Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 17, Vol. 2. Autumnal Equinox 2009
The Tarot of the Golden Dawn
by Joseph Gurney
What is fundamental to remember about the Tarot of the Golden Dawn is that it is most definitely not just a system of Divination. If one were to join the Golden Dawn, having absolutely no prior knowledge of the Tarot or what it is meant to be, one would glean the following from the way that the order teaches the subject –
Firstly: the Tarot Trumps are visual symbols of the initiate’s progress on the Tree of Life, and through the Order itself.
Thirdly: the Tarot is an essential part of a highly sophisticated theory of the human Aura, Astrology, Ceremonial Magic, and the convoluted interplay of energies between the four worlds of the Qabalah.
Fourthly: yes, the Tarot can be used for divination. But even in this it is not mere fortune telling. The teachings given to Golden Dawn initiates say that one should approach a Tarot Divination with as much care as one would a full ceremonial magic operation – literally in fact. The recommended method of Tarot divination in the Golden Dawn is in fact a synthesis of cartomantic practice, ceremonial magic, and clairvoyance.
Fifthly, the Tarot was incorporated directly into the ceremonial magic of the Golden Dawn – most obviously through its inclusion in the Enochian system. The peculiar attributions of the individual squares of the Enochian tablets as specified by the Golden Dawn require one to know the Tarot in order to appreciate all of the various forces which are at work.
There were yet further applications for the Tarot devised by members of the Golden Dawn, but which were not fully developed before the original Order closed in 1903. However, successor groups to the Golden Dawn developed them to a high degree. The most famous of these other Tarot applications as far as modern day occultists are concerned is the practice of Pathworking on the Tree of Life, in which the Tarot trumps are focal points for clairvoyant excursions along the paths which link the various Sephiroth. The earliest reference I can find to “Pathworking” as an actual practice appears to have been authored by J W Brodie-Innes. This now appears to be a widespread practice, described by occult authors such as Chic & Tabatha Cicero; Osbourne Phillips; and Nick Farrell; to name but a few.
A more obscure application of the Tarot was mentioned in a document written for the original order by Macgregor Mathers, in the context of the curriculum of “Theoricus Adeptus Minor.” This was a practice referred to as “Tarot Divination translated into Magical Action.” This has never been published: although as other papers of the Theoricus Adeptus Minor have surfaced over the years, there is every possibility that it was actually written, and perhaps a copy lies in some unknown archive somewhere.
In short, we should remember that the order intended the Tarot to be an important key to unlock the full potentiality of the Golden Dawn system. When one considers that the aim of the Golden Dawn system is to access the Tree of Life in all its many subtleties, one can appreciate that the Tarot is a powerful theurgical tool.
A Brief History of the Tarot prior to the Golden Dawn
Despite the historical evidence that Tarot decks first came into existence sometime between the mid fourteenth and late fifteenth centuries, the first evidence that they were used for divinatory purposes is not until the late eighteenth century, at least three hundred years later. It was at this time that Antoine Court de Gebelin first alleged that the Tarot was in fact the “Book of Thoth” – a repository of the ancient mysteries of Egypt, which had been brought to Europe by the Gypsies. De Gebelin also first alleged that the twenty two trumps were associated with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, but did not give the attributions. One of de Gebelin’s contemporaries, however, was more explicit, by stating that the trump cards should actually be read as if “The Fool” were attributed to Tau, and the rest in reverse of the order established by Lévi some seventy years later (vide infra).
This arrangement is at odds with modern attributions, but there are three points worth noting. Firstly: both de Gebelin and his contemporary, de Mellet, put “The Fool” at the head of the Tarot trumps ahead of the so-called “Game of Cups” or “Juggler” – which is the old title for the “Magician.” Secondly: they associated the suits of the Tarot to the suits of common playing cards in the following manner – Spades, Swords, Hearts, Cups, Diamonds, Batons (i.e. Wands), and Clubs, Coins (i.e. Pentacles). Some cartomancers have found this somewhat counter-intuitive, and instead attribute Diamonds to Coins and Clubs to Batons as did Papus, although quite inconsistently he switched from his own attribution back to De Gebelin’s part-way through his book.
