|Name :||Jean Dodal Tarot|
|Author :||Jean Dodal / Jean Claude Flornoy|
|Publisher :||letarot.com Editions|
|Tradition :||Tarot de Marseille type I|
|Packaging :||Boîte carton souple / 13.6 x 7.7 x 3.8 cm|
|Deck :||78 cards / matte and satin / 13.2 cm x 7.8 cm|
|Handbook :||Booklet of 48 pages en B&W|
|Reverse side :||Yes, the backs of the cards are reversible.|
|Switch of 8/11 :||No|
|Universe :||Medieval / Renaissance|
|Use :||Prediction , Personal development|
The box containing the game is made of soft cardboard. Inside are the 78 cards and the booklet. Accustomed to the solid boxes and quality packaging of the Anglo-Saxon tarot cards or printed by large publishing companies, an amateur may be surprised with this tarot deck. He may see it as a rather low-end product. But make no mistake about it. First of all, all English publishers and even the big French publishing companies have their products printed in China. Personally I don't support it because of the carbon impact. Then, even if the packaging of Anglo-Saxon games is beautiful, very often the quality of the cards themselves is disappointing. In short, they take care of the packaging but not the cards, it's the world upside down.
Here, with the letarot.com editions, it's "made in France", we certainly have a flexible packaging, but the cards benefit from a very good printing quality with a matte coating on a robust cardboard. Printing quality which is far from being usual in English "mass-market" tarot cards. The thinness and fragility of the cards is even the standard at the emblematic publishers Lo Scarabeo and US Games.<> The cards of the deck are large, but not so large and even conventional in the usual 12-13cm x 7-8cm English tarot deck format. However put in its historical context, the standard size of a Tarot de Marseille being 12x6cm, it is clear that this deck has an unusual size.
At 13 centimeters in height, it can be difficult for a person with small hands to shuffle the deck horizontally, in which case vertical shuffling will be necessary.
First of all, it must be specified that Jean Dodal is the master cardmaker who printed and sold this tarot. The tarot itself was engraved by Jacques Mermé. In the past, there have been master cardmakers who engraved their own molds.
The Tarot of Jean Dodal was engraved in 1701 and sold from that same period. Only two complete original copies of this tarot remain, one kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (link to gallery), the other at the British Museum.
It is likely that this tarot was intended primarily for export to neighboring countries such as Switzerland, Germany, but especially Italy. Indeed, we can read the letters "F.P.LE.TRANGE.". ("fait pour l'étranger" - made for abroad) on the Page of Wands, XI FORCE, XXI LE MONDE, as well as on each Knight. In addition, the Two of Cups also has the initials PLN (which could be the acronym for "Pour Le Négoce" - for the trade) and FPE (probable acronym for "fait pour l'étranger"). According to Thierry Depaulis, this appellation allowed the exemption of French taxes for export games. Indeed, surprisingly, the popularity of tarot in France had been declining since the end of the 17th century. It was still only played in Provence and in the border areas with Germany and Switzerland. At the time, tarot was even considered a foreign card game, since the French games already had the French signs (Heart, Diamond, Spades and Clubs).
Jean-Claude Flornoy (1950 - 2011) was a tarologist, specialist of the Tarot de Marseille, a writer and a card maker. After studying philosophy and psychology, he worked for 15 years as a potter-ceramist. Then he devoted about twenty years to the study and restoration of the tarots of the French tradition (known as tarots de Marseille). From the original tarots preserved at the National Library in Paris, he restored the tarots of Jean Noblet (Paris, circa 1650), Jean Dodal (Lyon, 1701) - the object of this review - and the Major Arcana of Jacques Viéville (Paris, circa 1650). It is still possible to buy these restored tarot cards on the official website of the publishing house letarot.com.
His work is remarkable because it allows you to practice divination with historical games that look new and neat (digitally printed) much more enjoyable than the original version (stencilled cards). Of course I love the charm of the craftmanship of the stencil painted cards with their lots of imperfections. But for divination, it is more comfortable to rely on clean and sharp images.
The booklet has a summary content, however it is written in English and French. It does not provide any approach to reading or interpreting the maps. The text of the booklet is essentially to inform the reader of the historical context in which the tarot was printed and sold in 1701. This story allows us to measure the luck that this tarot could have reached us and the attention that this original work deserves. In understanding how this tarot was engraved and the symbols that run through its images, I have made this restoration an object of in-depth study.
