The Thoth Minor Arcana

I’ve worked with the Aleister Crowley/Frieda Harris Thoth deck since 1972 and have been consistently impressed by how evocative the Minor Arcana are, mainly through their use of color and mood along with Crowley’s Golden-Dawn-derived titles and brief explanations in The Book of Thoth. I never felt any need for scenic illustrations and their encapsulated narrative vignettes (in fact I barely knew they existed) when performing divination with the tarot, and didn’t seriously contemplate this apparent lack of intuitive inspiration until joining the on-line tarot community in 2011 and getting my hands on a Waite-Smith (aka “RWS”) deck. Even now, some of the RWS imagery that so many readers find so compelling from a story-telling standpoint leaves me cold, so I don’t use that interpretive foundation and instead substitute Thoth and Golden Dawn meanings where they make more sense.

Recently I did a card-by-card comparison of the Thoth minors to the related “pip” cards of the Tarot de Marseille and noticed strong correspondences in the design of the suit-symbol arrays between the two (with the notable exception of the Swords suit). Unless Crowley chose to interrupt the sequence with his esoteric motifs (inverted pentagrams, Tree of Life glyphs, solar circles and such), there is nearly a one-for-one match between the two decks, after accounting for the Synthetic Projective Geometry assumptions of the Thoth artwork.

In the lead-in “Bibliographical Note” to the Book of Thoth, Crowley (masquerading as  “S.H. Soror I.W.E”) did state: “His original idea had been to execute a pack after the tradition of the Medieval Editors,” so he clearly had this close correlation in mind. For this reason, I consider the largely non-scenic minor cards of the Thoth to be “glorified pips.” Although I usually limit my interpretive toolbox for TdM reading to suit/element and number-theory correspondences and ignore more esoteric inputs, the Thoth Minor Arcana appear to be an ideal middle ground between the TdM and RWS models that can offer useful insights when reading with the former.

I’ve attached photographs of the four comparative layouts for your information and use.

Wands Array.JPG

Cups Array.JPG

Swords Array.JPG

Coins Array.JPG

 

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