One of the most popular decks today is the brainchild of the famous occultist and hoaxer Aleister Crowley – Tarot Thoth. The meaning of the cards in this deck is in many ways different from the classics to which the adherents of Ryder-Waite are accustomed, however, the cards themselves are filled with such deep symbolism that it was an unforgivable mistake to bypass their study. The deck has a huge number of fans, but at the same time, a large number of haters, however, as well as the very contradictory personality of the author of the creation. Even if you are not attracted to the Crowley system, it is still worth getting to know it. This is what we are going to do with you now, and who knows – maybe these unusual cards will add to your personal collection after our review?
- History of Deck Creation
- Deck Key Features
- Symbolism of the deck
- Major Arcana of Tarot Thoth
- The Last Judgment
- Minor Arcana Tarot Thoth
- 2 of Wands
- 7 Disks called Failure
- 3 Cups (Abundance)
- 9 Swords (Cruelty)
- Court Tarot Cards of Thoth
- Features of the interpretation of Tarot Thoth cards
- What questions is the deck suitable for?
- Who can use the card data?
- Deck Introduction Literature
History of Deck Creation
To start the story of Tarot Thoth by Aleister Crowley, of course, it is worth with a short biography of the author himself. The name of this unusual person is still shrouded in such a huge number of legends that sometimes it is simply not possible to separate real facts from fiction. “Beast 666” – this is how Crowley is often called in the occult environment, was born in 1875 in a deeply religious family. However, already in his youth, the future occultist was distinguished by a skeptical view of Christian morality, and from 1897 he became interested in literature on alchemy, magic, mysticism. In 1898, Crowley joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and from 1900 he began to practice ceremonial magic. All the adherents of the Order who passed the ritual of initiation had to draw their own tarot deck – it was then that the first sketches of the Tarot cards of Thoth appeared.
But how did the deck, which is admired by millions of esotericists today, saw the light? This was greatly influenced by the artist Lady Frieda Harris, who was a member of the secret society of co-Masons. Initially, no one even thought about the creative tandem of Harris and Crowley, however, for them everything was decided by fate itself. In 1937, through his acquaintances, Crowley began looking for an artist to redraw his maps. For some reason, two applicants did not come to the scheduled meeting, and then Alistair’s friend invited his friend, Frida Harris. The artist’s meeting with Crowley not only moved the work on the deck from a dead center, but also gave it a completely different vector.
The fact is that initially Aleister Crowley’s Tarot Thoth was supposed to look like just a redrawing of one of the Golden Dawn decks – this is exactly what the Beast 666 wanted to accomplish in a couple of months. But Frida Harris was so fascinated by the Tarot system that she insisted on creating completely new authoring cards from scratch under Crowley’s direction. The occultist himself resisted this for a long time, until the artist offered him a profitable option: she would become his student and pay him for her magic training, and at the same time draw new, author’s images of the Arcana under his careful guidance. As a result, the work on the deck took five whole years – from 1938 to 1943.
Paradoxically, but true: a full-fledged edition of the deck was released after the death of the authors. During their lifetime, only exhibitions with canvases depicting the future Arcana were held, and about two hundred trial copies of cards were issued, printed in two colors: the images of the cards were blue, and the shirt was red. The first edition of the full-color deck was published in 1969 by Samuel Weiser. The subsequent draws of the deck were carried out by the companies “US Games Systems” and “AG Muller”.
Deck Key Features
Tarot Thoth by Aleister Crowley has a number of key features. This is a unique tradition that does not overlap with any existing decks. Despite the fact that Crowley himself was an adherent of the Golden Dawn, the maps he developed can be attributed to this school only with great stretch. Of the classics, only suits, perhaps, remain here, and even those do not completely repeat the traditional names: we see the usual Wands (Fire), Swords (Air), Bowls (Water), and instead of Pentacles – Disks (Earth).
Court cards also do not repeat the traditional order. Princesses took the place of Pages for Crowley, Princes took the place of Knights, Knights replaced Kings, and only Queens remained in their rightful place. It was this structure of the “court” of the Tarot that was developed by Mathers, one of the founders of the Order of the Golden Dawn. Crowley believed that it was exactly the correct one, in contrast to the one proposed by Waite.
Some Major Arcana Tarot Thoth received other names. So, for example, Justice became Regulation, Moderation – Art, Judgment – Aeon, Peace – the Universe, and Power – Lust (Lust). The need for such a replacement is perfectly explained in the “Book of Thoth” by Aleister Crowley himself. If you wish, you can read more about this replacement.
