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Rider-Waite Vs. Thoth Vs. Other


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#1 R. Eugene Laughlin

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Posted 17 February 2019 - 05:11 PM

Any tarot enthusiast is sure to be familiar with many decks that follow a generalized Rider-Waite pattern, however, closely or loosely. There are also fewer-but-there-none-the-less decks somewhat based on the Thoth pattern. And then there are an increasing number of decks on the market that bare little similarity to either.

I'm interested in opinions about various decks and their uses (for situational divination, as tools of mystical development, as tools of practical magic, etc.). I've since since lost count of how many decks I've used in different contexts. Most recently I've been playing around with the Mucha deck, a RW-inspired an Art Nouveau-ish deck, the Zillich deck, a watercolor art deck that presents itself as a Thoth-inspired deck, and the Deviant Moon deck, which really does seem to be a thing of its own.

Any thoughts on those? Or any other decks in light of the above?
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#2 Imperial Arts

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Posted 17 February 2019 - 07:26 PM

My first deck (circa 1993) was the "Universal Waite" deck, which is just the RW without the hard lines, and with an iridescent blue backing. I find it to be the most agreeable when doing readings for normies, who expect the RW style. I've been using Thoth since around 2000.

My main complaint against the Thoth deck is that it is designed for beginners. It has all the astrological data staring you in the face, and the printed card titles leave little room for mystery. I also dislike the Crowley editorializing on the cards:

Heh and Tzaddi are transposed. I've read his thoughts on that, and don't care. Tzaddi is not the star, OK, but it's not The Emperor. It's The StarS, plural, maybe, but Crowley's switch bugs me.

The Six of Swords is maybe better as Examination, rather than "science." Some of the other suit card titles are also somewhat limiting, and their presence can interfere with readings for the general public. The inconsistency of printing formats on the Magus border also annoys me.

I'm also incredibly annoyed with the giant rose-cross on the back, and wish they would have just used the black with red hexagram instead. And what's with the ridiculous oversized printing? I have a smaller version as well, but my overall opinion is that the deck was made for study, not to play fortune teller.

And finally... the art on the Thoth deck looks washed out and abstract. Some of the formats are really awesome: 4 of Disks as a castle in the fields, 7 of Disks as coins lost after a day of labor, 2 of swords as ornamental wall hangings, 9 of Wands as arrows shooting out from the dark forest. But the execution is lacking, and I feel like the colors could have been more bold. The people are almost all Caucasian, except the lone black man on the Lovers, who is not entirely trustworthy.

Apart from being one of the better learning aids for Crowley's system, the Thoth deck has the advantage of being a complete book of spells and a complete series of lessons in Magick. The major arcana describe his doctrines, the 22 chapters of MITP (like Levi's Dogma) follow those same themes, and the suit cards adequately describe the nature and use of the elemental weapons. It's a more portable summary of his teachings than the Equinox.

It has been suggested several times to me that I make my own Tarot deck. I'm going to need a few thousand reasons to do that, I have plenty of current art projects.
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#3 R. Eugene Laughlin

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 04:38 PM

Apart from being one of the better learning aids for Crowley's system, the Thoth deck has the advantage of being a complete book of spells and a complete series of lessons in Magick. The major arcana describe his doctrines, the 22 chapters of MITP (like Levi's Dogma) follow those same themes, and the suit cards adequately describe the nature and use of the elemental weapons. It's a more portable summary of his teachings than the Equinox.

I seem to recall you being somewhat uninterested astral work and whatever that phrase brings to mind. Still, I'm interested to know if you've applied the Thoth trumps or any other set, to similarly-aimed work. For example, taking the trumps as starting points for contemplation that reaches beyond explicit thought and analysis.

