Thoth tarot deck

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The Thoth Tarot /ˌtt ˈtær/ is a divinatory tarot deck painted by Lady Frieda Harris according to instructions from Aleister Crowley. Crowley referred to this deck as The Book of Thoth, and also wrote a book of that title intended for use with the deck.

Background[edit]

Crowley originally intended the Thoth deck to be a six-month project aimed at updating the traditional pictorial symbolism of the tarot. However, the project was to span five years, between 1938 and 1943, as its scope grew ever wider. Crowley and Harris were meticulous in their work, and Harris painted some of the cards as many as eight times.The current edition of the U.S. Games Systems deck contains two prototypes of The Magus card as painted by Lady Harris, each making use of markedly different style and symbols. These were never intended to be a part of the deck proper but were completed by Lady Harris but rejected by Crowley. They are included as a bonus treat for aficionados of the deck. Neither Harris nor Crowley lived to see the deck published. The first full publication was by Ordo Templi Orientis in 1969, although this initial printing was seen by many to be of inferior quality, and in 1977 Harris' paintings were rephotographed for a second edition. A further update with new photography took place in 1986, while the current edition is based on a revision of this update which was first printed in 1996.

Symbolism[edit]

The illustrations of the Thoth deck are rich in symbolism, based upon Crowley's stated desire to incorporate symbols from many disparate disciplines, including science and philosophy, as well as to draw on his extensive knowledge of various occult system (as described in detail in his Book of Thoth). For example, The Hanged Man and The Moon draw from Egyptian mythology, and the Princess of Disks holds a disk bearing the Taijitu. The pip cards in the four suits (Wands, Cups, Swords, and Disks) depict their objects in carefully crafted positions; for example, the Four of Swords (which Crowley named "truce") shows four swords with their points toward the center of an imaginary square, suggesting a possibly tense peace. The card illustrations are uniformly stark and vividly illustrated throughout.

Differences from Rider Waite Tarot[edit]

Order and names of trumps[edit]

Crowley renamed several of the trumps, and also re-arranged the astrological and Hebrew alphabet correspondences of some cards, in accordance with his earlier book, Liber AL vel Legis (The Book of the Law):

All these old letters of my Book are aright; but צ is not the Star. (AL I:57)
Rider-Waite card Thoth equivalent
I: The Magician I: The Magus
II: The High Priestess II: The Priestess
VIII: Strength VIII: Lust
X: Wheel of Fortune X: Fortune
XI: Justice XI: Adjustment
XIV: Temperance XIV: Art
XX: Judgement XX: The Æon
XXI: The World XXI: The Universe

The Minor Arcana[edit]

Each of the minor arcana pips (1-10 of each suit), other than the four Aces, has been given a title. Crowley named them based on his intended symbolism. This symbolism does not always follow the more popular Rider-Waite tarot deck.

In the Minor Arcana, cards 1-10 are attributions of the sephira on the Tree of Life. Kether rules the Ones, Chokmah rules the Twos, Binah the Threes, and so on, and so forth down to Malkuth ruling the Tens. Kether being Unity, moving down the Tree to Malkuth, being Manifestation furthest away from that Unity.

Names of court cards[edit]

Crowley altered the names of the all the court cards apart from the Queen in the Thoth deck, which can cause some confusion for people used to the more common decks. The typical corresponding names are as follows:

Traditional Court Card Name Thoth Deck Court Card Name
Page Princess
Knight Prince
Queen Queen
King Knight

In Bill Butler's "Dictionary of the Tarot" published by Schocken books in 1975 he forms a relationship between the court cards that is different and when relating back to the traditional tarot seems to suggest different meanings and should be documented here. In his book the chart would be shown as follows:

Traditional Court Card Name Thoth Deck Court Card Name
Page Princess
Knight Knight
Queen Queen
King Prince

Titles and attributions of the Wands Suit[edit]

Number Sign Decan Ruler of Decan Name
1 The Root of the Powers of Fire
2 Aries 1st Mars Dominion
3 Aries 2nd Sun Virtue
4 Aries 3rd Venus Completion
5 Leo 1st Saturn Strife
6 Leo 2nd Jupiter Victory
7 Leo 3rd Mars Valour
8 Sagittarius 1st Mercury Swiftness
9 Sagittarius 2nd Moon Strength
10 Sagittarius 3rd Saturn Oppression

Titles and attributions of the Cups Suit[edit]

Number Sign Decan Ruler of Decan Name
1 The Root of the Powers of Water
2 Cancer 1st Venus Love
3 Cancer 2nd Mercury Abundance
4 Cancer 3rd Moon Luxury
5 Scorpio 1st Mars Disappointment
6 Scorpio 2nd Sun Pleasure
7 Scorpio 3rd Venus Debauch
8 Pisces 1st Saturn Indolence
9 Pisces 2nd Jupiter Happiness
10 Pisces 3rd Mars Satiety

Titles and attributions of the Swords Suit[edit]

Number Sign Decan Ruler of Decan Name
1 The Root of the Powers of Air
2 Libra 1st Moon Peace
3 Libra 2nd Saturn Sorrow
4 Libra 3rd Jupiter Truce
5 Aquarius 1st Venus Defeat
6 Aquarius 2nd Mercury Science
7 Aquarius 3rd Moon Futility
8 Gemini 1st Jupiter Interference
9 Gemini 2nd Mars Cruelty
10 Gemini 3rd Sun Ruin

Titles and attributions of the Disks Suit[edit]

Number Sign Decan Ruler of Decan Name
1 The Root of the Powers of Earth
2 Capricorn 1st Jupiter Change
3 Capricorn 2nd Mars Works
4 Capricorn 3rd Sun Power
5 Taurus 1st Mercury Worry
6 Taurus 2nd Moon Success
7 Taurus 3rd Saturn Failure
8 Virgo 1st Sun Prudence
9 Virgo 2nd Venus Gain
10 Virgo 3rd Mercury Wealth

References[edit]

  • Duquette, Lon Milo (2003). Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot. Weiser Books.
  • Wasserman, James. Instructions for Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot Deck, included in the U.S. Games Systems publication of the deck.
  • Crowley, Aleister. "The Book of Thoth".
  • Bill Butler. "Dictionary of the Tarot", published by Schocken books in 1975
  • Ziegler, Gerd. "Tarot: Mirror of the Soul: Handbook for the Aleister Crowley Tarot"