In terms of the numbering of the Major Arcana, Strength (Lust) ranks eleventh in Crowley’s deck, and Regulation (Justice) is in eighth place. The Jester opens the deck and has number 0. All other CAs take their traditional places. The Younger Arcana do not have plot lines.
Symbolism of the deck
First, the images of the cards include many alchemical, esoteric, kabbalistic and astrological symbols. Secondly, the color palette of the Arcana was also not chosen by chance: Frida Harris used a special four-part color scale developed by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. There is not a single accident in these cards, and absolutely every little thing has its own meaning: the background of the Arkan, and the depicted figures, and colors, and signs, symbols, images. All this together gives a very deep tarot deck, which needs to be studied thoughtfully and for a long time.
All the Minor Arcana correspond to the decades of the signs of the Zodiac, the Elders have their own astrological or elemental correspondences, the Princesses and Aces rule the astrological quadrants – you can read about all this in more detail in the book of the greatest occultist and mystifier. And even the correspondences not written on the maps are very easy to calculate, understanding the very system built by the Master. Clear astrological anchors expand the range of possible meanings of Aleister Crowley’s Tarot cards and allow calculating time intervals, which makes predictive work with this deck more convenient, flexible and detailed.
Major Arcana of Tarot Thoth
The interpretation of Crowley’s tarot cards is significantly different from the classics. Let’s look at this using three arbitrary cards as an example.
On the classic map, we usually see a tramp with a bundle on his back, striding to the edge of the cliff. There is a dog near him, which either bites his leg, warning of danger, or accompanies him on this unpredictable adventure. In the Tarot Gallery, Tota, the Fool is completely different. He stands with both feet in the air, thereby personifying the air element. The character of the card itself combines several archetypes at once: this is the pagan Green Man, personifying spring, and Parsifal, who went on a journey for the Holy Grail, and the Egyptian Harpocrates – the god of silence, and Dionysus – the god of inspiration, forces of nature and ecstasy. On the other hand, the Dove and Butterfly depicted on the card clearly hint that our Fool is none other than the Holy Spirit himself. If we take a closer look, we will see on the map the Tiger biting the Fool’s leg, the Crocodile, the solar disk, which covers the genitals of the character, the coils of the spiral and many other ambiguous symbols. Agree that the Crowleyan Fool is not at all as simple as the classic one?
The next Major Arcana, which personally inspires me with complete admiration, is Art, which replaced the classical Temperance.
If the classical card has, let’s say, “angelic spirit”, then in the Tarot of Thoth by Aleister Crowley the fourteenth Arcanum is very alchemical, magical. The Arcana plot describes the continuation of the story that began in the Lovers card – it depicts an alchemical wedding of two opposites. In Art, we see the fusion of the characters of the sixth Arcanum into a single androgynous figure. A man’s hand stretches from the woman’s side, and a woman’s from the man’s. If on the Lovers’ card the eagle was white and the lion was red, in Art they changed their color: now the lion is white, and the eagle is red. The dress of an androgynous rich green color is an alchemical symbol of plants and their growth, and the main task of alchemists is to elevate minerals to the level of plant life. The main theme of the plot is the alchemical process, in which two opposites are mixed in the boiler – Fire and Water. A multi-colored glow rises from the cauldron, which becomes the border of the central character’s clothing. This “rainbow” is the result of the whole process, the very “philosopher’s stone”, which alchemists have been striving to create for many years.
The Last Judgment
Another completely revised Major Arcana that I would like to note is the Eon, which replaced the Last Judgment.
Aeon is the same as an era. Crowley argued that a new era began in 1904 – the aeon of Horus, which replaced the era of Osiris. If the symbol of the era of Osiris was the Angel blowing into the trumpet, then the new time should have been reflected on the map with a new illustration. On the twentieth Arcanum in the deck of Thoth Aleister Crowley, the body of the goddess of the starry sky Nut is depicted, a fireball symbolizing her spouse named Hadit, and the god Horus, represented by his two hypostases: this is the huge child Hor-pa-krat and Ra-Hor-Khut, seated on a throne with a wand of a phoenix in his hand.
Needless to say, none of the Major Arcana in the Tarot of Thoth repeats the classical meaning? And if there are parallels, then they always have additional symbolism.
