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Tchalaï Unger


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The name of Tchalaï has been mentioned on a number of occasions recently, typically in conjunction with that of Jodorowsky, without much knowledge of what she actually wrote on the subject of the Tarot.

As I have previously said, the LWB she wrote for Grimaud in the 1980s is available online in French, as is the Spanish translation. There was an English translation produced to accompany the Grimaud deck in English, but copies seem to be very rare. Although her main book on the subject was republished, under a different title, copies are also quite rare and expensive.

Given that the historiography of Tarot of the past 50 years is sorely deficient, we have no way - for the time being - of knowing exactly who taught what to whom. Suffice to say that Tchalaï taught a very rational approach to the Tarot, and to give an example of that, I have decided to share with this board an excerpt from her book, ‘Les empreintes de l'invisible / Le tarot, jeu du gouvernement du monde’, translated by myself. In this way, readers will gain a basic idea of how she taught one to observe and think about the cards. My notes are in square brackets. This refers specifically to the Ancien Tarot de Marseille [Ancient Tarot of Marseilles] by Paul Marteau, published by Grimaud.

Tchalaï  FEJBc8S



Observation Exercises

Let us lay down the 78 cards of the Tarot and observe them as they are, forgetting everything we know – or think we know – about them. Let us approach these cards much as children play with differently shaped blocks, putting them together, like with like. There is no need for us to give them a meaning or to derive a teaching therefrom just yet. Insofar as we see the laws which govern this ensemble of cards appear, we may begin to form a logical approach, therein lies the game.

Once we have put together the cards which quite obviously are part of the same group, we can distinguish four general sub-sections.

The Great Square

We see here a group of depictions of people with, below the image, a cartouche bearing a name or title. There are four such functions: Roy [King], Reyne [Queen], Valet [Valet] and Cavalier [Horseman]. There are four families: Coupe [Cup], Épée [Sword], Bâton [Staff] and Deniers [Coins]. Let us immediately note that Deniers is in the plural form and let us keep this in mind since it may have a bearing later on.

Place the cards so as to see at a glance the four functions (for instance, horizontally) and the four families (for instance, vertically, although the reverse is just as legitimate).

For mnemonic reasons, for the handling and discussion of the cards, and even though the Tarot does not explicitly give them a name, let us call this group “The Great Square”.

The Four Tools

Another sub-group is composed of 4 cards which have neither name nor number, nor even a cartouche. They solely depict a large object, not a person, one per card, and for practical reasons, even though the Tarot does not give them a name, we shall label them “The Four Tools”.

The Technical Bloc

We also see a certain number of objects – 36 to be precise – which are not named but which are numbered. The number – given in Roman numerals – is to the side of the card, except in one series which depicts regular, circular objects in growing number, and which is not numbered.

We may, even though the tarot does not give them a name, call them Deniers by analogy with the tool which is held by the King, Queen, Valet and Horseman of Deniers of the Great Square.

Three out of four of the sub-series of this sub-group are numbered from 2 to 10 in Roman numerals. Looking more closely we can see that in two of the series the number is to be read from the centre of the card. That is to say, we can only “decipher” the card by placing oneself within its centre. In another series, the series can only be deciphered by placing oneself outside it. This series depicts a growing number of yellow goblets or cups. By analogy with the tool held by the series of figures from the Great Square, we can call this series that of Cup. Moreover, we can group together these 4 series as one group and call it “The Technical Bloc.”

In Brief

To recap, we find 3 sub-sets based on the number 4:

4x1: The Four Tools
4x4: The Great Square
4x9 (from II to X): The Technical Bloc

There remains one further sub-set, thus giving us a total of 4 sets composing the 78 cards of the Tarot in its entirety.

The “Cartes de Voyage”

One sub-set consist of cards with an image without name or number (The Four Tools); another, an image and a name (The Great Square); another, an image and a number (The Technical Bloc). The group we have not yet examined contains: image, name and number. For this reason, we may say it is thus the most complex part of the Tarot.