One can regret the absence of any pedagogy on draws and interpretations. Those who come from the RWS tradition may be astonished by such a small and poor booklet. But in the Marseilles school, the convention is rather to learn divination, through courses, workshops or simply by reading books, because the Marseilles tarot cards respect "an iconographic standard" that has remained unchanged since the 18th century. Also, because of this canonical form, the authors do not feel obliged to deliver meanings and strategies of drawing with their decks. On the contrary, with the tarot cards of the RWS tradition, the authors make it a point of honor to give meanings and spreads that they feel are appropriate.Indeed, their creations being original and unique, respecting or not the original standard of the RWS tarot, they must be explained to the buyers.
The first surprise when discovering a historical French tarot for the first time is often the spelling of the card names. Illiteracy was widespread, and even the standardization of French spelling was still in its infancy. The Académie française, the institution responsible for defining the French language, was founded in 1635. There is no counting the number of spelling mistakes in this tarot: LA PANCES (instead of LA PENSEE), IMPERATRIS (instead of IMPERATRICE), LA MOUREU (instead of L AMOUREUX), LE CHARIOR (instead of LE CHARIOT). It is even crisper with the court cards of the Swords series, since we have : VALET DEPEES, CHEVALIER DESPEIS, ROY DESPEE, REINE DESPEIES. We have 4 different spellings of the word swords (i.e. EPEE) ! Why ? Some would be tempted to think that there is a hidden code. My pragmatism leads me to believe that it is 4 different apprentice engravers who made these 4 molds. Indeed, Jacques Mermé, the official engraver of this tarot, was probably leading apprentices. I wouldn't be surprised if he delegated part of the engraving of the moulds of the Minor Arcana, reserving the engraving of the Major Arcana for himself.
The numbering is also astonishing. Indeed, the 6 and 7 of Deniers and the 7 of Cups are not numbered. The 6 and 7 of Wands and Swords have their Roman numerals reversed: IV and IIV while the 6 of Cups is correctly numbered VI. Likewise, one of the Roman numerals on the 9 of Wands is also inverted (but not the second numeral on the same card). These errors may credit the hypothesis that the tarot was partly engraved by novices, or that the moulds were recovered from unscrupulous engravers or master cardmakers.
However on the Major Arcana, we can observe some very interesting characteristics that make this game unique:
Finally, another particularity, initials I.P. are engraved on the XVII LA LUNE card, under the dog's tail on the right. These would be the initials of Jean Payen, if we allow ourselves to believe that the original mould came from his workshop. Indeed, thanks to a marriage certificate dated April 3, 1714, kept in the Vaucluse departmental archives, we learn that an engraver named Claude Mermé, born into the family of master cardmaker, worked for Jean Payen and Jean Pierre Payen. Is this Claude Mermé from the same family as Jacques Marmé, engraver of Dodal ? Probably if we compare the two tarot cards of Dodal 1701 and Jean-Pierre Payen 1713, very similar.
The Dodal could be a variant of the Jean Payen, intended for export. Others go further, and allow themselves to say that Dodal and Payen would be the same person, explaining the very strong resemblance between the two tarot cards. For my part, I remain very circumspect. Indeed another tarot, that of Nicolas Rolichon (which can be seen in a 1919 Larousse encyclopedia) that historians date from 1685 (probably around 1670 - 1690), has very strong similarities with those of Dodal and Payen. It should be noted that many of the innovations brought by Dodal are already present in the Rolichon, which is however older. In my opinion, Jean Dodal and Jean Pierre Payen are indeed two different people, and the Dodal tarot is not an export variant of Payen. I believe that the Rolichon, then Dodal and then Payen tarot cards are the result of a tradition and a technique that has been handed down from master to apprentice. For we know that there were several streams of French tarot cards in the 17th century, before the Tarot de Marseille standard superseded (or unified) all these traditions during the 18th century.
On the previous tarot cards, whether the Anonymous Tarot of Paris (1615) or the Vieiville or Noblet tarot cards (both 1650), LE BATELEUR had nothing between his two feet, or only a few leaves of a plant. Here with the Dodal, we obviously have a particular plant, a trunk with small branches, a kind of cactus. If we are curious about what this plant could represent, we quickly come to the idea that this plant could be a female sex, the curves of the ground emphasizing the two legs spread apart and supposedly of the woman; who in this case would have given birth to the boy. For LE BATELEUR is a young man at the beginning of his path, fresh from his inexperience, who has just appeared in the world. Naturally, this is only a supposition, but it is held by many tarologists.
