Tag Archives: Rider Waite

I can’t afford to buy a proper Tarot deck. Can I make my own?

This too used to be on Quora.com but got taken down because they didn’t like me linking to an external website. 😦


I can’t afford to buy a proper Tarot deck. Can I make my own?

Alex answers:

It is theoretically possible to make your own tarot deck: I myself have done so. However, get this: the cost of finding an online company and getting them to turn my designs into a finished deck was approximately $45 – but that didn’t include any value placed on all the hours I had spent painting the designs, scanning them and editing them with Photoshop, etc. (I suppose could have cheated and just used pre-existing designs which are floating around the internet as pirated copies, but it would still cost me money to print them out).

Bear in mind however, that, Amazon is currently selling copies of the Rider Waite Deck for less than $20, so you must be really poor if you can’t afford that!

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Quora Compendium: Tarot

Picture of Alex Sumner's version of the Ten of Cups

The Ten of Cups – “Perfected Success.” © Alex Sumner 2015

A compilation of various answers I have given on Quora.com relating to the Tarot.

How does the Tarot relate to the Tree of Life?

From the late 18th century onwards, occultists retconned the story of the Tarot to make it appear to have an ancient Egyptian origin, or to be associated with the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, or both. The way this has been done, e.g. by the Golden Dawn, does make for an appealing set of correspondences from the point of view of a modern occultist, but a very traditional Kabbalist might equally say “They’re not related at all. The Tarot is foreign to the Kabbalah.”

That being said, however, the basic scheme is as follows:

  • The four worlds of the Kabbalah – Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiah – correspond to the suits Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles;
  • The pip cards correspond to the ten sephiroth, i.e. Ace = Kether, 10 = Malkuth, etc;
  • In addition the court cards are assigned King to Chokmah, Queen to Binah, Prince (Knight) to Tiphereth, and Princess (Page) to Malkuth;
  • The twenty two trumps correspond to the twenty two paths linking the sephiroth.

The Golden Dawn system uses the Athanasius Kircher Tree of Life, and gives “The Fool” as Trump 0, Strength as trump 8, and Justice as 11 (in older versions of the Tarot, Strength was 11 and Justice was 8, whilst the Fool didn’t have a number but was poked between the last two trumps).

Are Tarot cards and Ouija boards dangerous? Why?

An Ouija Board is not dangerous as long as you give it as much respect as a Medium would give her own gift of Mediumship. Now the thing about Mediums is that a real Medium spends years training up, typically through a development circle at their local Spiritualist Church, which is a nurturing environment in which they learn how to communicate with spirits safely, appropriately, respectfully, and with due consideration to the spirit itself and to the person on whose behalf they are contacting it.

Unfortunately, most manufacturers of Ouija boards don’t have those kind of scruples. They actively market their Ouija boards on the basis that scaring yourself witless is all part of the “fun” of using one. So ironically, although an Ouija board would not be dangerous to someone who knows how to contact spirits properly, it would be to everyone to whom the Ouija board maker wants to buy one.

Tarot cards are different: they are not actually intended to contact spirits per se in the first place. Instead they are keys to unlock the tarot reader’s intuition. Their meanings don’t create predictions which are set in stone, but indicate trends which one can buck with the benefit of Free Will if one is resolute. The only danger with Tarot cards is with people of a very superstitious nature – the kind of people who don’t realise that “bad” cards are actually warning cards – and hence are actually good.

What are Tarot cards used for other than Tarot readings, if anything?

  • Artistic inspiration
  • Meditation
  • Clairvoyance
  • Spell-casting
  • As symbols of spiritual progression in your initiatic course in life.

I can’t afford to buy a proper Tarot deck. Can I make my own?

It is theoretically possible to make your own tarot deck: I myself have done so. However, get this: the cost of finding an online company and getting them to turn my designs into a finished deck was approximately $45 – but that didn’t include any value placed on all the hours I had spent painting the designs, scanning them and editing them with Photoshop, etc. (I suppose could have cheated and just used pre-existing designs which are floating around the internet as pirated copies, but it would still cost me money to print them out).

Bear in mind however, that, Amazon is currently selling copies of the Rider Waite Deck for only $12.30, so you must be really poor if you can’t afford even that!

Is the Thoth Tarot in the public domain?

Can I use the imagery without an explicit license? My understanding was that the age of the work matters – Wikipedia says it was all painted by 1943, and first published in 1969.

No. In the United States, copyright for a work published after 1923 but before 1978 will remain in the images until 95 years after the date of first publication, or 2064. See: Copyright Basics FAQ

In the United Kingdom and other countries, copyright lasts until 70 years after the creator’s death. The text for the Book of Thoth will therefore be in the public domain in Britain in 2017 (Crowley died in 1947); but the images will remain in copyright until 2032 (Lady Frieda Harris died in 1962). See: Page on dacs.org.uk

Does any one believe in Tarot card reading? How does it work?

The Tarot reader’s intuition does the reading: the cards themselves are keys which unlock that intuition. The Tarot spread challenges the reader to confront symbols that he or she would not normally consider – thus forcing the reader to think outside the box, and leading to insights of a psychic and even spiritual nature.

