Campbell, Joseph; Roberts, Richard. (1979). Tarot Revelations. San Anselmo, CA: Vernal Equinox Press. 285 pp. + endnotes, index; illus.; softcover.
Roberts argues that the Tarot is an “alchemical revelation”, which depicts the descent and ascent of Hermes (Thoth). Specifically, he analyzes the Major Arcana of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck from this viewpoint, also drawing upon numerology, geometric patterns, color symbolism, astrology, Waite’s writings, and even Arthurian romance. Although his analysis includes much which is interesting and cogent, it also includes much which is speculative and forced. Often he apparently sees in the cards what he wants to see – rather than what its creators intended. Finally, do not be fooled: Campbell’s contribution to this book is restricted to a very brief and surprisingly uninspired essay which describes the “Journey of the Fool”.
Case, Paul Foster. (1934). The Book of Tokens: 22 Meditations on the Ageless Wisdom. Washington, D.C.: Tarota.Case, Paul Foster. (1947). The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages. Richmond, VA: Macoy. ii + 215 pp.; illus.; hardcover.
• Eighth Ed. (1974). Los Angeles: Builders of the Adytum. iv + 200 pp.; illus.; hardcover. The following review is based on this version.
Intermediate to Advanced TTT
Essentially, this short book comprises twenty-two brief poems, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet and corresponding Major Arcanum of the Tarot. Each Hebrew letter, speaking in the first person, reveals itself in Cabalistic, metaphorical terms, providing metaphysical insights, moral guidance and references to the Tarot. Although the work is compelling as an expression of seemingly timeless wisdom, it is frankly mediocre as poetry. Although well-meaning, the author sometimes couches his verse in sanctimonious archaicisms and too often uses a pedantic or overly pedagogic tone. However, many readers with an interest in correspondences between Cabala and Tarot, especially as taught by the Builders of the Adytum (BOTA), will discover much of value in this book. Case, the well-known occultist and founder of BOTA, also provides prose commentary on his more abstruse ideas. Still, a prior knowledge of Cabala will prepare the reader to appreciate this work best. The book is illustrated, in part, with the Major Arcana from the BOTA Tarot.
Intermediate to Advanced TTT
In this important exposition of the esoteric Tarot, Case presents each Major Arcanum in significant detail and explores it from Cabalistic, numerological, astrological, psychological, and other perspectives. He discusses the occult meaning of numbers and correspondences between Cabala and Tarot in fair detail, consistently relating them to the the Major Arcana. Additionally, he relates the cards to a fairly complex Cabalistic model which he terms the Cube of Space. To a much lesser extent, the author explores the Minor Arcana and how to use the cards for divination. Case discusses the history of Tarot very briefly; however, he unfortunately presents unsubstantiated legends as though they are factual history. Case specifically wrote this book, in large part, to explain the BOTA Tarot, among the first American Tarot decks, which was designed by him and drawn by Jessie Parke Burns. The book is illustrated, in part, with the Major Arcana from this classic deck.
Cavendish, Richard. (1967). The Black Arts. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. iii + 338 pp. + appendices, endnotes, biblio., index; illus.; hardcover.
Beginning to Intermediate T
The author’s tone and observations concerning Western or Hermetic magic recklessly range from sober to sensational. His first sentence betrays his frequent narrow scope and and abiding prejudice: “The driving force behind black magic is hunger for power.” Nevertheless, he often presents selected aspects of magic in an objective and sensitive manner. The book explores the magician’s view of the universe, numerology, Cabala, alchemy, astrology, and ritual magic. His presentation of basic natal astrology is particularly lucid. Additionally, he explores Tarot briefly by describing and interpreting the Major Arcana and relating them to Hermetic Cabala. On the other hand, he often dwells on lurid and sensational practices and beliefs, e.g., Satanism, and implies that they are integral or common to magic.
Cavendish, Richard. (1975). The Tarot. Great Britain: Michael Joseph.
• Republished (1986). London: Chancellor. ISBN 185152021X. 184 pp. + endnotes, biblio., index; illus.; hardcover. The following review is based on this version.
