have more insights. So far though, it seems to be more choppy and less intuitive for me, but I’m still learning. If more people are interested in the Petit Etteilla, we could get a group going.

      Best of luck!

  2. Hi Lord Ewin. I discovered your website yesterday and i must say i’m very impressed. I became interested in cards reading 2 years ago,when i began with a simple set of cards and afterwards i continued with tarot. I’m not a pro,although i wish i could be but lately i played the cards for some people and my predictions came true which encourouges me to continue.
    I will check your website everyday to see what you write new,and to comment about this post: The petit etteilla, i must say that im looking forward to see if it worked for you.
    I already noted my cards with the explanations from the table.Maybe you could explain how you do the reading cause it’s confusing me a while.
    And one more thing,the tarot i’m using is also called Lenormand but it’s not the same pictures and numbers as the tarot you explained about.
    I will post you a link(i dont know how to insert the image) so that you know what i’m talking about and maybe you help me somehow.
    Sorry for the long message and my bad english.Next time i will be shorter. :)
    Here’s the link: http://www.ilgiardinodeilibri.it/libri/__tarocchi-lenormand.php

    • Hi Silvermist! I’m glad you like the site, and please don’t worry about your English. English isn’t my first language either, it’s French! ;)

      I have to admit that I haven’t been able to experiment with my Etteilla as much as I would have liked. Life takes us where it likes, and the road is often full of interesting scenarios and forces us to stay away from our curiosities (like Etteilla for me). Hopefully the New Year will allow me to catch up on those plans which I’ve had to leave behind this past year, including Etteilla. Might I suggest you join us on the Forum where we could discuss Etteilla in more detail..? Hopefully we’ll have more people interested, and we can start a reading practice group.

      With respect to the Lenormand Tarot, no, it is not the Petit Jeu Lenormand. Its artwork suggest Lenormand themes, but it is very much a Tarot, which the Petit Lenormand is not.

  3. Have you got a forum set up for reading and understanding the Lenormand Oracles? I would be interested in signing up for group discussions and readings.

  4. Lady Owl Heart says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I followed your instructions and made a Petit Etteilla and have one question. I see that both AIR and WATER are in Diamonds which is throwing me off. Shouldn’t WATER be in the Hearts suit?

    I have Paul Huson’s Dame Fortune’s Wheel Tarot which is based on Etteilla’s meanings. From what I gather Batons/Diamonds are AIR, Swords/Spades are indeed FIRE. Cups/Hearts are Water and Coins/Clubs are Earth.

    I want to place Water in the Hearts suit but what card?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Lady Heart, I understand completely! Etteilla doesn’t explain his reasoning for the meanings he assigned to the cards. I don’t think he was using cartomancy meanings when he created the deck, which would explain why Water is in Diamonds. I think Etteilla just had a Piquet deck handy and used it to write meanings on.

      If you put Water in the Hearts suit, you’re changing the deck. I suppose you could just swap the meanings on one of the Heart Cards for the Water’s Diamond card. It’ll just be something you’ll have to remember when you discuss spreads with anyone because you’ll have a different deck from everyone else.

  5. Hello Stephen,

    Wonderful and very informative article–congratulations. I looking forward to reading other articles by you. I am waiting to get my first Petit Ettiella deck. I am excited and I will apply your interpretations to the cards. However, I do have a question and its about timing events.

    I know that in cartomancy using regular playing cards each card can represent a week in a year since their are 52 cards which equals 52 weeks. So timing events is easy. But how do you do the same thing with your Petit Ettiella cards? I think there are a total of 30 or 32 cards so I really don’t know what day, week, or month you can apply to a particular card to determine the timing of events. Can you help me with my question. Thank you.

    Sammy

    • Hi Sammy,

      When you get your first Petit Etteilla deck, you’ll notice the cards have numbers on them. You add the numbers up to find out the time period the spread covers.

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