Introduction by Paul Marteau

Translated from Le Tarot De Marseille by Paul Marteau

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     The Tarot is a collection of figures who symbolically express the struggle of Man to realize his evolution, that is to say, to arrive at the prescribed purpose of his destiny, an evolution which requires of him struggles, effort, joy, and suffering, depending on whether he accepts or does not accept universal laws.

Having chosen the Tarot deck which best expresses this destiny, the Tarot de Marseille,[1] you will find in this volume a symbolic interpretation of it.


The 78 cards of this Tarot are presented in two different parts. First, the 21 cards ( + 1) traditionally called the Major Arcana, and then the 56 minor cards arranged in four series of 10 cards each, according to the four suites.



To arrive at a symbolic interpretation of this Tarot, you will note that each Major Arcanum[2], save the Fool, bears a number located on the upper part of every card, all of which also have pictures of people, animals, and objects in the middle part, and a name at the bottom, except for card XIII.


          The 10 Minor cards–of Swords, Cups, and Batons–with the exception of the Aces, all bear numbers, but no names. The 10 cards of the suit of Coins have neither number nor name, while the 16 court cards that follow have no number, but generic names.



The number, understood symbolically, revels the philosophical principles which allow us to understand the articulation of the construction of the Cosmos with all its laws and principles.

The meanings which each number is able to provide are infinite; the comparison of the principle represented by the number with the figure makes it possible to speciy the point of view from which each one has been envisaged et, on the other hand, also provides the bases of interpretation with the nature of its colors, the relative arrangement of the objects depicted, and the particular meaning which presides over the illustration on the card.


The colors of the clothing of the figures which can sometimes seem incoherent, or the naive way in which some of the figures of this Tarot have been drawn are not, as certain commentators have apparently supposed, mistakes or oversights, but they contain a very precise symbolic value which I shall endeavor to reveal.


Finally, the nomenclature, because of its exact characterization, symbolizes the concrete and tangible aspect that each card can express, whereas the number endows it with its Principle. The study of this nomenclature will make it possible to be precise about the material meaning of each card.



We shall study, therefore, each Major card in the following order:

—The analogic meaning of the particular number specified by the card or Principle;

—The abstract[3]meaning extrapolated, which gives us the general character of the card;

—The development of the details through the interpretation of the attributes, colors, and particulars of the card;

—The orientation of the figure;

—The significance of the name used for the card, the relevance of this meaning to its concrete aspect—this significance being subordinate to its abstract meaning;

As the positive significations which can be derived are too numerous to consider all of them, we shall limit ourselves to offering a few meanings in each element of the Human Ternary: that is, the MENTAL, or intelligence; the SPIRITUAL, in other words, emotive feelings, and finally, the PHYSICAL, the utilitarian aspect of life.

Then, as each thing also presents its opposite, we shall express the significance of the card when it is inverted.[4]

We shall then conclude with the description of the Basic Meaning of the card.



The circumstances under which the Major cards have been studied, modified by the Minors, a new study of the symbolism of the numbers on the one hand, and of the names on the other, will be reviewed before their interpretation.



The Tarot is a universal vibrating instrument and becomes a source of energy for the flowing projection of our thoughts.

By giving us the symbolic keys of the universal laws that preside over the destiny of Man, the Tarot allows us to make present associations and, consequently, to predict certain events through analogy or affinity.

To make it possible to take advantage of the cards in this conception, we will finally present the method of using card combinations to deduce form them the events which will result from any concerns one has when laying out the cards, as well as the elementary rules by which it is possible to derive useful meanings.[5]


PAUL MARTEAU, Paris, 1928 – 1948

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[1] This Tarot is that which was edited in 1761 by Nicolas Conver, a master cartier in Marseille, who had conserved the wooden stamps and the colors of his distant predecessers. This Tarot is now edited by B. P. Grimaud, who acquired the estate of Conver, and was also able to continue printing the traditional Tarot in its original form.

[2] [Translator’s note: it is my thought that, when speaking of a single card, the correct word would be “Arcanum” in accordance with the rules of inflection governing a Latin 2nd-declension neuter noun. Marteau’s French simply reads Arcane majeur.]

[3] The general meaning or of the principle which we shall call abstract, as opposed to its material or utilitarian meaning, which we shall call concrete.

[4] [Translator’s note: Marteau actually says renversée, reversed, but by this he means inverted. One reads the card upside-down, not the back of the card.]

[5] The reader will kindly excuse the repetitions and the slightly ponderous phraseology. It is difficult to translate the abstract into the concrete while remaining faithful to the interpretation of the subjective idea. The various words available for this are insufficient in number and are overused. You might want to regard this book as a kind of dictionary or even an encyclopedia where explanatory details about each card may be found.

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