The Grand Tarot Belline - Review by Connie Walters
Get ready to view a beautiful deck filled with great art and fantastic symbolism!
The Grand Tarot Belline is a 78 card deck which was reissued by J. M. Simon, Paris, France, published by the Grimaud Company in 1966. Mr. Simon holds the rights to this deck, although he is not the original artist nor designer. They were designed by Magus Edmond in the nineteenth century and were first published by Magus Belline. I have never seen the original deck, nor have I ever heard of anyone else who has. My copy of this deck is the 1966 version.
This deck came to me in a box which contained a group of decks from an Estate Sale. I've never been able to find out who the owner was. This is an original version of the reissue from the 1966 printing. It also includes the original shipping box. The shipping box looks like any other gift box. It's white with a textured gray pattern paper glued to it. The display case inside contains the deck, which is magnificent! The first time I saw it, I knew it was something special. I've never seen another one like this!
The case that contains the deck is a textured gold foil box. It has a red velour lining with a red silk ribbon worked into the inside seam to lift the cards out of the case, so as to save wear and tear on the cards. On the bottom of this box are little felt pads, which save the surface of anything it is set upon. A nice touch.
On the inside of the lid printed in gold are the words,'Grand Tarot Belline'. I've had this deck for quite some time and really didn't know much about it. With the help of a good friend (Mark Filipas), I now understand a great deal more about it. Mark has his own website, the Pasteboard Masquerade, and you will discover many fine decks reviewed there. Check it out!
The back of this deck has a white border with a black inset. Upon this is what I would describe as a geometric golden sun splash. Very rich looking.
Even though I don't read French, I can tell that the book that comes with this deck has detailed descriptions of each card and probably contains a lot more information as well.
This deck is numbered 0 to 77, with the Fool being 0. The writing on the cards is in French also. The cards are not titled as a Waite deck would be. However, the pictures are similar to the Waite deck and the symbolism is very clear and accurate. You can see this with the Fool card right away.
There is also a single text card that comes with the deck. The words in red on this card show the essential concepts for each of the Major Arcana cards. These are keywords that describe the force behind each card. This is very similar to the concepts used by the Brotherhood of Light. These forces are "Will, Science, Action and Realization." The Letter and Value Attributions are French and European concepts in the Esoteric Tarot Tradition. They, too, are written in red in the title box of each card, which appears a little above the bottom of each card. Below the title box is writing, and I assume this provides more detail about each card.
There is also the equation of the Hebrew Alphabet to its numeric value on each card. For example, the Fool is equated with the letter "Shin" and the numeric value is 300. The letter "S" at the top left corner and the number 300, both written in red, represent this. The force behind this card is "l'expiation" written also at the top, but in black. For the Magician, it is 'A' for 'Aleph' and the numeric value is 1 and then the words "la volonte", which stand for the concept of Will. For the High Priestess, it is 'B' for 'Beth' and the numeric value is 2, with the word "la science", which is the concept of Science. And so on.
For more information on this type of attribution, read The Sacred Tarot by C.C.Zain. This book is written for the Brotherhood of Light Courses but can certainly be applied to other Tarot decks as well, especially this one.
You will also notice that there are astrological attributions on these cards. They are placed in different places on each card. On the Minor Arcana, a lot of the astrological signs and planets are at the top of the cards in the tittle box. But not on all of them. In the Major Arcana, the astrological signs and planets are at the bottom of the cards and, again, not on all of them.
The Pip Cards are not pictures like on the Waite deck, but the symbols obviously represent what each card is. At the top of these cards, written in red, are a capital red letter and then the numerical correlation of each card to the Hebrew alphabet, which would indicate that these are correlations to the Hebrew Alphabet. Next to this is the number of the card like 8th, 9th, 10th, and so on.
You can tell the Court Cards by the pictures on them. These are very much like the Waite deck. The Pages are standing, the Knights are riding on horses, the Queens are the only females, and the Kings are sitting.
The artwork is very antique looking. My guess is that the originals are done in colored ink. Having worked in many different mediums myself, I am very sure that at least the black and the lettering are in pen and ink. The paper is of a very high quality and is smooth and shiny, not embossed or covered. The corners of the cards are squared off, not rounded, as with many decks.
All in all, I think this is a very usable deck, as well as being a very valuable collector's item. There is no ISBN number for this deck.
You may be able to buy a copy from Alida Store. It is my guess that they cost around $85, as they are listed at 170.000 lire (as of 1/11/2001). These decks do not appear to come with the gold foil case that mine is in. At least, that's the way it looks on the web site. I did see one of these original decks auctioned off on e-Bay for a considerable price.
Grand Belline Tarot
Connie Walters has been reading and studying the tarot for 15 years. She is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader with the American Tarot Association (ATA) and is working towards certification as a Tarot Master. She has read tarot professionally for many years, and has also taught tarot classes. She is also an amateur astrologer and has studied numerology. Connie has begun work on a tarot deck of her own, and has created several cards for collaborative decks.
Review © 2001 Connie Walters
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes