Sunday, October 31, 2004

the imagery of the tarot

1 Foreword

When I was first introduced to the Tarot in 1986, the Tarot reader who 'initiated' me showed me several decks: the round Motherpeace deck designed by Vicki Noble, the Thoth deck designed by Aleister Crowley, the traditional Rider-Waite, and several more. I gravitated to the Motherpeace Tarot and was given a deck of my own, and Vicki Noble's book as a guide; Motherpeace: A Way to the Goddess through Myth, Art and Tarot. I was also given a blank deck, in case I ever wanted to design my own Tarot.

At the time I was pursuing a path into the pagan community, and I identified with the goddess-seeking, feminist aspects of the Motherpeace Tarot. Like most practitioners of the Tarot, I was interested in using the deck as a tool for divination, but I also enjoyed the artwork and began to collect other decks for their interesting imagery. This was a slow process, as I had been told that one should not purchase his or her own deck, but should wait for a deck to be given. As I grew less interested in using the Tarot, and more interested in collecting decks as art, I began to buy them as well. I now own my own copies of the Thoth and the Rider-Waite, and I have another round deck as well, the Daughters of the Moon Tarot, issued as a black and white deck suitable for coloring by hand.

In the pagan community I met several artists who were designing their own decks: Robin Wood, designer of the Robin Wood Tarot, Jennifer Moore, who recently completed her photographic Tarot (which includes several images taken with Mass Art's 20x24 Polaroid camera!) and a couple of artists designing a 'stick figure' Tarot, using the simplest of line drawings.

In 1989 I was present at an interview with Marilyn Arsem and Mari Novotny-Jones of Mobius Artists Group. Mari Novotny-Jones was searching for a metaphor to describe their interactive performance art piece, Persephone and Hades. I suggested that the images presented on stage were like a Tarot spread; the audience members could resonate to the images, and would find individually relevant meaning. They agreed enthusiastically.

All of these encounters with art inspired by Tarot, and with Tarot imagery inspired by modern art piqued my interest in the meaning of the images and symbols. In beginning to learn about the history, especially the origins of the Tarot, I encountered myths, misinformation, exaggerations and mysticism. I have tried to sort out the conflicting stories to present a plausible history and description of the timeless symbolism and ever-changing art of the Tarot.

2 Introduction and Origins

The standard 78 card Tarot deck is composed of two parts; 22 cards called the Major Arcana, and 56 cards called the Minor Arcana. The Minor Arcana correspond almost exactly to the standard 52 card playing deck, as it is also divided into four suits, andis numbered Ace - Ten, but there are four face cards in each suit, usually designated Page, (equivalent to the Jack) Knight, Queen and King. The Major Arcana, also known as Trumps, or Triumphs, were originally the most lavishly illustrated cards in every deck, followed by the face cards and the Aces of each suit of the Minor Arcana. The four suits of the Minor Arcana are usually designated cups, swords, wands or staffs, and pentacles or coins. These correspond to hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds in the modern American/British playing card deck. The 22 cards of the Major Arcana are usually numbered from zero through 21, with the card known as The Fool as Zero, arguably corresponding to the Joker of the modern deck. [See Table One: Standard Suit Signs in US. and Europe.]

The 22 cards of the modern Major Arcana are numbered in an order which is supposed to correspond to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and are each supposed to have specific astrological, mythical, and elemental correspondences. Most decks attempt to illustrate these correspondences either abstractly or symbolically. Although the imagery associated with each card has been fairly consistent for more than 500 years, the order of the 22 cards has changed over time and the original painted Trumps were almost never numbered. Additionally, the names change from deck to deck, and the correspondences between the Trumps and the Kabbalah have been continuously debated and reassigned since 1856, when the theory was first proposed. [See Table Two: Titles of the 22 Major Arcana Cards; Table Three: Astrological Correspondences; Table Four: The Tree of Life; Table Five: Hebrew Attributions; and Table Six: Alphabetical Correspondences.]

The first standard Tarot decks, called Tarocchi, were made in Renaissance Italy. Predecessors included Mamluk Egyptian playing cards and Chinese playing cards. Related decks included the Tarocchini (meaning little tarot) deck of 62 cards, containing 22 trumps but only 40 numeral cards, and the Minchiate deck similar to the 78 card deck, but enlarged to 97 by the addition of the 12 signs of the zodiac, the 4 elements, and the 3 cardinal virtues. Other playing card decks in use during the same period included Trappola decks, of 36 cards divided into four suits. Although Tarot decks and their forerunners are supposed to have existed as early as 1390, Tarot history is highly speculative prior to the fifteenth century.

It is certainly significant that the Major Arcana appear to have come into existence during the late Middle Ages and the Italian Renaissance, a period of fascination with ancient wisdom and art. Even if the Tarot represents, as is sometimes claimed, the contents of 'the oldest book in the world', the system of the Major Arcana was certainly established between 1400 and 1450, and has been only subtly altered or augmented since. However, the manifold influences on the imagery of the Major Arcana have to be taken into account, not because there were necessarily earlier decks, but because the artists and designers who probably created the Tarot during the Renaissance were themselves drawing on a wide variety of inspirational sources.

Renaissance art was usually allegorical, illustrating moral tales or classical virtues. The Renaissance was the Age of Reason, during which educated Europeans explored history and self-consciously chose to imitate the ancient Greeks and Romans, admiringtheir philosophies. However, the Renaissance Italians were not pagans, they were Christians, borrowing pagan concepts and icons to illustrate metaphor. For the Greek pagan, Aphrodite was real, the goddess who ruled their hearts in matters of love. For the Renaissance artist, Aphrodite was just another name for Venus, the icon and the personification of love. The ancient gods were metaphorical, but the Christian Trinity was real. It was thus possible for the devout Christian artists of the Renaissance to create allegories using both pagan and Christian symbolism without being accused of heresy or unbelief.

The Tarocchi of Mantegna, a fifteenth-century illustrated deck of 50 cards was a link between the iconography of Renaissance art and the particular symbolism of the Tarot. Not really a Tarocchi deck, but an educational deck with five suits of ten cards each, the Tarocchi of Mantegna can be seen as a key to popular symbols of its time. The five suits were Conditions of Man, ten classes from beggar to Pope; Apollo and the [9] Muses; Liberal Arts: Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Geometry, Arithmetic, Music, Poetry, Philosophy, Astrology and Theology; Cosmic Principles: Genius of the Sun, Genius of Time, Genius of the World, [the seven virtues] Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude, Justice, Charity, Hope, and Faith; and the Firmaments of the Universe: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Eighth Sphere, Prime Mover, and First Cause. The deck serves as a helpful insight into the Renaissance mind -- this list categorizes not arcane but common knowledge, available to the educated. The pictures illustrating these concepts were, at least in part, the inspiration for many of the pictures in the Visconti-Sforza Tarot.

Some of the images of the Tarot could have been based on Medieval alchemical symbols. A king with a crown on his head represented gold. Silver was a woman called the queen. She wore no crown but stood on a crescent moon. Mercury was a youth with two wings, carrying the caduceus. Lead was an old man with a scythe in his hand, iron was a soldier dressed in armor. The union of elements was symbolized by a marriage, putrefaction by a skull. These alchemical symbols were used to illustrate allegories for spiritual growth as well as records of chemical experiments.

If read as a sequence, the Major Arcana can be viewed as an allegory for a spiritual journey. The pictorial journey from Innocence (The Fool) through Danger, Sacrifice, and Temptation (Death, Hanged Man, Devil) to Wisdom, Balance, and Success (Strength, Temperance, World) illustrates the principles of Gnostic mysticism. Whether this was an intentional decision on the part of the illustrators as an attempt to promote Gnostic ideals, or whether the painters were simply drawing on the popular themes of the time is not certain. The images are more eclectic than was typical of the public art of the time, which largely focused on Christian and Greco-Roman Pagan themes. However, as there were other complex allegorical pictures made at the time as aids to memory and as a means of communicating Christian concepts without text, it seems likely that the Major Arcana were designed as tools for the Art of Memory to enlighten as well as to amuse.

The Art of Memory was a method for using images to prompt recognition and recall of religious or other teachings. These could be printed images, like the Tarot, or images held exclusively in the mind and made permanent by a daily discipline.

John Crowley, in his novel, Little, Big (1981) offers a wonderful description of this technique:

"The Art of Memory, as it is described by ancient writers, is a method by which the Natural Memory we are born with can be improved tremendously... The ancients agreed that vivid pictures in a strict order were the most easily remembered. Therefore, in order to construct an Artificial Memory of great power, the first to choose a Place: a temple for instance, or a city street of shops and doorways, or the interior of a house -- any place that has parts which occur in a regular order. This Place is committed to memory carefully and well...The next step is to create vivid symbols or images for the things one wishes to remember -- the more shocking and highly colored the better, according to the experts: a ravished nun, say, for the idea of Sacrilege, or a cloaked figure with a bomb for Revolution. These symbols are then cast onto the various parts of the memory Place, its doors, niches, forecourts, windows, closets, and other spaces; and then the rememberer has simply to go around his memory Place, in any order he wishes, and take from each spot the Thing which symbolizes the Notion which he wishes to remember. The more one wishes to know, of course, the larger the House of Memory must be; it usually ceases to be an actual place, as actual places tend to be too plain and incommodious, and becomes an imaginary place, as large and varied as the rememberer can make it. Wings can be added at will (and with practice); architectural styles can vary with the subject-matter they are meant to contain. There were even refinements of the system whereby not Notions but actual words were to be remembered by complex symbols, and finally individual letters: so that a collection of sickle, millstone and hacksaw instantly brings the word God to mind when gathered from the appropriate mental nook. The whole system was immensely complicated and tedious and was for the most part rendered obsolete by the invention of the filing-cabinet."

Exactly what the Tarot cards were meant to remind people of is not certain, but the imagery of the Tarot clearly reflected the symbolic iconography of the time. As it is impossible to be sure what the symbols represented, there are many speculations as to what information was being concealed in the allegories of the Tarot.

