Magian Tarok by Stephen Flowers (aka Edred Thorsson)

Rede Seeker


This book has been out for at least a year, although only Rune Gilders probably know about it. Has anyone here familiar with it?

le pendu

The Magian Tarok The Key Linking the Mithraic, Greek, Roman Hebrew and Runic Traditions with that of the Tarot.

This book is the long-awaited follow-up to Hermetic Magic (Weiser 1995). It is a revolutionary text which traces the historical roots of the images used for the Tarot back to their Mithraic and general Iranian backgrounds. This book also explains that there were originally 24 and not 22 Major Arcana, and that the reduction to the number 22 was not based on the Hebrew alphabet, but rather the archaic Latin alphabet as used in oracles. It also provides the key to the possible hidden link between the images of the Tarok and the Germanic Runes.

Hi Rede Seeker,

I've not read the book, have you? If so, can you share some more about the theory with us?

You might be interested in these links.

There is this recent thread about the upcoming "Latin Tarot Key" :

Which is somewhat related to our discussion on the "Lingua Franca" :

JMD has discussed possible connections with the middle east here:

JMD also discusses Mithras in the World thread:

In fact if you do a search for Mithras, he pops up several times in different discussions.

You might also be interested in the slightly similar theory on Tarot and Dionysos:

I look forward to learning more, I've read several of Edred Thorsson's books, and would enjoy learning how he presents his ideas.


Thanks for this - I've actually been meaning to get a copy for some time, and have finally ordered one :)

Rede Seeker

I haven't bought it yet

There is a lot of competition for my book-buying dollar these days. I was hoping to hear a review before I decided whether to get it.


I have the book and read it when it first came out.. I'm a big fan of certain of Flowers' books (esp. Hermetic Magick, Galdrabok, Nine Doors of Midgard and his other rune material)... not all of them, but some. It's LATE for me to think through this coherently enough so I can get more detailed if you like, but in general...

Magican Tarock was on the fence for me.

Like the forthcoming Latin Key, Flowers bases his entire sequence/theory on Sigurd Agrell's work. Flowers starts out with some very bold speculation about Zoroastrian tradition, the Mithraic mysteries and their initiatory grades. The impact of the mystery schools on western esotericism is a complicated and vast subject... so I'm always nervous when everything gets boiled down to a single element (or a single author's theorizing about the link with the Latin alphabet). Some of it seemed solid, but I've actually done a fair amount of primary text research on Mithraism in its various incarnations and several of his cornerstone arguments rest on shaky ground. There's enough interesting speculation to make you see the cards differently in his context, but not for one moment did I feel he had "cracked" the case. And I was left feeling like he'd spent his pages hammering a square peg into a round hole.

Overall I was left feeling like I was reading a book written by someone whose interest was esotric history primarily, with Tarot secondary... much of the theorizing (and rigid reordering, as if the V-S decks had a numbered order) started from the requirements of his understanding of the mystery religion and then worked in the Tarot... if that makes sense.

Interesting, but not a must read. I was left feeling like I'd read a pet theory that was as useful as my willingness to take every precarious interpretation at face value. I expected him to knock it out of the park and finished it feeling like he'd missed an opportunity to tackle Tarot from his own unique perspective.



Incidentally, here's a review of Agrell's Die pergamenische Zauberscheibe und das Tarockspiel from 1937 since he seems to be the forgotten Tarot theorist of the moment.

The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 57, Part 1. (1937), pp. 103-104.

""This very interesting monograph is part of the Bulletin de la Societe' Royale des Lettres de Lund for 1935-36. Its author is an authority on the Runic alphabet, concerning the origins of which he holds original theories : these it is not necessary to discuss here, even if the present reviewer were competent to do so. But all forms of hieroglyphic, magic or secret writing seem to attract him, and here he gives the fruits of most ingenious research on two apparently disconnected series of mystical signs.
The first is found on a piece of divinatory apparatus discovered at Pergamon in the closing years of the last century and published with a full commentary by the late R. Wunsch in 1905. It is a triangular plate of bronze, decorated with reliefs of the three forms of Hekate and having in the middle a sort of large stud of the same metal, topped by a circular cap. The upper surface of this seems to be the important part of the whole appliance, the triangle being merely the base ; for it is elaborately divided into zones, four in number, whereof the three outer ones are further divided by radial lines into eight equal sections each, the central circular portion again into eight, four larger and four smaller. These are inscribed with sundry magical letters (the most familiar group is the name of Yahweh in one of its many forms, IEAO, also with mysterious signs; the other sectors have no letters, but signs only. Since there are 24 of them in all, it is no wild conjecture that they correspond to the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet ; and accordingly Agrell, by a series of interpretations which he adopts or originates, finds that the marks in each, often distorted Greek characters or Egyptian hieroglyphics, do compose an alphabetical list. For instance, the second compartment contains a fish-like sign and what seems to be an elaborated T ; remembering that the Egyptian fish hieroglyphic means ' horror, disgust,' and the fish is connected with Set, Agrell, following Wunsch, supposes that we are to understand the name Bipov, BaPus or Babo, one of the magical equivalents of Set, and see in the T-shaped sign the initial of Typhon. In like manner all the 24 fields are interpreted, always with plausibility, sometimes with a very near approach to certainty. Even if some details are wrong, as is highly likely, the general conclusion may well be accepted; each compartment stood for an idea or group of ideas which could be epitomized by some Greek word. By the help of these, complicated no doubt by the figures of the central area, the inquirer could have his answer given him. Presumably the expert who owned the apparatus would bid him throw dice, or touch the surface at random with a pin, or in some way indicate a division; it remained then only to interpret for him the signs contained therein; for instance, the segment which Agrell numbers 10 contains a sickle, the emblem of Kronos, and so is to be lettered K and might signify, e.g., that the malignant influence of the planet Saturn was hindering some project.
The author now pursues his researches into more modern times. The tarot or tarock-pack of cards is the oldest known; it is perhaps more widely used for telling fortunes than for playing any game; and its most important cards number 22, each having a traditional figure upon it. Thus we have the possibility of another alphabetic series, this time Latin, and it is not hard to show that some at least of the figures will fit this interpretation, if, that is, we suppose that behind the cards there lies an older apparatus, not a game but purely divinatory in its use, and historically connected, not of course with the Pergamene appliance itself but with the order of ideas which produced it. Thus, No. 6 has the figure of a Pope. It is nowise impossible that this was once a pre-Christian priest, a flamen, giving the necessary F. No. 9 is Justice, precisely where, on Agrell's theory, the I should come; and so on. By no means all the equations are so easy as these, but that a case has been made out cannot be denied. We thus have at least a plausible origin for one of the oldest of modern pastimes and the outline of a chapter in the extremely complicated history of European magic."
H. J. R.

It's worth noting that Agrell's Mithraic theory about the Tarot (and his Uthark ordering of Runes as well) rests completely on his reading of the abovementioned Pergamum bowl from 200 AD...

Rede Seeker

Please tell me this book is available in English

Once again, I regret being an English-only reader.


You mean Agrell's book? No, German only far as I know. And academic German from the 30s to boot. But with Flowers and O'Brien tugging Agrell into the light of day, there might be more interest in the man's work.

I learned my lesson at Columbia: German is critical for the academic esoterica... I can only pick through these things tentatively.