This book, written specifically for Crowley’s deck is a classic Tarot reference. Crowley describes the symbolism and concepts behind the choice of symbolism in a detailed, if not simple manner.
I have read this book twice in the last 20 years and still can not say I understand it fully, however as a means of understanding the Qabalistic and astrological underpinnings of the Tarot, it can not be beat. Crowley’s book and deck are often foreshadowed by his media reputation. This is too bad because this book and deck are both worthy of serious study.
Crowley begins with some historical and background information on the cards. He limits himself to what can be verified historically vice going into flights of fancy. Crowley believed, however, that the Tarot is a pictorial form of the Qabala, despite the lack of historical evidence to support this theory. As a member of the Golden Dawn, he was privy to their system, which he drew upon heavily in his own work.
He made several corrections to what he considered errors or deliberate attempts to mislead on the part of the Golden Dawn. The book has sections on the Majors, Court Cards and Minors, describing the symbolism and correspondences. His descriptions reveal his extensive reading and travels, for he brings mythology, Eastern philosophy, mathematics, and physics into his discussions.
This book does a thorough job of explaining the Tarot as a whole, both esoteric and exoteric. Crowley can get a little dense at times, and he will certainly send you to your largest dictionary several time throughout your reading, but one gets the impression that he enjoyed writing the book and was having a good time throughout. His biting humor comes through on more than one occasion and it is obvious that Crowley gave a lot of thought and study to his system.
A familiarity with Qabala and Astrology are necessary to get the most out of this book, though you could nuke your way through it, as I did the first time I read it. It is difficult to appreciate Crowley’s work if you are struggling to understand the basic underlying concepts. I would recommend this book to those who have mastered the basic interpretations of the cards, have some familiarity with astrology and Qabala and who are looking for something substantive in a sea of beginner’s books. This book will definitely give you a lot to ponder and will certainly enhance your understanding of the Tarot.
Author: Aleister Crowley a.k.a. Master Therion
Review by Michele Jackson