The 22 cards of the Major Arcana can be analyzed individually and collectively for clues to their meaning and origins. For instance, the Hanged Man depicts a man hung upside down by one foot from a tree, and represents sacrifice. The image seems to come from Norse mythology, symbolizing Odin's sacrifice, when he allowed himself to be hanged for nine days from Yggdrasil, the World-Tree. Yet there is no existing Hanged Man card from the Renaissance that portrays the man as identifiably Odin. Rather, the Hanged Man is an ambiguous figure, an archetype of human sacrifice for a purpose. So the symbol of the Hanged Man can equally be said to represent Dionysus or even Christ. Although many of the cards depict Christian imagery, there are also Celtic, Egyptian, Norse, Greek, Roman, Jewish and Gnostic images and symbols represented.

The 56 cards of the Minor Arcana certainly were intended for use as a game. It is not certain what the suits were meant to symbolize, although later scholars claimed that they represented the four Medieval social classes: Swords for the nobility, Cups for clergy, Coins for Merchants, and Batons or Clubs for peasants. The four suits may also correspond to the four Grail Hallows of the Grail Legend, part of the Matter of Britain, which had spread to Europe in the twelfth century. These were the Grail itself, the Sword used by King David, the Lance that made Christ's wound on the Cross, and the Platter from which Christ and his disciples ate the Paschal lamb. They also correspond to the Four Treasures of Ireland, the magical emblems of the Tuatha d Danaan: The cauldron of The Dagda, the Spear of Lug, the Sword of Nuada and the Stone of Fl.

Perhaps these references confirmed the choice of symbols for the early Tarot artists, who probably began by imitating the four suits of the Mamluk Egyptian playing cards, a 52 or 56 card deck divided into four suits of swords, polo sticks, cups and coins. The Mamluk decks were brought to Turkey from Asia. The Egyptian style of decoration on the cards is one of the few pieces of concrete evidence that Renaissance Tarot decks had any Egyptian origins, and the designs of the suits clearly formed the basis of the modern Italian playing card deck.

It is likely the Trumps were named after the Renaissance Triumphal Processions, which were Mystery plays illustrating sacred stories, and which were often created by famous artists of the Renaissance, including Brunelleschi and DaVinci. The decorated floats in the Triumphal processions illustrated verses from Petrarch's poem, I Trionfi, and it is arguable that the Trump cards were also inspired by the imagery of Petrarch's poem. The imagery in the processions included mythical characters, figures from the zodiac, and personifications of vices and virtues. These images could be found in the frescoes of Giotto and others, as well as in the Trumps.

Eventually, the complete deck of 78 cards (known as carte de trionfi - cards with Trumps) were also used as a game. Before the decks were merged, the 22 Trump cards were used alone in a game called Triumphs. There is no evidence that the Tarot was originally intended for divination, and the first record of its use in this manner comes much later. Most Tarocchi decks eventually came to resemble the 78 card pack exemplified by the Milanese Visconti-Sforza decks, painted mid-fifteenth century.

3 The Imagery of the Renaissance Tarot

Of the eleven incomplete extant decks commissioned by the Visconti-Sforza family, the Pierpont Morgan-Bergamo (PM) deck, now at Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, is the most nearly intact, with only four cards missing. Twenty of the twenty-two original Trumps still exist, all except the Devil and The Tower. By examining the missing cards as represented in other Renaissance decks, it is possible to analyze the complete sequence of Tarot imagery.

The PM deck, like all the Visconti-Sforza decks, is hand painted on both sides in brightly colored tempera, and has elaborate designs embossed in gold. The suit cards depict the numeral and the suit of sword, staff, cup or coin by simply repeating the primary motif in a symmetrical pattern. The heraldic devices of the Visconti-Sforza family are represented as additional decorative motifs, along with floral decorations, as on several of the sword cards, where the Visconti motto, A bon droyt , appears on a banner, meaning "To the good belongs the right."

The Trump cards are lavishly decorated images, each portraying a central figure or image in bright colors against and embossed gold background. Although some of the symbolism is unique to the Visconti-Sforza decks e.g., the lovers actually represent members of the Visconti-Sforza family, the illustrations are typical representations of the familiar figures of the Major Arcana. As the illustrations are simple, a brief description will suffice.

O The Fool. A young bearded man dressed in torn white clothing, carrying a club. There are 7 feathers in his hair.

I The Magician. A mature man with a full beard, wearing elegant clothing. His hat and his red robe are trimmed with ermine. He is sitting at a low table on which rests a covered dish and a cup, a knife, a short staff (in the Magician's hand) and two small loaves. These items represent the four suits. This figure of the Magician resembles Bagatino, the Carnival King, one of the figures from the Triumphal processions.

II The Popess. A woman dressed in a habit, wearing a wimple and a crown. She is holding a short staff with a cross in one hand and a book in the other. She is thought to represent either Pope Joan, the 'female Pope' or Sister Manfreda, a relative of the Visconti family.

III The Empress. A crowned woman on a throne holding a shield with the Visconti-Sforza heraldic black eagle. Interlaced diamond rings embossed on the gold of her robe represent eternity and invincibility (and probably wealth.)

IIII The Emperor. An elderly bearded man on a throne. His robe resembles that of The Empress. He wears a hat with the black eagle and holds an orb with a cross and a short staff.

V The Pope. Another elderly bearded man on a throne. His right hand is displayed in the blessing pose typical in Christian art and in his left hand he holds a long staff. His robe is decorated with suns, which may also be a Visconti-Sforza device.

VI The Lovers. The couple depicted here are probably Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti. They hold hands in front of a fountain. Cupid is depicted standing on the fountain, blindfolded, holding a short staff and aiming an arrow.

VII The Chariot. A crowned woman riding in a Chariot drawn by two winged horses. She is holding an orb with a cross and a short staff.

VIII Justice. A woman holding the scales of justice in one hand and a sword in the other. A knight in armor on a white horse flies over her head. Also resembling Bianca Maria Visconti, the woman on this card is the personification of the Cardinal Virtue of Justice.

VIIII The Hermit. A richly dressed old man, hunched over, carrying an hourglass in one hand (sometimes depicted as a lantern) and a long staff in the other.

X Wheel of Fortune. An elaborate image depicting a blindfolded woman seated in the center of a wheel. She is the goddess Fortuna, the personification of Fortune. There are four men pictured around the wheel: first, a young man perched at the top, richly dressed but with the ears of a donkey and labeled Regno -- "I reign." Second, descending on the right side, a man head down with the tail of a donkey, and labeled Regnavi -- "I reigned." Third, an old man beneath the wheel, dressed in white rags and labeled Sum sine regno -- "I am without reign." Fourth, another man with donkey's ears rising on the left of the wheel and labeled Regnabo -- "I shall reign."

XI Strength. Sometimes called Fortitude. A muscular young man, arguably Hercules, holding a club, fighting against or alongside a lion.

XII Hanged Man. A young man hanging upside down from a gallows frame by his left foot. His hands are behind his back and his right leg is bent and crossed behind his left, forming an upside down numeral 4.

XIII Death. An anatomically naive, Gothic skeleton standing at the edge of a cliff and holding a large bow. A white banner waves around his head and may represent a removed blindfold or simply a shroud.

XIIII Temperance. A woman standing at the edge of a cliff, holding a jug in each hand, and pouring water from one vessel into the other. Her dress is blue with stars. The red stockings on her feet appear to be falling down.

XV Devil. Missing. Recreated as probably portraying a winged Devil holding a male and a female in captivity.

XV The Tower. Missing. Recreated as probably portraying a male and a female tumbling from a collapsing Medieval tower topped by a large crown.

XVII The Star. A young woman standing at the edge of a cliff, reaching for an eight-pointed star. In the background are two hills.

XVIII The Moon. A young woman standing at the edge of a cliff, probably depicting the Goddess Diana, the Huntress. She holds the crescent moon in her right hand, and a broken bow in the other. Her dress is Grecian in design, and she is barefoot. There is a castle on the hill in the background.

XVIIII The Sun. A winged cherub or putto balances on a cloud and holds the sun, shown as a red human face with glowing rays. Again, he is portrayed at the edge of a cliff, with a castle on a hill in the background.

XX Judgment. An elderly male crowned figure resembling The Pope, the personification of Judgment, hovers above the scene depicted here. He holds a sword in one hand and an orb with a cross in the other. Angels float on either side of him, blowing trumpets. Below them is a marble tomb, with the nude figures of a woman and a man rising from each side. Between them is the resting figure of an elderly man.

XXI The World. Two putti support a globe above and between them, encircling the image of a great walled city on a floating island, beneath a starry sky.

The face cards of the PM deck are equally straightforward in their depictions of the figures of King, Queen, Knight and Page of each suit. As can be seen in these brief descriptions, and their parallels with the Tarocchi of Mantegna, the symbolism represented in these and other cards of the Renaissance may not have been esoteric, but illustrative, meant to convey clear meanings and to put the viewer in mind of popular imagery or specific people of their time.

The Minor Arcana, or pip cards, were more decorative than illustrative, representing the suit and number by symmetrical repetition of the symbol. Additional decorations consisted of heraldic devices and mottoes of the Visconti-Sforza family. Only one deck produced during the Renaissance had illustrated pip cards, the Sola-Busca Tarocchi of Ferrara or Venice. It was not until 1910 that another deck was published with illuminated Major and Minor Arcana, the Rider-Waite deck, which copied to some extent, the designs of the Sola-Busca Tarot.

Tarot decks grew in popularity as playing cards and eventually spread throughout Europe, especially to France. Fifteenth century printing presses were capable of reproducing woodcut decks in a wide range of Tarot designs, many of which had French titles. The cards were adopted for fortune telling purposes in the late eighteenth century, around the same time that the concept became popular that the decks had mysterious origins earlier than the Renaissance.

4 The Imagery of the Occult Tarot

In 1781 the French author Antoine Court de Gebelin published a book called Le Monde Primitif. He proposed the notion that the Trumps were symbolic figures representing the Egyptian mysteries that were supposedly the "secret knowledge" inherited by the Gnostic Cathars, the Templars, The Rosicrucians, The Free Masons and so on. Court de Gebelin altered the order, the names and the images of the only Tarot with which he was familiar, the seventeenth-century Tarot of Marseilles, and invented Egyptian etymologies to justify his claims. Court de Gebelin also asserted that the Tarot was brought to Europe by the Gypsies (also falsely assumed to have come from Egypt.) Despite the fact that scholarly translations of Egyptian hieroglyphs soon contradicted his ideas, and the fact that the Tarot had existed in Europe a century before the Gypsies migrated there, his ideas soon found popularity.

In 1783 a Parisian showman named Alliette, calling himself Etteilla (Alliette spelled backwards) invented the method of fortune-telling with Tarot that was later adopted and modified by the Gypsies and others. Also drawing on his beliefs in Egyptian mysticism, he called the Tarot Le Livre de Thot or "The Book of Thoth." Thoth was the Egyptian god of wisdom who was said to have given the gift of written language to the Egyptian people.

Eliphas Lvy further complicated matters in 1856 by proposing that the 22 Trumps corresponded to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and that the four suits corresponded to the four Hebrew letters of the Tetragrammaton (Yod-He-Vau-He, the name of God). His theories helped to weave the mysticism of Kabbalah into the increasingly complex system of the Major Arcana. Followers of Levy claimed that the word Tarot is derived from Torah, Hebrew for "The Law." Of course, it is also possible that the cards the Italians called Tarocchi, created in Northern Italy, were named after the North Italian river Taro.

Many more books promoting the occult nature and esoteric origins of the Tarot were published in the late eighteen-hundreds by French and English speaking occultist authors including Paul Christian, Ely Star, Oswald Wirth, Papus, MacGregor Mathers, Arthur Edward Waite and Aleister Crowley. Of these, Oswald Wirth was a Mason and a member of Madame Blavatsky's (American) Theosophical Society. Wirth's mentor Marquis Stanislas de Guaita was one of the members of the (Swiss) Kabbalistic Order of the Rose-Cross. Papus was a member of the Theosophical Society and later became a member of the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose-Cross. Mathers, a member of the (British) Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, helped to found the Order of the Golden Dawn in 1888, which included among its members William Butler Yeats, Arthur Edward Waite (b.1857) and Aleister Crowley (who joined in 1898). Pamela Colman Smith, an artist and a friend of the poet Yeats, became the illustrator for the deck Waite later designed.

Crowley, born in 1875, was also a member of the German occult organization called Ordo Templo Orientis, or The Order of the Temple of the Orient (O.T.O.) Crowley wrote many books on the occult including a book redefining Tarot, called The Book of Thoth. He also wrote a 'channeled' book while in Egypt, called The Book of the Law, in 1904. In his writings, he redefined the symbolism of the Tarot, specifying for each card its associated letter of Kabbalah, element, color, and zodiac sign. Crowley also designed the Thoth deck, depicting these revisions, which was painted by Lady Frieda Harris and completed in 1943 but not published until 1969. [See Table Three: Astrological Correspondences to the 22 Major Arcana .]

The proliferation of secret societies in the late nineteenth century reflected a resurgence of interest in magic and Witchcraft. It was at this time that the suit of coins in the Minor Arcana was commonly represented as disks with pentagrams on them, also called pentacles, and staffs were commonly referred to as wands. Also, the Trumps became collectively known as the Keys -- to esoteric wisdom, of course.

The Order of the Golden Dawn used Tarot symbolism in their rituals, and gave objects representing the four suits of the Tarot to their initiates. Prior to 1888 the Tarot did not figure prominently in British occultism. The Rider-Waite, incorporating all the mystical concepts of the day, firmly instituted the connection between the Tarot and occult practice.

The extraordinarily interconnected nineteenth century secret societies published many revisionist histories that purported to discover ancient wisdom in the imagery of the Tarot. The new decks became the standard, and the system of Kabbalah imposed upon the original Trumps became inextricably connected to methods of divination by Tarot, despite the complete revision of correspondences. (i.e. earlier writers had set the sequence of Kabbalah as starting Aleph = Magician, Beth = Priestess...with Shin = Fool, Tau = World. Waite changed the order to Aleph = Fool,
Beth = Magician, thereby reassigning the value of every single Trump except Tau = World). Crowley further altered this order by switching Justice and Strength in his Thoth deck. The most significant of the occult decks, the Rider-Waite (designed by Waite, first published by Rider Press in 1910) and the later Thoth deck by Crowley, which expanded upon Waite's designs, are still among the most popular in use today, and are worthy of a card by card analysis and comparison.

Pamela Colman Smith, an American who grew up in Jamaica, came to live in England. As a theatrical designer and illustrator she met and collaborated with William Butler Yeats on stage designs, and later worked with his brother Jack Yeats on his illustrated magazine before publishing her own, The Green Sheaf. In 1903 she became a member of The Order of the Golden Dawn, and illustrated Waite's Tarot deck. Influenced by other Victorian illustrators and the Pre-Raphaelite and Naturalist movements, the Rider-Waite's more simple message is conveyed in pen and wash, portraying realistically arranged human figures grounded in earthy settings. If there was a design intended for the backs of the cards, it has been lost.

Lady Frieda Harris was the wife of Sir Percy Harris, a member of the British parliament. Her five-year collaboration with Crowley on the Thoth deck resulted in a complex, beautifully rendered re-interpretation of the traditional and occult Tarot. The Thoth deck is illustrated with elaborate watercolor paintings depicting ethereal figures suspended or flying in space. The images tend to be symmetrical and have a definite Surrealist look to them. The painting for the back of the Thoth deck was a diagonal converging grid colored in red, gold and green, with gold symbols of grail sword, disk, and caduceus for wands. In the center is a Flory cross, a cross with its ends terminating in three 'petals'. It is superimposed over a green twelve-pointed star burst, and in its center is a rainbow-petaled rose with another cross in the center. The large cross is colored red, yellow, blue, green and white, symbolizing the four elements and spirit. In Heraldic symbolism the Cross Flory was supposed to represent 'one who has conquered.'

All the cards in the Thoth deck have titles and a Hebrew letter printed at the bottom of the card. (Where two titles for a card are given, the first is from the Rider-Waite Tarot and the second is from the Aleister Crowley's Thoth Deck.)

O The Fool. Probably the most famous of all Tarot imagery, The Rider-Waite Fool is a young, blond, slightly effeminate man carelessly standing at the edge of a precipice. At his feet is a playful little white dog. The sun shines above him and ice capped mountains rise majestically in the distance. The Fool is dressed more richly than his Renaissance counterpart, in yellow boots and tan hose, white blouse and flowing, decorated tunic and a cap with a red feather. He is holding a white rose in his left hand and holds a staff with a small sack hanging from the end. The head of a black bird is drawn on the bag. The background of the card is solid yellow.

The Fool of the Thoth deck is more masculine and somewhat older in appearance. His exaggerated musculature is minimally clothed in tight green tunic and hose. His boots are yellow and a yellow sun glows in the region of his first chakra. This Fool is also blonde. Fire surges forth from the Fool's left hand, and in his right hand he clutches a large white crystal, possibly a diamond. Another conical crystal or crown rests on his head. Swirls of energy surround him, forming two ovals and a heart shaped swirl on his chest. Caught in the swirls are a white dove, a blue bird, a butterfly, and a curved sword with a winged caduceus (the wand of Hermes/Mercury, representing the struggle between the forces of good and evil, sickness and health) at the hilt. Slung over his left shoulder is a large bunch of grapes and a bag full of coins, each marked with signs of the zodiac. Below his groin float several white flowers, and a smiling alligator crawls between his outstretched feet. An orange tiger is climbing his left leg and biting at his thigh. The background of the card is yellow with white diamonds. The letter is Aleph, the sigyl signifies Air.

Harris clarifies that he is wearing the fool's cap and the horns and grapes of Bacchus, and that the alligator at his feet is the Egyptian Harpocrates, a symbol of adolescent fertility. She equates him with the Green man and Parsifal, the seeker before the quest has begun, innocent and without fear. This may have been her intent but the effect of the staring blue eyes, rictus grin, upturned nose and demonic horns suggests that this is a portrait of Crowley himself, who was often perceived as demonic.

I The Magician/The Magus. The Rider-Waite magician stands behind a table in a flower garden, wearing a white gown with a gray belt and a red robe. He is a young man with dark hair crowned with a white band. He stands with his right arm raised, holding a wand, and his left arm lowered, the index finger of his right hand pointing. On the table there is a disk with a pentagram design, a cup, a sword, and a wand. The table's edge is subtly decorated with images of a mountain scene, a lion, and an eagle. The flowers hanging above him are roses, the bushes that grow around him are roses and lilies. Over his head floats the symbol for infinity.

The Magus of The Thoth deck portrays the magician in his juggler aspect (hearkening back to the court magician/entertainers of Medieval and Renaissance courts.) The ethereal Magus floats in front of a giant sword, again with the caduceus and the sigyl for Mercury at the hilt. On his feet are the winged sandals of the Roman god Mercury, also called Hermes by the Greeks, or Hermes Trismegistus (Hermes the Thrice-Great) by the occultists, the equivalent of the Egyptian God Thoth and the Norse god Odin. He juggles a disk with an eight pointed star, a flaming torch, a wand with the head of an ibis, a quill pen, a scroll, a winged egg, an overflowing chalice and a dagger. Below him, climbing towards him is an ape. The letter is Beth, the sigyl signifies Mercury.

Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus, Ruler of the Three Worlds, Scribe of the Gods, and Keeper of the Books of Life, Thoth Hermes Trismegistus -- the Three Times Greatest, the First Intelligencer, keeper of the Cosmic Principle of Thought... was equated with Thoth the Dog-Headed, counselor of the Egyptian Gods, known in his other form as Thoth the Ibis-Headed, Lord of the Divine Books and Scribe of the Company of the Gods. He was the inventor of language and of the 365 day calendar, among his many accomplishments. Like many archetypal mythological figures, Hermes/Mercury/Thoth may once have been one or more living men, but due to exceptional public relations, he attained lasting mythical status. Medieval writings attributed to him formed the basis for numerous occult philosophies, including the wisdom allegedly contained in the Tarot. The Thoth deck is of course, a tribute to his magical knowledge.

