a cache of usenet and other text files pertaining
to occult, mystical, and spiritual subjects.


Tarot History )

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.tarot,alt.magick,alt.divination
From: Jess Karlin 
Subject: Re: Tarot History (was Re: Pamela Smith Deck (was ....))
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 07:23:42 +0000

nagasiva wrote:
> kaliyuga
> 49960626 AA1
> (nagasiva engaging a commentary quite possibly in error):
> |>Waite is best known for the Smith-Waite tarot, which a woman named
> |>Smith, who is too often neglected within tarot studies, 

Neglected in what way?

Kaplan tells her story in the first part of Volume III of
his tarot encyclopedia.

> |>painted,
> |>apparently as inspired or directed by Waite himself.  the deck is
> |>popularly known as the 'Waite-Rider' (Rider is the original publisher)
> |>and became rather important to Rosicrucian and Qabalistic mages such
> |>as Paul Foster Case and his own society (B.O.T.A.), as well as
> |>becoming an inspiration for the modern occult revival after 1950.
> |This last is an interesting assertion.  

And not one with much merit. Although the deck was certainly
the most popular tarot design of this century, being copied
by just about everyone (and seldom with much understanding
of what its symbolism meant), I don't think it makes much sense
to claim that it was this deck that inspired the 'occult revival'.
There were some social developments (principally the 60's
growth of interest in things metaphysical as opposed to purely
material or 'practical') that led to things like tarot and
astrology being taken 'seriously' by MANY people.

> |...the greatest contribution of Smith's deck is the addition of
> |symbology on the minor arcana.  

I don't know if 'great' is a proper description but it has
certainly been influential. However, Smith's use of a narrative
illustration in the minors is in no way original, since she copied 
the idea of it and several of the designs from the Sola-Busca 
tarocchi deck (c. 1490).

> are you then saying that the GD deck (some particular one?) preceded that
> of the Smith-Waite and that these latter improved upon the Minor Arcana?

There were Golden Dawn decks (not just one) and these were 
personal copies (although I don't think much personalization was 
considered appropriate but I suspect it was done nevertheless) 
made by members based on a core design, which I think was 
established by Mathers (although the drawings may have been
from Mrs. Mathers but I don't recall). Presumably Waite (and
Crowley and Case) also would have had a Golden Dawn copy. 
As for Waite 'improving' or, in his words, 'rectifying', 
the Golden Dawn designs, that's just nonsense. Waite 
intentionally corrupted his deck in fact to hide the true 
attributions of occult symbolism from his customers, 
AND he was always wanting to move Golden Dawn, and 
its symbolism, toward 'respectability', meaning 

> I don't know its relationship to the BOTA deck, but it strikes me as
> almost identical to the Smith-Waite.  

Yeah, so that should get your attention, Case obviously based
his majors designs on Smith's work, but not in all 'cases'.
Case stated, correctly, that Waite had been too concerned
about hiding things from the public, and now he, Case, would
finally reveal the 'truth'. Of course, that was not entirely
true either.

> |As far as the major arcana are concerned, we can readily see that the
> |Thoth deck moves in a different direction than the original GD deck.  The
> |BOTA, on the other hand, is quite similiar to the original, and does not
> |make the same changes as Smith's deck.  See the Death card, in particular,
> |of Smith's deck.

So you end up with a weird and rather unappealing mixture of
designs in Case's presentation.
> this is very interesting to me, and as it is late here and I'm lazy, I'll
> wait on reviewing the tarot FAQ in favor of merely saying that I had perhaps
> mistaken the historical development of the development of popular tarot
> structure.  perhaps it was something like this (?):
>         tarocci (game) >  (some original) GD deck >  Smith  >  Case/BOTA

Well, that timeline is superficially correct but leaves out a
whole lot between tarrochi (game) and 'some original GD deck'.
The occult development of tarot began in 1781 (at least the
public development of it).

> I see the resemblances between these and the Thoth but don't think that
> the latter should really be included in the connection we're discussing,
> since Lady Frieda Harris' rendering of the Crowley-Harris cogitation
> I'd like to know more about the original tarocci game (are the rules
> published online somewhere?) 

There are many sets of tarocchi rules. The best source for
tarot game rules AND for a straight-forward discussion of
the history of tarot is Michael Dummet's The Game of Tarot.

> and this original GD Deck of which you
> speak.  who created it?  

Mathers, presumably, based on the 'secret keys' which were supposed
to have given a basis for the creation of the order.

> how similar was it to the Smith-Waite?  

Pretty close, but, as mentioned, Waite corrupted some cards and
also had a distinctly Christian interpretation of everything.

> does
> it bear any relation to the rather long history of tarot beyond these
> decks? 

Of course it bears a 'relation' to the history, being part of it.
If you mean, does it connect, inviolate, to the original
symbolism, not exactly.

> is it the same, relatively, as what is now being called the
> 'Golden Dawn Tarot' in public stores, etc.?  

There are several 'Golden Dawn' tarots now. The one 'executed'
by Robert Wang, from Regardie's designs, was, I believe, the 
first of these, and sucks the big one from an aesthetic point of 
view. I've only briefly glanced at a couple of the others but
the point is that there is more to making a tarot deck than just
following a blueprint. And lots of people who are striking
copies off of Golden Dawn blueprints are considerably missing
the mark aesthetically or iconographically.

> did Waite use it as a
> basis from which to produce his deck?  why did his become more popular
> as compared to the GD?   

Cause Waite went peddling his to the general public. Also, I think
Smith's designs have an obviously intended popular appeal that
has lasted over time. Most people like little stories instead of
arcane symbols.

> |In what way do you see an important link between the deck created by
> |Pamela Smith and the deck designed by Paul Foster Case for BOTA?

> maybe it isn't linear so much as that
> the GD of which you spoke inspired a great many rivals/alternatives.

Both. One could speak of the Waite-Case-Crowley versions of the Golden
Dawn paradigm without too much distortion (beyond that intentionally
incorporated by the designers of course).


The Arcane Archive is copyright by the authors cited.
Send comments to the Arcane Archivist:

Did you like what you read here? Find it useful?
Then please click on the Paypal Secure Server logo and make a small
donation to the site maintainer for the creation and upkeep of this site.

The ARCANE ARCHIVE is a large domain,
organized into a number of sub-directories,
each dealing with a different branch of
religion, mysticism, occultism, or esoteric knowledge.
Here are the major ARCANE ARCHIVE directories you can visit:
interdisciplinary: geometry, natural proportion, ratio, archaeoastronomy
mysticism: enlightenment, self-realization, trance, meditation, consciousness
occultism: divination, hermeticism, amulets, sigils, magick, witchcraft, spells
religion: buddhism, christianity, hinduism, islam, judaism, taoism, wicca, voodoo
societies and fraternal orders: freemasonry, golden dawn, rosicrucians, etc.


There are thousands of web pages at the ARCANE ARCHIVE. You can use ATOMZ.COM
to search for a single word (like witchcraft, hoodoo, pagan, or magic) or an
exact phrase (like Kwan Yin, golden ratio, or book of shadows):

Search For:
Match:  Any word All words Exact phrase


Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including slave narratives & interviews
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy, sacred architecture, and sacred geometry
Lucky Mojo Forum: practitioners answer queries on conjure; sponsored by the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
Herb Magic: illustrated descriptions of magic herbs with free spells, recipes, and an ordering option
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: ethical diviners and hoodoo spell-casters
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith, the Smallest Church in the World
Satan Service Org: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century ceremonial occultist
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective
The Mystic Tea Room: divination by reading tea-leaves, with a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, etc.
      Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
      Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
      Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
      Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races