Comprehensive review of the Thoth Tarot Deck by Aleister Crowley
The mysterious Thoth Tarot Deck, also known as the Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot, was first shown in the year 1944. The deck is fascinating, partly due to its enigmatic creator, the occultist Aleister Crowley, and its equally inscrutable illustrator, Lady Frieda Harris.
The deck features 80 cards, with 24 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana. If you are a lover of esoterism, the Thoth deck will move your intuition with its inspiring art and interesting history. It is truly one of a kind!
What can a Tarot deck do for you?
Tarot decks do not operate on their own. They are not calculators that formulate solutions or generate instant answers. Instead, think of them as compasses that need to be positioned correctly in order to work. Hence, the hand that works the cards is as important as the deck itself.
A true sensitive, that is, a person who is intuitive and open-minded can pick up on the cues that pop up in his or her consciousness to expand upon them. Therefore, a good reading depends on the innate hand of a gifted reader, who uses the cards as a conduit for their sixth sense.
Watch the attitude
The reading will also depend on the asker. Going into a reading with an off-putting, detouring energy will disrupt the reader’s energy and inspiration, the way a writer would be put off from writing should some unwanted company enter their space. Just think of a tarot reading session as an inspirational meeting to tap on good energy. Anything different from that should be considered unwelcome.
Things to consider before buying the Thoth Tarot Deck
- Make sure to have a mentor to show you the proper way to use the deck
- You can find a mentor online by joining forum groups of Crowley Thoth readers. Ask for someone to guide you, and offer to practice your readings with them.
- Do not buy a deck to read about yourself – objectivity is what drives a good reading; let your mentor be your primary reader.
- You need to let your deck “breathe” upon first receiving it. Let your energy blend in with the deck. Shuffle it here and there a little. Get to know it. See what the cards tell you beyond their textbook meaning.
- Get familiar with the cards before you even read about their meaning.
- If you find a mentor, you do not need to meet in person. Online readings are as good as in-person readings. You will find this out on your own. Intuition has no geographical barriers. Facetime and phone readings work just as well.
The Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot was created by occultist Aleister Crowley, who wrote The Thoth deck book as the accompaniment that helps explain the meaning of the cards, the types of spreads (card positions), and the way to properly read them. The deck was illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, an artist whose husband earned a baronet, hence her title. The deck and book were first shown in the year 1944.
The Crowley Thoth tradition is based on the Kabbalistic views of the Order of the Golden Dawn, of which Crowley was a member. The illustrations, entirely created and designed by Lady Harris, manage to blend in a sophisticated, futuristic design that in no way seems to be contemporaneous with the society of pre-World War II. The illustrations feature a lot of curves, which bring a sense of motion to the cards that entices the mind to imagine more and go much deeper than mere form and color.
The original Thoth Deck is made of 80 cards. Out of these, 24 cards compose the Major Arcana, and 56 are the Minor Arcana. The deck follows the Crowley Thoth tradition, which means that the cards are entirely connected to the book; no other meaning should be given to the cards, aside from the reader’s additional intuitive thoughts.
The major titles of these cards are the same as the typical Rider Waite deck that is so popularly used by many readers: The Fool, The Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, The Devil, The Hanged Man, Death, The Tower, The Star, The Sun, The Moon, and the World are all included. Crowley Thoth rephrases some common cards as The Aeon, The Magnus, Adjustment, Art, Lust, and Fortune. The new meanings do not take away from the importance of the card. Re-naming is one of Crowley’s most well-known antics, as he liked to “re-brand” things to meet his personal philosophies.
Who should buy this deck?
The Aleister Crowley Tarot Deck is best enjoyed by seasoned readers who are also highly intuitive and willing to think outside the box. The images on the Thoth deck are entirely different from those of the traditional Rider Waite deck, so the usual imagery associated to the Waite cards will be lost to the reader once faced with the Thoth deck. This is why it is imperative, even for the seasoned reader, to take the time to become familiar with the art, pictures, and theme of the Thoth deck way prior to the first formal reading. It will make things much easier in the end.