II The High Priestess/The Priestess. The High Priestess of the Rider-Waite Tarot is a curious mixture of Christian, pre-Christian, and occult symbolism. A young dark-haired woman in a white gown with a blue cloak and headdress, strongly resembling Renaissance portraits of the Virgin Mary is seated on an altar at the edge of a body of water.. On her head is a crown resembling the full moon between two crescents, a symbol of Isis. On her chest is the Christian cross, and in her lap she holds a scroll labelled Tora[h] - the 'H' is not visible. At her feet a large crescent or sickle. She sits between two pillars, marked 'B' and 'J'. A curtain decorated with pomegranates, symbolizing Persephone, hangs behind her, just separating her from the water.

The pillar marked 'B' on the left is black, and is called Boaz, the pillar marked 'J' on the right is white, and is called Joachim. These represent the left-hand (sinister, evil) and right-hand (good) paths of magical practice. Although many decks reverse these, placing Boaz on the right and Joachim on the left, these pillars do appear in some form on most Priestess cards. Boaz, in alchemical and Masonic tradition, was the white pillar of bronze cast for Solomon's Temple, the symbol of divine wisdom, and equivalent to Hokmah, the second Sephira. [I was unable to find a source to define Joachim.]

Most of the occult symbolism easily visible in the Waite card is missing from the Thoth Priestess. She is an abstract, white, nude female figure seated on an Egyptian throne. The infinity symbol encircles her eyes and she wears the crown of Isis. On her lap rests a many-stringed bow and an arrow. Seven crescent moons and rainbow swirls of energy emanate from her brow. Her arms are raised in an attitude reminiscent of the Minoan snake goddess, and between her hands is suspended a net or veil, which holds flowers, fruits and crystals. At the bottom of the image is a small one-humped camel. The letter is Gimel, the sigyl signifies the Moon.

Despite Harris's assertion that the Priestess is also holding a sistrum on her lap, it does not particularly resemble medieval pictures of the archaic handheld musical instrument. Harris also equates the Priestess with Artemis.

III The Empress. The Rider-Waite Empress is a matronly blonde woman seated on a richly upholstered and cushioned chair or throne. She is wearing a gown decorated with fruit or flowers, a pearl necklace, a laurel wreath and crowned with 12 stars. She hold a scepter in her raised right hand, and her left hand rests on her knee. Her torso faces forward and her legs are turned somewhat sideways to her left. A large gray heart, possibly a silver shield, with the sigyl for Venus, rests against her seat. In front of her is a field of wheat, behind her is a forest and a brook leading to a waterfall and a pool, all symbols of abundance and fertility.

The Thoth Empress is a regal woman with blonde hair, facing to her left. She wears a long gown with a red flowered top and a green skirt, and a golden belt decorated with signs of the zodiac. Her crown has an orb with a small cross at the top, and a waxing and waning moon are pictured on each side of her. Two little birds stand on abstract greenery to either side, and a large pelican feeds its young at her feet. A shield with a white eagle (again supposed to symbolize salt) rests against her leg. At the base of the picture are three fleur-de-lis . The pelican was a heraldic symbol of the Visconti-Sforza family, as was the eagle, although theirs was black, for constancy. Thefleur-de-lis symbolized purity and light. The letter is Daleth, the sigyl signifies Venus.

Like her Rider-Waite counterpart, the Thoth Empress is seated, her torso facing forward, her legs turned to her left. Her left arm curves forward and rests palm upward, and in her slightly raised right hand she holds a long-stemmed lotus flower. Lady Harris refers to this pose as "the traditional posture symbolizing alchemical Salt." Although the pose is certainly similar to the Waite Empress, her posture bears no resemblance to that of her Renaissance predecessor, the female Pope, implying that at least in this instance, the alchemical symbolism to be found in early Tarot was in the mind of the latter day beholder.

IIII The Emperor. The Rider-Waite Emperor is a mature, white-bearded crowned man seated on a giant throne decorated with four ram's heads. In his right hand he holds a scepter in the shape of the crux ansata (ankh), in his right hand he holds a golden orb. His is wearing a suit of armor covered by red robes. At his left shoulder is a black eagle against a red background. Behind him, a red-orange sky descends to yellow-orange mountains.

The Thoth Emperor differs only slightly, again portraying the crowned and bearded red garbed Emperor seated on a throne decorated with ram's heads. His posture is supposed to symbolize sulphur, the symbol for which appears on many representations of this card. His scepter has the head of a ram, and his orb is topped with the Maltese cross. At his feet rest a shield with a red eagle, and a haloed lamb holding a flag. Bees decorate his robe and there are two fleur-de-lis at his feet. The card is painted only in shades of red, orange and yellow, giving it a fiery appearance. The letter is Tzaddeh, the sigyl signifies Aries.

V The Hierophant. The Rider-Waite Hierophant is a beardless man dressed in red Christian robes, with a golden crown and vestments decorated with the Christian cross and there are crosses on his slippers. In his left hand he holds a scepter with the Papalcross and his right hand is raised in blessing. He is seated on a raised throne covered with a red carpet. There are four symbols on the carpet, a circle quartered by a cross. on the front of his raised platform are two crossed keys decorated with the same symbol. His throne sits between two pillars, and he is preaching to two tonsured priests, one wearing a robe decorated with roses, the other with lilies. In heraldic symbolism, red roses signified grace and beauty, and lilies signified purity. In alchemy, flowers symbolized the growth of the unfolding spirit.

The Thoth Hierophant is seated on a throne attended by a bull and two elephants. The bull symbolizes Taurus. He wears orange robes and an orange conical hat. His head is haloed by the image of a lotus with nine rays . His face and beard resemble that of a Greek statue, with pupil-less eyes and perfectly curled hair. His left hand is extended in blessing, and in his right hand he holds a scepter topped with three interlaced circles (the emblem also appears on the Visconti-Sforza cards and there represents the heraldic device of three diamond rings.) In the Thoth deck, this represents the three ons of Isis, Osiris and Horus. On his chest is a pentagram enclosing the image of a child running, and at his feet stand a woman in priestess robes and headpiece, holding a sword pointing down and a crescent, representing an armed Venus. In each corner of the card there is a mask, one of a man, one of a lion, one of a bull and one of an eagle, representing the four cherubim. The letter is Vau, the sigyl signifies Taurus.

The reverse evolution from Christian Pope to Pagan Hierophant is another instance of occult re-interpretation. The Hierophant was "...the presiding priest who initiated candidates at the Eleusinian mysteries; hence, one who teaches the mysteries and duties of religion." The Eleusinian mysteries or festivals were secret rites in honor of Ceres, celebrated in Eleusis, an ancient Greek city. [From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary.] As not much is really known about the Eleusinian rites, it is difficult to prove or to disprove claims about these ancient mysteries.

VI The Lovers. The Rider-Waite deck depicts an angel floating above and between 2 nude figures who appear to be Adam and Eve. Adam stands on the right in front of a tree with flame-colored leaves. Eve stands on the left in front of an apple tree. A serpent is entwined in the apple tree's branches. A bright sun shines from behind the angel's head, and a cloud obscures his body, which appears to terminate at the waist. His wings are red, his gown is gray, green and red leaves crown his head, and his arms are outstretched in blessing. In the distance behind them a steep mountain rises.

The Lovers of the Thoth deck are clothed in elaborate gowns with ermine trim and the angel has been replaced by the long-bearded, lavender-robed wizard-like figure of the Creator. The woman is light skinned and golden-haired, and wears a crown with an orb and cross. Her orange robe is decorated with bees, and she is holding what appears to be the holy grail, a glowing golden chalice with a white dove. Her partner is dark-skinned and dark-haired, and is wearing a plain golden crown. His golden robe appears to be decorated with snakes. In his left hand he clasps a red spear, and their free hands are clasped. In front of the couple is a red lion and a white eagle and between them is a red-winged egg with a serpent coiled around it. On the left wing of the egg stands a dark cherub supporting the spear held by the man with one hand and holding a club in the other hand. On the right wing of the egg stands a light cherub supporting the chalice held by the woman and holding a bouquet of flowers in the other hand. The dark cherub represents Cain and the light cherub represents Abel. At the top of the card is the blindfolded flying figure of Cupid, and in either corner there is a figure of a nude woman. The figure at the top right is Eve and the figure at the top left is Lilith. The card represents the union of opposites. The letter is Zayin, the sigyl signifies Gemini.

Just as marriage represented chemical union in alchemical symbolism, this card symbolizes spiritual union and synthesis.

VII The Chariot. The Rider-Waite Chariot depicts a young, light-haired man in armor, wearing a crown with a star and a golden belt with astrological symbols and carrying a staff. His clothing is also decorated with alchemical symbols. He is riding in a chariot pulled by a black and a white sphinx. The white is on his left, the black is on his right. The chariot has a blue, starred canopy, and is decorated by a shield with a winged sun and a design resembling a red toy top. Behind the chariot is a great city.

The Thoth Chariot depicts a man completely concealed in golden armor and visored helmet. There are ten crystal or diamond studs on his breastplate and shoulders, and in his hands he holds what appears to be a spinning rainbow wheel (although Harris refers to it as a grail containing voluntary sacrificial blood.) The blue-canopied chariot has red wheels and is drawn along a golden road by four sphinxes. Two are female, the one with lion body and cloven hooves, and the other with human head and eagle talons. The male sphinxes are depicted as one with a bird head and human feet, and the other with the head of a bull and the feet of a lion. On the man's helmet there is a crab, representing Cancer. The letter is Cheth, the sigyl signifies Cancer.

VIII Strength / XI Lust. The Rider-Waite Strength card depicts a white gowned woman petting a lion. They appear as giants, standing in a green valley. Her white gown is belted with a garland of roses, and there is a crown of roses on her head. Above her head floats the infinity symbol. The background is solid yellow.