Thirdly: by using de Mellet’s Trump / Hebrew letter attribution, the letter Tzaddi is attributed to “The King” (an old title for “The Emperor”) – a fact which a certain Aleister Crowley made use of in the twentieth century.
We should also remember that when de Gebelin and de Mellet were writing, the Rosetta Stone had not yet been translated, so their speculations as to an ancient Egyptian derivation for the word “Tarot” have no basis in reality. Indeed, there is no historical basis for claiming that the Tarot originated in Egypt at all: the idea of the “Book of Thoth” being one of a number of myths which tend to crop up from time to time in the Western Mysteries.
Yet, like all good myths, it continued to have an influential hold on people’s imaginations. Thus it was that Eliphas Lévi confidently asserted the relation of the Hebrew letters to the twenty two tarot trumps, attempting to interpret them in a Qabalistic fashion. Lévi’s method of attribution remains extremely influential today, especially amongst continental occultists, such as Papus, Franz Bardon, Ouspensky and Mouni Sadhu, who himself was influenced by the Russian, G. O. Mebes.
Lévi’s set of attributions of the trumps are shown in Appendix One: it will be instructing to compare this with the revisions later made by the Golden Dawn.
“The Juggler” is what in modern decks is called “the Magician.” The derivation comes from the fact that in ancient times, what we nowadays call “stage magicianship” and “juggling” were both part of the same art. This is exemplified by the Juggler card of the Tarot of Marseille, who is depicted playing a game of cup and ball.
“The Female Pope” and “the Pope” are ancient names for the “High Priestess” and “Hierophant” respectively.
From his description of “Kether” Lévi is referring to what would nowadays be called “The World” or “The Universe.” The rest of the names of the trumps are sufficiently similar to their modern counterparts that I should not need to explain them.
What Lévi has done therefore is to take the trumps, in the order in which they are found in the Tarot of Marseille, and simply allotted them to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, without attempting to change them around. Hence, the first numbered trump, “The Juggler” is assigned to Aleph, the second-numbered, “The Female Pope,” to Beth, and so on. The un-numbered trump, “The Fool,” is placed in the penultimate (i.e. twenty-first) position. The following points need to be emphasised:
Note that “Justice” is the eighth-numbered tarot trump, and “Strength” is the eleventh. This is the original order of these two cards as found in ancient decks such as the Tarot of Marseille. Some uninformed modern commentators mistakenly believed that when Crowley made “Balance” the eighth trump and “Lust” the eleventh, he was somehow changing around their order: in fact he was leaving the order of these two cards untouched as compared to traditional Tarot decks.
Note also that whilst certain Qabalistic attributions of Lévi’s trumps may be inferred by comparison with the Sepher Yetzirah, Lévi himself avoided doing so except in two clear cases, “the Female Pope” and “the Empress.” He also implied that the character of “the Juggler” was a Mercurial figure. The fact that Lévi avoided giving clear astrological attributions to the Tarot trumps has caused some people to allege that Lévi knew his associations to the Hebrew alphabet were wrong, but that he was prevented by oaths of secrecy from revealing the true order (there is no evidence that this was the case).
The Golden Dawn
The Cipher Manuscripts are of prime importance when considering the Golden Dawn’s contribution to the Tarot. They demonstrate that Tarot was an extremely important part of the Golden Dawn’s teachings right from the outset.
The attributions of the Tarot trumps to the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, and their corresponding astrological associations, are listed in Appendix Two. Hence, the trumps are essentially in the same order as that of the Tarot of Marseille, but with two crucial differences. Firstly, “The Fool” is placed at the head of the Trumps – following the example of de Gebelin. Secondly, “Strength” is assigned to Leo and the letter Teth, and “Justice” is assigned to Libra and the letter Lamed. Now it so happens that in the Knowledge Lectures of the Golden Dawn these two trumps were actually renumbered as 8 and 11 respectively. However, the Cipher Manuscript, although it adjusted the astrological and Hebrew attributions of the two trumps, it actually kept the old numbering.