Pros and Cons of the Aleister Crowley Tarot Deck
1. Much more detail in graphics and meaning than the average tarot deck.
2. Allows for more concentration and elicits higher intuition.
3. Beautiful design made by an original artist deeply connected to Crowley.
4. Re-named Major Titles, such as Lust, Fortune, and Adjustment, among others, add more depth of understanding to the meaning of the card.
5. Very complete deck; it is like tarot on steroids, so to speak. A dream for the experienced, intuitive reader.
1. Must be well acquainted with Crowley’s Book of Thoth.
2. Must draw meaning exclusively from the Book of Thoth, aside from the reader’s own intuition.
3. The design is completely different from the traditional Rider Waite deck; one must re-learn to become familiar with the cards prior to the first, formal reading.
The “devil” is in the details- figuratively speaking
The Aleister Crowley Tarot Deck is one of the most detail-oriented decks available in the world of tarot cards. The renamed titles of some of the cards, and the vivid artistry that is evident in the pictures, help sensitives to expand upon their intuition. This makes them able to provide added details and meaningful extras to seekers who so eagerly desire it. It is the details that make this deck so complete and engaging to read.
The changed names
As stated previously, some of the Thoth deck cards have had their names changed in order to abide by Aleister Crowley’s penchant for deeper meaning. Some of the names you will find are:
- The Magus – Formerly known as The Magician
- The Priestess- High Priestess
- Adjustment- Justice, which is #8 in Crowley’s deck as opposed to 11, as it is traditionally.
- Fortune –Wheel of Fortune
- Lust- Strength, which is #11 in this deck
- Art – Temperance
- The Aeon- Justice (again), takes the place of the angel blowing a horn in traditional decks.
- The Universe- The World
Why so many changes?
The change in number and position with cards 11 and 8 goes back to Rider Waite. For reasons still unbeknownst to many, Waite decided to switch the #11 and #8 positions in the original Rider deck. Although it does not really mean anything, in the end, keep in mind that Crowley followed suit, by re-naming cards, repeating the Justice card, and even leaving three different designs of the Magus on the deck.
This goes to show that the science behind tarot reading lies not on the deck alone, but on the ability of the reader to control and maneuver the cards.
Card reversals and rogue card
Every tarot reader knows that there is a difference in the meaning of a card when it comes out reversed. This is typical in traditional tarot. However, the Crowley deck is different even in that important aspect of the reading. It does not allow for reversals, except when there is no other option.
Hence, the traditional reader will look at a reverse card and rely on different methods to determine how influential such reversal will be. Crowley opted out of this method, and went in favor of an elaborate process of elimination that extends the reading further, but makes it more accurate in the end.
Intuition is key
In Crowley’s tradition, the reader will look at each card and determine, by using intuition and by looking at all the other cards that surround one another, whether each card is well-dignified, or ill-dignified. For example, if there is a card that has nothing to do with the other cards surrounding it, chances are that the card is simply a rogue card, and should not be included in the reading.
When, on the contrary, cards that are of the same element tend to appear close or surrounding one another, the cards are given a “dignified” nomenclature and are considered valid to read. In the event that there is a reversed card, the meaning is read verbatim from the Book of Thoth, and the meaning is assumed to be the opposite (negative) of the original card. However, the meaning is not readily given, that is, the reader does not just give a meaning right away. Instead, the reader will look at the surrounding cards first before emitting the final decision.
Therefore, the Thoth tarot deck is made to be as accurate as possible, minding every possible detail from the reading. Still, it is highly recommended that you do explore other tarot traditions prior to engaging fully in Thoth as your main resource.
You can own a The Thoth deck in a variety of sizes. The wide, large deck measures 14cm (5.5 inches) high and 9.5 cm (3.75 inches) wide. This may be a bit problematic to those with smaller hands in terms of shuffling and cutting.