The Thoth Lust card corresponds to Strength, although Crowley switched the order of the cards and renamed it. The card depicts a nude woman sensuously draped over the back of a lion-like figure. It has the body and legs of a lion, but its tail is marked with serpent's scales and ends in the head of a lioness, surrounded by a sunburst. It does not have a lion's head, but has several faces: two female, two male, and two monstrous. There are other faces subtly painted in the purple and green background. The woman is reigning in the 'lion' with a red sash in one hand, and is reaching up to hold a red cup with ten rays and ten horns flying out of it. The letter is Teth, the sigyl signifies Leo.

The seven heads of the Lion are supposed to represent an angel, a saint, a poet, an adulteress, a warrior, a satyr, and a lion-serpent.

VIIII The Hermit. The Rider-Waite Hermit is the lone figure of a long white-bearded man in a gray hooded robe, holding a long staff in one hand and carrying a lantern in the other. He stands as a giant on a landscape of snowy mountains, with a blue-gray sky behind him.

The Thoth Hermit is a bent old man in a red robe, also carrying a lantern, but his lantern is shaped like a diamond and contains the sun. He is surrounded by stalks of wheat which he has parted to see the Cosmic or Orphic Egg encircled by a serpent. What appears to be a giant spermatozoa, containing in its head a tiny homunculus, is swimming towards him. At his heels, Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the Underworld (and all the secrets therein) chases, attempting to catch the lantern and the sperm. The letter is Yod, the sigyl signifies Virgo.

What is one of the simplest cards in the Rider-Waite deck is perhaps the most symbolically complex and significant cards of the Thoth deck. The Hermit is the icon of the Hermetic tradition, the inheritor of Hermes Trismegistus and his wisdom. The Order of the Golden Dawn believed that it was possible to reach enlightenment through meditation on each of the images of the Tarot. This card could be said to represent that act of solitary meditation. However, the Thoth deck carries it one step further, and as Crowley himself was obsessed with 'sex magic', it is not a stretch to imagine that this card contains a reference to masturbation.

This card symbolizes above all else the act of creation by a male, and the meditation on this act by a male initiate seeking enlightenment. There are references in this image to the creation of a golem, one of the magical rites of Jewish and Gnostic mysticism. A whole branch of alchemy was devoted to the study of spontaneous generation, and Medieval recipes for the creation of life often called for sperm and other effluvia to be combined with mud, clay and animal dung. Virgo is the logical sign to represent an act of asexual creation.

Perhaps Marge Piercy was aware of this Hermetic symbolism in her novel, He, She, and It (1993) in which she named her cyborg character Yod, and also retold the story of the Medieval Jewish Golem.

X The Wheel of Fortune/Fortune. The Rider-Waite Wheel of Fortune depicts the four cherubim at each corner, each reading a book and resting on a cloud. In the center is the Wheel, and around it turn the figures of the serpent and the devil. Seated triumphantly at the top is a blue sphinx, holding a sword. The wheel is inscribed with symbols indicating the four elements, with the letters T, A, R, O, and with the four Hebrew characters Yod, Heh, Vau, Heh.

The Thoth Fortune card is very similar, portraying a ten spoked wheel spinning amidst chaotic swirls of light and lightning flashes. Above the wheel are a number of stars, and perched at the top is again a sphinx with a sword. The two other figures turning with the wheel are the ape and an reptilian figure holding an ankh and a hook. The letter is Kaph, the sigyl signifies Jupiter.

This card, representing the principles of constant change, uses Hindu symbols: The Sphinx, representing Wisdom (Sativas), Hermanubis the Ape, representing unstable reason (Rajas), and Typhon the reptile (Tamas) the symbol of ignorance and destruction. These in turn are supposed to correspond to Sulphur, Mercury, and Salt.

XI Justice / VIII Adjustment. The personification of Justice is portrayed by a blond woman in red and yellow robes, wearing a gold crown, and seated on a throne. In her right hand she holds a raised sword, in her left hand she holds the scales of Justice. There is a dark red curtain behind her.

The Thoth Adjustment card corresponds to Justice, although Crowley switched the order of the cards and renamed it Adjustment, as a translation of the French Justesse - "Equilibrium." The Adjustment card is painted in shades of blue, green and yellow, sharply contrasting the fiery colors of the Rider-Waite Justice. The stylized symmetrical design shows a robed and masked woman with an Egyptian headdress from which hangs a giant scales. The scales weigh two bubbles, one marked with the symbol for Alpha, the other marked with the symbol for Omega. Harris refers to these as the bubbles of illusion, (Maya). She holds a sword pointing down with a design of two crescents at the hilt. The letter is Lamed, the sigyl signifies Libra.

XII Hanged Man. The Rider-Waite Hanged Man is a young man dressed in a blue tunic, red hose and yellow shoes. He is hanging upside down by his right foot, which is tied to the crosspiece of a gallows or gallows-shaped living tree. His left leg is crossed behind his right in the opposite position as the Visconti-Sforza, forming an upside-down and backwards numeral four. His hands are tied behind his back, and there is a golden glow or aura around his head. The background of the card is gray.

The Thoth Hanged Man is a nude man hanging upside down by his left foot from an inverse ankh. A serpent appears to be the rope that binds his foot to the ankh. His right leg is crossed over his left and his arms are stretched wide. His right foot and both of his hands are nailed to three green disks. Another green disk or glow surrounds his head. A white sunburst emanates from behind the ankh, and multiple green rays spread from the top of his head. Below his head is a blue sphere and in it is a black semicircle cradling a coiled serpent. Behind him is a grid, or veil. His features are abstract and geometric, and there is a triangular shape formed between his hands and his solar plexus. The card is painted in shades of blue and green, giving it a watery appearance. The letter is Mem, the sigyl signifies Water.

The triangle surmounted by a cross is supposed to represent the descent of light into darkness to redeem it, a particularly universal theme, echoing the descent in the stories of Orpheus and Eurydice, Persephone and Hades, and Inanna and Tammuz, as well as Dionysus, Odin, and Christ.

XIII Death. The Rider-Waite Death card portrays Death as a skeleton in black armor riding a white horse. He is carrying a black flag with a white rose. He stands over the body of a fallen King, whose crown and scepter lie on the ground beside him. Kneeling before the horse are a child and a young woman, and the figure of a bishop or pope stands, praying. In the background there is a river with a boat, a tall cliff, and two towers between which the sun is setting. The sky is gray.

The Thoth Death is an active figure, leaping or dancing with his back to the viewer. He is a black skeleton wearing a helmet shaped like the crowns on the other Thoth cards. He wields a scythe. On the lower left corner is a snake and a fish, below him is a scorpion, a flower and an ambiguous object that might be a fruit. Behind his helmet is an eagle. Swirling down from the upper right hand corner are humanoid, ghostly figures, apparently rising from his scythe. A series of geometric lines starting in the same corner forms diamond shapes and connects the figures in their bubbles to his body. The letter is Nun, the sigyl signifies Scorpio.

The Thoth Death makes the meaning of the card -- Transformation -- much clearer than does the Rider-Waite. Death, in the alchemical tradition, is the ego-death of Jungian analysis, the dark night before the dawning of a new consciousness.

XIIII Art/Temperance. The Rider-Waite Temperance card shows the personification of the virtue of Temperance as a blonde angel with the glyph for sun at his or her brow and an orange triangle in a white square on his or her chest, probably symbolizing fire. Temperance is an androgynous figure in white gown. S/he has red wings and is barefoot.
S/he is holding a cup in each hand, and pouring water from one vessel into the other, similar to the image in the Visconti-Sforza Tarot. S/he is standing on the edge of a pool of water, with one foot on the bank and one foot submerged. Behind the angel is a patch of yellow flowers, perhaps day-lilies, and a green hill with a foot path. In the distance, the sun is setting behind mountains.

The Thoth Art card, corresponding to Temperance, portrays a feminine but still androgynous figure with two faces, one light, one dark. She wears a green gown and is crowned with crescents. On her chest is a blue shield with 5 breast-like circles. Her gown is decorated with serpents and bees. In her right hand she clutches a handful of fire or lightning bolts, in her left hand she holds a chalice. She is mixing these two elements in a large golden bowl over a fire. To the left of the bowl is a white lion, on the right is a red eagle. The crucible is marked with a raven perched on a skull, symbolizing putrefaction. A golden aura surrounds her, and the words Visita interiora terrrae rectificando invenies occultem lapidem -- 'The Counsel to visit the interior of the earth is a recapitulation of the first formula of the Work" are written on a rainbow around the aura. The background of the card is deep blue, with white circles and radiating lines. The letter is Samech, the sigyl signifies Sagittarius.

XV The Devil. The Rider-Waite Devil is a stout orange male figure with animal features, bat's wings, and ram's horns. The lower half of his body is shaggy and his calves and feet are the talons of an eagle. His left hand holds an upside down torch and his right hand gestures in a version of the sign for devil's horns. He is perched on a narrow pedestal. A woman on the left and a man on the right are chained to the post with a large ring. The human figures are both nude, red-headed and have horns and tails. The woman's tail is a bunch of grapes at the end of a vine, the man's tail looks like fire.

The Thoth Devil card depicts a three eyed ram wearing a wreath of grapes. Between his hooves rests a sword with a winged red sun and two serpents. The sword separates two golden spheres, the left hand sphere containing the tortured figures of four nude, abstract women, and the right hand sphere containing the similar figures of four men, one with the head of a donkey (the Egyptian god Set). The back ground color is light red, overlaid with ominous, bat-like swirls of black, representing the Tree of Life out of balance. Behind the goat is a sort of a pillar, descending through a flat circle. This represents the Tree of Life and the ring of Saturn. Behind the figures in the spheres are geometric lines, indicating that the two spheres are in fact dividing cells. The letter is Ayin, the sigyl signifies Capricorn.

The Devil of the Tarot symbolizes Satan, the enemy of mankind, rather than Lucifer, a fallen angel or Prometheus figure.

XV The Tower. The Rider-Waite Tower depicts a narrow tower at the top of a crag. Lightning in the shape of an arrow strikes the top of the tower, knocking the crown shaped cap away. The tower is in flames, and two figures are falling, one female, wearing a crown and a blue robe, the other male, wearing a blue tunic and a red cape. The background of the card is black.

