© 2010 Tim Johnson – Reprinted with permission from Shining Lotus Metaphysical Bookstore Newsletter Jun 10/Jul 10.
by Tim Johnson
Shining Lotus is now stocked up on the new printing of the Crowley-Harris Thoth Decks. ‘Out of Stock’, or between printings since Spring of 2009, it was only available for outrageous prices on the internet. Now the Thoth Tarot deck is back in either the large version in the green box or the small, standard tarot size in the purple box.
THE THOTH TAROT HISTORY
The Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot is the deck of 78 tarot card images invoked by Aleister Crowley and illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris. It grew out of Crowley’s work to create a thorough text of the Tarot which incorporated the latest scientific discoveries, philosophy, mathematics and anthropology, and united these systems with the form of the Qabalah (Hermetic Kabbalah). Originally, he had planned to form a deck based on the Medieval versions of the Tarot, but Lady Frieda Harris convinced him to create an original work which would be the visual representation of the Book of Thoth.
The entire Thoth deck is designed to be a pictorial representation of the Qabalah and especially the Tree of Life, a system of ten spheres and 22 interconnecting paths that is used to organize mystical concepts. Each card in the Thoth deck is intricately detailed with astrological, zodiacal, elemental and Qabalistic symbols incorporated in each card.
Even colors are used symbolically, especially the cards related to the five elements of Spirit, Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Unlike the popular Waite-Smith Tarot, the Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot retains the traditional historical order of the trumps, but changes the names for both the trumps and the court cards.
Creating such a symbolically rich tarot deck was no easy task, as some of the cards were re-imaged several times until they met with Crowley’s approval. The smaller-sized version of the Thoth has 3 versions of the Magus card, for a total of 80 cards in the deck.
The planned 3 months of work extended into 5 years, and was completed in 1943. Though it was destined to become one of the most popular Tarot decks of all time, the deck was not published for another 26 years, after both Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris had exited this plane. It was finally published in 1969 by the O.T.O. through the efforts of Grady McMurtry X°.
Thus, both book and deck were born. They are like the Yin and Yang versions of the Book of Thoth, and both deck and book have been referred to by the same title. Either one, or both, can be the springboard for a lifetime of study. A little booklet does come with the deck.
But if you want to really understand the deck, you need the book–and possibly another two or three–since Crowley was known for a unique writing style which expressed extreme devotion to both his subject and his own intellect; and no regard for anything like a common reader.