Tarot de Maléfices

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Le Tarot de Maléfices (French: "The Tarot of Evil Acts") was a tarot deck designed for Maléfices, a French occult and conspiracy role-playing game by publisher Jeux Descartes set in 1870-1914 in Belle Époque France. It is supposed to be the deck authored by Le Club Pythagore (French: "The Pythagorean Society"), a fictional society from the era involved in occultism, spiritualism and magical research.

The artwork on the cards is dark and sardonic, with a tinge of madness about them. People are portrayed as bestial, vain or foolish and demons or beasts are in most of the backgrounds. It helps to create the mood that magic is nothing to be trifled with and that there are dark forces all around - and even inside - us.

Major Arcana[edit]

The Arcana are not numbered. There are also no suite cards. The eleven Upper Arcana cards are full frame and deal with one view. The next nine (or eleven in the later deck) Lower Arcana cards are split-frame and deal with a depiction of the figure on one side of the diagonal line and a bestial parody on the other. Eve and La Midium are the only female cards in the deck.

The 20 Major Arcana are:

Upper Arcana[edit]

  • Le Grand Livre ("The Great Book") = XXI. The World. Description: A closed book surrounded by four chubby little demons with bestial features and animal heads. Two open the book's cover and a demon issuant from inside is fighting with a demon perched upon the spine of the book.
  • La Chance ("Luck") = O. The Fool. Description: A delirious man has a rabbit-headed demon on his back, holds another rabbit-headed demon by his left foot as it hangs from his neck, and has a severed rabbit-demon head on top of his head. All the rabbit demons have four-leafed clovers in their mouths.
  • L'Archange ("The Archangel") = XX. Judgment ("The Final Trump"). Description: The Archangel Michael casting Lucifer out of heaven.
  • Le Vicaire ("The Vicar") = XVI. The Tower ("The House of God"). Description: A tonsured old man in priest's robes who sits between a lion on his right and a sheep on his left. Wrapped around his body is a two-headed dragon whose heads are fighting with each other.
  • La Lune Noire ("The Dark Moon") = XVIII. The Moon. Description: A black moon with a malevolent face is sucking three frightened souls into it. It is surrounded with globs of protoplasm, presumably previous victims.
  • La Mort ("Death") = XIII. Death. Description: A robed skeletal figure with a scythe raises it to strike. Behind him stands a serpent-like man in a similar robe (like the bestial depiction of Le Juge) armed with a similar scythe who is preparing to strike him down.
  • Le Diable ("The Devil") = XV. The Devil ("Lust, Separation"). Description: A winged, goat-headed being sits cross-legged with his left fist raised up and his right fist downward. Two winged serpents sit back to back in his lap; their tails loop around The Devil's waist and are presumed either conjoined or issuant from the Devil's groin.
  • Le Sorcier ("The Sorcerer") = XII. The Hanged Man ("Prudence"). Description: A robed man with cat-like features plays with a mouse he holds up over his face in his claws before he swallows it. The inference is that the Sorcerer is the Mouse, not the Cat.
  • Adam = V. The High Priest, IV. The Emperor Description: The reflection in a mirror of a handsome dark-haired man who is admiring himself; the view is of his reversed right profile. He is the same man depicted in La Chance. The mirror is held by sly-looking little demons similar to those surrounding Le Grand Livre.
  • Eve = II. The High Priestess, III. The Empress. Description: The reflection in a mirror of a beautiful woman who is admiring herself; the view is of her reversed left profile. She is fair-haired, tan-skinned, and brown-eyed, a reverse of the depiction of Adam. The mirror is held by sly-looking little demons.
  • La Roue de Fortune ("The Wheel of Fortune") = X. Fate. Description: A dragon and a winged cat fight on top of a wheel while trying to hold on tight. A pair of eagle-headed men climb up the wheel while confronting each other, standing on the backs of human-faced animals with their outer legs and grasping the wheel with their inner legs. Coins fall from the bottom onto the ground beneath it, where they lie in unnoticed stacks.

Eve combines the High Priestess and Empress. Adam combines the Emperor and High Priest. This makes them a hybrid of Upper and Lower arcana.
The First Edition deck had different Adam and Eve cards. Adam is an attractive fair-haired man and Eve is a beautiful fair-haired woman. They are depicted with their face in profile on a circular mirror split between light and darkness and bordered with branches. Each one faces towards the darkness and away from the light. Adam faces towards the left-hand side of the card and Eve faces towards the right-hand side of the card; each has their back to the other if the cards are placed back to back.

Lower Arcana[edit]

These cards show a split view. There are two edges to each Lower Arcana cards in the deck. One edge shows a normal person and the reversed edge shows a bestial parody of that person. One depiction is shown with an animal on his shoulder (sometimes the bestial version) and the other with a demon on his shoulder (sometimes the human version). Both versions have a beast's head issuant from their subject's groins (with obvious symbolism), with the bestial version usually looking more sinister than the human one. This means that there is twice the chance of drawing a Lesser Arcana card.

The cards were originally designed by LeCordelier and drawn by Gilles Lautussier. The first edition of the cards were black and white on pre-punched cardboard. The second edition was in color and was printed on laminated cardboard.

A third edition of the deck made in 2007 added two new Lower Arcana: La Midium ("The Medium") as equal to The High Priestess and L'Archiviste ("The Archivist") as equal to The Hierophant, therefore making Eve equal to The Empress and Adam equal to The Emperor.

Hippocrate, the title for "The Physician", is used in the 1985/1988 edition of the deck. It is a pun on "hypocrite", implying the doctor isn't as benevolent as he seems.

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