Beginning to Intermediate TTT
This title begins with a brief history of Tarot which is generally factual; however, it is dated, sketchy, and occasionally presents unsubstantiated legends almost as though they were true. The author explores each Major Arcanum in fair detail from occultist, historical, cultural, and other perspectives. Cavendish also explains ways to use the cards for divination; he suggests short divinatory meanings for all the cards (Major and Minor Arcana, upright and reversed) and a few spreads. However, his divinatory meanings are skimpy. Other topics include meditation and Cabala. A strength of this large-format book is its many illustrations, some lavish, from a wide range of decks, artistic works, and other sources.
Christian, Paul (pseud. for Jean Baptiste Pitois). (1870/1963). The History and Practice of Magic. New York: Citadel. xxx + 602 pp. + biblio., illus.; hardcover. Originally published as Histoire de la magie, du monde surnaturel et de la fatalité à travers les temps et les peuples.
Intermediate to Advanced T
This sprawling, poorly organized, and often unreliable work examines selected aspects of the history of magic, especially in the Old World, and presents in detail the author’s unorthodox approach to astrology, which it also relates to Tarot. Christian examines magic in barbarian and ancient cultures, especially the Egyptian, and even presents a fictional Egyptian ritual of initiation as factual, misleadingly attributing it to Iamblichus. In it, he describes twenty-two images, which obviously correspond to Tarot’s Major Arcana and influenced many later Tarotists. Returning to magic, Christian argues that it is compatible with Christianity and discusses its practice from the Middle Ages, through the Renaissance (e.g., Paracelsus), and into modern times (e.g., Freemasonry and Cagliostro). He offers comments and anecdotes on a great variety of loosely organized topics, including witches, divination, fairies, spells, the properties of gems, and grimoires. On the other hand, he leaves some important topics inadequately explored, e.g., alchemy.
Constant, Alphonse-Louis. See Eliphas Lévi.
 (1909). 777: Vel Prolegomena Symbolica ad Systemam Scepticomysticae Viae Explicandae, Fundamentum Hieroglyphicum Sanctissimorum Scientiae Summae. London: Walter Scott.
 (1909-1914). Gematria. Equinox. 1(5).
 (1909-1914). Sepher Sephiroth: Svb Figurâ D. Equinox 1(8).
• Collected, revised, and republished (1973). (With new title). (Israel Regardie, Ed.). The Qabalah of Aleister Crowley: Three Texts. New York: Samuel Weiser.
• Republished (1977). (With new title). (Israel Regardie, Ed.). 777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley: Including Gematria & Sepher Sephiroth. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser. ISBN 0877286701. x + 244 pp.; illus.; softcover. The following review is based on this version.
(Cabala – Hermetic)
This book comprises three originally independent publications by Crowley concerning aspects of Hermetic Cabala: the book 777 and two articles, Gematria and Sepher Sephiroth. The lengthiest of them, 777, is a detailed compendium, presented mostly in tabular format, of magical correspondences keyed to the ten Cabalististic Sephiroth and the twenty-two Paths between them. Categories include Hebrew God-names, astrology, Tarot, multiple color scales, gods from selected pantheons (Egyptian, Hindu, etc.), the “Forty Buddhist Meditations”, the “Kings and Princes of the Jinn”, precious stones, plants, animals, drugs, perfumes, magical weapons, the Greek alphabet, and many more. In the article Gematria, Crowley discusses in detail his approach to this form of numerological analysis based on Cabalistic principles. Sepher Sephiroth is a brief reference in which the author presents key esoteric and Cabalistic terms, their Hebrew translations, and their numeric values.
Crowley, Aleister; Sturges, Mary d’Este . (1913). Book Four. London: Wieland. Originally published under the authors’ pseudonyms: Frater Perdurabo and Soror Virakam, respectively.
• Republished (1980). York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser. ISBN 0877285136. 120 pp. + glossary; illus.; softcover. The following review is based on this version.