With regards to the Minor Arcana, the suits are referred to as “Wands” (i.e. Sceptres or Batons), Cups, Swords and “Pentacles” (Discs or Coins). In referring the Minor Arcana to the suits of ordinary playing cards, the Golden Dawn follows the scheme of de Gebelin, and that followed part of the time by Papus, depending on which chapter of “Tarot of the Bohemians” one is reading, i.e. Wands – Diamonds, Cups – Hearts, Swords – Spades, Pentacles – Clubs.
The Court Cards are named by the Golden Dawn: Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses – the latter being equivalent to Knights and Knaves of other decks.
How Tarot was taught in the Golden Dawn
Assuming that the initiate successfully passed the Zelator exam, he or she was entitled to be advanced to higher grades in which they were exposed to progressively more Tarot imagery. In the next grade, that of Theoricus, the first part of the ceremony features a large reproduction of the Tarot trump “The Universe” prominently displayed on the central altar. The next grade ceremony of Practicus was in three parts: in the first two the initiate was shown the trumps of “Judgment” and “The Sun” respectively. In the fifth grade ceremony, that of Philosophus, the candidate was shown three trumps: “The Moon,” “The Star” and “The Tower.” In each case the various ceremonies follow the initiatory rationale of the Golden Dawn: as a Candidate is advanced to a new grade, they are initiated in the mysteries of a Sephirah of the Tree of Life, and in those of all the paths leading up to the Sephirah. Hence:
The grade of Practicus was the most interesting as far as the Tarot is concerned, for it was in this grade the initiate was given detailed information about the attributions of the Tarot trumps. In the original Practicus ceremony, the new 3=8 is shown a diagram of trumps / letters of the Hebrew alphabet whilst traversing the path of Resh. One of the officers, the Hegemon, pointed out the diagram to the candidate, saying:
This shows the true and genuine attribution of the Tarot trumps to the Hebrew alphabet which has long been a secret among the Initiates and which should be carefully concealed from the outer world.
The showing of this particular diagram to the candidate during the Practicus ceremony is specified in the Cipher Manuscript.
However, in the version of the same ritual which Israel Regardie published in 1937, this particular part was omitted, indicating that some temples at least had adopted the practice of chopping parts out of the rituals.
However, in both the early and later temples, the new Practicus was given an instruction paper on the Tarot trumps as part of the Knowledge lecture for that grade. Here we have another curiosity: the lecture on the Tarot which appears to have been given out to Practici differs substantially from that specified in the Cipher Manuscript, the former being an original composition by Macgregor Mathers.
The version in the Cipher manuscript essentially amounts to an explanation as to why the Golden Dawn’s astrological and Qabalistic attributions of the Trumps differ from those already published. For example, as to why “The Juggler” is associated with Beth, a letter which should correspond to a planet, and not Aleph, which corresponds to Air, the Cipher Manuscript says this:
The Juggler is the natural symbol of Mercury the god of tricksters and also the deeper knowledge.
Mathers’ version takes a different approach. According to him, each Tarot trump is to be thought of as the combined product of the Sephirah at the upper end of the path in question, the astrological significance of the path itself, and the Sephirah at the lower end of the path. So to take the example of “The Juggler” again, Mathers says:
1. The Juggler=The Crown of Understanding, the beginning of material production, the Primum Mobile acting through the Philosophic Mercury on Saturn.
That is to say: “The Juggler” is attributed to the path of Beth. At the top of the path is Kether, which is the Crown, and also represents the Primum Mobile, and the idea of “beginning.” Beth itself is attributed by the Golden Dawn to the planet of Mercury. At the bottom of the path is Binah, which is Understanding, and also represents Saturn and the general idea of motherhood, giving birth, i.e. “material production.” In like manner, each of the descriptions of Tarot trumps given by Mathers can clearly be seen to be syntheses of the respective parts of the Tree of Life.
Both lectures on the Tarot go someway to giving a brief explanation of the Minor Arcana as well. In the Cipher Manuscript this is very brief:
Cards of each suit: The 4 suits are the 4 worlds. The 16 cards are the lower fold Tetragrammaton.