For reasons of commodity we shall call this group the “Cartes de Voyage” [‘carte’ meaning both ‘card’ and ‘map’ in French, thus literally ‘Travel Maps’]. “Cartes de Voyage” because cards (as in “visiting cards”) are a sign of identification and of recognition. As to geographical maps, they offer us a workable approach to the territory we wish to explore and allow us to choose a route.

We have thus grouped together these 22 cards as they present the same characteristics: they have an image, and are numbered from I to XXI in a cartouche above the image itself. These numbers imply an order, a sequence. The only problem is the card named “Le Mat” – the cartouche which ought to contain a number is empty. Where should we place this card?

Mating the Mat*

One of the procedures used in taxonomy – the study and classification of a group – consists of comparing the part that differs from the others with every other part of the group in order to spot analogical correspondences. In fact, this is exactly what we have done by grouping the cards together earlier, thus discovering the 4 “modes” or sub-sets.

Consider Le Mat. Is there another card which draws our attention in a similar manner? The answer is obviously yes. There is another card which has an image and a number – thus placing it within the sequence of 22 cards we are now considering. However, it has no name, nor even a cartouche where the name should be. Nor is its name inscribed on the side of the card, as with the Valet of Deniers of the Great Square. This card is that numbered XIII. When we look at Le Mat, we notice that the upper cartouche is empty, but the cartouche itself exists. Therefore, Le Mat does have a number. Perhaps this number is to be found elsewhere and we can begin by examining more closely the particularity of this card numbered XIII.

These two cards are incomplete with respect to the other “Cartes de Voyage”, but their design tells us that they are clearly a part of this group. If we compare the figures, we immediately notice they are analogous: both figures facing the right-hand side of the card from the viewer’s perspective, stepping forward with their left feet, the one leaning on a walking stick, the other on a handle attached to a blade. Both stick and handle are at a similar angle and are both of the same yellow colour. The figures are not totally superimposable but their postures are very similar indeed.

Let us put forth the hypothesis that both cards can be paired together. We would then have one card, bearing the name Le Mat and the number XIII, and whose image would be doubled up, so to speak, as though the one were the x-ray image of the other. We cannot simply label Le Mat as XIII since this number is already “taken”, which leads us to place Le Mat behind XIII rather than in front of it.

This is but a working hypothesis, but it confirms the other hypotheses we have proposed. We can thus provisionally pair together Le Mat and XIII until something else appears which would negate this hypothesis.

Needless to say, the Tarot does not name XIII, and this by a remarkable peculiarity. Therefore, we shall not name it either, not even for practical reasons. To do so would be to introduce a serious error into the observation, logic and efficiency of our system.

[* Note: In French, ‘Mater le Mat’, literally, ‘Taming (or watching), le Mat’. The wording has been changed slightly to preserve the alliteration and wordplay. - Translator.]

- Tchalaï Unger,  ‘Les empreintes de l'invisible / Le tarot, jeu du gouvernement du monde’, pp.52-56.

Edited by devin
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Tchalaï passed away in 2005. The little information about her available online is courtesy of a couple of articles by - and an interview with - one of her last students, Laurent Edouard.


And an image for posterity:

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To add to this thread, I came across references to Tchalaï in the novelisations of the ‘Hellblazer’ comics, by John Shirley. Some of you may have seen the film adaptation ‘John Constantine.’ Shirley lived in Paris during the 1980s, when the novel takes place, and Tchalaï is mentioned by her family name later on in the book - Dermitzel, same as in the article linked to above. That was her married name, but she later went by Unger, in honour of her Gypsy ancestors of that name. The book was published one year after her death, an homage, perhaps? Incidentally, ‘Tchalaï’ means ’star’ in the Rom language.

Edit: John Shirley is thanked in the acknowledgements of Les empreintes de l'invisible.


Paris, France

Tchalai didn’t seem terribly surprised to see John Constantine at the door of her Paris flat after a six-year absence. She had a gift for divination; she had probably “seen” his arrival days ago.

“Hello, ‘Star-eyes,’ ” he said, winking.
“Hello, John. So now you’re here.”

She was a Gypsy in her midforties; with her long softly curling black hair and dark eyes she was a Mediterranean beauty who might’ve been a consort to a Phoenician king—a Gypsy, but a sophisticated Parisian before all else. She stood barely over five feet tall, small but proportionately womanly. She was barefoot, in a low-cut purple shift clasped at the waist by a belt of gold medallions.

