thoth.jpg (22334 bytes)Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot Deck
Review by Michele Jackson
The Thoth deck seems to evoke strong emotional responses from people who are familiar with it. That is a testimony to both the excellence of its art work and the media attention sought by its designer. The deck is rich in symbolism and even if you knew little or nothing about the Tarot, the art combined with the one word interpretations on the cards are enough to give you a strong feeling for how the card should be interpreted.
This is not a “cute” or “pretty” deck, but it is beautiful. The Major Arcana are a radical departure from the Waite-Smith style we are all familiar with. Some of the cards have been
renamed in accordance with Crowley’s belief system. Strength has been changed to Lust, Temperance to Art, and Judgment to The Aeon. The Court Cards are Knight, Queen, Prince and Princess. The Thoth Knight is equivalent to a the King in most decks. The Minor Arcana do not have scenes, rather they have the suit number; Five Swords or Six Cups, but the suits are not merely placed on the card in some arbitrary symmetrical shape.
Every design on every card has some interpretive significance.
 The use of color is outstanding, and the designs are extremely evocative. Failure (7 of Disks) brings the
emotions associated with failure to mind, Luxury (4 of Cups), with its gold cups filled past the brim, looks luxurious. One can content oneself by using just the feelings the cards bring to mind, backed by the written interpretations, but with some study the depth and genius of this deck becomes apparent.
It is unfortunate that, because Crowley received so much negative press, his deck has been branded as “evil” or “dark”. Powerful is probably a better description. I initially bought this deck for study and didn’t like it at first. It sat on my bookshelf for over a year before I felt moved to work with it. Once I started working with it however, it quickly became one of my favorite decks. There are a few books available for this deck, The Tarot Handbook, by Angeles Arrien, Tarot: Mirror of the Soul, by Gerd Zeigler and a fairly new book, The Crowley Tarot: The Handbook to the Cards by Hajo Banzhaf (the last two books are translated from German). Of course the authoritative text on this deck is The Book of Thoth, by Aleister Crowley.
There are a couple of versions of this deck available. My favorite is the AGMuller version (the large one in the blue box). There are two versions published by U.S. Games, a large version which is not colored as well as the AGMuller version in my opinion and a smaller version which seems identical to the AGMuller deck in color. For some reason, the large U.S. Games edition has a greenish tinge to it. The borders are greenish in color and this seems to carry over into the cards themselves. The colors overall are not as bright or deep as those in the AGMuller version. Thoth fans will disagree, but I do not recommend this deck for a beginner unless one has a teacher available or is willing to put some serious time and effort into study. There are not many reference works available for this deck, and certainly none that I would term “beginner” references. One could pick this deck up and read with it on a superficial level without much trouble, but this deck deserves study. A working knowledge of astrology and Qabala would also be useful in getting the most out of this deck and in understanding Crowley’s Book of Thoth.

        See more cards from the Thoth Tarot Deck (Swiss)

        Images Copyright (c) US Games Systems Inc., AGMuller, O.T.O.

This page is Copyright 1997 by Michele Jackson