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Zephyros  Zephyros is offline
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Join Date: 31 Jan 2004
Location: Israel
Posts: 8,179
Zephyros 

It really depends because the avenues of study are so different, although the decks aren't. The RWS is generally seen as an easy, intuitive deck although it is based on the same principles as the Hermetic.

A typical Golden Dawn deck's meanings, of which the RWS is one, are constructed out of their Qabalistic and astrological attribution, working in tandem. It doesn't take that much time or effort to learn the basics of both, at least for the purposes of beginning to read with them. For Qabalah what you chiefly need is a general understanding of how the Tree of Life works, the definitions of its parts and the meanings of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Astrology is rather more involved but you can get by with knowing the classical/mythological characteristics of the signs and planets. You could be become reasonably proficient in both in a month or a month and a half. That's the basics of what you need to know, the language or grammar.

After that it's up to you. A prominent feature of a GD deck is its interconnection, and the sky's the limit to where that can take you. Some understanding of how different planets and signs interact with each other astrologically is very useful, Gematria (kind of a Hebrew numerology) is good to know and also general knowledge of Golden Dawn teachings and rituals is also of benefit. But those are things that you naturally pick up over time. They shouldn't overwhelm you right from the start.

Once you have the basic tools under your belt you find that this knowledge isn't good merely for one deck but for all of them. You can pick up any GD deck, RWS, Thoth or even many RWS clones and immediately feel comfortable with them. Some people even use Marseilles decks using GD methods and there's no reason not to. So I would embark on studying those things I've outlined above and then reassess what you want when you've got them down. The reason is that if you study the RWS then you know the RWS, but if you study what the RWS is made of through something like the Hermetic than you'll know all the decks.

As for books, each one gives something else, so it is difficult to say which is best. Still, Chicken Qabalah by Lon Milo DuQuette (under an assumed name) is probably the most approachable, with modern teaching sensibilities. It's also really funny. After that, I found Robert Wang and Dion Fortune useful. As for the astrology, there are many different resources online, and Greek and Roman mythology is really fun to read anyway.

I wrote two short essays on starting out with these things that you might find useful:
http://tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=201798
http://tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=213790

There's also a sticky at the top of this forum with links to threads:

http://tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=11847
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