So, there I was, happily practicing daily readings with my Original RWS and other related decks, solidifying some of my own interpretations and getting to know the traditional ones, when–suddenly!–I was called to meet the Thoth. Just a little synchronicity of joining a Tarot study group over on Facebook that was going to go through some daily lessons to get familiar with a deck. I figured I’d use one of my RWS-based decks. I was supposed to pick up a journal to record my observations in and went over to Etsy.com (a craft and vintage entrepreneurial community) to see what folks had made, and sure enough, the only journal with a Tarot theme that had enough pages had a Thoth collage on it. So, there I was, synchronized to jump into Thoth-world.
Wasn’t feeling real ready, but I do love a symbolism challenge, so I decided to go for it. The Thoth deck was created in the 1930s from a collaboration between Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris. He, the philosophy, she the artwork. The early 20th-century Art Deco and abstract expressionist influences are quite transparent. The symbolism less so, layered, and complex. I won’t go into the whole thing with Crowley yet, but suffice to say he was a controversial figure who at one point belonged to the same Golden Dawn esoteric mystery society as A. E. Waite of the RWS deck. But he did his own research on Tarot origins and came up with his own visions for the Thoth deck (Thoth is the Ibis-headed Egyptian god of magic and the judgment of the dead). The evidence for a real connection between Egypt and the Tarot is sadly lacking, but it was a popular notion at the time Crowley was doing his research, and in any case, Crowley also felt that the symbolism he used reflected universal human desires, fears, and thoughts about life, the universe, and everything.
The trouble with the Thoth is that it requires some serious dedication to learn. And that’s also a good thing. I am using Lon Milo DuQuette’s highly recommended book, Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot to support my learning. So, the next series of blog posts will be mostly about my developing partnership with the Thoth, but I will digress occasionally to other systems.
I’ll close now with my initial post to the group after pulling six cards for an “interview” with the deck:
“I am using the Thoth, by Crowley and Harris. I know the basics of the RWS perspective pretty well; it seems to be time to take on the Thoth’s multi-aspect view of things (astrology, tree of life/kabbalah/myth). Besides, in my interview with the deck before I started, it said it would kick my butt (5 of swords), so, the gauntlet has been thrown, as it were. Not that I want to have a negative relationship with the Thoth, mind you, but I think I’m meant to respect the intellectual and spiritual challenge of understanding it. So, whenever I get discouraged or want to give up, I shall remember this challenge and flow on to mastery!”
So we hope (the bit about mastery). As if we could ever truly master a symbolic system, I suppose. I’m looking forward to the challenge and have learned quite a bit so far in the first week of checking out the deck. If you’d like a fun and informative take on the weird and different way Crowley and Harris portrayed the Court cards in this deck, check out Alison Cross’s latest post at her blog, This Game of Thrones.