Considered by many to be the Holy Grail of Tarot Card Decks, the Thoth Tarot is finally back in print and is now widely available.
World renowned as the Tarot deck painstakingly designed by British occult legend Aleister Crowley, and illustrated under his supervision by Lady Frieda Harris, this deck remains a fantastic tool for divination.
Containing 78 cards born of more common tarot traditions, the Thoth deck contains kabbalistic and astrological aspects that most other tarot cards lack, bringing to it a new dimension to help with divinations, all as Crowley described in the Book of Thoth, also available for purchase.
Crowley (Oct. 12, 1875 – Dec. 1 1947) was born Edward Alexander Crowley, and was also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast. A highly influential English occultist, mystic and ceremonial magician, he was responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. Through this belief he came to see himself as the prophet who was entrusted with informing humanity that it was entering the new Aeon of Horus in 1904, a time when old ethical and religious systems would be replaced.
Widely viewed – and often equally hated – as one of the most influential occultists of all time, he was a member of the esoteric Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and eventually a leader of Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.)
He is known today for his magical writings, especially The Book of the Law, the central sacred text of Thelema, although he also wrote widely on other subjects, including a large amount of fiction and poetry.
Crowley was also a bisexual, a recreational drug experimenter and social critic. In many of these roles he "was in revolt against the moral and religious values of his time," espousing a form of libertinism based upon the rule of "Do What Thou Wilt." (This is a similar precept embraced by Wiccans, with one HUGE difference: Wiccans add, “with harm to none,” as its religious, ethical and magickal compass.)
Because of this controversial philosophy, Crowley gained widespread notoriety during his lifetime, and was denounced by the popular press of the day as, "the wickedest man in the world."
Alongside his esoteric activities, he was an avid chess player, mountaineer, and it has also been alleged that he was a spy for the British government.
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.
Here are a few examples of the traditional Rider-Waite Major Arcana cards, side-by-side with the Thoth equivalent:
I: The Magician — I: The Magus
II: The High Priestess — II: The Priestess
VIII: Strength — XI: Lust [Lust card depicted above]
XI: Justice — VIII: Adjustment
X: Wheel of Fortune — X: Fortune
XIV: Temperance — XIV: Art
XX: Judgement — XX: The Æon
XXI: The World — XXI: The Universe
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. Early editions of the deck included two of Harris' early drafts of The Magus card, each making use of markedly different style and symbols.
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. The current edition is based on a further update that took place in 1986.
[Note: The Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) (the Order of the Temple of the East, or the Order of Oriental Templars) is an international fraternal and religious organization founded at the beginning of the 20th century. Crowley has become the most well known member of the order.
Originally it was intended to be modelled after and associated with Freemasonry, but under Crowley's leadership, the O.T.O. was reorganized around the Law of Thelema as its central religious principle. This Law — expressed as “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law" and "Love is the law, love under will” — was promulgated in 1904 with the dictation of The Book of the Law.
Similar to many secret societies, the O.T.O. membership is based on an initiatory system with a series of degree ceremonies that use ritual drama to establish fraternal bonds and impart spiritual and philosophical teachings.
The O.T.O. also includes the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (EGC) or Gnostic Catholic Church, which is the ecclesiastical arm of the Order. Its central rite, which is public, is called Liber XV, or the Gnostic Mass.]
Important Note: Anyone planning on ordering a reprint of the Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot Deck should be very careful. The deck with a predominantly blue cover contains cards that are more muted in colors, while the deck with the green cover (often referred to as the “Large” deck rather than the “Small” deck version) contains cards that are much bolder in colors, and I believe closer to the originally produced deck.
Included with this green boxed deck you will also find an instruction booklet to aid you in learning the meaning behind each card as it falls in your spread, which also contains commentary and essays concerning the cards within.
— Danu’s Daughter