The Tarot of Ceremonial Magick by Lon Milo DuQuette and Constance DuQuette was first published by U.S. Games in 1997, then republished in 2010 by Thelesis Aura. The edition you see here is from the Third Printing, 2013. Interestingly, these cards were printed in the Republic of Korea. Since it’s rare to see that, I thought it was worth a mention.
While DuQuette is a Thelemite, and therefore you’re going to see strong influences from Aleister Crowley’s Thoth throughout this deck, not to mention a portrait of young Crowley on The Magus card, it’ll be instructive to consider this deck alongside the Golden Dawn based decks covered earlier this week: the Golden Dawn Tarot by Robert Wang and the New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot by Chic and Tabatha Cicero.
I have Lon Milo DuQuette’s book, Tarot of Ceremonial Magick: A Pictorial Synthesis of Three Great Pillars of Magick (Astrology, Enochian Magic, Goetia), published by Weiser Books, which is the companion text.
There’s a lot of substantive info in the way of correspondences here that isn’t in the companion text by the Ciceros for the New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot, so if you’re interested in the Golden Dawn, then it’s worth having both books in your personal library.
Writes DuQuette, “The Tarot of Ceremonial Magick is the only tarot deck ever created that accurately incorporates the key elements of the two most popular and widely practiced varieties of Qabalah-based magick: the Enochian magick of Dr. John Dee and Goetia.”
Enochian magic is premised on the 16th century works of the Elizabethan magus Dr. John Dee and his clairvoyant colleague Edward Kelley. Together they sought to experience for themselves angelic communication in the way that that Biblical patriarch Enoch did. Their angel contacts transmitted to them a complete language system for communion with the angels.
MacGregor Mathers revived interest in Enochian magic in the late 1800s, synthesizing the works of John Dee with elemental and Aethyr correspondences, Aethyr being the 30 heavens or celestial spheres surrounding the elemental universe. DuQuette describes these 30 heavens as transparent spheres, one inside another, “like a glass onion.”
The tarot is the “DNA of the Qabalah.” That statement is repeated in both the LWB that comes with the deck and in the companion text.
Also, the sentiment that tarot for fortune-telling or divination is a low use of the cards is echoed here, as it was by Robert Wang and the Ciceros.
The tarot is “a living mandala; a graphic, pictorial breakdown of the mechanics of creation,” writes DuQuette. It is a picture-book “of the mind of God” and the “common denominator between the various Hermetic arts.”
Commenting on the artwork, I really like the compositional concepts. As with the New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot, the vibrant, saturated coloring activates an animism in the cards. The layout design, with the cells featuring correspondences from various esoteric systems is brilliant. But like the Golden Dawn Tarot by Wang, the technical proficiency can give these illustrations a high school art project kind of feel.
And while the art style is consistent enough across the cards, the level of attention to detail doesn’t always feel equitable. Case in point, the Death card compared to Key XX: Aeon, one of my favorite illustrations in this deck.
The 22 Trumps are subdivided into three categories, corresponding with the Hebrew alphabet: the 3 Mother Letters, which are the 3 primitive elements; the 7 Double Letters, which are the 7 planetary cards in the Majors; and the 12 Simple Letters, which are the 12 zodiac cards.
Among the Minor Arcana, the four suits represent the four universal elements while the Aces in the suits represent the fifth element of Spirit.
72 Angels of the Shemhamphorash corresponding with the 36 pips, which runs parallel to the 72 spirits of the Goetia. If you click into the photographs of the Minor Arcana suit groupings, you’ll see that the angelic names are noted on the pips Twos through Tens, and also feature the corresponding Goetic seals from the Solomonic grimoires. If the intersection of tarot with the 72 Angels or the 72 spirits of the Goetia interests you, also check out both the Angel Tarot and the Occult Tarot by Travis McHenry.
There’s a humor to the illustration work that’s characteristic of DuQuette, for anyone who has sat in on one of his workshops or presentations. Case in point, the sundaes in the Two of Cups or the martinis in the Seven of Cups.
And yet the deck is a serious, powerful launching point for magical workings. Like the New Golden Dawn Ritual deck, color correspondences is significant, though DuQuette seems to diverge from the flashing colors and Color Scales as prescribed by the Golden Dawn, per the Ciceros book.
While several decks synthesize the I Ching hexagrams with the tarot, more notably the Haindl Tarot, DuQuette presents an innovative approach to tarot and the I Ching.
Hermann Haindl’s deck (published by U.S. Games in 1990) integrates 36 of the 64 I Ching hexagrams into the Twos through Tens of the Minor Arcana.
DuQuette’s deck, published approximately seven years later, integrates 16 of the 64 I Ching hexagrams into the court cards (Princess, Prince, Queen, and Knight).
DuQuette notes that “ceremonial magick has been called the ‘yoga of the west,'” an interesting analogy in light of Wang’s remark in the Golden Dawn Tarot that the Qabalah is the “yoga of the west.” Instead, DuQuette draws a connection between the I Ching and the Qabalah, calling the I Ching the “Qabalah of Eastern thought.”
The Tarot of Ceremonial Magick does represent some groundbreaking achievements in esoteric tarot. It is the first deck I know of that integrates Tattwa meditation symbols and corresponds them to the tarot architecture.
Hindu tattwa symbols, found in the lower right of the cards of the Aces and the Courts, are used in focused meditation, where you gaze intently at the tattwa symbol until you’ve memorialized it in your mind, then look away and project that same symbol onto a blank space, where you can visualize it floating and suspended in air.
The lower left of the Aces and the Courts feature the Enochian squares from the Enochian Tablet of Union. An entire chapter in the companion book delves into the Enochian Tablet, also referred to as the Spirit Tablet. These tablets on the Aces and Courts feature the primary names of the elemental spirits in Enochian ceremonial magick.
The Tarot of Ceremonial Magick is a brilliant specimen of an occult tarot deck and achieves what few decks have done, which is to convincingly integrate and synthesize many different esoteric systems. It’s the deck to reach for to use in ritual magic or even as tarot talismans, especially where the basis of the magician’s work will be invocation or evocation of Goetic spirits, angels of the Shemhamphorash, and/or Enochian elemental spirits.
|B.O.T.A. Tarot||1931||Paul Foster Case & Jessie Burns Park|
|The Golden Dawn Tarot||1978||Robert Wang (w/ Israel Regardie)|
|The Hermetic Tarot||1980||Godfrey Dowson|
|Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot||1991||Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabatha Cicero|
|Tarot of Ceremonial Magick||1997||Lon Milo DuQuette & Constance DuQuette|