The Thoth Tower is painted in shades of yellow, red, orange, and brown, in a distorted geometric style reminiscent of Cubism. The collapsing tower and the four crystalline figures cast from it appear in front of a crystal-shaped red form. Above is an all-seeing eye, with rays emanating from it. On the upper left is a dove, on the upper right is a serpent. At the bottom right of the picture is a giant, fish-like open mouth with sharp teeth and jagged flames issuing forth. The letter is Peh, the sigyl signifies Mars.

The simplest interpretation of the imagery of this card is that it illustrates a moment of crisis, a turning point on a spiritual or material path. Harris refers to this as The Blasted Tower, or The House of God, and indicates that the eye belongs to Shiva, the destroyer and liberator, and the mouth represents the letter Peh. There is another, more arcane interpretation, that this represents the destruction of the Tower of Babel. This card may be an illustration for a cautionary tale, which presumably constitutes a warning from God not to seek to enter the Kingdom of Heaven prematurely... A warning that applied equally to dabblers in alchemy, that the unready would be confused and confounded.

The Biblical story of the Tower of Babel may itself be an allegory for the invention of Kabbalah. Tipharet, the sixth Sephira, translates as either beauty or tower. Below it is Yesod, Foundation, and above it is Kether, Crown. Even the Tower in the Renaissance Tarot is topped by a crown, which may be one of the few indications of early Hebrew mystical influences. There were certainly Jewish enclaves in Italy during the Renaissance, and in Alexandria before that, but how much Hebrew mysticism influenced Hellenistic or Medieval thought is uncertain.

XVII The Star. The Rider-Waite Star shows a young, golden-haired female nude at the edge of a pool of water. As with the Temperance card, she is kneeling with one knee on the ground, and one foot in the water, and she is holding two jugs. She is pouring the water from one jug on the ground, and from the other into the pool. The land around her is green and has little red flowers growing. Behind her on a hill is a small tree with a long beaked bird, possible a crane or a pelican. Above her is a large eight-pointed star, and seven smaller white eight pointed stars. The background is sky-blue.

The Thoth Star depicts a young, nude, dark-haired woman squatting on tiptoe, balanced on a large clear crystal. Her body is turned to the side and she faces away from the viewer. Her long hair winds around her body and past her feet. She holds a large green chalice in each hand. She pours out the contents of one vessel on the ground and the other she pours over herself. In the outpouring is a seven-pointed blue star. Above her is another, with swirling rays, and behind her is a large planetary orb against a dark blue sky. By her feet are roses, birds, and butterflies. The letter is Heh, the sigyl signifies Aquarius.

XVIII The Moon. The Moon is shown as a round yellow sphere with rays shining from it. A crescent shape and a woman's profile are both drawn on the moon's face. In what appears to be the same pool as depicted on the Temperance and star cards, a lobster-like crab sits, its claws raised to the moon above. a path leads from the pool away over the distant mountains. There is a tower on either side of the path, and two dogs, one orange and one yellow, stand baying at the moon. The background is sky-blue, not dark.

The Thoth Moon card appears to be divided into top and bottom sections. Below is pale blue, with sinusoidal waves of red and blue. In the center of the bottom is a large beetle with the symbol for the sun held between its front feelers. The glow from the sun glyph penetrates both above and below. Above are similar waves of blue and black On either side of the top section is a black tower, guarded by the Jackal headed figure of Anubis, holding a rod and the glyph for Mercury. Between the towers is the moon. The letter is Qoph, the sigyl signifies Pisces.

In the Rider-Waite and the Thoth deck, the Moon is a negative card, identifying the masculine force of the sun as the positive power. This is the most altered aspect of later twentieth century decks. Given that the ritual of 'drawing down the moon' into a priestess, thus allowing her to manifest divinity, identifies the moon as a positive, feminine magical force, the Moon is usually viewed in a positive light. Although the Star to some extent balances the Hermit, both the Thoth and the Rider-Waite are clearly pre-feminist decks.

XVIIII The Sun. The Rider-Waite sun portrays a smiling nude child riding bareback on a gray horse. The child is crowned with flowers and a red plume, and is holding an orange banner. Above him is the sun with a human face and both straight and wavy rays. Behind him is a wall and on the top of the wall there are sunflowers in bloom. Smith used wavy lines in much of her artwork to represent fire.

The Thoth Sun shows a central radiant sun with rainbow rays spreading out to the edges of the card. There is a flower at the center of the sun, and at the edges are pictured the twelve signs of the zodiac. Below the sun are two dancing cherubs with butterfly wings and upraised arms, behind them is a green hill 'crowned' by a golden fence. At their feet are two small disks, marked with crosses and small abstract humanoid forms. The letter is Resh, the sigyl signifies Sun.

XX Judgment/The on. The Rider-Waite Judgment card resembles the Visconti-Sforza card, showing the disembodied torso of an angel with fiery hair and red wings, blowing a horn. A white flag with a red cross flies from the horn. Below, the awakened souls of the dead, men, women, and children, rise from their coffins. The background is sky-blue.

The Thoth on card corresponds to the Judgment card. Against an orange background, Nut, the Egyptian sky-goddess, painted in blue, with stars, arches over the central figure of the child Horus. Horus is a transparent, effeminate male with an Egyptian head-dress and the forefinger of his right hand in his mouth. His left hand hangs empty at his side. Through him we see Thoth in his Ibis-headed form, seated on a throne, holding a staff, also with his left hand empty. Below Thoth is the golden-winged red sun and the Hebrew letter Shin, with small humanoid figures painted in each section of the letter. At the bottom of the picture are layers of color, yellow, orange, blue, and red. This is the most brightly colored of the Thoth cards. The letter printed on the card is Shin, the sigyl signifies Fire.

XXI The World/The Universe. The Rider-Waite World card resembles the Visconti-Sforza card, portraying a nude woman draped in a gray banner, holding two wands and dancing in the center of a garland. In each corner of the card are the four faces of the cherubim: human, eagle, lion, and bull. The background is sky-blue.

The Thoth Universe card, corresponding to The World, shows the abstract, nude form of a woman dancing, entwined and balancing on a giant serpent. Around her is a wreath made up of 72 curved lines and the stars of the zodiac. Behind her is a Mbius strip, and below her is a map of the chemical elements (not alchemical!) In the corners of the card are the four heads of the cherubim, but in the order of eagle, human, lion, bull. Above her is the all-seeing eye, from which emanate rays of light and also the sun and moon. The letter is Tau, the sigyl signifies Saturn but the card, painted in earth tones, also signifies the element of Earth.

Both cards, in depicting a human figure within the oval shape of a wreath, allude to the image of the Orphic Egg. The Orphic Egg signified Cosmos encircled by the fiery Creative Spirit. The egg also represented the soul of the Philosopher, with the Serpent representing the Mysteries. At the time of initiation the shell is broken and the soul emerges from the embryonic state of physical existence. But when this egg hatches, it is the Fool who emerges, to return again through the same cycle.

The Rider-Waite was the first modern deck to individually illustrate the Minor Arcana cards as more than representations of suit and number. The only previous deck was the Sola-Busca, photographic representations of which were donated to the British Museum in 1907. Smith had access to these cards and used much of their imagery in her own drawings.

Whether or not the four suits of the Minor Arcana originally symbolized anything, they came to represent a number of things by the time of the publication of the Rider-Waite deck. First, the four elements: cups as water, corresponding to emotion; swords as air, intellect; wands as fire, energy; and coins or pentacles as earth, the physical world. These correspondences, if not the Tarot symbols, trace their origins back to a variety of Western mythologies, all of which were known in Europe during the period the Tarot was designed. The court cards were just that, representing the roles of knight, page, queen and king. Later, these came to represent two pairs of duality -- a young man and woman and an older man and woman. In the Waite deck and Thoth deck, the court cards also correspond to Yod: Knights, Heh: Queens, Vau: Kings (called Princes), and the final Heh: Pages (called Princesses). The Kabbalist symbolism of the Tree of Life, which assigns the 22 letters of the Kabbalah to lattices of a matrix connecting 10 aspects of divine manifestation, or Sephiroth. The Ace through Ten of each suit corresponded to the ten Sephiroth. [See Table Four: The Tree of Life.]

These forty cards were also given a name to describe their primary attributes, and in both the Rider-Waite and the Thoth decks the picture illustrates this concept, although only the Thoth deck actually shows the word printed on the card as a title. The two decks more or less agree conceptually.

5 The Archetypal Imagery of the Tarot

To examine the history of the Tarot, it is necessary to examine the history of thought about the Tarot. The Tarot has been continually redesigned and reinterpreted since its invention. Whether it originally contained secret knowledge, which has since been altered, or whether it was originally devoid of esoteric meaning, which has since been imposed upon it, the Tarot has a history of significance. It is not entirely possible to present a wholly objective history of the art of the Tarot without examining the influences on the various artists. On the one hand, Tarot was a game, and was reproduced on printing presses by cartiers presumably more interested in profit than prophesy. On the other hand, Tarot decks through the ages were a convenient repository for the philosophies of their day, and much can be reconstructed regarding the evolution of mystical thought.

John Crowley's novel, gypt, is one of his two books about the concept of parallel histories, one mundane, one arcane. He writes:

"Sometime in the 1460's, a Greek monk brought to Florence a collection of manuscripts in Greek which caused a lot of excitement there. What they purported to be were Greek versions of ancient Egyptian writings -- religious speculations, philosophy, magical recipes -- that had been composed by an ancient sage or priest of Egypt, Hermes Trismegistus: Hermes the Three Times Very Great; if you could translate it. Hermes is the Greek god, of course; the Greeks had made an equivalence between their Hermes, god of language, and the Egyptian god Thoth or Theuth, who invented writing...The Renaissance scholars [believed] that these writings...were as old as any in the history of mankind...