Intermediate to Advanced TG
This title comprises two principal sections: the first which discusses yoga; the second, which primarily discusses props appropriate to magic. With regard to yoga, Crowley briefly explores physical techniques (asana, pranayama, and mantrayoga), mental techniques, (pratyahara and dharana), mystical states, (dhyana and samadhi) and morality and ethics (yama and niyama). However, the presentation is rudimentary and fails to include significant practical instruction. With regard to magic, he eloquently discusses the setting and paraphernalia often associated with it, speaking from both both physical and symbolic perspectives. Crowley explores the temple and its furnishings, (including the magic circle, altar, and lamp), props (scourge, dagger, chain, holy oil and its container, wand, cup, sword, pantacle, bell, magic fire and censer, and magic book or record), and vestments (robe, crown, and lamen). According to an introductory note, Crowley dictated and d’Este recorded the text.
Crowley, Aleister. (1944). The Book of Thoth: A Short Essay on the Tarot of the Egyptians. Published in Equinox 3(5), under one of the author’s pseudonyms, The Master Therion.
• Republished (1969). York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser. ISBN 0877282684. xxii + 251 pp. + biblio.; illus.; softcover. The following review is based on this version.
This seminal work comprises a challenging, in-depth discussion of Tarot by one of the leading Tarotists and magi of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Crowley specifically wrote this book as a detailed guide to the Thoth Tarot Deck, which was designed by him and painted by Lady Frieda Harris. Many Tarotists rightly consider it the definitive guide to this important deck. If you regularly use it, you will eventually want to study this book. In it, the author relates Tarot to numerology, astrology, Cabala, the I Ching, mythology, religion, magic, and much more. Crowley presents each card in significant and rich detail, focusing on complex esoteric issues, and, to a lesser extent, divination. He also briefly discusses the origins of Tarot and its development by the Golden Dawn. A prior knowledge of Tarot, Occultism or Western Esotericism, and Crowley’s ideas will help one to understand and better appreciate this complex work. It includes numerous illustrations, including all cards from Thoth. Unfortunately, the vast majority of cards are reproduced by means of mediocre black and white halftones.
Crowley, Aleister. (1929). Magick in Theory and Practice. Paris: (no publisher).
• Republished (1991). Secaucus, NJ: Castle Books. ISBN 1555217664. xxvii + 205 pp. + extensive appendices (131 pp.); illus.; hardcover. The following review is based on this version.
This title comprises Crowley’s major statement on magic (spelled magick by him, in part, to differentiate it from stage magic). In this complex book for the advanced practitioner he seeks to recast magic as a common phenomenon, broadly defining it as the “Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”. Crowley covers a wide range of topics, e.g., basic theories, Cabala, yoga, meditation, clairvoyance, and divination (including briefly Tarot). He explores many facets of ritual, including the use of magical formulas as structural patterns, equipment, gesture, sacrifice, banishing, and invoking. He provides detailed instructions for selected rituals and argues that the main goal of magic is Invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel (i.e., mystical union with God). However, his ideas are sometimes difficult to follow, vague, and allusive. His writing ranges from lucid to opaque, from elegant to overwrought. With few exceptions, the author clearly assumes that the reader has a grounding in Occultism or Western Esotericism, preferably magic.
Crowley, Aleister. (1954). Magick Without Tears. Hampton, N.J.: Thelema Pub.
• Republished (1973). (Israel Regardie, Ed.). St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn.
• Republished (1991). (Israel Regardie, Ed.). Tempe, AZ: New Falcon. ISBN 1561840181. xxxi + 506 pp. + appendices, index; illus; softcover. The following review is based on this version.
Intermediate to Advanced TG
Essentially, this title comprises ninety-two letters from Crowley to an anonymous female student who at the time had minimal experience with magic. Writing in his final years, beginning in 1943, he often answers her numerous questions in a chatty and humorous manner. With occasional exceptions, he explains magic and its principal goal, mystical union with God, in down-to-earth terms which require little prior knowledge. However, modest exposure to magic or Occultism (Western Esotericism) will help the reader to appreciate the author’s insights. He devotes significant space to exploring additional relevant topics, e.g., Cabala, astrology, theology, yoga, Thelema (a religion-philosophy he founded), morality and ethics, critical thinking, personal character, and popular culture. However, for the most part, neither he nor his editor organize the letters in any recognizable way. Instead, they require that the reader make sense of the mass, which is unfortunate and sometimes confusing. In addition, the book would have benefitted from modest editorial cutting; occasionally passages or even entire letters are insipid and superficial. Still, the title will serve well many intermediate and even some advanced students of magic and related disciplines.
