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The Thoth Tarot Cards Of Aleister Crowley

Sep 13, 2008
The beautiful tarot cards of the Thoth deck are the result of a five year collaborative project, between two friends, Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris. Aleister Crowley recognized the incredible artistic talent of his friend and eventual project patron, Lady Frieda Harris. Aleister Crowley convinced Lady Frieda Harris to paint a tarot deck for him. At the time, Lady Frieda Harris was not familiar with occultism.

Lady Frieda Harris, born in 1877, enjoyed a comfortable life in English society. Her husband, Percy, served in the political arena and eventually became a baronet. Still, shortly after meeting Aleister Crowley in 1937, she became his disciple and devoted herself to learning about the deeper meanings behind occult topics.

When Aleister Crowley met Lady Frieda Harris, he was 62 years old. By that time, he had been studying occultism for over 40 years and had developed his own school of occult philosophy, Thelema. He also influenced the founding of the occult order named the Mysteria Mystica Maxima, an off shoot of the Ordo Templi Orientis. Aleister Crowley had been a member of other important occult organizations of the time previous to developing his own branch of occultism. In great contrast to the more orderly life that Lady Frieda Harris lived, Aleister Crowley was named "The Wickedest Man In The World" by popular press of the time. Aleister Crowley was accused of being a black magician with an unsavory lifestyle.

As an occult practitioner, Aleister Crowley was not satisfied with the tarot decks that were available, including the Rider-Waite tarot deck. He wanted to imbue them with greater meaning and stronger illustrative power. After Lady Frieda Harris agreed to create the deck, she encourage him to go beyond the traditional cards and their meanings by adding his knowledge of science, philosophy and occult knowledge to create a tarot deck with new designs. The result was an 80 card Thoth tarot deck, which was finished in 1943.

The collaborative pair developed a few new names and renumbered some trump cards of the major arcana portion of the deck. The only court card of the Thoth deck to retain the traditional names are the Queens. For instance, the male page of the traditional tarot deck was designated as the princess in the Thoth tarot deck. The princess card gave the Thoth deck an opportunity to include a card depicting to a young woman. The princess is the feminine counterpart to the Thoth prince card, otherwise called the knight in traditional cards. The traditional king card became the knight card in the Thoth deck.

The Thoth tarot deck is vivid and brilliant in its depiction of the various gods, goddesses and mystical entities that appear on the cards. The artwork is modern and timeless in its beauty. The card suits are recognizable in the deck and many tarot card enthusiasts now enjoy using and adding the Thoth tarot deck to their collection.

Despite all the work that went into the cards, the Thoth deck did not become available to the public until 1969. The version that is available today was photographed in 1986 and the resulting graphics depict the paintings with greater vividness than earlier versions. Both Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris died before their Thoth deck became published, although their friendship continued until Aleister's death in 1947.
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