How do you become a paid astrologer or tarot reader?

Certification, and more importantly professional indemnity insurance, from the British Astrological & Psychic Society (or a similar body if overseas) is always a good start.

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World Tarot Day

Today is World Tarot Day, and so I thought I (as a Tarot reader myself) would contribute by reviewing my own favourite Tarot decks.

Golden Dawn – Robert Wang

Golden Dawn Deck – artwork by Robert Wang

The Golden Dawn was my entry into occultism generally, and consequently the Tarot as well. Hence Robert Wang’s Golden Dawn Tarot was the first deck I ever bought: it was the one on which I learnt. The trumps struck me as the most impressive, although I confess I thought the art-work was a bit ordinary. Nevertheless this is still my default deck today, the one which I most use for doing readings. I have to admit though that if I were buying a Golden Dawn deck for the first time today, I would probably get Tabatha Cicero’s versioninstead, mainly because the art-work is livelier.

Crowley-Thoth

Crowley-Thoth deck. Designed by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris.

Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot deck is one of a number of decks which I keep at home mainly for the sake of comparison. One has to remember that for 19 years from 1969 until 1988, this was the closest thing to a Golden Dawn type deck that was publicly available. In many ways this would be an ideal deck, due to its bold artwork courtesy of Lady Frieda Harris and its wealth of symbolism which is all authentic … from a Thelemic point of view. Essentially Crowley took the GD symbolism, right down to the particular colours appropriate to each card – and augmented it with ideas derived from his own visionary work, e.g The Book of the Law and The Vision and The Voice. Hence, whilst it is mostly GD-ish, and undoubtedly superb for actual Thelemites, a GD purist would need to be wary of this. (Incidentally, a good book to read about this deck is Lon Milo Duquette’s Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot).

Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot

Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot

This is not really a Tarot deck per se, more a Cartomancy deck. It is not based upon the traditional Tarot format at all: instead, each card represents a portion of the Enochian Watchtowers and the Tablet of Union. Meanwhile, the reverse of each card instead of having a uniform backing has elemental symbolism (corresponding to the Enochian associations on the obverse side) which can be used in skrying. The meanings of the individual cards take a bit of getting used to, although there is a logic to the general scheme which is based on GD teachings.

This has given me an idea – about how an Adept might incorporate this into ceremonial magick. When performing a divination with this deck, typically there will be one card which points to the solution of a given problem. Because each card represents a portion of the Enochian Watchtowers, the “solution-card” will therefore represent a particular Enochian angel – a being who can be evoked by constructing a magical ceremony with the appropriate symbolism.

Rider Waite

Rider Waite – designed by A E Waite, illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith

Given that the Rider Waite deck is the world’s most popular version, I suppose that I could hardly call myself a tarot connoisseur unless I actually had a copy. Undoubtedly Pamela Coleman-Smith’s artwork must be a big reason for its popularity – especially the fact that each of the Minor Arcana is individually illustrated.

The Mythic Tarot

The Mythic Tarot

I decided to get hold of this after seeing a fellow Tarot reader use this. What I find most appealing is that the creators of this deck have based the artwork on Greek mythology. Hence: the suit of Cups is the story of Cupid and Psyche; Wands is the story of Jason and the Argonauts; whilst the characters in the Major Arcana are identified as Greek gods and goddesses. This is a visually appealing deck because, like the Rider Waite one, all 78 cards are fully illustrated. Also it is refreshing to see a deck which goes with an original idea for a change which comes off successfully.

Builders of the Adytum

The BOTA deck.

Of all the Tarot decks which are available, the ones that particularly interest me are those created by Occultists – as opposed to the many which appear to be novelty decks, or created by people with only a superficial understanding of the subject. Hence my reason for being drawn to not only the Golden Dawn, but also the Crowley Thoth, Rider Waite, etc decks. I suppose it was thus inevitable that I would seek out the Builders of the Adytum, given that it was designed by not only an occultist but by an actual Tarot scholar, Paul Foster Case. The thing about the BOTA deck is that it comes uncoloured: the point being that as a student learns about the Tarot, they use their own knowledge of the esoteric associations of colour to colour it in themselves. Unfortunately I discovered that the BOTA deck is very hard to come by on Amazon – with one going for over £100.

So I cheated.

The unfortunate fact, I am ashamed to say, is that a full set of scans of the entire BOTA deck is available via bit-torrent and certain P2P clients. So whilst I have never purchased a BOTA deck, I am nevertheless using my Adobe Photoshop skills to illustrate it anyway. 😉

The Black Tarot

The Black Tarot – illustrated by Luis Royo

This is something of a curiosity which came into my possession, and of which I have not made use since acquiring it. The trumps feature a lot of lurid artwork – dragons, monsters, scantily-clad buxom women, etc – which only vaguely references traditional tarot imagery. Meanwhile the accompanying booklet puts a Vama-marga Tantric spin on interpretation of the cards.

I first acquired this when a dear friend of mine was getting rid of her spare tarot decks, so I just happened to pick this up. Ironically, the same friend later received a present – another copy of the Black Tarot. Hmm seems to me this must be more than coincidence – perhaps the universe is trying to tell her something???

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