The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn by Pat Zalewski and illustrated by David Sledzinski is a Golden Dawn based tarot deck, keyed to the four color scales, and also a Stella Matutina deck. Stella Matutina, or Morning Star, is one of the daughter organizations that branched from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
If there is anyone creating a Golden Dawn deck to pay attention to, it’s Pat Zalewski. I’m familiar with his work through his 2002 Talismans & Evocations of the Golden Dawn and am super excited to be working with The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn, released by Aeon Publishing in 2022 (though I think this 2022 edition is a reprint of a deck by Pat and Chris Zalewski of the same name).
The Golden Dawn tarot decks themselves are based on the Marseille. They became a book of maps to initiates for navigating the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.
Colors matter a great deal on the magical theory that their wavelengths as the eye experiences them activate certain levels of consciousness within.
So specific color combinations become programming of magical codes that activate or induce certain states of mind.
There are four color scales, based on the divine name YHVH and the Four Qabalistic Worlds. These scales are named the King Scale of Atziluth (Fire), the Queen Scale of Briah (Water), the Prince Scale of Yetzirah (Air), and the Princess Scale of Assiah (Earth).
The color scale attributes we use today, as far as I understand it, are attributed to Florence Farr, and they’re highly relevant to know as you study the Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn.
First, let’s look at some of the Majors with imagery and symbolism unique to the Golden Dawn decks. Key 0: The Fool card, Path 11 of the 32 Paths of Wisdom, features a nude child (…albeit one with a mature man’s face, kind of like those Renaissance paintings that show baby Christ as an old man…) standing in the shape of the Hebrew letter Aleph, a Tree of Life, and six roses representing the constellation Lepus. You’ll have seen this in Robert Wang’s Golden Dawn Tarot as well. In fact, note the similarities between this depiction of Key 0 and Wang’s.
One of those things to bear in mind with GD decks is the color blocking, where in a balance of interest, greater emphasis is placed on the color scales than aesthetic value. So for example here in the Emperor and Empress cards, you see how the greens and whites in The Empress and the reds and greens in The Emperor are imperative.
Also, you’ll see this recurring in GD decks– Key 6: The Lovers card features Perseus freeing Andromeda from the solid rock of materialism, and from the Dragon of Fear. Three key magical items are pictured here for the adept’s contemplation: the Sword, the Helm, and the Shield.
We do have Strength in the Key 8 position. Here the maiden represents the Green Lion of Alchemy (though in the card we see her robed in purple/violet, her yellow sash forming a lemniscate around her) while the tamed beast is the Red Lion of Alchemy.
Or the six beams from the lamp of the Hermit and the more concentrated beam of astral light sent upward from the Hermit’s staff. Key 10, Fortune, is to feature 12 spokes in the Wheel with a very specifically instructed color sequence. The Wheel also represents Ashtaroth (male demonic form of the goddess Astarte), and so often you’ll see, as an optional design element, the inscription of that word along the rim of the wheel. It’s not pre-typed into this deck, so it remains at the practitioner’s option, as it’s supposed to be.
The seven prismatic colors of the rainbow in Key 20: Judgment matters, at least in terms of the King color scale and Crowley’s Liber 777. Same goes for Key 21: Universe where we see the designated zodiac colors for the 12 discs. The ring of 72 discs designates the 72 ShemHamphoresh angels.
There is so much to unpack in this study deck and its primary instructional value is in the color scale correspondences, utilizing all four. There’s a lot I see similar to Robert Wang’s Golden Dawn deck (the comparison here can’t be helped), but I also see a lot that sets the two apart.
In terms of art medium, Wang’s is colored in via colored pencil (my best guess), and so there’s lighter saturation and contrast. Here in Zalewski’s deck, the color saturation is much bolder.
Ooh, here’s something interesting you may or may not have known about interpreting Key 21 Universe– per the little white booklet that comes with this deck, the classic World card (here, the Universe) denotes “the matter itself” and “the actual subject of the question, and therefore depends entirely on the accompanying cards.”
It doesn’t quite have the texture that a traditional medium would have. There’s also a retro aesthetic to Sledzinski’s high-concept slightly surreal modern-mythic art. Oh, and of course, I love any deck that includes the Thoth-y severed head in the Queen of Swords’s hand, plus the winged child’s head on the crown.
In the court cards, Wands are to be red for Fire, Cups to be blue for Water, Swords yellow for Air, and Disks a combination of olive green, russet, and citrine for Earth. You’ll see the loyal color correspondences in this deck so that the courts themselves speak to the “Sigils of the Scales” referenced in Golden Dawn texts.
What’s unique about the Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn in comparison with some of its predecessor GD desks is the use of all four color scales. I can’t imagine the level of organization, artistic vision, and methodical thought that had to go into the design of these cards.
In the Minor Arcana, you’ll notice certain color patterns. The Aces will heavily feature white for Kether, the Crown Sephira. Colors in the Twos correspond with Chokhmah, Binah color correspondences for the Threes, Chesad colors in the Fours, and so on.
You’ll also find the astrological glyphs noting the decan ruler correspondences in the pips. Just an FYI, hands are always white in terms of color symbolism, and are not intended to reflect human flesh tones. Sometimes they can be a little hard to make up, like the Jupiter glyph at the top center of the Eight of Swords.
Here we see the King of Cups (equivalent Prince of Cups in the Thoth) and Queen of Cups. Per color scale instructions, the King is Primary Yellow and Primary Blue, with complementary colors of purple and orange, while the Queen of Cups is Primary Blue with complementary orange and gold.
For another example, the Knight of Disks (corresponding with Fire, and Yod in YHVH) is red and green holding a disk of citrine, olive, russet, and yellow like Malkuth, because he is Yod in Malkuth. The Queen is blue and green with a winged goat on her crown.
The card size is significantly larger than your standard 70 x 120 mm tarot cards. The illustration itself is almost 70 x 120 mm, and so the white border around it is extra. The larger size makes this deck great for study of the Golden Dawn system.
Even if you’re not a fan of the Golden Dawn system (though to be honest if you’re an RWS-based tarot reader, even if you’re using one of the fun modern versions, I don’t quite know how you can avoid GD other than willful ignorance ^_^*), I think it’s useful to attain a foundational understanding of it anyway.
The version I received from Aeon Publishing, printed in 2022, comes in a tuck box, though I don’t see an issue with that since the magician will probably want to move the deck into a fancy shmancy ritual box (or black silk bag, ha) anyway.
Overall, Pat Zalewski and David Sledzinski’s The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn is a beautifully vibrant deck for studying the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn tarot lectures, especially if you’re using it as a companion deck to The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn: Divination, Meditation and High Magical Teachings (Aeon Books, 2019) by the Zalewskis.
FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received the deck from the publisher for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.
Golden Dawn deck reviews series:
|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|
|The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn||2022||Pat Zalewski & David Sledzinski|