Minor Arcana Tarot Thoth
The Minor Arcana, as I said, are not drawn in the deck, however, the striking color palettes, symbolism added by Frieda Harris, as well as astrological correspondences make it possible to understand the main meaning of the cards, provided that you, of course, at least superficially studied Kabbalah and astrology …
Consider one card of each suit.
2 of Wands
It would seem that these are just two crossed fire rods (more expensive), but look what energy, in the literal sense of the word, bursts out of this card! If we look at the astrological correspondences, we will see that the Two of Wands is Mars in Aries. Mars is the ruler of this zodiac sign, which means that the energy of the card is balanced, but at the same time active, strong, dominant. It is not for nothing that this card is called Power.
7 Disks called Failure
The bluish-black tones of the map, dried tree branches, lead discs (counterfeit coins) – all this creates a feeling of some kind of despair, withering, decay, stagnation. And if we take into account the correspondence of the card – Saturn in Taurus – it will immediately become clear that nothing good can be expected with the appearance of this Younger Arcanum.
3 Cups (Abundance)
To make sure that other number cards can be read intuitively, take a look at the Three of Cups, whose name is Abundance.
Gorgeous, resembling bunches of grapes, bowls are filled with living water from golden buds. The clear water surface and light background of the map clearly speak of stability. Astrological correspondence – Mercury in Cancer. The Sephira corresponding to the chart is Bina. She is very “feminine” and symbolizes the nourishing principle, fertility, understanding. Even without getting into all the astrological and kabbalistic jungle, from the drawing of the card it is quite possible to guess what this numerical Arcanum means.
For a complete understanding of the number tarot cards of Thoth by Aleister Crowley, we will briefly consider the suit of Swords.
9 Swords (Cruelty)
Nine sharpened daggers, from which drops of blood are flowing down, alarming geometric spinning wings in the background, drops of poison flowing down the wall – the picture, even at first glance, is very impartial. And if we remember that Swords are the mind, the kabbalistic sephirah of the card is the most conflicted Yesod, and Mars in Gemini is a complete nightmare, then we will immediately guess that the value of the card will be directly related to primitive unconscious instincts, sadism, psychopathy and fanaticism.
Court Tarot Cards of Thoth
The Court cards in Aleister Crowley’s deck are excellent examples of sixteen socionic personality types. You can read more about this on the forums dedicated to the study and development of the Tarot Tota. Of course, in addition to the character and behavior of a person, these cards can describe events, however, the main emphasis is placed on a certain typology and hexagrams of the eastern I Ching teachings – in the book of Crowley himself, you can learn more about this correspondence.
It is enough just to peer at the image of Princesses, Princes, Knights and Queens to understand how accurately the element and personality type are conveyed in the illustrations of the talented Lady Harris.
Fiery, impulsive, creative, sexual Wands
Sensual, romantic, understanding, dreamy, intuitive Bowls
Witty, intellectually advanced, logical, calculating, and sometimes conflicting Swords
Practical, earthly concerned, hardworking Disks
This is such an amazing royal court!
Features of the interpretation of Tarot Thoth cards
As I said, the classical interpretations of the deck of the great mystifier will not work – the meanings of most cards are very different from the traditional interpretation. And another important difference is the absence of upside-down cards. Each Arkan can show its “shadow side”, but it must be revealed only by the neighboring cards and the general mood of the alignment. This is why the deck is considered difficult for beginners.
What questions is the deck suitable for?
Tarot Thoth by Aleister Crowley is a universal deck, so absolutely any questions can be considered on it. Another thing is that she sometimes “answers” in such detail that it becomes simply amazing.
Who can use the card data?
Tarot cards by Aleister Crowley are definitely worth buying for those who prefer a thoughtful study of the deck, and also love to delve into all sorts of correspondences. The deck is just a “must have” for those who are engaged not only in fortune-telling, but also in magical rituals, as well as for all students of astrology, Kabbalah, and other esoteric sciences. For beginners who want to “quickly” study the maps and immediately start working, it will be difficult with it. However, if you are in no hurry and want to get a universal, multifaceted working tool, you can start with it.
Deck Introduction Literature
I personally recommend not even opening the MBK accompanying the deck, and also leaving aside all the books on this deck, except for those that belong to the authorship of Oleg Telemsky and Lon Milo Duquette. If you decide to buy Tarot Thoth, immediately purchase the manual of the greatest beast called “The Book of Thoth” for it, the best translation is Anna Blaze. By the way, in the LiveJournal of the translator herself there is also a whole storehouse of useful materials on the topic. In short, study – and over time you will understand how amazing the cards are in your hands.