In other words: Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles respectively represent Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiah, whilst the King, Queen, Prince and Princess respectively represent Yod, Heh, Vav and Heh on their respective planes. Mathers on the other hand refers to the Minor Arcana thus:
The King and the Queen are the correlations of the Abba and the Aima in that suit; the Knight or Prince answers to Microprosopus, and the Knave or Princess which was anciently a female figure, is referred to the Bride, Kallah or Malkah.
This expands on the idea of the Court Cards representing the Tetragrammaton, and also indicate how the Qabalistic teaching of the “Partzufim” may be incorporated into both the Tarot and the Tree of Life.
All I have described up to now was the sum extent of instruction on the Tarot given to members of the Outer Order. It was all theoretical knowledge to be memorised: initiates were not expected to do practical work or divination, and consequently the divinatory meanings of the Tarot cards were not touched upon.
How the Tarot was taught in the “Inner Order”
In the Portal ceremony itself, the candidate is again presented with three more Tarot trumps: “Death,” “The Devil” and “Temperance,” representing the Paths leading up to Tiphereth from Netzach, Hod and Yesod respectively. Interestingly, two versions of the “Temperance” card are used – a modern version, and what purports to be a more ancient version.
In the later and more modern temples of the Golden Dawn, the tendency is to encourage initiates to practice Tarot divination in the grade of Portal, and even from the grade of Practicus onwards. However, it is only when the initiate reaches the grade of Adeptus Minor that the full genius of the order’s teachings on the Tarot is fully revealed. Most of the Inner Order’s teachings on the Tarot were composed by Macgregor Mathers, no doubt assisted by his wife Moina and, if legends are to be believed, by the Secret Chiefs of the Third Order. What can be said for definite though is that there is no point of reference for the inner order teachings in the Cipher Manuscript, so presumably the Mathers were relying on their own genius.
One of the most important inner order documents is the so-called “Book T.” This contains a full description of the divinatory meanings of the Tarot trumps and the Minor Arcana. It also gives a method of attributing the Minor Arcana to the various decans of the Zodiac. One of Mathers’ boldest claims was that this Tarot document was in fact the very same “Book T” which was said to be found in the hand of Frater CRC when his tomb was discovered by Frater NN, and of which is said:
… [N]ext unto the Bible [it] is our greatest treasure, which ought to be delivered to the censure of the world.
Mathers also went on to claim that it was called “Book T” because it stood for the “Book of Thoth” – hence “proving” not only an ancient Egyptian but also a Rosicrucian origin for the Tarot! Unfortunately as far as scholarship is concerned, it proves nothing of the sort. One must assume that the Secret Chiefs delivered a copy of the Rosicrucian manifestos to Mathers which is different from the published versions, which usually name the parchment in Frater CRC’s hand as being called “I” instead of “T.”
However, Mathers goes further with his teachings on the Tarot. In addition to the so-called “Book T” there are also:
This last mentioned manuscript is quite difficult to understand, as its practical application is not immediately obvious. However from documents that have now become public there are indications that it was meant to be the first part of some very advanced teachings regarding the Aura, which were developed in an order called “The Holy Order of the Sun.”
An Adeptus Minor was expected to be able to not only divine by use of the Tarot, but also by Astrology and Geomancy as well. Moreover, an initiate would have to know the meanings of the various Tarot cards in connection with the order’s teachings on Enochian Magic. For those that were talented enough to pass the first two stages – the so-called sub-grades of Neophyte- and Zelator Adeptus Minor – there was said to be further Tarot teachings entitled “Tarot Divination translated into Magical Action,” as mentioned previously.
Divinatory Meanings of the Cards, according to the Golden Dawn
With regards to the Major Arcana, several writers have argued that the astrological and Qabalistic assignments of the Major Arcana can be rationally justified, by reference to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, the twelve houses with which those signs are related, the traditional divinatory meanings of the cards, and quite simply by the imagery of the cards themselves. 
So for example: the assignment of “Justice” to Libra is justified by the imagery of the “scales of Justice”; likewise the assignment of “Strength” to Leo is justified by the fact that strength is a quality associated with Leo, and also by the simple fact that a Lion is depicted on the face of the card.
