A Study of Golden Dawn Decks and the Western Tradition of Occult Tarot

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

This past week I posted deck reviews, which turned out to be more like discussions, on the above five occult decks and their companion guidebooks, with references back to Regardie’s texts, Waite’s Pictorial Key, and Crowley’s Book of Thoth. It was time-consuming and quite the Effort, but I thought, one-and-done, meaning let me just knock each of these out of the way and then have it memorialized on my blog for future referencing.

If you’re a tarot enthusiast, then I hope there were inclusions of insights from those discussions that you’ll want to add to your personal tarot journal. For me, even while I’ve worked with the tarot for two decades plus, the process of consolidating study of these Golden Dawn based decks in quick succession synthesized so much.

Even most of the light, fun, fast-and-easy pretty decks published as of late are at their essence rooted in the Golden Dawn system, whether or not it was consciously done.

No matter how you feel about the Golden Dawn system of correspondences or the melding of a Christianized perspective of Kabbalah (or calling it Hermetic Qabalah to make the distinction), it’s impossible for the tarot enthusiast to deny the objective influence of the Golden Dawn on the popularized versions of tarot today.

And so I thought, hey, somebody out there is going to maybe probably benefit from this focused study of select GD-based decks. I hope even scrolling and skimming the five deck discussions will impart a rudimentary foundational understanding of this Western occult heritage.

Continue reading “A Study of Golden Dawn Decks and the Western Tradition of Occult Tarot”

Godfrey Dowson’s Hermetic Tarot Revisited

The Hermetic Tarot by Godfrey Dowson was one of my earliest deck reviews on this blog, back in 2013. And it wasn’t even really a deck review. I don’t know what that was other than a little bit too cringe for me to try to reread now. Anyway, let’s revisit the deck and add this posting to our cluster of Golden Dawn deck discussions.

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was active for only about fifteen years, and yet consider the scope and breadth of their influence in Western occultism, especially in the world of tarot. Even fun, flighty, not-at-all-occult mass produced pop tarot decks are unintentionally influenced by the Golden Dawn.

Crowley first published a description of the Order’s card designs in The Equinox in 1912, riling MacGregor Mathers to the point of litigation to try and stop Crowley’s publication. Then around World War II, Israel Regardie published the Golden Dawn card descriptions again, and provided oversight to both Robert Wang and the Ciceros in their subsequent GD decks. The LWB introduces Dowson’s deck as one more Golden Dawn based tarot deck in the line of succession since the Order dissipated.

Dowson’s pen and ink drawings for the Hermetic Tarot were done between 1975 and 1977, with the deck published by U.S. Games in 1980. Stuart Kaplan co-wrote the LWB that comes with the cards. Kaplan remarks about the Hermetic Tarot that it is a “compelling reconstructed version of the tarot that undoubtedly will take its place as one of the most important esoteric tarot decks published during the twentieth century.”

Continue reading “Godfrey Dowson’s Hermetic Tarot Revisited”