Etteilla, The Wigmaker
Etteilla (1738-1791) born Alliette, was a barber by profession, who changed his name into Etteilla (spelled backwards, after the Hebrew tradition), when he became involved in occult thinking and, according to many, became a full-time fortuneteller.
Being a barber and a skillful wigmaker, he had little further education and not much experience with the philosophies of the more initiated. Nevertheless, he was gifted with a profound intuition (and a convincing fantasy). Contemporaries like Eliphas Levi, even believed that he came very near unveiling ‘The Real Secrets behind the Tarot’, but Levi also stated that his thoughts, when put into writing, were ‘obscure, wearisome, and in style even barbarous’.
Etteila was probably influenced by Comte Court de Gebelin (1728-1784), who led many occultists of those days to believe in the possible Egyptian roots of the Tarot.
The Visconti Sforza Tarot deck is the oldest known Tarot deck. It was created around 1492 by Bonifacio Bembo, but it is likely that not all cards came from his hands due to his young age at the time. It is believed that some of the cards are made by the artist Antonio Cicognara. The occasion was a marriage between members of two Milanese families: Visconti and Sforza. It can be said that because of that event, the origins of the Tarot ‘game’ are Italian.
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