Again: the association of “The Emperor” with Aries is justified on the basis that the divinatory meaning of the card is generally in harmony with the sign of Aries, cardinal Fire ruled by Mars (and in which the Sun is exalted).
Some Trumps appear to cause difficulty at first, but may be resolved by looking at the divinatory meanings of the cards and comparing them to astrological houses. One question that sometimes perplexes beginners is why “The Moon” is associated with Pisces, and not with Luna as the name suggests. The answer is that the divinatory meaning of “The Moon” - glamour, deceit, treachery – corresponds to the twelfth astrological house (enemies in secret), which itself is associated with the twelfth sign of the Zodiac, i.e. Pisces. By rationalising it in this way, an elegant solution is provided which does not cause the natural ordering of the Tarot trumps to be upset too much.
In a similar manner, the association of “The Chariot” with Cancer is difficult to explain until one remembers that in Horary astrology, one of the meanings of the fourth astrological house is “the end of the matter.” Thus it is appropriate to link “The Chariot” (which means triumph – i.e. bringing things to a successful conclusion) with the fourth astrological house – which happens to be itself associated with the fourth sign of the Zodiac, i.e. Cancer.
The Minor Arcana are a somewhat more complex issue. The meaning of any given card in the Minor Arcana is subject to the following influences:
I want to devote some space to explaining the last of the aforementioned, as it is this which is the point of widest divergence between the Tarot of the Golden Dawn, and other divinatory systems, such as that proposed by Papus. Firstly: the Golden Dawn had an idiosyncratic method of assigning planets to decans of the zodiac which does not correspond to conventional astrology. In conventional astrology, the decans of a sign are all ruled by the planetary rulers of the signs of the same triplicity. However, in the Golden Dawn, starting from the first decan of Leo, planets are assigned in the order they appear in classical astrology, with the proviso that Mars is duplicated at the end of Pisces and at the beginning of Aries.
So for example: in conventional astrology, the decans of Sagittarius would be ruled by Jupiter (ruler of Sagittarius itself), Mars (ruler of Aries) and Sol (ruler of Leo). However, in the Golden Dawn, they are ruled by Mercury, Luna, and Saturn. If one were to work out the whole system one would see that the Golden Dawn and the conventional astrological method only agree 25% of the time (i.e. nine decans out of thirty-six).
Secondly: the Golden Dawn had its own method of assigning the Minor Arcana to the decans, which is completely different to that of Papus. In the Golden Dawn system, the Aces are not assigned to the Zodiac itself: only the cards two through nine of a suit and the Court Cards are. Regarding the pip-cards, they are all assigned to Signs of the Triplicity associated with their own suit. So for example, the cards assigned to the first twelve decans – i.e. the first four signs of the Zodiac – are: (Aries) 2 of Wands, 3 of Wands, 4 of Wands; (Taurus) 5 of Pentacles, 6 of Pentacles, 7 of Pentacles; (Gemini) 8 of Swords, 9 of Swords, 10 of Swords; and Cancer starts the cycle again with 2 of Cups, 3 of Cups and 4 of Cups.
The Golden Dawn’s method of assigning the Court Cards is idiosyncratic yet again. Briefly: the Kings rule the mutable sign of the element associated with their own suit. Likewise, the Queens rule the cardinal sign, and the Princes rule the fixed sign – the Princesses not playing a part in the scheme, as, like the Aces, they are assigned to different parts of the heavens entirely. However: no Court Card rules over all thirty degrees of its corresponding sign. Instead, it rules over the first 20 degrees only, as well as the last ten degrees of the preceding sign. So for example, the King of Wands rules from 21 degrees of Libra to 20 degrees of Sagittarius; the Queen of Pentacles rules from 21 degrees of Sagittarius to 20 degrees of Capricorn; and the Prince of Swords rules from 21 degrees of Capricorn to 20 degrees of Aquarius.
The Golden Dawn attaches significance not merely to the belt of the Zodiac, but to the whole of the sphere of the heavens. The north-pole of the ecliptic – which happens to lie in the constellation of Draco – is associated with Kether, and thus with the four Aces: whilst the Princesses are interpreted as being the “thrones” of the Aces.
