The Tarot of the Bohemians by Papus is one of the most influential Tarot books to come out of France. AE Waite translated it from the French, and it is quite possible that Aleister Crowley was inspired to name his own deck 'The Book of Thoth', after the same title that appears several times in Papus' book. Given the importance of this book, it is surprising the silence maintained by Waite and Crowley on the structure of Tarot that Papus uses. Modern Tarot students know that the 78 cards can be modeled on either the Tree of Life or the astrological decanate system, but Papus models the entire 78 cards on the triplicity of Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis, where the product can be developed in the final Heh of YHVH. The Princess of Pentacles is particularly important in the Book of Thoth, as She is 'on the brink of transformation', a key phrase that echoes a common thread running through Tarot of the Bohemians.
Below is the French attributions of the Major Arcana as used by Papus.
Major Arcana Attributions
1 A The Juggler -
2 B The Priestess Moon
3 G The Empress Venus
4 D The Emperor Jupiter
5 H The Pope Aries
6 V The Lovers Taurus
7 Z The Chariot Gemini
8 Ch Justice Cancer
9 T The Hermit Leo
10 Y The Wheel of Fortune Virgo
11 K Strength Mars
12 L The Hanged Man Libra
13 M Death Water
14 N Temperance Scorpio
15 S The Devil Sagittarius
16 O Lightning Struck Tower Capricorn
17 P The Star Mercury
18 Tz The Moon Aquarius
19 Q The Sun Gemini
20 R Judgment Saturn
0 Sh The Fool Fire
21 Th The World 4 elements
The Minor Cards
Papus used the system of Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis to develop the divinatory meanings of the Minor cards.
The Dialectic and the Minor Cards
1 Commencement of Commencement Knight
4 Commencement of Opposition Queen
7 Commencement of Equilibrium Prince
10 Undetermined The card which follows will explain it Princess
The tables below show how Papus developed the system for the Minor Cards in the interpretation.
Wands: Creation, enterprise
Commencement of an Enterprise
Opposition to the commencement of the Enterprise. The enterprise is commenced when an unexpected obstacle suddenly prevents its execution
Realization of the commencement of the enterprise. The basis of the work is now definitely established, and the undertaking can be fearlessly continued.
Obstacles to the enterprise. Nothing can be accomplished without obstacles. We therefore find them appearing, and must prepare ourselves to overcome them.
Opposition to the obstacles. Victory after surmounting them
Realization of the opposition. At last the obstacles succeed. Failure of the enterprise in the midst of its execution.
Certain success of the enterprise.
Opposition to its success. The enterprise will only partially succeed
Realization of success. Success is continued.
Uncertainty in the management of the enterprise
Cups: Preservation, love, instruction
Commencement of a love affair
Opposition to this commencement. Unimportant obstacles raised by one of the lovers
Realization of this commencement. The love is mutual
Serious obstacles to the love. They arise from other persons, not from the lovers
Opposition to the obstacles. Victory over the obstacles after a struggle
The obstacles triumph. Love destroyed in the midst of happiness. Widowhood
Success assured to the lovers
Partial failure of love. Love only partially succeeds
Uncertainty in the management of the love affair
Swords Transformation, hatred, war
Commencement of enmity
Opposition to this commencement. The enmity does not last
Realization of the enmity. Hatred
Opposition to the hatred. Success against the enemy
Opposition to this opposition. The enemy triumphs at the moment one fancies that the victory is secured
Equilibrium of the opposition. The enemy is rendered powerless at last
Success assured to the enemy
Partial opposition to this success. The enemy only partially triumphs
Certain duration of the hatred
Uncertainty in the enemy
Disks: Development, money, trade
Commencement of fortune. Inheritance, gifts, economy, etc
Opposition to this commencement. Difficulty in well establishing the first landmarks of good fortune
Realization of the commencement of fortune. A small sum
Opposition of fortune. Loss of money
Opposition to this opposition. A success coming which will balance the loss
Realization of the opposition. Ruin
Success assured. A large fortune
Partial success. Great loss of money at the moment apparently of definitely
securing the fortune
Equilibrium of Equilibrium. A durable fortune
Uncertainty in the fortune. Great success and great reverses
The Court Cards
Reading Elemental Dignities, we always read a minimum of three cards, however there are other descriptions and techniques within Tarot. In fact the whole structure of Tarot can analysed using this fundamental technique. As you can see, there are various ways of describing the same process.
Papus' "The Tarot of the Bohemians" explores the Trinity in great detail, but is not that well known amongst modern Tarot readers. The Court Cards are best understood in the table below, where the Mother/Father/Child trinity can be expanded to the Knight/Queen/Prince and Princess.
A dark man, a friend. Married man, father of a family.
A dark woman, a friend. A serious woman, a good counsellor, a mother of a family.
A dark young man, a friend.
A dark child, a friend. A message from a near relation.
A fair man, a friend. A barrister, judge, or ecclesiastic. A bachelor.
A fair woman, a friend. The woman loved. The Mistress.
A young fair man, a friend. The young man loved. The Lover.
A fair child. A messenger. Birth.
A dark, bad man. A soldier, a powerful enemy, who must be distrusted.
A dark, wicked woman. Her actions, gossip and calumnies.
A dark young man, a friend.
A child, an enemy. Bad news. Delay.
A fair man, inimical or indifferent.
A fair woman, indifferent or inimical.
A young, fair man. A stranger. An arrival.
A fair child. A messenger. A letter.