There is a smaller version of the deck which is way more comfortable to handle, Since the deck is not intended to be reversed, the back of all cards will show a Rosicrucian Cross and none are reversible.
The Thoth deck is available at any esoteric store in the USA and abroad. The deck is quite popular and easy to acquire. Keep in mind that some vendors will want to send the book separately from the deck, but try and get a set that brings both together. The reason for this is that whoever puts the set together is likely going to keep the readers’ interests in mind, therefore, these sets may include more graphic details on how to spread the cards.
Upon researching for testimonials that would agree or disagree with this review, I came upon a wide range of readers who totally support and recommend this product. They all agree that Thoth allows for a more expansive, detailed reading by providing more insight into the visual cues on the cards.
The testimonials all abide by the depth of perception and understanding that this deck brings. It is much more than just the picture, but the actual wording of the meanings, which Crowley engineered to make the words more powerful to the reader to elicit inspiration and further intuition.
In general, the average reader would recommend the Thoth deck to seasoned tarot readers. The consensus is that this is a deck to be used by people already versed in the symbolism of tarot and those who have already opened their own personal floodgates of intuition in a way that they know what they are looking for when they see visual cues.
This is not a deck for beginners or a deck for people who view tarot cards as instant answer givers. Tarot is not a game. It is an ancient tradition deeply rooted in religion, esoterica, history, and spirituality.
We help you to choose
Thoth Tarot Deck
This is a smaller version of the original Thoth deck by Aleister Crowley. This deck contains 78 cards, instead of the traditional 80 that come in the deck. This does not take away from the overall reading. Actually, this may be a welcome change because, as we stated previously, there are three different Magi in the Crowley deck.
This is actually a smaller edition of the original that does not take away at all from it. There will still be a Magus in the deck. Another thing about this deck is that it is smaller, portable has graphic organizers, but still maintains the same degree of rigor as the original.
Thoth Tarot Book
This superbly interesting book comprises the biggest work by Aleister Crowley: his Thoth Tarot book. Written throughout the early part of the 20th century, the book is complex, somewhat outdated, and rife with occult and esoteric terminology. It is not a book for beginners. Still, Lon Milo DuQuette was able to recreate the literature and refresh it to modern standards.
The book is, essentially, an interpretation guide into the 78 cards (remember that the modern deck removes two of the Magi). This guide also serves as a user’s rule book that not just provides insight but also gives directions, advice, and further meaning to everything.
Basic Thoth Deck
This is the basic Thoth deck. As previously stated, the original Crowley deck contains 80 cards, but there are two extra cards that are optional to the deck. These two cards are two extra Magi, which were two additional artist’s renditions of the same picture, both of which were rejected by Crowley in favor of the Magus in the original deck. Keep in mind that the cards come with basic directions on the Thoth tradition and the meaning of the readings. Still, the book written by Crowley is much more extensive and contains elaborate information that stems from Crowley’s years of experience in the study of the occult.
Seasoned tarot card readers, fanatics of esoterism, dwellers on the occult, or just plain lovers of mystery will find the Thoth deck by Aleister Crowley not only fascinating but also enigmatic. It is a wonderful intuition tool because it provides more detail and in-depth wording than the average deck. This makes sensitives able to get more out of their readings, by getting a deeper understanding of the cards, the cards surrounding them, and the overall context of the reading.
The Thoth tarot is not for beginners. It is best to be used by readers who are already versed in the art of card reading, intuition, and in the overall symbolism of the cards. Thoth is a complex, historical, and tremendously sophisticated deck. Evidence of this lies in its elaborate, graphic drawings, straight from the heart and soul of Lady Frieda Harris.
It is one of the best pieces of esoterica to own. For this reason, this deck, both the smaller and the bigger type, is definitely a good purchase for the money. Remember to always aim to get the deck with Aleister’s book as well. You will probably never want to go back to traditional tarot again.