So for example, the Five of Pentacles may mean either financial loss or marital problems. Were this card surrounded by cards of the suit of Pentacles, this would emphasise the financial or material loss aspects of the card. If on the other hand, it were surrounded by cards of the suit of Cups, this might indicate that an interpretation concerning marital or relationship problems might be better emphasised. If surrounded by Wands, this might indicate problems with an enterprise in which one is engaged, such as one’s career: Swords on the other hand might point to the fact that problems are caused by strife or conflict with another person. In the last mentioned example, the precise meaning might differ tremendously depending on which particular card it actually was. If the Five of Pentacles were next to the Two of Swords, for example, this might indicate the possibility that the problems could be resolved: if however it were the Ten of Swords, this would indicate the opposite, that these problems would lead to disaster.
Determining whether suits are naturally antagonistic, harmonious, or neutral to one another may be accomplished by taking into account the elements that the suit represents. Wands (Fire) and Cups (Water) are generally mutually antagonistic: so too are Swords (Air) and Pentacles (Earth). A Minor arcana is harmonious with other cards of the same suit, but is neutral (i.e. neither one or the other in particular) with the other two suits.
The harmonies of the various Major Arcana can be worked out by taking the astrological significations. So, for example, “The Emperor,” “Strength,” “Temperance” and “Judgement” are all Fiery-cards and would thus go well with cards from the suit of Wands.
Concerning actual methods of Divination, the members of the Inner Order were given a method called “The Opening of the Key.” This was in five-parts – the opening of the matter, its development (in three stages) and conclusion. Macgregor Mathers, who composed this order paper, recommended the Diviner thoroughly prepare through meditation, the lesser banishing rituals of the pentagram and hexagram, and by being equipped with all his or her ritual regalia and paraphernalia. He also advised magically invoking the element most connected with the subject of the question, to aid the divination, and if necessary, to use Clairvoyance (by going through the cards as in “tattva journeys”) in order to discern the true meaning of cards appearing in a spread.
Hence, a Golden Dawn tarot divination is not simply an instance of dealing the cards and interpreting their meanings: when done in its full form it is a full magical operation in its own right.
Post Golden Dawn Developments in the Tarot
Waite is most famous today as the man responsible for the popular “Rider-Waite” Tarot Deck, which was illustrated by Pamela Colman-Smith (1878 – 1951), who herself had joined the Golden Dawn in 1903. Of the creation of the deck, Waite wrote:
Miss Pamela Coleman Smith, in addition to her obvious gifts, has some knowledge of Tarot values; she has lent a sympathetic ear to my proposal to rectify the symbolism by reference to channels of knowledge which are not in the open day; and we have had help from one who is deeply versed in the subject.  (Emphasis added).
Quite who this “one who is deeply versed in the subject” might be is open to speculation (there has been one allegation that it was W B Yeats himself ). It is quite clear though, from a study of the designs of the Tarot deck, that Waite is following Golden Dawn attributions – as well as a lot more besides. Although Waite admitted that he admired Papus’ work, it is clear that from the artwork that “The High Priestess” represents the Moon (due to the presence of the Luna crescent); “the Empress” is Venus (there is an obvious Venus-symbol); and “the Emperor” is Aries (his throne is decorated with ram-symbolism). Moreover, the trumps are numbered in the Golden Dawn sequence. However in a number of his books he implies that he associates the Tarot with the Grail tradition as well. In “The Hidden Church of the Holy Graal” he explicitly states state that suits of the Tarot are equated with the Grail Hallows: the Grail or Chalice being Cups; the Spear of Destiny being Wands; the Sword being Swords obviously; and the Dish or platter being Pentacles. Mary K Greer has argued that the artwork to the Minor Arcana are meant to depict the various incidents in the Grail Legend.
Waite is also famous for his book The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, in which he further follows the Golden Dawn attributions – though painstakingly avoiding saying where he got them from. Waite incidentally also makes passing reference to the Knight of Swords being Sir Galahad, leading one to speculate that the characters depicted in the deck are character are meant to be characters from Arthurian or Grail legend.