"See, what you have to remember in thinking about the Renaissance is that they were always looking back. All their scholarship, all their learning, was bent towards re-creating as best they could the past in the present, because the past had necessarily been better, wiser, less decayed than the present. And so the older an old manuscript was, the older the knowledge it contained, the better it must turn out to be, once it had been cleansed of the accretions and errors of later times: the closer to the old Golden Age.

"...Hermes practically became a Christian saint. A rage for Egypt and Egyptian stuff began that runs right through the Renaissance...[Other 'Egyptian' dialogues of the day were] intensely spiritual, pious, abstract...but there's almost no real practical advice about that stuff... Where there was practical advice, though, was in those old magic books the Middle Ages had transmitted and ascribed to Hermes; and who knew, maybe they were the practical side of the abstract principles. Corrupted, of course, and terribly dangerous to use, but still containing the power of the good ancient Egyptian magic of Hermes. So Hermes was responsible for serious people taking up the practice of magic in a big way...

"But remember, there was almost nothing really known then about the culture and beliefs of ancient Egypt. Even before the Roman era, the understanding of hieroglyphs had disappeared; they wouldn't be understood again until the nineteenth century. Nobody in the Renaissance knew what was written on obelisks, or what the pyramids were for, or anything. Now in the light of these intensely spiritual, semi-Platonic magical writings, they began studying. Hieroglyphics: they must be some sort of mystic code, picture-story of the ascent of the soul, aids to contemplation, maybe hypervalent, like Rorschach blots or Tarot cards...

"But it's not so! That's the most wonderful and strange thing. These writings which the Renaissance ascribed to the god-king-priest Hermes Trismegistus, and from which they got their whole picture of ancient Egypt, weren't really ancient at all. They certainly weren't written by one man. They weren't even Egyptian. Whoever wrote the writings which came to Florence in the 1460's didn't know a thing...about real Egyptian religion.

"What they really are, these writings, as far as we can tell now, are the scriptures of a late Hellenistic mystery cult, a Gnostic cult of the second or third century AD. There were lots of them flourishing in Alexandria around then, among Hellenized Egyptians and Egyptian Greeks...

"...The Renaissance made this titanic mistake...and by the middle of the seventeenth century the writings had been shown to be late Greek... but the enthusiasts didn't pay any attention; through the seventeenth and even the eighteenth centuries they went right on believing in the Egypt of Hermes. The body of esoteric Egyptianism grew huge. Even in the nineteenth century...after the real actual Egypt came to light -- people like...the Theosophists and Aleister Crowley and the mystics and the magicians were still trying to believe in it...Because of these Hermetic writings -- see, there's that word, hermetic, magical, secret, sealed like an alchemist's jar -- because of those writings, Egypt came to mean all things mystical, encoded, profound; ancient wisdom lost; old age of gold now perhaps able to be recovered, to enlighten degenerate moderns. That's the tradition; that's what came down to us, in a thousand books, a thousand references. It's the tradition that continued in the Freemasons, for instance, who always make a big deal out of their connection to Egypt, and through the Masons it comes to the Founding Fathers, some of whom were Masons, and so the pyramid and the eye of Egypt get onto the Great Seal of the United States and onto the dollar bill...

"You can trace the history of Egypt back, and back, and at a certain point (or at several different points) it will divide. And you can follow either one: the regular history-book one, Egypt, or the other, the dream one. The Hermetic one. Not Egypt but gypt. Because there is more than one history of the world."

John Crowley's fiction may well be true. On the other hand, if these ancient origins are latter-day inventions, then the occultists could be said to be inventing a new cosmology or even a new religion. By basing it on the primarily Christian documents of the Tarot, then reinterpreting the imagery to suit, it's rather as if someone tried to found a new religion using the bible as its sacred text but by redefining the meanings of all the words.

Lady Frieda Harris, the painter of the Thoth deck, writes:

"The History of the Tarot has been obscured by writers who have not distinguished between the Tarot in its higher aspect, as the record in symbols of what man has discovered about his relation to the Universe, and the Tarot in its lower aspect, as a pack of cards used for divination and card play... The various attempts... to assign a date to the creation of the Tarot and to attribute its invention to particular persons and races is beside the point and fated to be inconclusive. The Tarot represents, in symbolical form, an inheritance which is universal... If, as has been stated, the Tarot preserves an ancient tradition, it may be asked why the present pack shows certain changes in both design and nomenclature...The symbols through which they are made known are corrupted in the course of time and misrepresented by those who understood them imperfectly. Moreover a symbol which is appropriate to one historical period becomes in another a mere curiosity or archaism."

Perhaps the connection between the Tarot and Medieval mysticism is indisputable. However, this still leaves out the issue of how the Kabbalah ended up connected to the Tarot. It was the stated intent of the Order of the Golden Dawn to establish a completely integrated, all-inclusive mystical system, and they did succeed in popularizing Lvy's ideas through the Rider-Waite Tarot. If it seems odd that it would be so easy to impose a completely unrelated system like the Kabbalah on to the Tarot, and if it therefore seems impossible that they were, prior to 1856, independent, unconnected belief systems, an explanation is in order.

The Tarot functions in several ways. It is a collection of hand-held art reproductions. It is a game. It is a randomizing device, like dice or I Ching coins, and it is a system of divination. It is the same qualities of randomness within a structure that make it a good game and a good system of divination. It is possible for it to be all these things because of the way people think.

Every system of divination assumes the action of what C.G. Jung termed synchronicity. Synchronicity is defined as a meaningful coincidence. It is the concept that simultaneous events with no mundane connection may be connected in another way. Divination is a system affected by the perceptions of the person attempting the divination. The observer enters the equation. If tea-leaves settle in a cup and are not read, they can not be said to have meaning. If someone interprets their random patterns and finds meaning, then there is meaning, for the interpreter, and the patterns are no longer considered random, but significant.

The coincidence, meaningful or otherwise, that there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and there are 22 Trumps of the Tarot, allows them to be superimposed and interpreted. If there had been 23 Trumps, we would have been forced to use the Greek Alphabet, and if there had been 64 we could have used the hexagrams of the I Ching.

Divination is an example of 'Seek and ye shall find.' The proliferation of methods invented by humankind throughout history to divine the future, or the meaning of current events is fascinating. Astragalomancy, foretelling the future by means of dice marked with letters of the alphabet. Geomancy, telling the future by scattering dirt on a flat surface. Icthyomancy was a method of reading fish entrails. Other methods involved interpreting the random patternings of scattered salt or pebbles, drops of wax or lead, rising smoke or rippling water, or even the crackling sounds of a burning branch of laurel. There were many methods of divination using the printed word or pictures, including using a key or other pendulum over an open book, (especially the Bible) pricking a pin into a closed book and finding the last pierced word, or simply opening a book to a random page and pointing. And of course there was Cartomancy, divination with cards.

More accessible forms of divination such as dice or coins are easier to analyze because of the finite number of possible patterns. The I Ching defines only 64 possible outcomes and thus limits the number of possible interpretations. Any open-ended system is harder to use for divination, and impossible to use as a game. But any game, being a closed system, is possible to use for divination, although some games are better suited to this purpose.

The occult principle of 'As above, so below' is another description of synchronicity. If all things are interconnected in mysterious ways, then all things affect each other, and some measure of these effects can be seen even in the smallest event, such as the act of randomization. All of these methods can be said to work because the degree of success depends on the skill of the interpreter in reading the 'signs' of other influences, and determining the meaning.

Once meaning is defined for a set of events, it is a simple task to define symbols to represent the meaning of each event. A minimalist Tarot deck consisting of plain white cards marked only with the Arabic symbols we use to represent numeric quantities, numbered 1 - 78, or even marked with the appropriate quantity of small black dots, could still be used for interpretation, providing the reader could remember or reinvent the meanings. Similarly, given a finite set of images or symbols, it is simple and perhaps inevitable to impose meaning upon them, then additional layers of meaning.

Whether or not the images of the Tarot, especially the Major Arcana, were originally intended to conceal layers of esoteric meaning is not possible to determine, any more than it is possible to determine whether or not an empty cup of tea has just been used for divination. However, it is interesting to note that Tarot seems to have been invented during the same period that alchemists were busily recording and concealing their wisdom in allegorical and symbolic form. Whether or not alchemical allegory and symbolism were intrinsic to the imagery of the Tarot, later occultists have instituted the connection between them, and so it has come to be.

It is possible to impose the Kabbalah on to the Major Arcana simply because it fits. It is similarly possible to interpret and redesign the Tarot according to occult principles inspired by if not descended from Medieval and Renaissance alchemy, and the Tarot itself can be interpreted both symbolically and allegorically.

Alchemy served two purposes. On the mundane level, alchemists sought to increase their understanding of the material world, through experiment and ritual. They used symbols to refer to chemical substances and qualities. However, alchemy had another, 'higher' purpose: the mystic search for enlightenment. The ultimate goal of the alchemists was to find the substance that would turnbase lead into pure gold. However, this was also an allegory for their spiritual quest, the goal of which was to raise man from his base nature, and elevate him to a pure, enlightened spiritual status. All of the allegorical symbols used by the alchemists allude to this path. For instance, the green lion is natural, spiritually dormant man with unrealized potential. The red lion and the philosopher's stone are both symbols for the substance that will turn lead to gold, and the red dragon is man after he has been purified and transformed. The quest to transform mankind to this higher level is called The Great Work.

The lions and dragons of the Tarot may well symbolize these alchemical allegories, or they may only be heraldic symbols, coincidentally resembling the symbols of the alchemists. Even the simplest of sigyls, a circle quartered by a cross, was used to represent earth, the universal seed, and several other things. A circle with a dot in the center also had several meanings, including 'sun' and 'gold.' Alchemical allegories were often far more than a single image of an animal, and one picture, telling a story and illustrating a chemical process, could use the same image several times to indicate different things. The mystic wisdom of the alchemists was supposed to have been concealed this way for two reasons. First, to be able to 'hide it in the open' where anyone who was able to decipher the pictures could use it, but without risk of suppression. Second, to conceal it from the 'uninitiated' who lacked the keys and the readiness to unlock their secrets.

