Thoth Tarot, Crowley, and Lady Frieda Harris

Written by Jacob. Published on September 24th, 2013 at 19:30.

In the next few months I’ll be taking an in depth look at the Thoth Tarot deck designed by Aleister Crowley and painted by Lady Frieda Harris.

Aliester Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris created the Thoth Tarot deck

“The Thoth Tarot deck was designed by Aleister Crowley and painted by Lady Frieda Harris. The original intent was to correct and update the classic, medieval tarot, giving it a more esoteric aspect. However, the project grew into a restructuring of the traditional pictorial symbolism of the ancient wisdom. The three months of work anticipated extended for five years between 1938 and 1943.” 5

Crowley’s Thoth deck is quite the melting pot but the essential themes are Egyptian, Kabbalah, and Astrological with plenty of other attributions depending on the card and symbolism.

In this deck you will find that Crowley has modified the structure, naming convention, and pictorial symbolism originally found in medieval decks like the Universal Tarot or the Rider Waite decks. We see that major arcana card VIII has been swapped with card XI. The court cards are arranged to be balanced in gender using the titles of Princess (Page), Prince (Knight), and Knight (King) where Queen retains its original title. Major arcana card titles are The Magus (originally The Magician), The Priestess (The High Priestess), Adjustment (Justice card no. 11), Fortune (The Wheel of Fortune), Lust (Strength card no. 8), Art (Temperance), The Aeon (Judgement), and The Universe (The World). We will try to understand the reason behind these changes as we study this deck.

Crowley’s symbolism combined with Lady Harris’ work is packed full of representative imagery. Crowley was devout in associating colors based on zodiac and planetary associations which produced the color schemes for each card.

This deck is full of psychological and spiritual gems! Whether this deck is up your alley or not there’s something to learn from it which can be applied to your practice of the Tarot.

In my personal experience I would recommend using the Thoth deck to study from where reading may be much easier using other decks. It all depends on how you read, your experience, or general knowledge of the deck in use.