Crowley joined the Golden Dawn in 1898 but distanced himself from it after the Horos scandal, finally breaking with Mathers altogether in 1906. Whilst he was still within the pale of the Golden Dawn he was advanced to the grade of Adeptus Minor: he also acquired all of Allan Bennett’s magical papers – including Golden Dawn documents and incunabula – when the latter emigrated to India in 1900.
Generally speaking the Crowley deck follows the Golden Dawn system well, except in a few noted instances. As part of Liber Al Vel Legis Crowley received the following cryptic message:
All these old letters of my Book are aright; but [Tzaddi] is not the Star.
Crowley himself was puzzled for many years as to what Tzaddi should be if not “The Star,” and many of his major works are based on using the traditional Golden Dawn attributions. However he eventually decided that it was not “The Star” but “The Tsar” i.e. “the Emperor,” thereby swapping round the letters Tzaddi and Heh (coincidentally de Mellet gives “the Emperor” as Tzaddi as well).
Another notable departure from the Golden Dawn is that the Judgement card is replaced by “The Aeon.” Crowley came to believe that the Last Judgement had happened when he had received the Book of the Law: therefore it was now more appropriate to look forward to the so-called Aeon of Horus of which he claimed to be the prophet.
Aside from the deck itself, Crowley was also the author of The Book of Thoth (Egyptian Tarot), the text which explains the cards. Whilst the descriptions of the cards therein clearly demonstrate Crowley’s originality of thought, the method of divination proposed is nothing other than the Golden Dawn’s own “Opening of the Key,”  which Crowley had originally published without attribution in The Equinox some thirty years prior to the Book of Thoth. Crowley referred to the Tarot throughout his written works, so a thorough knowledge of the subject is essential to understanding “Thelema” and his magickal philosophy generally.
The BOTA Tarot deck is similar in design to Waite’s. One of the main differences is that the pictures are black and white line drawings: the idea being that as part of their occult training, BOTA members would make use of their knowledge of occult colour attributions to colour them in.
As a scholar, his work on the Tarot is solidly in the Golden Dawn milieu. Case himself claimed that he worked out the “correct” (i.e. the Golden Dawn’s) ordering of the Tarot trumps before it was ever published. However it is as an occultist that Case produced his most original work on the Tarot, as opposed to merely going over the Golden Dawn’s material: this was the Book of Tokens, which he and his Alpha Et Omega colleague Michael Whitty channelled circa 1919. This is a book of twenty-two “meditations” or free-verse poems.
Although there are only about half a dozen tarot decks published which are specifically “Golden Dawn,” the number of Tarot decks which the Golden Dawn has inspired is very large indeed and appears to grow exponentially. This is principally because the Golden Dawn teachings inspired two of the most influential decks in their own right (those of Waite and Crowley), which themselves have inspired numerous others. Many of these are essentially clone-decks, although there is a significant number designed by practising occultists which manage to display both the creators’ original thought and the influences of either Waite or Crowley. When one considers that these tarot decks themselves have inspired works not merely on divination but on the use of the Tarot for spiritual, meditative and magical practices, one can appreciate the influence of the Golden Dawn at the heart of modern Tarot practice is very pervasive indeed.
Attribution of the Tarot trumps to the Hebrew alphabet, with partial Qabalistic correspondences, according to Lévi.
Golden Dawn attribution of the Tarot Trumps, according to the order’s knowledge lectures.
Anonymous, [n.d.], Fama Fraternitatis, http://www.hermeticgoldendawn.org/fama.html , accessed 2009-06-04.
Anonymous, Kupperman, J S (transcriber / translator), [n.d.], The Cipher Manuscript, http://www.hermetic.com/gdlibrary/cipher/index.html et seq., accessed 2009-05-21.
Case, P F, 1933, The Oracle of the Tarot, http://tarot.org.il/Library/PFCase/Oracle%20of%20the%20Tarot.pdf, accessed 2009-06-24.
Case, P F, 1968, The Book of Tokens, fourth edition, Builders of the Adytum, Los Angeles.