Again, it is not possible to determine whether Tarot was designed by mystics seeking to spread yet conceal esoteric wisdom. It is also impossible to say which came first, the image of the Hermit in the Tarot, or the Hermetic wisdom 'discovered' by eighteenth and nineteenth century occultists. The Tarot may simply be a vessel capable of containing Western mystical thought as well as Hebrew mysticism...and much more.

Just as the ancient system of astrology split into the 'hard' science of astronomy and the 'art' of astrology, alchemy split in the nineteenth century, producing the empirical science of chemistry. What remained were the magical arts, (witchcraft and the occult) semiotics, (the study of signs) and oniromancy, fortune-telling by dreams, or dream interpretation.

Beginning at the turn of the century, a variety of scholars sought to ground mystic concepts in sociological and psychological terms. One of the first was Sir James George Frazer, whose enormous work, The Golden Bough , (1922) catalogued for the first time in one place the myths, and rituals of a vast array of humanity. Other anthropologists included Mircea Eliade, whose books codified primitive symbolism, Margaret Murray, whose book, The Witch-Cult in Eastern Europe (1920) followed occult history from its origins to its living practitioners, and Joseph Campbell, whose many books explored the concept of mythical archetypes. Some of the writers who explored this territory included notables such as the poet and author Robert Graves, whose book The White Goddess (1948) attempted to decode a system of universal poetic imagery, and Thomas Stearns Eliot, whose academic yet beautiful poetry often incorporated alchemical imagery. Psychology and sociology began to replace and dignify many esoteric concepts by forming models to interpret every aspect of human thought, behavior, and experience.

Carl Gustav Jung, born in 1875, the same year as Crowley, and Sigmund Freud, born in 1856, the year before Waite, and the same year Lvy connected the Tarot to the Kabbalah both explored the imagery of dreams. Freud believed that dreams were the unconscious mind's messages to the conscious mind. Jung expanded upon this idea and suggested that dream imagery comes from within individuals but also from beyond, from a universal human language of symbols and imagery belonging to a realm he called the collective unconscious. Jung believed that it was the collective unconscious that created synchronicity. Jung also believed that the images of the Tarot were archetypal, and that they held universal meaning. In other words, the images of the Tarot could be said to represent the allegories of the alchemists, simply because the artists were drawing on the same creative source.

It was in this climate of thought that the Surrealist art movement was born, with its dreamlike imagery. Surrealist artists included Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, who both engaged in Jungian and Freudian analysis, and who both created art inspired by the Tarot and by dreams. Dali in fact designed and painted a complete Tarot deck Salvador Dali's Tarot (made in the 1970's, first published in 1984) which depicted dreamlike collages of classical paintings with Dali's personal symbols of butterflies, crutches and ghosts.

Jung and Campbell helped to define a whole new vocabulary with which to discuss the Tarot and mystical thought. Using the concepts of archetype, synchronicity and the collective unconscious, it was possible to again redefine the history and redesign the uses of the Tarot. Now, the Tarot as a whole could be seen as an imago mundi -- a reflection of the mundane world of its time, and the allegory of the Major Arcana could be interpreted as telling the story of the archetypal 'Hero's Journey', described by Campbell.

Although psychological thought may have diverged from occult thought in the first half of this century, it can be argued that these different streams began to merge again in the 'New Age' movement beginning in the 1960's.

6 The Imagery of the Modern Tarot

There is an interesting and related parallel between the history of Tarot and the history of Wicca (Witchcraft.) In the last 40 years, a revival of Wiccan beliefs called Neo-Paganism has enjoyed tremendous popularity in America and Europe. Neo-Pagans today tend to trace their beliefs back to the British New Witchcraft practitioners who were able to practice openly after the laws against witchcraft were repealed in 1952, such as Doreen Valiente, Gerald Gardner and his disciple Alex Saunders, who were in turn inspired by Aleister Crowley (d. 1947) among others. Modern practitioners of Wicca often term themselves Alexandrian or Gardnerian Witches. Some describe themselves as eclectic practitioners, drawing on many sources including Native American Shamanism. However, many claim that they are "Fam-Trad" Witches, inheriting through family tradition magical practices handed down in an unbroken line from Medieval times or earlier.

Similarly, the Italian Renaissance was itself a "Neo-Pagan" revival, influenced not only by Greco-Roman paganism, but also by Celtic paganism as well as by Jewish, Egyptian, Scandinavian, Indian and Asian thought. The Tarot can be viewed as a record of the eclectic times in which it was created. If the major revision of Tarot symbolism at the turn of the century, coinciding with the resurgence of interest in Witchcraft, is viewed as another revival or rebirth of paganism, then the Neo-Paganism of today should be viewed as the third wave of Paganism (or the fourth wave, if one takes into account that the Romans were imitating the Greeks before them.) Likewise, the modern feminist, Neo-Pagan, and New Age re-interpretations of the Tarot are the third manifestation of Tarot imagery (or the third revival, if one accepts the notion that the Renaissance Tarot was based on an older book or system of wisdom.)

Tarot decks in the last forty years have been influenced by every modern art movement as well as by political and social, and commercial themes. Some Tarot decks labeled each card with a lyric phrase or title from a popular song: Sympathy for the Devil, Here Comes the Sun etc. Many commercial decks for promotional use were created, such as the H. J. Heinz Tarot deck, with suits of tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes and fish, depicting Temperance as a successful businessman.

With the rise of feminism, women seeking female archetypes again redefined old images and invented new ones. Many decks, including The Motherpeace Round Tarot, The Daughters of the Moon Tarot, The Barbara Walker Tarot, replace patriarchal imagery with matriarchal or anarchist images. Other imagery unique to modern decks includes art inspired by science fiction or fantasy. Many decks, such as the popular Tarot of the Cat People, have fantastic, whimsical imagery and can be enjoyed anyone for their artwork, regardless of their degree of arcane knowledge. Other forms of note are the advent of photographic Tarot decks, whether in the form of elaborate studio photography, as with Jennifer Elizabeth Moore's Healing Tarot , or photographic collage as in the Voyager Tarot.

Although most modern Tarot decks still followed the form established by the Rider-Waite deck, some, especially the feminist decks, renamed the cards to represent women more prominently. The Daughters of the Moon Tarot depicts almost no men at all, and even provides two Lovers cards -- one depicting a lesbian couple, and one depicting a heterosexual (although somewhat androgynous) couple. The Motherpeace deck replaces the Page, Knight, Queen, King with Daughter, Son, Priestess, Shaman, and indicates that the Shaman may be any gender.

Although any Western mystical tradition is more easily woven into the form of the Tarot, some artists have attempted to incorporate the art and myths of other cultures, as in the Native American Tarot, and the Japanese Ukiyoe Tarot. By contrast, the Renaissance Tarot (1987) is a well-researched return to traditional Tarot imagery.

With the widespread use of the internet, countless web pages can be found that use modern imagery to illustrate virtual Tarot cards, including images from the popular television series Xena, Warrior Princess. Some decks and card designs exist only in virtual reality, some are available as printed decks and are also accessible on the web. There are many pages that offer on-line Tarot readings, as well as other forms of divination.

Tarot imagery became a part of popular culture, and many artists and designers created art based on individual cards, such as the Temperance painting by Susan Seddon Boulet. Some decks have been published which contain only artist's renditions of the Major Arcana, and the images of the Trumps have been translated into every medium, from three-dimensional metal sculptures and stained glass windows to window decals, jewelry, and tattoos.

7 Summary and Conclusion

Tarot imagery has held a fascination for over five centuries. Perhaps the secret of its longevity is its flexibility. Just about any set of imagery can be superimposed on the Tarot. Here are a few examples: a Shakespeare's Tempest deck, with Prospero as Magician, Caliban as Devil, Ariel as Fool, and Miranda and Ferdinand as The Lovers; a Muppet Show Tarot with Kermit as the Fool, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew as the Magician, Miss Piggy as the Empress, and Sam the Eagle as the Hierophant; or a Star-Trek: The Next Generation deck, with Picard as the Emperor, Worf as Strength, Data as the Magician, Gynan as the Priestess, Troi as the Star, Barklay as the Fool and Q as the Devil. The possibilities are endless -- in fact, with the proper frame of mind, it is possible to invent an esoteric system for divination and enlightenment using objects you probably have lying about the house.

On the subject of Star Trek, an excellent example of the concepts of symbolic thought entering popular culture was seen in Darmok, episode #102 of Star-Trek: The Next Generation. During this episode, the crew encounters a species that communicates only in metaphor. As the metaphors they use are unique to their own culture, it takes a long time to establish understanding. The character Troi offers an analogy to their peculiar language, saying that it is as if we were to say "Romeo and Juliet on the balcony," meaning romance. Impractical as metaphorical communication might be in everyday life (we are unlikely to refer symbolically to bacon and eggs, however many things bacon and eggs may come to symbolize) it is in fact the only way to refer to abstract concepts. But metaphors shift, pointing to different meanings over time, and the only way to retain the meanings is to change the metaphors. Perhaps this is what has happened to the Tarot.

On the Mobius web site, Mari Novotny-Jones quotes Barbara Walker from her book, The Crone:: "Figures of myth dwell in a real but wholly interior landscape (dreamscape). They are human projections into a non-human universe. The ways in which a given culture chooses to relate to them affects and reflects the ways in which the people of that culture relate to each other."

Novotny-Jones adds: "What we are to understand from this statement is the desire in the human spirit to attempt to explain the unfathomable through the realm of divinities or archetypes. One way to manifest this desire to evoke the subconscious is through ritual. Another form of this connection is in performance. The personae in a performance can take on a 'larger than life' stature."

I have heard several performance artists say that they hoped their performances evoked either images drawn directly from Tarot, or Tarot-like images. And many live performers have the experience of drawing on not only the collective unconscious, but on the group mind of the audience, especially in improvisational performances.

When I entered college, I hoped to explore myths of the collective unconscious through performance and through research. Much of my own artwork has been based on my own dreams and creative visions. I believe that this is the universal source, that everyone can draw on and interpret in their own way, like the Tarot that represents it.

This is an evolving collection of thoughts and research. I welcome feedback and expect to make changes to this paper.