The Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley is a Tarot deck that has ranked high in popularity among users. Readers of the Tarot are often either drawn to the RWS traditional tarot . . . or to the Thoth system of Tarot. It is said that people will either love or hate the Thoth deck, and that it's not often that someone falls in the middle of that spectrum. Perhaps I am an exception, because I neither love the Thoth deck nor hate it.
Crowley was an influential and controversial occultist
during the early 20th century. He was born on
October 12th, 1875 and passed away on December 1st,
1947. During his life, he was deemed to be the most
wicked man on earth because of his chosen occultist path,
and he was scorned by many who felt that he should know
better than to dabble in such practices, including his
participation in the Order of the Golden Dawn society.
on his deck from 1938 to 1943 as an illustration for his
"Book of Thoth." He made rough sketches of his ideas
and an artist, Lady Frieda Harris (born in 1877 and died
in 1962), assisted in producing designs that would be
faithful to her artistic vision and to his
Incidentally, neither Crowley nor Lady Frieda Harris managed to publish the deck during either of their lifetimes. It was in 1969 when Major Grady L. McMurtry arranged for the photography and publication of the deck. McMurtry had helped Crowley publish the first edition of "The Book of Thoth" in 1944. The quality and clarity of this initial deck publication of 1969 was considered to be quite poor, and in 1977 with the help of Gerald Yorke and Stephan Skinner, the original paintings (measuring 10-1/2" x 16-1/2") were photographed again. It seems it didn't stop there, because in 1986, new photographs were taken yet again to improve upon past efforts of this deck.
That's a lot of history perhaps, but I found it interesting to learn about Crowley and his work -- and his amazing Thoth deck. Sometimes the history itself of a deck this old can make us adopt a newfound appreciation for a particular piece of work. I know it allowed me to appreciate this diligent effort all the more . . . something for which an idea was born in the 1930's. I find that to be really fascinating, and it's interesting to know that when we gaze upon these cards, the deck we have in our hands is probably not old itself . . . but the art and history certainly are! the LWB (little white booklet) that comes with this deck can fill you in further on the history of this deck that has had such a long and lasting journey through time.
versions of the Thoth deck are available, and as I'm not
familiar with all of those -- as this special edition is
the only Thoth deck that I own -- I won't try to get into
other versions too much, but will focus on the deck that I
have in my hands right now. This particular deck
that I have which shows a copyright of 1978, 1983, and
1987 in the LWB (little white booklet) contains three
different versions of the Magus card as shown below.
This is a
special edition deck to include the three different Magus
cards. I guess you get to choose which is your
favorite to use and leave out the other two. My
favorite is the middle card. I can't particularly
say why I like it above the others, but it is the
Magus that caught my attention the most among the
three. So when I do a reading with this deck, I take
out the other two Magus cards and include the middle one.
of this deck features a banner at the bottom which denotes
what suit the card is from or whether it is a Trump (Major
Arcana) card. That is printed very lightly in gray,
but it is there -- and covered up by additional darker
writing that specifies either the name of the card or a
keyword. Keywords are used for the suit cards
numbered 2 through 10, and the name of the card is shown
for the Major Arcana cards, the Aces, and the Court Cards
of this deck.
The keywords can be helpful, especially for someone without a lot of experience in Tarot, since these pip cards just show us the number of the suit elements -- such as six wands displayed for the 6 of Wands and so on. Even as an experienced reader, I find the keywords helpful since I'm not as well-versed in the Thoth system as I am with the traditional RWS system. The keywords assure me of whether I am staying on target with the intended meanings for this deck.
The deck that I have here, which is the special edition version with 3 Magus cards, measures 2-3/4" x 4 3/8." Each of the cards have a gray lined border on them. They have a smooth finish and are made from a quality cardstock.
The back of the cards include a cross of gray, red, yellow, blue, and white with a colored flower in the center of the cross -- and another small red and and yellow cross in the center of that flower. Behind the large cross is a checkerboard pattern which seems to be drawn in inward toward the cross. (See image below).
I think what I have always considered to be a "quirk" with this deck is the fact that there are no Kings among the court card families. It's Knight, Queen, Prince, Princess, and in that order from highest to lowest. The Knight serves as King, and the Prince serves as the Knight from how I understand this system. I am not well-versed in the Thoth system as of this writing, but I have used these cards on occasion -- and the lack of a King is what really threw me for a loop the first time I tried out this deck. But really, once you accustom yourself to this system, it's not hard to relate to. Just don't think of those Knights in the Thoth Tarot as Knights, because they are the King energy.
that regularly use the Thoth Tarot and are familiar with
it, it is a deck that tends to draw strong emotional
responses from its dedicated users. The art is very
decorative, and it is quite lovely. It is also
somewhat of an abstract form of art in some ways, and
perhaps this is what makes it hard for some people to
that are true to the RWS Tarot tradition are often the
ones that find the Thoth Tarot hard to relate to. I
think it just takes a slight adjustment in one's frame of
mind and thinking . . . and from there, it's not as
difficult as even I had once made this deck out to
be. Once I let myself work with this deck a bit
more, I found it to be a workable deck. It still
doesn't rank on my favorite list, but it is a worthwhile
I had a number of customers request this deck before I got it posted as a deck choice for purchased readings. But it was only a couple of years ago (in 2009) in which I actually got the cards scanned and cropped to use for readings. So now I am pleased to be able to offer the Thoth deck as a reading choice for my clients who request it.
I have a couple of interesting books that I bought which are helpful with the Thoth deck. One is called "New Age Tarot" by James Wanless, Ph.D." The other is entitled "Tarot: Mirror of Your Relationships" by Gerd Ziegler I especially find the relationship book by Ziegler to be especially interesting. The "New Age Tarot" includes a nice break down of the symbology in the Thoth cards and a number of spreads to work with. There is another book, which I do not have, and that is entitled "Tarot: Mirror of the Soul" which is also be Gerd Ziegler. I have heard that it is also an excellent resource for use with the Thoth cards.It is said that the more one uses the Thoth deck, the more they will grow to like it. So I will see how that works out for me, as I do anticipate using this deck much more than I have in the past, particularly for clients who know of this deck and ask for it in readings.
Deck Details - Thoth Tarot
of Cards in Deck: 80 (There are 3 Magicians in
this deck that you can choose from to use.)
Size of Cards: 2-3/4" x 4 3/8"
Included with deck: A 47-page LWB (little white booklet). This edition includes 3 Magus cards instead of one, and each card is different. You can select your favorite.
Major Arcana: Fool, Magus, Priestess, Empress, Emperor,
Hierophant, Lovers, Chariot, Lust,
Hermit, Fortune, Adjustment, Hanged Man, Death, Art, Devil, Tower, Star, Moon, Sun, Aeon, Universe
Suit Names: Wands, Cups, Swords, Disks (Pentacles)
Court Cards: Knight (King), Queen, Prince (Knight), Princess (Page)Back Design of Cards: