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Understanding A. Crowley's Thoth Tarot-DuQuette

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Understanding A. Crowley's Thoth Tarot-DuQuette


I will commence my review of Lon Milo DuQuette's excellent book on the Thoth Tarot - long title - Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot - An authoritative examination of the world's most fascinating and magical tarot cards- by suggesting that everyone who uses the Thoth deck do themselves a favour and buy this book. Why? Glad you asked . This isn't the greatest book for gleaning new card interpretations for divination purposes nor does it shed light on new spreads nor does it delve extensively into the history of Tarot. But it does do as the title suggests. You read this book and your understanding of the Thoth deck, [for me at least], will expand ten fold. Why is the book so good?.....

1. It's funny. Huh, funny you say. What could be funny about the Thoth deck. Well, as it turns out, nothing. But Mr. DuQuette is self-deprecating and personable and he takes on contentious issues with tongue sometimes firmly in cheek. Example: Part One is entitled: Little Bits Of Things You Should Know Before Beginning to Study Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot. His point of view is avuncular and non-threatening and he makes slogging through the tough stuff a lot easier than most authors would be capable of doing.

2. He makes Crowley [gasp] seem human. Acting somewhat as an apologist, DuQuette tells the other side of the story. He makes a compelling case for Crowley's contributions as an occult scholar and purveyor of a new era in human spirituality. He gets past the rhetoric and knee-jerk reaction to Crowley and just tells it like it is.

3. DuQuette has a remarkable talent for taking extremely esoteric Hermetic knowledge and distilling it for the layperson. I now finally understand, albeit on a basic level, what the heck all those astrological symbols mean and why they are there. I now understand why the Court cards (other than the Princesses) rule 3 minor cards and why one of them is not in the suit of that particular Court card. I finally know the difference between a Cardinal sign and a Mutable sign and this book isn't really about astrology!

4. The chapter on the Rose Cross is worth the price of admission. Here I've been staring at the back of the Thoth deck for a year and a half and had no idea what I was looking at. I was so fascinated with this cross (there's an excellent reproduction of the actual rose cross on the inside back cover) that I found a picture of it on the 'net and downloaded it.

5. Having just finished Kliegman's book, this book greatly enhanced my understanding of the Tree of Life and its relationship to the Tarot.

6. Each chapter begins with excerpts of Lady Harris's letters to Crowley and vice versa that are charming, informative and benignly voyeurisitic. There is a wit and combativeness to Lady Harris's correspondence that has the affect of humanizing Crowley.

Now the book did disappoint on occasion. In the card descriptions, there is an inconsistency that I sometimes found disconcerting. With some cards, DuQuette goes on at length describing the symbolism contained therein, but in others, he becomes anecdotal and kind of forgets to describe the card for us (see Queen of Cups). There were cards that he just didn't seem to want to tell his readers too much about. But when he likes a card, you know it! As for divination, he lets Crowley speak for himself, excerpting writings of Crowley.

This book is a must for Thoth users. As importantly, if you have been turned off by what you think you know about this deck, read this book and see if you feel the same way afterwards.

Lawguy51
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Lawguy, I agree with you 100%. This is not only my favorite book dealing with the Thoth deck -- it has become my favorite tarot book, period. And it is about so much more than this particular deck, at the same time that it explores the enormous scope and depth of the Thoth as an exemplar of the Western esoteric tradition. This book is simply wonderful.
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Good review Lawguy. The positives would doubtless stand up in court?

I (too?) have to admit to being ever so slightly disappointed - But perhaps due to a surfeit of anticipation! I do feel some text (of necessity?) duplicates LMD's previous works, though perhaps most noticable only if one already owns these? I think the book creaks a little in the Editorial... or "organisational" department too? That said, as a stand alone text, compiling such disparate information (and indeed many new ideas) into one place, it must rate as an essential to any Thoth-ite's library?

As a personal quibble: Try as might, I will never be convinced by the "Qabalah times Element times Astrology" divinatory explanations for SOME of the Thoth minors. In fairness, LMD suggests (sacrilege surely!) one invent one's own meaning? As an (rough) example: Card "X" has ALL these (many and various!) positive parameters "going for it" but these are then obviously overridden by ONE remaining consideration! Hmmmm...

But even the inimitable Mr. Crowley would never convince me of some of this...

Although it's a little saddening I think it worth reading ALL the reviews at (US) Amazon.com too. Even the renegade (and identifiable?) reviewer does raise some interesting and valid points? I hasten to add it wasn't ME!

Macavity
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Hi Lawguy,

I am about halfway through this book and am appreciating it very much. The way he goes through the story of the Majors helps make so much sence of some of the symbolism. I also like LMD's style of writing. So easy to follow. Definitely one of the best Thoth books written.

Mimi
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Thanks, Lawguy, I appreciate the review. I have this book on my list at the moment and I'm considering making a trip to the bookstore today. I've been neglecting my wonderful Thoth and getting the book seems like a good way to get back into it.

BTW, how are you getting on with your Hermetic deck?
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I just got my Thoth cards in the purple box. There was a book called "The Book of Thoth" but I didn't get it. Mabee I will try this book mentioned here.

I know nothing about these cards I studied RWS, but I want to try Thoth. My energy feels drained just thinking about starting to study them.What I've heard about Crowley also I don't know.lol

I'll look this book up next time I'm out. I can't imagine how much your imagination can expand learning these cards. I'm almost scared to even begin.

Thanks for the info.
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I'm glad to see that my review was somewhat helpful. There was one other thing that kind of bugged me. Although the author explains that the Court cards (with the exception of the Princesses) rule three minor cards, he does not tell us what it means for a Court card to rule a minor. I assume it means influence in some way. For instance, the Queen of Pentacles rules the 10 of Wands. What does that mean, exactly? And are we to take this rulership into our interpretation of the 10 of Wands? I don't know. I guess you could say that if you take on way too much responsibilty and fail to delegate and keep all of that wand energy inside thereby blocking spiritual development, then maybe you're the Queen of Wands on a bad day! Can anyone enlighten me?

Lawguy51
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Lawguy, I share your disappointment in DuQuette's explanations of some of the cards, especially the courts. For me, this is far outweighed by his simply masterful explanation of the Rose Cross and the relationships between tarot (especially Thoth) and qaballah. He seems to be more or less uninvested in describing the cards, themselves -- as if he ran out of steam and had to include the material at the behest of the publisher. My solution to this issue is to not put much stock, one way or the other, in his LWB-style card descriptions, and focus instead on the larger esoteric outlines in the first half of the book.
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I am currently at up to the Hermit right now in the book, but I took a little peek at the court card section and I see what you mean.

I also wanted to add that I find the Glossary of Thelemic and Tarot terms in the back very usefull as well.

I will let you know what I think as I get on in the book, but so far I love it. Especially, like Lawguy and others pointed out the explination of the Rose Cross.

Mimi
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I love this book, but one has to see it for what it is - it is not a stand alone book on the thoth deck. I see it more as a book you keep next to the book of thoth as it explains some of the more obscure things in Crowleys own book. That is why the card explanations may seem a little brief. But if you have the deck, the book of thoth and this one on your table you are all set.

My fave parts so far is the chapter on the rose cross and of course the comments by Harris to Crowley that are included here and there.
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