The Dodal is the only tarot to my knowledge whose LA PAPESSE has a mole on her cheek. This detail is indicative of the freedom of tone of the engraver. Indeed, this mole makes the PAPESSE, a woman of the court, an aristocrat. There was a curious fashion among the noble women of the time to use aesthetic "flies". It was generally a small round of taffeta or black velvet, or more simply a dot of make-up pencil, imitating the mole. Women put their flies on the face or on the neckline, in places that varied according to character or moods. This mole in the middle of the cheek of the PAPESSE, could have meant for the engraver that the nun was gallant, alone and open to relationships.
Another specificity of Dodal is the emperor's necklace which has the shape of a goose head. Symbolically, the goose refers to the announcement of danger. This animal, a real watchdog, evokes attention and vigilance. Cultures around the world have given very different attributes to the animal. But I don't think that the engraver's viewpoint was to recall the symbolism of the animal. Rather, I think the creator wanted to draw a parallel with the game of the goose, the oldest mentions of which date back to the early 17th century. Probably invented towards the end of the 16th century, this game was quickly popular throughout Europe. This success could come from its concept, a sort of initiatory labyrinth, an esoteric journey comparable to human life with its ups and downs, its successes and failures. The Major Arcana of the tarot also makes the initiatory story of human life. I think that the engraver wanted to signify that the path of Life, can be a labyrinth (the spiral of the goose game) with its good and bad fortunes (the pawns can move forward and backward on the board of the goose game). To have made this goose necklace, an attribute of the emperor, is undoubtedly a message of hope given to the players. The emperor by his rigor, knowledge, mastery is able to bring success and prosperity in his life and brilliantly lead his way through the *maze* of his life.
In the Marseille standard, the angel appearing in the sky of L'AMOUREUX is usually sighted. But in the first French tarot cards the angel appears blindfolded, the Dodal tarot is one of the last decks to show him this way. This angel is a representation of Cupid, son of Venus and Mars. He is the god of Love, assimilated to the god Eros (his Greek equivalent). Cupid is armed with a bow, a quiver filled with arrows. Sometimes he is blind or blindfolded, these are classic representations of the angel. For isn't it said that Love makes blind or that Love sees no fault in what is loved? This is all the more true because in the Middle Ages, Cupid could be perceived as a treacherous, misleading god, manipulating lovers. It is probably in this sense that in the first representations of the Tarot de Marseille, Cupid was blindfolded. It is only from the 18th century, that a less negative meaning was given to the card of L'AMOUREUX by sanitizing the figure of Cupid by removing his blindfold.
Personally I like the evocation of the god of Love with his blindfold. This sign is for me a warning message for the reader, that the heart has its reasons that reason ignores, certainly, but that the heart can be blind too. Strengthened by this reminder, the reader must consciously decide his or her path.
JUSTICE that cheats by pressing one arm of the scales to tip it is rich in lessons. We can naturally expect Justice to be impartial, balanced, just and fair. But we all know that Life is unjust, that hazard (or in other words destiny) favors one to the detriment of the other. Indeed each individual speaks and acts according to his personal interests. JUSTICE of the first Tarot cards of Marseilles almost tells us that Justice does not exist because it is not fair ! However, as for L'AMOUREUX, at the beginning of the 18th century the card will be made less subversive, and since the balance pans are perfectly balanced in the canonical form. Only the sword remained very slightly tilted.
As for L'AMOUREUX, I like the version of the first tarot cards. JUSTICE by its simple presence in the 22 trumps of the Major Arcana reminds us that it is a necessary virtue to learn and apply on the initiatory journey; and what is more, we always reap what we sow. But because its balance is unbalanced, it brings us back to the reality of our existences: the justice of men is imperfect.
Again in the early tarot cards, LE PENDU was endowed with attributes that disappeared with standardization. Before the tarot of Madenié 1709, LE PENDU had curious hands and tongue. With Madenié and since then, LE PENDU keeps his tongue in his mouth and his hands are invisible in his back.
I like this version where LE PENDU pulls out his tongue. This offhandedness shows perfectly that he assumes his situation, that he is even voluntary, in no way does he suffer what is happening to him. Similarly, his strange hands on his shoulders could be wings, giving a lightness to the character who seems to float in the air.The fact that the engravers have graced LE PENDU with wings, thus conferring on him a celestial or even divine nature, shows the importance of this card and its message. Coercion, pressure, the limits that we impose on ourselves or that the world imposes on us, are as many opportunities to look at our situation differently, to observe the bonds that constrain us, their nature and their cause.
In the standard version, the thunder flash or jet of flames comes down from the sun and hits the top of the tower. In Dodal's tarot and those of his predecessors, the jet of flames rises from the top towards the sky to reach the sun.