“You look just the same,” he said.
“As do you, six years later—or perhaps there are more lines in your face. I believe that’s the same awful trench coat, no?”

She had a slight accent, difficult to identify: she was from Hungary but had been raised chiefly in Paris. He was one of the few people who knew she had a degree in quantum physics; she’d written her paper on the intellectual tension between Niels Bohr and Einstein. But she made her living mostly doing Tarot for French movie stars. She was also, quite discreetly, a sorceress, which is one reason Constantine had come to see her.

Excerpt From: John Shirley, “Hellblazer 1 - War Lord” (2006).

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The sequel to the previously quoted book also contains yet another brief reference to Tchalai:  

“Constantine sat on the broken wall, as if it were a bench, and took out his pack of Silk Cuts—but there were only three left. He put the fags away and wondered what to do with his life. He felt the depression like a thick hempen rope around his neck, heavy and tight. He could almost feel the bristles. He could barely breathe. What was the bloody point of anything, when you had to face it alone? He’d kept company with the French sorceress Tchalai for a while last summer. But with Kit he was able to let go, feel himself—feel like an ordinary man. With Tchalai, the Hidden World was never far away. Seeing he wasn’t going to get serious, Tchalai had shrugged and said she had no interest at her time in life in fixing her identity around a man anyway. She announced she would sell her building in Paris and go to a retreat in Tibet. My soul needs to grow, John…”

Excerpt From: John Shirley. “Hellblazer 2 - Subterranean” (2006).

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This is an excerpt from a piece written by two former students of both Jodorowsky and Tchalaï, and which sheds a little more light on the relationship between the two, assuming it is a faithful and reliable recollection.

The Battle of the Marseilles Cardmakers

The one who was our first master of Tarot was the Chilean film director and author, Alejandro Jodorowsky, or “Jodo” to his close friends.

Now, during our study sessions at the School of Mines [in Paris], Jodo always affirmed that the only true and authentic original Tarot was that printed in Marseilles by the cardmaker Nicolas Conver (moreover a great Rosicrucian adept).

Conver had defined the format, a double square or golden rectangle, and with a group of initiates (including quite probably Nostradamus, doctor, alchemist and prophet who was then in Marseilles to heal the victims of the Great Plague: one out of three inhabitants), had fixed therein significant details which allowed, in those days during which the Inquisition was raging, to hide in a simple pack of cards knowledge which would otherwise have disappeared.


The Tarot of Nicolas Conver was later revisited by Paul Marteau, founder [sic] of the Grimaud company, and who was also an initiate (Grand Master of Freemasonry).

The architecture of Conver’s Tarot remained the same, but Paul Marteau added bright colours, based on symbolism, which allowed for an easier Tarot reading.

- "This Tarot is perfect", Jodo would tell us, "and anyone who would dare to change even the slightest detail, would only disturb its reading."

That was 30 years ago… Since then, the cardmaker Camoin has passed by there. He contacted Jodorowsky and convinced him that it was really one of his ancestors, a contemporary of Nicolas Conver, who had been in possession of the real secrets of the Tarot. The temptation to create his own Tarot (the Tarot of Marseille Restored) but also of no longer having to pay the rights to the Grimaud company, convinced he who called himself “the Pope of the Ancient Tarot of Marseilles” to involve himself in this venture.

Eager to hear another interpretation, we then turned to the one who would become our second master: Tchalaï Unger. Like Jodorowsky, she had also penned a booklet to accompany the Ancient Tarot of Marseilles by Grimaud.

For her, Jodo had become slightly megalomaniac with age (he is over 80 years old), to create a Tarot was tempting, and he gave in to the song of the sirens. In conclusion, for Tchalaï, the Camoin Tarot is nothing less than an imposture. We will not take sides in this battle between Conver and Camoin, and the Pope Jodo and the Popesse Tchalaï, but what is certain is that our teaching will remain faithful to what we regard as being the original and authentic Tarot.

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Here is a further excerpt from Tchalaï's work, this time from the article Le tarot: comment s’en servir? (The Tarot: How to Use it) This is a stand-alone piece from the article, dealing with a method of studying a single card.