I'm also interested to know if you've explored any of the presumptive Thoth-inspired decks? The Aeclectic Tarot site offers this listing, which is obviously incomplete on some counts and perhaps inaccurate on others. I mentioned the Zillich deck, a rather recent pack of water color paintings. Most would agree that beyond the naming convention for the suit cards, the differences far outweigh the similarities. I like it though. The artwork is open, in a manner of speaking, vague enough for the cards to take on a good deal of my personality in their use.

It has been suggested several times to me that I make my own Tarot deck. I'm going to need a few thousand reasons to do that, I have plenty of current art projects.

If you ever do get around to it, from what I've seen of your artwork and attitudes over the years, I would expect high-caliber aesthetics and somewhat direct reflections of your understanding of things. Were I to make a bold presumptive suggestion, it would be to consider vaguer expressions than your unabated inclinations might render, in service of what I like most about the Zillich.

Edited by R. Eugene Laughlin, 18 February 2019 - 04:39 PM.

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#4 Imperial Arts

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 06:50 AM

View PostR. Eugene Laughlin, on 18 February 2019 - 04:38 PM, said:

I seem to recall you being somewhat uninterested astral work and whatever that phrase brings to mind. Still, I'm interested to know if you've applied the Thoth trumps or any other set, to similarly-aimed work. For example, taking the trumps as starting points for contemplation that reaches beyond explicit thought and analysis.

If you mean imaginary doorways and pathworkings, no.

The planetary powers are their own spellbook, the catalogue of the decanates and their rulerships. I do not mean something like "Tarot Spells" in which a card becomes the talismanic figure in a spell, but that the astrological rulerships highlight a spectrum of magical works.

The 2 of Wands, for example, is Mars in Aries. The title in the Thoth deck is "Dominion." Let's just call it Authority, exemplified by Mars ruling in Aries - the dominant ram among his flock. Conjurations designed to intimidate, to impose, to lead, or to gain qualities related to those things, fall under the heading of the 2 of Wands. The image is simple: two crossed wands, a point of contact suggestive of a variety of gestures which might be adapted to circumstances.

The 4 of Disks, the castle in the fields of the Thoth deck, indicates four watchtowers. This simple defensive tactic, the quartered circle as a defensive barrier, is common to so many different occult systems as symbols of the Solar influence.


View PostR. Eugene Laughlin, on 18 February 2019 - 04:38 PM, said:

I'm also interested to know if you've explored any of the presumptive Thoth-inspired decks?

The Ancient Egyptian Tarot is one of the better decks on the market, IMO. There are two. One is... crappy. It has some hieroglyphics. The one in the link, however, is a real gem. The illustrations are all scenes of life from "ancient Egypt." It is basically the RW style, but with khopesh bronze swords, amphorae, and Egyptish stuff. The scenes are all easily interpreted as analogous to scenes of the querent's life, but are probably not as great for mystical insights beyond what the artist introduces. I once enchanted a copy of this deck to falsify any divinations about myself.

The Haindl cards are like someone took the rough copy dream journal of a hermetic mystic that was exclusively written at 5:30 am and gave it illustrations. Why cover the whole page when half will do? Maybe it was initially the rough drafts for the cover of Dark Side of the Moon. This is one of those oracles that tells you something certainly might happen.

The Tarot of Ceremonial Magick is probably one of the worst I've seen. The Tarot of Cat People imagery was at least well-drawn. This deck looks like something you would find scribbled in the margins of algebra homework. It's basically a series of hermetic flash cards, and as that, it's great. And I have an awesome story to tell about this deck which I am reluctant to tell, but whatever...

And after typing it, I'm still not going to tell it. Here is the summary. And I'm not going to type that either. If you want to hear it I'll be happy to tell you out at Barter Faire in Tonasket next October, which I think you would heartily enjoy. My verdict on this deck is the same given to anything that puts the symbols in value over the things they represent. This isn't an archive of elemental and planetary symbolism, it's an archive of occult jargon, a training tool and not a teaching tool.
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#5 R. Eugene Laughlin

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 03:34 PM

View PostImperial Arts, on 19 February 2019 - 06:50 AM, said:

If you mean imaginary doorways and pathworkings, no.