Cunningham, Scott. (1988). Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn. ISBN 0875421180 xvi + 187 pp. + appendices, glossary, biblio., index; illus.; softcover.
(Religion and Spirituality – Neopaganism)
This title is a simple introduction to Wicca (modern witchcraft) with special emphasis on the needs of the solitary practitioner. The author briefly explains rudimentary aspects of an eclectic form of Wicca: its relationship to shamanism, its deities (the Goddess and God), magic, tools or props, ritual (music, dance, gesture, the magic circle, and the altar), sabbaths (seasonal festivals), initiation, and reincarnation. He also presents brief exercises to help the beginner to build fluency in Wiccan rites and magic (e.g., breathing, meditation, and visualization) and suggests a ceremony of self-dedication. Cunningham, a committed Wiccan, devotes a significant portion of this title to the “The Standing Stones Book of Shadow”, a brief practical manual which includes suggested rituals and spells, how to use crystals for magic, brief introductions to herbs and runes, and even a few food recipes. His writing is clear and easy-to-understand. However, this book is so basic and often so simplistic, that some beginners will probably rapidly outgrow it.
Curtiss, Harriette Augusta, Curtiss, F. Homer. (1915). The Key of Destiny: Sequel to “The Key to the Universe”. New York: E.P. Dutton.
• Fourth Ed. (1983). North Hollywood, CA: Newcastle. ISBN 0878770674. xi + 322 pp. + endnotes, index; illus; softcover. The following review is based on this version.
Intermediate to Advanced T
(Occultism or Western Esotericism)
This work is the sequel to the authors’ similar The Key to the Universe: Or A Spiritual Interpretation of Numbers & Symbols (see immediately below). In this book, these committed esotericists and Christian mystics interpret numbers eleven through twenty-two. They analyze them from Theosophical, biblical, Cabalistic, and occult perspectives, with special emphasis on esoteric Christianity. Following the Tarot de Marseilles order (with the exception of insertion of the Fool between Judgment and the World), they briefly examine Trumps eleven through twenty-one and the Fool. However, the authors sometimes lack depth when discussing the Tarot and fail to integrate their views on it with with the rest of the text. Although their observations on numbers sometimes lack intellectual robustness and historical credibility, they present a rich, mystical interpretation of them, drawing upon numerous sources both ancient and relatively modern. Each Trump is illustrated from Oswald Wirth, a Tarot de Marseille, Saint-Germain, and a Rider-Waite-Smith deck.
Curtiss, Harriette Augusta, Curtiss, F. Homer. (1915). The Key to the Universe: Or A Spiritual Interpretation of Numbers & Symbols. San Francisco: The Curtiss Book Company.
• Republished (no date). Kilta, MT: Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1564597075. xiii + 375 pp. + appendices, index; illus; softcover.
Intermediate to Advanced T
(Occultism or Western Esotericism)
The authors, committed esotericists and Christian mystics, interpret numbers one through ten from Theosophical, biblical, Cabalistic, and occult perspectives, with special emphasis on esoteric Christianity. Following the Tarot de Marseilles order, they also briefly examine Trumps one through ten. However, the authors sometimes lack depth when discussing Tarot and sometimes fail to integrate their views on it with with the rest of the text. Although their observations on numbers sometimes lack intellectual robustness and historical credibility, they present a rich, mystical interpretation of them, drawing upon numerous sources both ancient and relatively modern. Each Trump is illustrated from Oswald Wirth, a Tarot de Marseille, Saint-Germain, and a Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Although this version of the book is durable and readable it is a photocopy. The authors later published The Key of Destiny: Sequel to “The Key to the Universe” (see directly above).
Decker, Ronald; Depaulis, Thierry; Dummett, Michael. (1996). A Wicked Pack of Cards: The Origins of the Occult Tarot. New York: St. Martin’s. ISBN 0312162944. xii + 262 pp. + endnotes, biblio., index; illus.; hardcover.