Here again, I prefer the old version, with the thunder flash going up. LA MAISON DIEU is the card of enlightenment, of awareness. The tower represents the individual. The crenellations at the top, basically drawn like a royal crown, represent his ego. This card thus speaks to us of an individual whose ego (his vision, his ambition, his prejudices, his beliefs) suddenly tilts and falls lower than the ground. A brief, remarkable event occurs in the life of the individual, destabilizing him on his most solid foundations, hits him as hard and powerful as lightning hits the ground. This is the meaning of the card. The fact that the jet of flames rises from the tower and on the contrary does not strike the tower, indicates that Heaven is neutral, what causes the rupture is not the lightning itself. It is the individual's perception, his understanding of the event, that forces him to abandon his ego. Abandoning his deepest beliefs, the individual then opens himself to a sudden vision and an unexpected lucidity on his situation and his environment. It is thus this light that finally emerges from his mind that evokes this ascending jet. And that it is certainly not a fatality, a destiny, a divine manifestation (descending jet) that strikes the individual. It is his feeling and his reaction to the event that brings the crisis and the questioning.
L'ETOILE has two attributes that are new in the Dodal version. First the woman has a very curious navel, a kind of eye. The navel symbolizes our birth, our past. It is the scar of the umbilical cord through which our mother fed us when we were only an embryo in her womb. The eye is the sign of vigilance, knowledge and omniscience, it can also be a pledge of benevolence and protection like the Udjat eye of ancient Egypt. With this particular symbol, Dodal speaks of a woman losing her water (note how the jug pouring water is placed at the place of her sex) and thus giving birth, who is looking at the past or what is being born with understanding and kindness. The card of L'ETOILE is the entrance door to the last square (THE STAR, THE MOON, THE SUN, THE JUDGMENT) leading to the realization (THE WORLD). In this, the woman blesses and forgives all that has been done before and dissolves all that past into the waters to prepare herself for the coming birth (THE JUDGMENT). This, it seems to me, is what is to be understood from this navel-eye.
Finally, with Dodal, appears for the first time the black bird on the bush (which is not present in Noblet's tarot). Later, this black bird will be integrated into the canonical form. The bird is a sign of freedom because it flies, and of wisdom because it takes height and approaches the sky. It is black, so it can be a crow. Nowadays, the raven can evoke mystery, death, misfortune. But it is also an animal symbolizing magic, it is a spiritual guide or even a messenger of the gods. It is true that this bird conveys multiple meanings according to traditions and cultures. Here, in the meaning of this card, and to avoid getting lost in interpretations, we can just say about the bush and the bird :
The one-eyed child is a specificity of the Dodal tarot. The SUN card speaks of charisma, radiance, extroverted individual who expresses himself with joy and lightness, captivating his audience with his presence and passionate words. There is therefore a form of transmission that seems to be evoked by the two children through their gestures. Indeed, one puts his hand on the shoulder of the other as a sign of benevolence and protection, in return the other touches the solar plexus or the heart of his partner, as a sign of love and self-sacrifice. The fact that a child is one-eyed may mean that he is not as lucid as the other, that he has not completely opened his eyes, that he has yet to develop his maturity, his knowledge of the world. And this is perhaps what the other child (who has both eyes open) transmits to him by touching his torso. It transmits to him the love, the joy, the passion that he lacks. Perhaps there is simply the symbol of the relationship between the master and the apprentice. The relationship that each aspirant lived when he entered a fraternity of "companions".
The Dodal tarot is in many ways a unique case in the history of the Tarot de Marseille. It is the worthy representative of a tradition beginning with the master cardmaker Nicolas Rolichon and ending with the master cardmaker Jean Pierre Payen (as far as we know). Dodal and its engraver Jacques Mermé brought their innovations which were either integrated or rejected in the Marseilles standard.
I particularly like this tarot (and the Noblet one which I make the review here) and I prefer reading with it and the Noblet rather than with a modern tarot like the Camoin-Jodorowsky (my review ici) or the Fournier (my review ici) . I use this deck because its images have a graphic style resembling medieval stained glass windows and make it a "cathedral tarot", where wisdom and understanding of the soul's path lies.
The reader accustomed to the tarot cards of Marseilles will find in this game, a renewal of the archetypes, a deeper questioning of the meanings of the Major Arcana. This game is an essential reference for the study of the Tarot de Marseille.
The beginner practitioner (in the Marseille tradition) will undoubtedly have to get used to the very medieval imagery of the game, especially if he comes from the Rider-Waite-Smith school. But he will have everything to gain by working with the Dodal rather than preferring more recent Marseille games, with more modern colors and drawings. The effort will be rewarded by a more factual and less esoteric understanding of the Tarot's initiatory message.
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