A recurring sentiment you’ll hear, even among tarot readers, is that Crowley’s Thoth deck should be avoided, because Crowley. After e-mailing me paragraphs of rehashed Internet research on the salacious nuggets of the man’s biography to lay the foundation of their point, the inevitable question will come: “Should I avoid working with the Thoth because it’s got bad juju?”
I’m always amused when this question is presented for me to answer, as if I have any reasonable idea whether you in particular should work with or avoid working with the Thoth. It’s a matter of personal preference, and so it’s a question I can’t answer without knowing you through and through.
Over the last few months as I shared progress photos of my card illustrations, especially when we got to the Minors, RWS folks started to get confused by my pictorial interpretations, though I think that’s because Thoth influences started to show up more prominently.
On my shortlist of objectives for creating Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, one of those objectives was to harmonize the RWS and the Thoth together, which I’m going to say right up front turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. It was so hard for me that in fact at many points during the process, I was beating myself up and lamenting, damn, I’m failing so bad at this.
I figure a side by side review of the decks will help clarify some of the confusion about where I’m getting what for the symbolism I’ve opted to go with in Spirit Keeper.
To do that, I’m using The Original Design Tarot Deck published by Siren Imports for the RWS and the Thoth Tarot Deck published by U.S. Games for the Thoth. I printed a sample copy of my deck, which you see above on the very right, but this is not what’s going to be produced for sale. I printed this physical copy to scrutinize the lines, production quality, alignment, that kind of thing, and because of that, I’ve already spotted things that need to be fixed, which will get fixed before final production. So just bear in mind that what you see here for the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot is pretty damn close to what will be offered for sale later down the line, but with editorial improvements.
Speaking on the design of the Majors from my frame of mind, the voice of what I might describe as my inner genius came through more distinctly. And by genius I don’t mean hey look at me I’m objectively a genius, no. I mean that inner genius we all have that we need to go through the structured, methodical process to unlock. That inner genius is what I’m saying really came out.
I say that because I think something shifts by the time I reach the Minors. More on that later.
I’m picturing the cards in the exact order I drew them. You’ll see back in the First Septenary Keys I to VII, there were no human figures depicted. I had started the project with the intent on having no depictions of humans. Where human-like figures would be used, they’d be, like, you know, with an animal head or something, the way you see in The Emperor, or most of the face concealed from view, like The Empress.
Then I got to Key 8 Strength and broke that rule. Doh.
By the way, I devote a whole section in The Book of Maps, the companion guidebook that will go along with Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, to the Key 8 and Key 11 situation and my struggle with deciding how to approach the 8 and 11 switch, which funny enough, involves the Justice card and those goddamn balancing scales.
I felt like there had to be more to the reasoning for Waite’s switch than the order of the zodiac wheel. My speculation at the end of that struggle is it had to do with differing theology, so then I had to decide where my own theologies aligned.
Since I went with Key 8 for Strength and Key 11 for Justice, following Waite’s switch, for an easier comparison, in the above photo I switched 11 for 8 and vice versa in the row of Thoth cards.
Although there are inevitable nods to the Marseille, the reason I didn’t focus my intentions on actively integrating the Marseille is because for Spirit Keeper, my focus is on the esoteric and occult expression of the tarot. The Marseille is by original intention a deck of playing cards that later got appropriated into a form of divination or fortune-telling, whereas both RWS and the Thoth were from beginning to end intended as esoteric and occult expressions of the tarot. You could even argue that both the RWS and the Thoth tarot decks are the product of spell-crafting, born from fertile pools of knowledge and magical experience. That is why these two in particular are the chosen parents.
I made a Tinkering Bell practicum video on crafting Holy Anointing Oil, as it had been instructed in the Book of Exodus, and also the derivatives found in later occult texts, such as the Book of Abramelin, a medieval grimoire on Kabbalistic magic, and Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law.
Today, the day of the posting, January 15, we see the sun and moon in Capricorn already (quite the stellium going on in Capricorn right now actually). Tomorrow January 16 is the new moon in Capricorn and at 6:00 pm Pacific Time (you’ll need to do a time zone conversion accordingly), both the sun and moon will be at exactly 26 degrees. I’m sharing this practicum one day before the new moon so you have some time to make preparations as needed, should you want to try crafting the oil for yourself.
This accompanying blog post is an addendum to the video, where I reflect on my personal impressions. What I’m sharing here are based on the journal entries I logged while crafting this oil.
Watch the video first before reading any of the below, as everything onward will presume you’ve already seen the video.
Thorn Mooney recently shared her thoughts in her vlog, “Paganism, Tarot, and Class.” You really should watch her video first before reading onward, but to give background for my thoughts here, I’ll try to recap.
Mooney talks about witchcraft as a practice occurring lower down on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a practice that is more concerned with practical applications, like talking to the dead, love spells, money spells, or getting jobs. She uses the phrase “real world, tactile, necessary things.”
Those who endeavor into the esoteric or metaphysical, she says, are more concerned with self-actualization, per Maslow’s hierarchy, which is at the top of the pyramid. They’re working through long-term emotional or spiritual concerns, striving to be their best selves, and can endeavor with these concerns because their basic physiological needs have been met.
She then talks about how all that translates in her professional tarot readings. She has found, per her own experiences, that those who request readings from her online tend to ask about issues relating to purpose in life, spiritual direction, meaning, connection to deity or deities, which she acknowledges are very “important,” but “not critically important in the sense that, oh, ‘I might be evicted from my home tomorrow'” important.
::nods:: I get that.
In contrast, reading requests she gets from the shop she works at (i.e., in-person readings, I presume), clients are asking questions like “I don’t have any money to afford a lawyer and my ex-husband has filed for full custody of my kids and the court hearing is tomorrow. What is going to happen? Am I going to lose my kids?” or “My child is physically ill and we can’t afford healthcare. What do you see happening to us?”
“I am obviously not qualified to offer legal or medical advice,” Mooney remarks, “and yet I am repeatedly put in the position where I am asked to provide input, and technically [that input] is not from me, it’s from the cards, but that’s a really blurry line.”
Mooney continues, describing the nature of these lower-level-per-Maslow’s-hierarchy questions as “gritty,” noting that it’s rare for someone in that context to be asking her about finding higher meaning in the world.
And Mooney hypothesizes that it’s tied to socioeconomic class.