Study of a Card: La Force

Observe the name, the shape of the letters, the number, the shape of the numbers. Allow whatever general ideas you may have on fortitude/force/power/strength [fr. la force] to come to you, and try not to become attached to any preconceived image, positive or negative. Contemplate this spectacle.

Allow whatever numerological knowledge you may have (e.g. the number 11 in your life) to come to you, without becoming attached to any absolutes.

Observe the card in question between card X and card XII. (Later you will have to find the common denominators between X and XI, between XI and XII, as well as between XI and every other card, including the minor arcana.)

Allow the colours and shape to permeate you, and every detail to impress itself upon you, without intellectual commentary. If that is pleasant or unpleasant, merely note it, and that is all. Be sensitive to the design, to the apparent volumes (true or false?). This is to be done every day for 10 minutes, for at least a month (either continuously or discontinuously) until such a time as you have completely memorised the card and all its details, without exception. This may take years.

Once again, at the moment of falling asleep, look at the card as though it were an icon or a mandala. Express the hope to see it in your dreams. Note these dreams, even those which at the time do not seem to have a direct relation with La Force. Later, this type of task will have to be accomplished for every single card.

Then, after this period of sensorial impregnation, objectively assess the extent and placement of the colours, according to the basic symbolism, the placement of the shadows and hatching. Count every stroke, every fold in the coat, every 'tooth' of the hat, and the teeth of the animal. What is this person doing?

Then, adopt the attitude of this person. You cannot. This body is lopsided. Take a closer look as to where the foot is placed (above the ground), and the shoes - assorted to the outfit? How many toes? Or straps? See how the head and arms are nice and well-drawn (the position of each finger), but the rest of the body, less so. Is it a woman, as the head and outfit would have us believe? And what of that line at the base of the neck? The head is placed on the rest of the body. Is it a body? Compare it with the other feminine bodies of the major arcana and of the court cards of the minor arcana. Is it a clothes hanger, or a scarecrow?

Return to the foot. Why does it not touch the ground? (Loss of contact with reality?)

Look at the animal. Dog? Lion? Its fierce eye and fearsome teeth (how many?), carefully drawn. Its curly mane. Look at the bottom of the card. It has no paws. It is a stick. (A broom? A witch on a broomstick?) Is it the pelt of a lion or a dog on a stick? It does not exist, or rather, it is also an illusion. When force is exerted on an illusion, it loses contact with reality. But who is applying this force? What theatrical play is being played upon the scene of arcanum XI? Allow this to settle in you like wine. Take up the card every now and again. Take it as a subject of reflection, a support of meditation. Imagine how the character's movements might flow. Use it as the point of departure for Ichazo* style exercises. Engrave it within yourself. Become arcanum XI. And, as Jodorowsky says, “breathe her, eat** her, drink her, make love to her.”

You will hate her, love her, then forget her. When complicity arises, that is when knowledge begins.


* Visualisation exercises used towards the goal of reducing and sharpening the imagination and sensoriality, practiced in the Arica School founded by Óscar Ichazo. - Tchalaï.
** The term employed here is ‘manducate’ which is generally only found in reference to the consumption of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. - Translator.

- Revue Question De. No. 30. Mai-Juin 1979.

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Tchalaï Unger: A Name in the World of the Marseilles Tarot

by Laurent Edouard

Born in 1934 by the banks of a stream in the West, Tchalaï Unger dedicated her life to living, by trying to free herself from numerous passionate activities: violinist at the age of 4, musical critic for the Parisian at age 19, then later journalist almost everywhere (France Soir, Paris Match, Figaro magazine, among others), specialising in interviewing actors (Brando, Delon) and film directors (Spielberg, George Miller, Ridley Scott, Gus Van Sant), film critic, as well as script reader for a large film production company.

