Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot
by Lon Milo DuQuette
I have in my hands the new edition of Lon Milo DuQuette’s Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot published in 2017 by Weiser books, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC (65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950), and I am excited and intimidated. Excited because I already own the 2003 edition of this valuable book (I purchased it early on in my Tarot career, right after I bought the Thoth Tarot alet, nd Crowley’s The Book of Thoth), and intimidated because compared to DuQuette (who, by the way, was intimidated by the idea of writing this book in the first place), I am a neophyte as far as the Thoth Tarot goes. Excitement wins out, so let’s dive in.
Like many Tarot enthusiasts, I originally purchased my Thoth Tarot Deck, and then decided that I must have Crowley’s version of a LWB (“little white book,” the pamphlet included with many decks), his 287 page companion book to the deck titled The Book of Thoth. While filled with amazing knowledge and lore regarding Crowley’s deck, this book is not for beginners and I found that I could not read it without having several reference books beside me. My next purchase was DuQuette’s book and I have never regretted that purchase. DuQuette is known as a “Crowley expert,” an authority on both the man himself and the deck he fashioned. As DuQuette is also an O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis) member, he is able to present in plain language the ideas and concepts that Crowley had in mind as he created his deck.
Understanding the Thoth Tarot has a soft cover with a matte finish color photo of the image for the Princess of Disks created by Lady Freida Harris, the artist of the Thoth Tarot Deck, on the front. This is the same cover image as the 2003 edition, but with more intensity added to the colors, a hint of what is to come. The book is 6 inches by 9 inches and has 330 pages printed on white paper with an easily-readable black type face that is a bit small but considering the astounding amount of information to be found in the book, understandable and worth the effort.
DuQuette offers quite a bit of information about Crowley, the Tarot in general, and the Thoth Tarot in particular, beginning with his Preface to the second edition and continuing with chapters regarding Aleister Crowley, Lady Harris, the artist who created the potent images of the Thoth Tarot, and the images she created, and background information that serves as the foundation for the Thoth Tarot, such as Thelema, the Tree of Life, the Rose Cross, the Egyptian Pantheon, the Ordo Templi Orientis, and shifts of consciousness, as well as symbols, colors, sex magick, and the Holy Guardian Angel. Part II, The Cards, does not come until page 79, and the actual information regarding the individual cards begins with The Fool on page 96. In this book DuQuette truly offers us deep and extensive background information regarding the Thoth Tarot, and he shares many rabbit holes that will lure us to learn more about the topics covered.
There are 176 pages of information regarding the cards themselves. Each Major Arcana card is described with an image of the Thoth card, a description of the traditional image of the card, the name of the card, the element, Hebrew letter, and the colors associated with the card, several quotes, and two or more pages of descriptions. The Minor Arcana cards are described with an image, a description of the traditional image, the name, element, astrological information and colors associated with the card, and at least one page of descriptive text.
After the card descriptions, DuQuette continues with chapters describing the divination process and suggested divinatory meanings for the cards. Chapter 21 contains a glossary of Thelemic terms and Tarot terms, followed by footnotes. The inside back cover contains a beautiful full-color image of the complete Hermetic Rose Cross, described and defined by DuQuette within the book.
Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot is a necessary book for even the most casual Tarot enthusiast. Yes, it is like any other textbook: it is no easy read but rather reaches deep and challenges us to become familiar with terms and concepts that might not be a part of our everyday life. But since we are drawn to the Tarot because it broadens our minds and allows us to articulate ideas and visions, we should open ourselves to the opportunity to learn presented by this book, without hesitation.
There are small additions to the original 2003 edition. DuQuette has added an introduction that provides information regarding sex magick and the cards, a description of the unicursal hexagram card that is included with some Thoth decks, and DuQuette’s own Roll-With-the-Flow spread.
In my opinion, DuQuette’s Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot is the quintessential book on the Tarot in general, and the Thoth Tarot in particular. This is truly a comprehensive read on the Thoth Tarot and the esoteric knowledge connected to the deck. This is a Tarot book you will return to again and again, for the more you learn about the Thoth Tarot deck, the more you will get from re-reading the chapters of this book.
About the Author:
Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher. Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.