So-called Jewish Pack?


I was reading Waite's Shadows of Life and Thought and came across a rather strange reference to "Jewish" tarot pack. He's talking about how any good thing can be distorted for evil purposes and makes this statement:

"Tarot cards offer another instance: there is a so-called Jewish pack which is like Medieval Satanism in its Symbols."​

I don't take from this that Waite was anti-semitic necessarily, but was describing a pack that was referred to informally as a "Jewish" pack, but probably had another name which he unfortunately omits. Would anyone have any idea what pack he's talking about?

Ross G Caldwell

Page 79, note 2 to his translation of Eliphas Levi, “The History of Magic” –

“It has been reported to me, however, that there is an unknown Jewish Tarot, and it may interest students of the subject to know that before long I hope to be able to give some account at first hand concerning it. There is little reason to suppose that it will prove (a) ancient or (b) Kabalistic; but as one never knows what is at one’s threshold, I put the fact on record for whatever it may be worth in the future.”

(“Kabalistic” spelled as such)

I believe the first edition is 1913?

Next, in 1929, "The Holy Kabbalah", p. 556: “There is, moreover, a Jewish Tarot of great rarity which has never been published; but it belongs to the worst side of so-called Practical Magic.”

So it sounds like he did indeed see it between 1913 and 1929, and did give "some account" of it, as "worst side of so-called Practical Magic", and, in the 1938 citation you provided, like "Medieval Satanism in its symbols."

Maybe it is still unpublished, or maybe it is somewhere in Kaplan I or II, or even further afield.


Thanks a lot Ross. We're very lucky to have some of the best tarot historians such as yourself right here.

I could only find reference to a Jewish Tarot in Kaplan 4, p. 108, and it's a recent creation, 2002.

It would be interesting to see what Waite considers "the worst side of so-called Practical Magic" contrasted with some of 'em out there nowadays. :)

Ross G Caldwell

I wonder if it were a pack designed after a Solomonic grimoire, like the Goetia.

Perhaps someone expert in Waite's biography could offer suggestions of who might have shown him the Tarot in question.


I wonder if it were a pack designed after a Solomonic grimoire, like the Goetia.

I was wondering the same thing...

didn't Levi relate the tarot to the Key of Soloman somewhere (including "quotes" that don't actually appear in any Soloman text I am aware of, which he appears to have made up), and create some pseudo-tarot of talismanic or sigil like images? I vaguely recall something along those lines...


Waite, in both Book of Black Magic and of Pacts (1898) and Book of Ceremonial Magic (1911), describes a grimoire entitled Back Pullet. Within it there are 22 talismans referred to as "Talismans of the Sage of the Pyramids." This is part of the instructions for the 11th one:

"To know thoughts, place it on your head, breathe upon the ring, and say: O TAROT, NIZAEL, ESTARNAS, TANTAREZ."​

Commenting on this in his 1911 book Waite says:

"There are thus twenty-two figures in all, and the inclusion of the word TAROT in the list of evoking terms is not without significance in this connection. A certain correspondence between the talismans and the Tarot Trumps is indeed unmistakable, at least in some instances, and seems to indicate that the work has a more definite occult aspect than would appear at first sight. It is the symbolism of the Trumps Major redirected towards the Powers of the Deep."​

This is probably it. Levi's Histoire de la Magie was first published in 1860. At this point Waite had only heard about it. In his 1898 book he gives the first-hand account he had talked about earlier wanting to give.

***EDIT*** Scratch that. Waite's first comment from The History of Magic which Ross posted above (Post #2) is from a footnote in Waite's translation of 1913, as Ross said. So it sounds like there he's talking about another Tarot pack. The one from Black Pullet could be another example.


I found the following --

"As regards packs, since the appearance of The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, I have inspected a Jewish Tarot which has not, I think, been printed. It represents the black magic of divination -- a most extraordinary series of designs, carrying messages of evil in every sign and symbol. It is, so to speak, a Grimoire Tarot, and if it is not of French origin, the inscriptions and readings are in the French language. I have seen only the Trumps Major and two or three of the lesser Court Cards, but I understand that there is at least one complete pack in existence." The Occult Review 1919 March, A.E. Waite, "The Tarot and Secret Tradition".


I must say I'm intrigued. Waite was a learned man, and he wouldn't have called it a "Jewish pack" for nothing. Were it anybody else, like a Medieval scholar it could have been anything (they tended to call anything they didn't understand either Jewish or Moor). The Black Pullet doesn't "feel" right, I doubt that was what he was talking about.


Fantastic find roppo. That whole article is packed with interesting info. It's here if anyone's interested.

I agree, the Black Pullet's not it. It seems to be a similar example of a "Grimoire Tarot" though, at least in Waite's analysis.