In parallel, her studies in psychological schools and philosophical groups lead her to becoming a therapist at the crossroads of the Eriksonian and Transpersonal movements. She has written a number of works on Memory-Codes: Introduction au Dépoussiérage des Mythes [Introduction to the Dusting Off of Myths], Les Amants Merveilleux [The Wonderful Lovers], Les Empreintes de l'Invisible [Traces of the Invisible], Prières Inconnues [Unknown Prayers], Le Sexe des Rêves [Dream Sex], Le Véritable Tarot Tzigane [The Authentic Gypsy Tarot], etc.  She has given many workshops aimed at corporate executives.

She created Le Tarot Tzigane [The Gypsy Tarot], Le Tarot des Chamanes [The Tarot of the Shamans] and has worked with an iconographer on La Réponse des Saints [The Reply of the Saints], and with an artist expert in futuristic effects, she has created L'Oracle de la Santa-Fé [The Oracle of the Santa-Fé].

Her 1981 booklet, The Tarot: Why, How and How Far? to accompany the Ancient Tarot of Marseille (designed by Paul Marteau in 1930 and published by Grimaud) sold over a million copies worldwide. In this booklet, she presents an original and particularly innovative approach to the Tarot of Marseilles.

In an extraordinary work, The Rodrigues Theorem, she explores a natural approach to the sensorial fourth dimension. These different activities only give a glimpse into her essential passion, Collective Memories.

As a translator, she encountered many high-level scientists (Stanislav Grof, Rupert Sheldrake, David Bohm). Among other works, she translated David Bohm’s Wholeness and the Implicate Order.  Her last book, Secrets de Gitans [Gypsy Secrets] was published in 2002.

This biography was adapted from her booklet Les amants merveilleux ou le mythe de la fusion [The Wonderful Lovers, or the Myth of Fusion] which was distributed during the workshops of the same name from 1990 to 1995.

Tchalaï left us on the 20th of April, 2005. She leaves an entire generation of tarologists in sorrow at her loss.

Source: https://www.monde-omkar.com/blog/laurent-edouard/tchalai-unger-un-nom-dans-le-monde-du-tarot-de-marseille


* * *

This brief biography gives further background and context on Tchalaï. I have not been able to find any information on a number of the works listed above, I presume they were either privately published and distributed at her seminars, or were unpublished.

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Here is another excerpt from the article already quoted above.

* * *
Why the Tarot of Marseilles?

As you will have already noticed, these working bases rely on examples taken exclusively from the Tarot of Marseilles. Why?

We may discuss the matter all day long, but not if we have really worked with the Tarot, instead of shoving our ego therein. There is no Tarot other than the Marseilles Tarot. This apparently dictatorial assertion would be intolerable to Piek Anéma (who has published a number of decent volumes on the Tarot), or to Mr Balbi (who is so erudite and who has drawn such a lovely tarot). They will both forgive me. Or perhaps not. We can back up this affirmation with dozens of proofs, and notably on astounding numerological arguments. But I want but one proof, objective, clear, and precise: the Tarot of Marseille is the richest, the fullest, the simplest, period

Line up all the others next to it. Even those which have seen fit to add on a Hebrew letter, a planet, or whatever, are by far and away inferior in both meaning and content, and appear wretched and clumsy. Many people, too often too learned, have wanted to improve on the Marseilles Tarot by “completing” or “simplifying” it. Only… when we change the shape of the card, its colour, its name, we have also completely changed the vibratory content of the card. The other “tarots”  are sometimes very interesting or harmonious or decorative, or charged with experience (notably psychedelic), but we find therein the portrait of those who designed them, and not the portrait of the universe. This then becomes a catalogue of preconceived ideas, and not a living path of initiation.

- Tchalaï, The Tarot: How to Use it, Question De. No. 30. Mai-Juin 1979.

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On page 64 of the English booklet, there is an image of an "architectonic blueprint", or more prosaically in French, "tracé harmonique". This is another innovative idea due to Tchalaï (and one of her students apparently), and one which has been adopted by the contemporary card maker Pablo Robledo, who includes such a geometric grid on cellophane with his decks (see images below.)


However the image is out of sync with respect to the text in the English edition. The image appears on page 64, and not on the "following page" as the text says.