Intermediate to Advanced TTT
This meticulously researched and well documented history details the rise of the occult or esoteric Tarot in France from the late eighteen through early twentieth centuries. The authors discuss in detail such leading Tarotists as Gébelin, Etteilla, Lévi, Christian, and Papus. Their original and meticulous research into the life and achievements of Etteilla, who was perhaps the first professional cartomancer, is particularly insightful and absorbing. In addition, they discuss the nineteenth-century “sibyl”, Mlle. Le Normand, and the writer, Vaillant, who introduced the mistaken notion that Gypsies introduced Tarot to Europe. On the other hand, the authors are not committed to the esoteric Tarot, and are often highly critical of those who are. Illustrations are from cards from historic decks and other sources.
de Laurence, L.W. (1918). Illustrated Key to the Tarot: The Veil of Divination Illustrating the Greater & Lesser Arcana. Chicago: The de Laurence Company.
• Republished (no date). Kila, MT: Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0766100405. 163 pp. + biblio.; illus.; softcover. The following review is based on this version.
Zero Stars (see following comments).
This title is de Laurence’s shameless word-for-word plagiarism of A.E. Waite’s The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (q.v.). On a scale of one to four stars, it rates a black hole. Truly, de Laurence had no shame; he is infamous for plagiarizing other authors too. Note: this version of these stolen goods, republished by Kessinger for no good reason, is durable and readable; however, it is a photocopy.
de Valcourt-Vermont, Edgar. See Comte C. de Saint-Germain.
Douglas, Alfred. (1972). The Tarot: The Origins, Meaning and Uses of the Cards. New York: Taplinger.
• Republished (1973). New York: Penguin. 222 pp. + endnotes, biblio., appendix, index; illus.; softcover. The following review is based on this version.
This title is primarily a collection of divinatory meanings for each card (Major and Minor Arcana, upright and reversed), which are illustrated by David Sheridan, whose deck often resembles Rider-Waite-Smith. The author, to a lesser extent, discusses the history of Tarot cards and relates them to regular playing cards, the game of Tarot, Gnosticism, the Art of Memory, the Grail Hallows, Cabala, magic, and other aspects of Western Esotericism or Occultism. Still, the title is weak with regard to the latter. In addition, when the author discusses the history of Tarot he makes significant mistakes and uncritically presents unsubstantiated legends almost as though they were fact.
Dummett, Michael. (1980). The Game of Tarot: From Ferrara to Salt Lake City. London: Gerald Duckworth. ISBN 0715610147. xxxii + 585 pp. + index; illus.; hardcover.
In this scholarly volume, the author sets new, high standards for researching and reporting Tarot history. He painstakingly presents the history of the cards beginning with their first appearances in the early fifteenth century. Referencing numerous documents and extant decks, he cogently tells their story through the early twentieth century, correcting numerous misconceptions and discounting many unsupported speculations. Dummett dedicates a major portion of the book to detailed rules for a wide variety of games played with these cards. Although he examines the history of the occult or esoteric Tarot, including contributions by Gébelin, Etteilla, Lévi, Waite, Crowley, and others, he clearly detests the use of Tarot for occult or esoteric purposes. Additionally, with very few exceptions, he fails to explore the artistic or cultural sources of the cards’ traditional images and what they may have meant to their inventors and early users. Although the volume surprisingly lacks a bibliography the author uses numerous footnotes to document his many sources.
Dummett, Michael. (1986). The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards. New York: George Braziller. ISBN 0806711409. iv + 139 pp. + biblio.; illus.; hardcover.
Intermediate to Advanced TTT
The author presents a brief history of early Tarot with special emphasis on the Visconti-Sforza deck. He explores the origins of Tarot cards in 15th-century northern Italy and their spread to other parts of Europe. Dummett also briefly discusses games played with the cards and variations in the deck by geographic area. The bulk of the book, however, is devoted to attractive, color reproductions of all cards from the Visconti-Sforza deck at full size with brief commentary. Dummett’s analysis of the cards from a philosophical or esoteric point of view, however, is very limited.
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