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The Outlaw Tdm : Surrealist Game of Marseille- Magic In Excile


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The Surrealistic Card game of Marseille. The Marseille Game.


The Jeu de Marseille is an surrealist variant of the Tarot de Marseille created in March 1941 by artists in exile at Villa Air-Bel in Marseille .


In August 1940, the American journalist Varian Fry (1907-1967), a hero who saved between 2000 and 4000 Jews arrives in Marseille as a representative of the Emergency Rescue Committee (American Rescue Committee).

His mission was clear and very important for the future of the world: Allow personalities artistic, political or scientific, under the threat of the application of Article 19 of the Armistice Agreement which stipulates the delivery to Germany of all foreigners declared "prosecuted and undesirable", to leave the French territory. Fortunately he was financially assisted by Mary Jayne Gold, further Varian enjoys the patronage of Eleanor Roosevelt.


Villa Air- Bell, an eighteen rooms country house was rented in order to accommodate refugees waiting for a visa to leave the territory,

Begin October the first occupants arrived. André Breton was with them. Other surrealist artists join Breton: the painters Victor Brauner , Max Ernst , Wifredo Lam , André Masson and the poet Benjamin Péret .


Magic in excile

The surrealist met frequently at the Wolf Burner 2, a pub on the Old Port when someone launches the idea of creating a card game on the model of the Tarot of Marseille.

They changed the names and appearance of the suits and the courts for the sake of national identity so the surrealists in fact attacked excisting social values.

The suits are re-fashioned in a surrealist manner. The 2 reds and 2 black colour scheme is retained. Why change colours anyway when those colours are connected with strong revolutionary links during those days? Red and black, the colours of the Spanish Anarchist Organization CNT-FAI?


De game of Marseille, Le Jeu du Marseille is limited to the standard 52 cards plus 2 jokers (Ubu Roi), The major arcana is excluded although the Marseille reference certainly suggests that one of its many purposes is divinatory.



The suits are as follows


The locks – representing knowledge

The stars – representing dreams


The wheels – representing revolution

The flames- representing love


The surrealist courts :

Away with royalty! The court cards were banished and replaces by different figures of Genius, Siren and Magus. All figures comes from the surrealist pantheon.




Genius ;Hegel

Siren: Helene Smith

Magus: Paracelsus




Genius: Lautremont

Siren: Alice (Wonderland)

Magus: Freud



Genius: Sade

Siren: Lamiel

Magus: Pancho Villa



Genius: Baudelaire

Siren: La Religeuse Portugaise

Magus: Novalis


The game was first published in the surrealist magazine VVV in 1943 and later exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York .

In 1983, the Game was published in a box set by André Dimanche, and reproduced in the catalog of the exhibition The Distraught Planet in 1986. In 2003, the twenty-two drawings of the Game were offered to the Cantini Museum by Aube Elléouët-Breton and her daughter Oona in memory of Varian Fry.



This is the Dutch Box of 'De Woelrat Amsterdam 1985'





Edited by Lucifall
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What an important piece of history!  The artist list alone is impressive, the intent and sensibilities behind the images is honorable...it's genius.


I hope it's reprinted again!

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17 minutes ago, katrinka said:

What an important piece of history!  The artist list alone is impressive, the intent and sensibilities behind the images is honorable...it's genius.


I hope it's reprinted again!

Only studying the courts and try to figure out why they chose the one pictured will take months.  I am really anxious of the discussions these guys must have had in the pub 😉 


But there is more... 

I am really wondering:  is there a secret greater arcana of these surrealist also?

Did the surrealist with their own pantheon of the courts also get further or did they really want only use the normal card game reinvented? 


There a at least some cards of the greater arcana, 

Breton wrote a book Arcanum 17, Matta designed 4 cards for this book: The Moon, The Star, the Chariot and the Lovers. 






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