“The purely geometrical schema that you will find on the following page (and reproduce on tracing paper) will offer you interesting suggestions as regards the internal structure of each arcanum, when both are superimposed. You will note, this way, that each image is in a carefully calculated off-centre position in relation to ideal architectonic lines, and this deliberate shift reminds us that life keeps adjusting its elements ceaselessly. Too much symmetry is not in nature; a comparative study could indeed be made between body schema of each arcanum (minor arcana included). You have done it? Bravo!” (p. 58)

Some images (found online) from Pablo Robledo's deck:

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Browsing through the late Jean-Claude Flornoy’s book on a hunch, I came across this very brief mention:

“[Jean Assens] practiced a tarot of the soul, and along with Tchalaï* and Jodorowsky, was one of those who restored the reputation of the tarot at the end of the 20th century. (* A woman of Hungarian origin, she wrote the booklet for the 1981 edition of Paul Marteau’s tarot.)”

In a similar vein, we also find the following quote elsewhere online:

“At present there is a renewal of interest in historic tarots throughout the world. Tchalaï, Jodorowsky, Camoin, but also Jean-Claude Flornoy are among the instigators of this movement. A new symbolic approach, a new, stripped-down gaze, reveal a complex, structured, and surprisingly rich world. These images are all but innocent. And little by little, the mystery and sense of their origin begins to become clear. Yet there still exist many hypotheses and few certainties.” [source]

I was sure that Flornoy had written something else, but was unable to find it. Perhaps another time. These quotes ought to better situate Ms Unger among the great and the good of the Tarot world.

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The geometric grid is real-size in the booklet, I expect that the size will have been preserved in the scan so all you need is some tracing paper or cellophane and a felt-tip marker or something suitable to write with.

On a related note, after playing around with this handy tool https://pinetools.com/overlay-images I was able to superimpose - crudely - the Mat and XIII, and these are the results:


I've just lined up the images roughly, using the staff/scythe as reference in the image on the left, but with a bit of nudging it is apparent that the legs match up,  as do the right arms. The image on the right is a direct superimposition and the postural differences are more obvious.

Using that online tool, the pack of images linked to earlier (yes, the dreaded bilingual deck, but what can I do, short of scanning a full deck?), as well as the grid image provided above, you could repeat the exercise to your heart's content.

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Tchalaï called her method "the school of the objective gaze", and she likened this approach to wearing a special pair of glasses which would endow one with "laser vision." This visual method is outlined in the booklet you all know by now, and specific examples are dealt with in the later book.

The importance she attached to this idea can be measured by the portrait on page 1 of this thread where she is pictured holding up the Ace of Coins in such a fashion.  Here is an image I cobbled together based on the illustration from her book:

Tchalaï  - Page 4 PfUhbxn

* * *

The True Laser Gaze

The Glasses* of the Tarot

The two of CoinS encircles the gaze and tells us that the series which follows involves the structured vision which gives the world its structure when it falls upon it. In the Tarot, the real size of these “glasses” [i.e. on the card] is exactly the same as an ordinary pair of eye glasses which you or I would wear.

*Glasses [in French] are ‘lunettes’ - literally, “small moons”.

- Les empreintes de l'invisible, p. 83.

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Time for a further (minor) update:

The following article,  Le tarot: comment s’en servir? (The Tarot: How to Use it) was first published in the New Age magazine, 'Question De' N° 30, in 1979.

It was later translated into Dutch and published in the New Age magazine, 'Bres' (not sure which issue or year), presumably around the same time or shortly thereafter under the title "Hoe moet men met de Tarot omgaan?"

And there was equally a Spanish translation, in the journal 'Alcione', no. 12, "Cómo Consultar el Tarot", which is also available to read online.

Both of those Dutch and Spanish journals also contained translations of other texts by Tchalaï too.

Perhaps this information will be of use to readers of those languages.





Here is another brief text taken from a conference paper on gypsy culture, composed of the author's reminiscences, including an homage to Tchalaï.

* * *

There are, of course, many people of gypsy origin who have, as we say, “made it”, whether in France, in Russia, or elsewhere. I would like to mention one of those people, not so well known, it is true, but who was very loved and very highly regarded by her friends, including myself. Born M…. B…., she decided to take up the lineage of her Unger grandfather, and so she adopted the name Tchalaï Unger which suited her so well. She converted to Orthodox Christianity, which is how I came to know her. As a journalist she was close to Louis Pauwels, Marlon Brando, Yul Brynner and other renowned figures. She passed away in 2005. She was the author - chiromancy oblige - of the book Tarot Tzigane. As we knew her, so beautiful and so noble, so serene, she bore the vivacity of all the gypsy splendour we have evoked.