As I'm sure you know, the GD(ish) system, Aurum Solis, some groups working in the periphery of the OTO, and pedigreed Wiccan covens (maybe some of the neo-covens) teach and practice scrying in the spirit vision, in a variety of contexts and for various reasons, internalizing the Enochian aethyrs, for example. In those settings they're most often leader-facilitated group activities, guided meditations by any other name. How useful they might be to any given individual depends on too many variables to count, but the main variables include the aspirant's preparations and expectations, the program itself, and the facilitator's skill is executing the program. What they're used for and what they're intended to accomplish isn't commonly discussed in the open. It's fair to say that the practice isn't commonly discussed at all in forums like this one, but when it is it's usually by people who've ventured some go-it-alone sessions, following from the Kraig for example, and found little value in their resulting experiences.

In the group context, most of the time, there's a philosophy/theory in play around what makes group magic possible and and what makes it effective. In short, the idea is that the members of the group need to be capable of achieving the same state of being during the working. It's difficult to land on the right word for what specifically needs to be the same in all of the participants, but the concept is that the group needs to function as if by a single mind. To continue down that line, the main reason a group working fails to accomplish it's intention is that one or more individual mind within the group is at odds with something, usually either the purpose of the working or one of the other individuals. In theory, an odd-out member's influence drags the working off track so that it misses the mark, in a manner of speaking, and then unintended consequences are likely (with the idea that it's going to hit something, just not the intended thing to continue the phraseology).

In that context, Pathworking as a guided group activity serves as training in achieving a group mind, with presumed side benefits of reinforcing group-specific concepts and symbols. The concepts and symbols are of course delivered explicitly, and their implicit associations are ever a personal matter, to do with a given individual's personal history of thought and experience. In theory, left to the general nature of things, a group of individuals has little to no chance of functioning with anything approaching a single mind.

To pull it back to the tarot decks, theoretically, any deck could be chosen and worked in service of the group goals described above. The RW and Thoth decks are ostensibly designed to reflect the TOL, so they're probably best where the wider TOL schema will be central. Other than that, the choice is hardly trivial. Any ambiguity or variance with the groups concepts and symbols will inherently muddle things up. It's probably easier to build a system of group work around a tarot deck than it is to find a good fit for an existing group.

As for individual work, many agree that it isn't worth the time, but I think it can be, drawing on the same theory expressed above, where an individual's success depends on being unified within themselves. That is, if a person is ambiguous in any way about what they're trying to do, like if they might feel guilty for getting what they want, that's going to draw the magic off target too. A system of pathworking that supports developing personal clarity around their aims in life can be a value.
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#6 Imperial Arts

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 05:42 PM

View PostR. Eugene Laughlin, on 19 February 2019 - 03:34 PM, said:

In that context, Pathworking as a guided group activity serves as training in achieving a group mind, with presumed side benefits of reinforcing group-specific concepts and symbols. The concepts and symbols are of course delivered explicitly, and their implicit associations are ever a personal matter, to do with a given individual's personal history of thought and experience. In theory, left to the general nature of things, a group of individuals has little to no chance of functioning with anything approaching a single mind.

When I was growing up, we didn't have pathworking. We had D&D.

On several occasions, the idea of group pathworking came up, but it never hit the same mark as our regular game, which was a several-days-a-week kind of thing and the sessions lasted hours. As "dungeon master," my role (or my father's, back in the 80s') was to describe the environment and characters and allow the other players the ability to act on their own initiative. We were always exceptionally light on materials: even with my own children, the game is mostly played in the imagination and the paper side of it is just an index card. I've met a few Enochian magicians, and have not found a whole lot of difference between what they do and D&D.

