Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Thoth Tarot

A few months ago, I was wandering around at a Barnes & Noble bookstore, and found myself in the metaphysical section. Something caught my eye—it was a number of different tarot decks on display. I picked up a few decks and took a look at the enigmatic pictures on the box covers. Two of the decks I looked at were the Rider-Waite deck, and the Thoth Tarot. From an artistic perspective, I was particularly drawn to the art on the cover of the Thoth deck. Although fascinated, I did not make a purchase.

(From the Rider-Waite deck)

Some weeks passed, and I found my thoughts coming back to these strange cards. I did some research on the Internet. I discovered that the two decks I had looked at were, in fact, two of the most notable tarot decks. The Rider-Waite deck (created in 1910 by mystic Arthur Edward Waite) is arguably the most influential of any tarot deck; it has been the inspiration for a great many other decks, and has really become, in large part, the standard in terms of meaning and interpretation.

The Thoth Tarot is a tarot deck designed by the notorious and colorful British occultist, Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), and was illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris. The Thoth deck is very different from the Rider-Waite, and is significantly more complex, both visually and in terms of its esoteric meaning. The creation of this deck took five years, from 1938 to 1943. Unfortunately, neither Crowley nor Harris lived to see the deck in print—it was not published until 1969.

Becoming increasingly intrigued, I purchased a Rider-Waite and a Thoth deck. Initially interested mainly in the cards for their artwork, I soon found the tarot to be thoroughly fascinating. My intent here is not to give a detailed explanation of what tarot is about (there is a ton of stuff all over the Internet). I am simply, in keeping with the eclectic content of my blog, presenting another intriguing facet of the world of art.

The art of the Thoth Tarot features a combination of psychological archetypes, occult symbology, and a generally modernist style (note the cubist-like appearance of The Hermit and The Tower). Here are a few examples of some of the more visually stunning cards (I have left off the borders of the cards, to focus strictly on the art):

(click on images for a larger view)

The Fool

The Hanged Man

The Hermit

The Hierophant

The Magus

The Magus (alternate)

The Magus (alternate)

The Tower


Sheree Rensel said...

I have thought about this same thing for years. I have a set of cards that are not Tarot, but they are in the same category. My "POWER DECK" by Lynn V. Andrews not only has great horoscopical advice, but the illustrations by Rob Schouten are so facinating and engaging.
I have thought for years about doing a "deck". Maybe some day.

Anonymous said...

Of course!