- Iégor Reznikoff, 2012/2013.

Tchalaï  - Page 4 QwX4lEo

Here is another brief text, from a blog by a name some will recognise, the French tarot maker Bertrand Saint-Guillain.
* * *

Books circulate, fortunately, and sometimes we encounter more than we bargained for. In this way, borrowing Le Tarot, jeu du gouvernement du Monde by Tchalaï Unger, which I had promised myself I would read for a while now, I came across this forgotten and unexpected inscription on the shelves of a public library.

For those who do not know the inevitable Tchalaï, Laurent Edouard mentions her in these two articles [one of which is cited above], the others will have recognised the name of the author of the booklet which accompanied the Ancient Tarot of Marseilles by Grimaud from 1980, entitled The Tarot: Why, How and How Far.

The sight of Tchalaï’s signature will remind, I hope, those who knew her of happy memories.
* * *

The significance of the curious drawing beneath the signature will be examined in due course.






"On a background as black as the infinite, the back of the cards shows the design my grandfather made me learn when I was still a baby, lines so easily reproduced on any kind of material with a pebble or a pencil, which allow you to enclose the infinite within the bounds of a postage stamp, or even less, and to break free into it:

A road leading towards the horizon, where a tree grows, under the star which reminds is that our true country is of celestial origins, and that we are on our way back there. Celestial, or rather - cosmic, as one would say today."
- Tchalaï, LWB for the Tarot Tzigane, Grimaud, 1984.
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To continue this thread with some further appreciations of Tchalaï’s booklet, I have translated a few excerpts from the books of a French healer and tarologist, snippets of whose books I was able to read via Google Books, and who is not shy about rendering to Caesar.

There used to be a booklet that accompanied older editions of the Tarot of Marseilles, a fantastic little book written by Tchalaï. Instead of giving and imposing a set of orders and explanations of the Arcana of the Tarot, this booklet left the student free to learn, and provided a method.

In a word, instead of giving you food, it taught you how to fish! This reminds us of something.

However, the publishers saw fit to get rid of this booklet and to replace it with the eternal little white booklet which tells you that the Pope means this, and the Devil means that…

And that method deprives you of the essential, that is, the ownership of YOUR Tarot. Have no doubt about it, the Tarot you will use will speak according to your directives, your impressions, your rules, your own feelings! And not necessarily according to those of your neighbour, or of the best book there this, including this one.


To return to the teaching method which seems to me to be the most relevant, but also the most restricting, I will simply advise you to do as the booklet by Tchalaï says.

I would have loved to have included it in this book, but I must respect copyright laws. But if you look hard enough, you may very well find it online, or perhaps one of your friends may own an old pack of Tarot cards from the 1980s.

André Mélia: Le Tarot Vérité


But what is one to do with this deck of cards? Naturally, one must first master its use. In order to do so, I advise you to work with this tool with the booklet by Tchalaï that used to accompany the cards back in the 1980s. At present, the booklet that is currently being published is no longer of any great interest.

André Mélia: La Maladie Eveil


In passing, let me tell you a secret:

In the classes I give on the Tarot (free, of course), I explain how, of all the books written on the Tarot, and God only knows how many I have in my collection, the best, the most useful, the only one, remains, in my eyes, that little booklet (by Tchalaï) that used to come with Tarot packs back in the day. At present, the booklet that is currently being published is no longer of any great interest.

With that old booklet by Tchalaï, you have the key, not of the Tarot, but of a method of learning how to read the cards, which in my eyes is much more important.


from the bibliography:
In theory, the old Tarot of Marseilles booklet by Tchalaï (hard to find) is excellent. It is largely sufficient, contrary to appearances.

André Mélia: Le Soin Vérité
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Another piece of Tchalaï memorabilia, a flyer for workshops and consultations.