Cicero, C, Cicero, S T, 2006, Tarot Talismans: Invoke the Angels of the Tarot, Llewellyn, St Pauls, Minnesota.
Le Comte de Mellet, Tyson, D (translator), 1781, “Recherches sur les Tarots, et sur la Divination par les Cartes des Tarots,” published in Le Monde Primitif, analysé et compare avec le monde moderne, Volume 8, http://www.donaldtyson.com/gebelin.html, accessed 2009-05-21.
Crowley, A, 1904, The Book of the Law Liber AL vel Legis sub figura CCXX as delivered by XCIII = 418 to DCLXVI, http://www.sacred-texts.com/oto/engccxx.htm accessed 2009-08-03.
Crowley, A, 1912, The Equinox, Volume 1 number 8, Wieland & Co, London.
Crowley, A, 1995, The Book of Thoth (Egyptian Tarot), Weiser, Boston MA.
De Gebelin, A C, Tyson, D (translator), 1781, “Du Jeu Des Tarots,” published in Le Monde Primitif, analysé et compare avec le monde moderne, Volume 8, http://www.donaldtyson.com/gebelin.html, accessed 2009-05-21.
Phillips, O, 2001, Aurum Solis Initiation Ceremonies and Inner Magical Techniques, Thoth Publications, Leicester.
Duquette, L M, 2003, Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, Red Wheel / Weiser, Boston MA.
Farrell, N, 2003, Magical Pathworkings: Techniques of Active Imagination, Llewellyn, St Pauls Minnesota.
“G H Frater DDCF, 7=4” (Macgregor Mathers, S L), 1898, General Orders, http://www.angelfire.com/ab6/imuhtuk/gdmans/general.htm , accessed 2009-06-04.
Greer, M K, 2006, Llewellyn’s Tarot Reader 2006, Llewellyn, St Pauls Minnesota.
Lévi, E, Waite, A E (translator), 1896, Transcendental Magic: its doctrine and ritual, Rider & Company, London.
Papus, Morton, A P (translator), 1892, The Tarot of the Bohemians, http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot/tob/index.htm, accessed 2009-05-22.
Regardie, I, 1989, The Golden Dawn, 6th edition, Llewellyn, St Pauls, Minnesota.
Regardie, I, Cicero, C (editor), Cicero, S T (editor), 2002, A Garden of Pomegranates: Skrying on the Tree of Life, 3rd edition, Llewellyn, St Pauls, Minnesota.
“Shemesh,” [n.d.], XXIII Aura Teachings (2nd Series) Concerning Sex On The Aura, http://magicoftheordinary.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/aura-23-complete.pdf , accessed 2009-07-31.
“V.N.”, 1910, “The Truth About the Tarot Trumps,” reprinted in Waite, A E, Kuntz, D (editor), 1996, The Golden Dawn Tarot, Holmes Publishing Group, Edmonton WA.
Waite, A E, 1909, The Hidden Church of the Holy Graal, Rebman Limited, London.
Waite, A E, 1909, “The Tarot: A Wheel of Fortune,” The Occult Review, Volume X: No. 12, London.
Waite, A E, 1911, The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, Rider, London.
Waite, A E, Kuntz, D (editor), 1996, The Golden Dawn Tarot, Holmes Publishing Group, Edmonton WA.
Westcott, W W, 1912, Dr W W Westcott Letter regarding the legitimate rights of the Golden Dawn and RR et AC materials, http://www.sria.org/gdletter-westcott.htm, accessed 2009-05-21.
 Ibid. “The whole of the 21 or 22 atouts, the 22 letters of the Egyptian alphabet common to the Hebrews and to the East, and which were also used as numbers, are necessary to keep an account of so many regions.”
 E.g. “But if thou wilt prevent the entry of such an evil spirit, thou must draw down White Light from the pole of the Aura above the head from the center of the Coils of the Dragon, and therefrom make a ring of defence.” “Coils of the Dragon” refers here to the Golden Dawn teaching that the constellation Draco corresponded to Kether, and the four Aces of the Tarot. See “Shemesh” [n.d.]