As with any kind of serial entertainment, what keeps a good D&D game going isn't the vivid descriptions or the cool concepts, but the rhythm of play and the investiture in the characters. Counting is boring after a few seconds, but a person can happily sing all day long. I'm not a particularly musical person, but music - harmony, rhythm - has the same kind of effect in keeping things on track and allowing emotional energy to be poured into abstracts. I would bet that a person who gets lackluster results at the Tarot scrying bit might find an easier beginning with some kind of relaxing music.

My own use of the Tarot, apart from considering it as a basic framework of the western canon, has been almost entirely oracular. I use the "Angels and Devils" layout suggested for the Thoth deck, with resources on one side and obstacles on the other, and then employ the spread as a contemplative tool for understanding my surrounding influences. I write all of this to say that I understand, and appreciate, the concept of Tarot pathworking, but that it had never been a part of my own work.
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#7 Winnipeg1919

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Posted 27 February 2019 - 11:59 AM

I bought my first Tarot deck around 1979 or 1980. My deck is called simply "The Rider Tarot Cards" with no acknowledgement of designer or artist. I have used it continuously ever since. I have used it for readings, meditation, pathworking, and spell casting. I also have Medieval Scapini deck, Thoth deck, and a special place for The Sacred Rose Tarot deck.

I have had numerous other decks pass through my hands over the years, good decks that were not quite right for me. These were passed on to others.

The Thoth tarot I keep mainly because Crowley's writing goes down smoother with it.

The Sacred Rose has a special place because no one, but no one, can work with it but it still contains the appropriate images for teaching purposes. The deck feels like dead plastic to everyone. The only other decks like this are baseball, or NFL tarot.

I have found that with the exception of novelty tarot, any deck can be made to work. I have encountered some who read a normal deck of playing cards, although that trick I have not seen since the mid 1980s. It seem like marks expect tarot.
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#8 R. Eugene Laughlin

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Posted 27 February 2019 - 02:51 PM

View PostWinnipeg1919, on 27 February 2019 - 11:59 AM, said:

I have encountered some who read a normal deck of playing cards, although that trick I have not seen since the mid 1980s. It seem like marks expect tarot.

As an aside from the thread, fortune telling by any means doesn't have to be a scam. If it's done with all due sincerity by a skilled reader, it can be as useful as a pendulum, a spirit board, etc. used for the same purposes. Reading from regular playing cards just wants for a system, and there are a couple of popular schemes. I don't know of anyone who's tried to apply a fortune telling system to the other applications that post-Levi tarot cards are used for, but if fortune telling is the goal, playing cards can work.

A commercial product called Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling Playing Cards is a regular 52-card deck, each with an image of a standard playing card and the system-specific image and interpretation that goes with it. Practicing with it is a good way to learn reading from playing cards, and you can play regular card games with them too. Here's how they look:


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#9 vives gladio

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 02:22 AM

That Gypsy Witch set has a special place in my heart. My mum had that set, most likely as a novelty but I'll always have a soft spot for it.

#10 Winnipeg1919

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 12:11 PM

View PostR. Eugene Laughlin, on 27 February 2019 - 02:51 PM, said:

As an aside from the thread, fortune telling by any means doesn't have to be a scam.

True, but I still teach students the techniques of scammers, and card sharps so that they can be recognized.
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#11 Jastiv

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Posted 07 March 2019 - 07:34 AM

Being an artist, I went ahead and designed my own tarot deck, in the same style as the game I have been working on (somewhat) and I just ended up uploading it here https://opengameart....x86-tarot-cards
I did write some code to go with it, and it compiles and runs, but that is just a text based program. I really need to rewrite it in Java, but I have been slacking off on it.
I've used the thoth and raider waite, and I felt like the raider waite was too old aeon for me, and the thoth was too "new aeon" so I went and created my own deck with my own symbolic interpretations. I used to be really into tarot, and every time I went to do a major magical operation, it became my go to tool. I've actually been using it less, and trusting my own intuition more. I suppose if I decide to work with someone new on a new goal, it will be back to the tarot again, but I don't want to be that person who is using the tarot every time they make a minor purchase.





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