The recent passing of Ralph Metzner, pioneer of a certain form of psychedelic psychology along with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, reminded me of his books Maps of Consciousness: I Ching, Tantra, Tarot, Alchemy, Astrology, Actualism, and Alchemical Divination, the first of which contains an interesting (though short) chapter on Tarot which may the closest equivalent to Tchalaï's thinking in English. The latter work may also be of interest to those who find this approach worthwhile.




A further illustration, ‘E Drabarni’ - “She Who Casts Spells” from the “Tarot Tzigane” (Tarot of the Roms) designed by Tchalaï and drawn by Monique Arnold, published by Grimaud in 1984.




Tchalaï wrote:Rather than a wizard, the Drabarni is, etymologically speaking, the one with the plants, from the word “Drab” - medicinal plant. Still veiled, she reminds us that not long ago no married Tzigane woman would have shown her entire hair to any man other than her husband or her young son (in extreme circumstances, a wide ribbon, a kerchief arranged differently according to Kumpanias, an ornate comb expresses the tradition).

The Drabarni is a woman who is still young, in perfect communication with Nature in its entirety, as is shown by her dress sprayed with galactic whirls, stars and moon quarters. She knows the tradition, but what she specializes in is the reading of the “patrin” - the secret code of the itinerant people, made from pebbles, twigs and leaves (the word “patrin” means “leaf”), and also the making of beverages, brews, tisanes, teas, to stimulate, soothe, to bring fever down or burn up waste. Fever is a favourite illness among the Tziganes, but rarely would they venture further. At the same time the Drabarni is the midwife, and the wise woman. She draws her powers from tradition. The spells she casts are positive or negative, but always have a link with nature. She studies human nature with solicitude and tenderness, but, like nature, she knows neither wrath nor passion, she only readjusts the balance.




For those who are intrigued and interested in the theoretical underpinnings of Tchalaï’s work, especially as found in the first part of the Grimaud booklet, and who wish to delve further into this, the following excerpt, which presents the Albarracin human potential movement alluded to in the booklet, will provide some background.



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WoW, so interesting! Thank you soo much!!!


I already found the booklet in another thread here or somewhere else, but through your postings i will definatly read it! I just stumbled into the TdM and love to absorb anything that teaches me more. 



Edited by Losgunna
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On 11/23/2019 at 9:48 AM, devin said:

Browsing through the late Jean-Claude Flornoy’s book on a hunch, I came across this very brief mention:

“[Jean Assens] practiced a tarot of the soul, and along with Tchalaï* and Jodorowsky, was one of those who restored the reputation of the tarot at the end of the 20th century. (* A woman of Hungarian origin, she wrote the booklet for the 1981 edition of Paul Marteau’s tarot.)”

In a similar vein, we also find the following quote elsewhere online:

“At present there is a renewal of interest in historic tarots throughout the world. Tchalaï, Jodorowsky, Camoin, but also Jean-Claude Flornoy are among the instigators of this movement. A new symbolic approach, a new, stripped-down gaze, reveal a complex, structured, and surprisingly rich world. These images are all but innocent. And little by little, the mystery and sense of their origin begins to become clear. Yet there still exist many hypotheses and few certainties.” [source]

I was sure that Flornoy had written something else, but was unable to find it. Perhaps another time. These quotes ought to better situate Ms Unger among the great and the good of the Tarot world.

Hello, I happened upon this post while scanning the internet on various matters, including tarot. I happen to have a pdf of Flornoy's "complete method" and the little booklet he published to accompany his reedition of Jean Noblet's Tarot. His approach to tarot is (completely) initiatory, obviously very much inspired by speculative freemasonry, operative stoneworkers ("Compagnons") and an "energetic" vision (hindu+yogic) to uphold the successive steps of initiation. To do so he groups the cards in numerical order, by fives. Each serie of 5 illustrating a further step onto the "pilgrimage of the soul" as he calls it. I'd be happy to scan the booklet (in French) if there are people interested.

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thank you foer your answer. I see you know your subject very well. Indeed his widow collects fees from tyhe pdf of his book. i was talking more baout the booklet that goes with the deck. But here again of course you're right and it would constitute a breach in copyright. Thank you for your reply again


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