The Belline Oracle

Belline Orakelkaarten

The name ‘Belline’ is probably familiar to some; Especially to those who are interested in the history of the Tarot and like to work with the somewhat unknown decks like the ‘Grand Tarot de Belline’. This deck consists of 78 cards and the system looks like a mixture of the work of Jean Baptiste Aliette and the traditional Marseille deck.

The ‘Belline Oracle’ and the ‘Grand Tarot de Belline’ are named after the man who is actual name is Marcel Forget (1924 – 1977). Marcel Forget was a well-known Tarotist in Paris in the 20th century, but the decks he published were not of his hand. The original author is Mage Edmond (real name: Jules Charles Ernest Billaudot). And he was also an interesting character….

Mage Edmond

Mage Edmond was born Jules Charles Ernest Billaudot on August 16, 1829 in Poilly-sur-Serein (French Burgundy) into a wealthy family. Around the age of fourteen he left for Paris with his cousin Leopold who was a pharmacist. The story goes that Edmond became the pupil of Madamoiselle Lenormand in Paris.

This seems not very likely because Madamoiselle Lenormand died in 1843 and we know that for the last years of her life she did not live in Paris but in Alencon (250 kilometers from Paris and 400 kilometers from Poilly-sur-Serein). Yet it is not surprising that this rumor originated because the lives of Lenormand and Edmond show great similarities;

In 1840 Edmond designed his own oracle in order to become a professional ‘fortune teller’ and in 1850 he opened his ‘practice’ in rue Fontaine St George in the 9th arrondissement. Like Madamoiselle Lenormand, his reputation rushed ahead of him and soon he was known as “The Hermit of the Fountain Street”. After a while, business went so well that he could afford an upscale office in the chic 1st arrondissement, just off the Champs Elysées. Around 1870 he also designed a Tarot deck that was inspired by the work of Eteilla and the Marseille Tarot.

Mage Edmond predicted, among other things, the exile of the French writer Victor Hugo to Jersey and the defeat of Napoleon III in the battle of Sedan. He foresaw the success of another famous writer: Alexandre Dumas (1802 – 1870), as well as the debts and poverty Dumas would encounter in his later life. But the most remarkable ‘prediction’ is that of the First World War, in which Edmond described bomb fragments and aircrafts that did not yet exist in the year of 1854.

In addition to the Tarot decks, he also published 2 books; One book was about astrological and occult symbols and the other about palmistry. Mage Edmond died in 1881. His legacy consisted of the many manuscripts he had written, sketches of Tarot and oracle cards and 120 old and rare books which he donated to a library. It would take a while before someone would ‘discover’ his work and bring it back to life. And that person was Belline….

Marcel Forget, or Belline, was born in 1924 and also was born into a well-to-do family. He had always been interested in history and antiques and thus he became a successful antique dealer. During his searches for rare old books he came across a book on palm science and from that moment on he studied many occult books. In 1955 he made a career switch and opened his Tarot practice… in the same street where Mage Edmond once started: rue Fontaine in Paris! Belline also quickly enjoyed the success that Edmond enjoyed: that very same year his prediction about Eisenhower’s disease appeared in the French newspapers and Eisenhower had his first heart attack not much later. Belline’s name also appeared in the Daily Mirror and from that moment on he was famous in the UK as well. A whole series of interviews and television appearances followed, after which he became known as “Le Prince Des Voyants” (the prince of fortune tellers).

Marcel Belline

One day, an elderly lady asked if Belline could help him inventory some antiques she had in her possession. The story goes that among the old lady’s belongings he found the 2 prototypes of the Oracle and the Tarot of Mage Edmond, as well as a handwritten diary that had belonged to him. The result was that the Oracle of Belline was published in 1961…

In 1966, the well-known publisher Grimaud published belline’s ‘large’ tarot deck. Marcel Belline died in 1977 but donated Mage Edmond’s prototypes to a museum when he was still alive. Since 2005 they can be admired in the ‘Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée’ in Marseille.

In 1966, the well-known publisher Grimaud published belline’s ‘large’ tarot deck. Marcel Belline died in 1977 but donated Mage Edmond’s prototypes to a museum when he was still alive. Since 2005 they can be admired in the ‘Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée’ in Marseille.

Grand Tarot de Belline
Grand Tarot de Belline

The Belline oracle cannot be compared to the Lenormand or related systems. It contains symbolism that we know from the Lenormand, but also from the Tarot. It follows its own system (and that’s why it’s so fun and challenging!). Originally the Belline oracle consisted of 52 cards, one card for each week. Belline added 1 card (the so-called ‘blue’ card).

The 53 cards consist of 7 groups of 7 cards, all of which are ‘ruled’ by a celestial body (the so-called 7 ‘classic’ planets: Sun, Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn). 4 cards have no astrological association assigned, these are the key, the Man, the Woman and the blue card (the magnetic card) of Belline himself.

Before I delved into the symbolism of the cards, I first studied the astrological ‘groups’, the colors and the numerology. It is so much fun and also challenging (being used to working with the more ‘mainstream’ Tarot and Lenormand). But taking on a challenge is always a good thing! I cannot waite to write more articles about using the Belline Oracle, I see especially opportunities to combine these cards with the Marseille Tarot.

Four cards of the Belline Oracle
Three cards of the Belline Oracle without astrological associations and the ‘Magnetic’ or ‘Blue’ card Belline added himself

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