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Commentary On Ms Montalban’s Article

by Auntie Tarot      

Ms Montalban’s article entitled ‘Knowledge is Magic’ is very much of its time. Let me start, therefore, by bringing it up to date. In paragraph 1, Ms Montalban identifies the tarot as the Book of Thoth. In the nineteen-sixties, most occultists believed that tarot cards did in fact date back to the time of the ancient Egyptians when it, allegedly, formed part of their “mysteries of Thoth”, god of intelligence, knowledge and magick. Scholarship of the last quarter of the twentieth and the early years of the present century have proved that idea to be a pipe-dream at best. Occultism finds it hard to relinquish the theory entirely for the very good reason that it is useful peg on which to hang a whole mass of other propositions.

As is clear from her writings, Ms Montalban accepted the concept without reservation. In this article and the one that follows it, she refers over and over to Thoth, sometimes in his forms of Hermes and Mercury, connecting him to magick and to the tarot in particular. Although nowadays an Egyptian origin to the tarot cards is judged impossible, it is nevertheless true that, when the tarot deck is employed for magical purposes, including using it for divination, it comes under rulership of Thoth-Hermes-Mercury as lord of all reserved or sacred knowledge.

For Ms Montalban, then, the tarot is the Book of Thoth and “hidden in the pictures and symbolism is all the accumulated arcane knowledge of the ages”. None of this is true. On the other hand the tarot’s symbolism does hold the key to a vast number of occult mysteries, that of the accurate prediction of events being but one of them. The tarot was not, however, created to act as a repository for those mysteries. It was adopted by occultists of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, and they superimposed esoteric ideas upon it. The tarot was supremely fitted for the role of embodying the metaphysical concepts of the Western Mystery Tradition on account of it having twenty-two trump cards, four suits, four courts and ten spot cards in each suit, the numbers twenty-two, ten and four having great significance in that tradition.

Although the concepts didn’t become associated with the cards in the way occultists of Ms. Montalban’s era believed, they are now firmly attached to them, and the symbolism of individual cards can yield much information to those who know how to interpret the signs correctly.

Fortune-telling by means of the tarot didn’t interest Ms Montalban much at all. As she rightly says in paragraph 2, “the method that uses an ordinary pack of playing cards is much simpler to learn”. She was happier focusing on the magical side of the tarot. Before going into the details of that, she recommends McGregor Mathers’ book The Tarot. It sold in the sixties for seven shillings and six pence; today it is on sale through Amazon for £8.99. The bookshop given a namecheck by Ms M. is still trading, its name and address slightly altered: Watkins Books, 19-21 Cecil Court, London, WC2N 4EZ. As Mathers’ book is out of copywrite it is also available free of charge online.

It is a good book for the absolute beginner in tarot, but anyone beyond beginner stage will likely be disappointed in it. For those whose interest is primarily in reading the tarot, either from a psychological or a predictive standpoint, a better buy, in my opinion, is Rachel Pollack’s Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom (Element Books), $16.00.

As I have already said, the tarot is not synonymous with the legendary Book of Thoth. Setting that idea aside, it is certainly true (paragraph 3) that “knowledge, when properly applied, is magic, inasmuch as it can work wonders.” That pronouncement made, Ms M. is ready to get down to business.

She implies (paragraph 4) that the first step on the path to occult knowledge is nothing more that “really wanting” to access the magick and mystery embodied in the tarot’s symbolism. She is speaking of an inward urge that is far more than desire. Many have a nebulous wish to know about the tarot’s magical side but in the majority of cases this amounts to no more than a heightened curiosity. Where a desire is potent enough, it affects the will, and once the will is engaged, something has got to give, as the saying goes.

The would-be student of tarot who experiences this inner urge has set foot on the path leading to the gates of occult knowledge. The situation is the equivalent of finding oneself outside a major train station in any great metropolis – New York’s Central Station, London’s King’s Cross Station, the Gare de Lyon in Paris. To make further progress one needs to purchase a ticket. That ticket, for Ms M., is the recognition that “the pictographs of the Tarot are manifold”. Her meaning is that the truth of the tarot is not wholly encompassed in any one pack of tarot cards; students who attempt to uncover that truth by examining the pictorial symbols of one deck only are doomed to fail in their objective from the outset.

The number of decks Ms M. had in mind were relatively few: any Tarot de Marseille-type decks, the Waite-Smith cards, Oswald Wirth’s representations of the twenty-two major arcana, the B.O.T.A. cards, the Egyptian tarot published by the Church of Light, the Golden Dawn tarot, Crowley’s Thoth deck, and the Thomson-Leng cards Ms M. herself employed. There is now such a profusion of tarot decks that today’s student needs to treat Ms M.’s injunction with great caution. That said, a good deal of dross can be easily cleared away because so many modern decks are little more than clones of those Ms M. approved of. The Aquarian Tarot is basically a reimagining of the Waite-Smith designs, Rolla Nordic’s deck is a redrawing of the Insight Institute cards, which themselves are essentially a Marseille-type tarot. On the principle that “the nearer to the source, the purer the stream”, I would advise those newly arrived on the path to the tarot’s occult secrets to center their attentions on the Waite-Smith deck rather than any of its derivatives. Purchase a pack or buy a book, such as Rachel Pollack’s Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom mentioned above, that has pictures of all the Waite-Smith cards in it. Whenever you run across a new deck, whether freshly published or simply new to you, compare the pictures with those of the Waite-Smith pack. Where the former are a redrawing of the latter, it is a fairly safe conclusion that this is a deck you do not need to take into consideration. At the start, the raw beginner would do well to limit themselves to the decks listed above.

I agree with Ms M. (paragraph 4) that a complete exposition of the magical tarot has never been written and never could be written; its uses are too various and multiform. Magick is an art just as painting is an art; new modes of expression are constantly being found in both areas due to the need to keep abreast of an ever-changing society imbued with ever-changing mores and viewpoints.

Ms M. next proceeds to put her astute observation about the picture symbols of the tarot into practice. (Paragraph 5.) She chooses to illustrate her article with a representation of Trump 1 from the Tarot de Marseille, known in French as Le Bateleur and in English as The Juggler. She speaks first of the card as the Juggler and later (paragraph 6) as the Magician, taking pains to emphasize the “juggling” aspect of the trump. She makes the point that the figure on the Marseilles card juggles with what he knows, or thinks he knows, as well as with perceptions and beliefs. The Juggler has not yet learnt about the hidden powers behind Nature, for he is only one of the early, low-numbered, tarot Trumps. When he has accumulated greater knowledge, he will become the Magician, or Adept, “the instructed, aware and magically-powerful student of the occult.”

In paragraph 6, Ms M. promises that “We shall wind up this series by dealing with the Magician-Adept side of Trump No. 1, when we have come full circle through the mysteries of the trumps.” It is a promise she fails to keep. The series changes track after the third article. Practical magick and the Lore of the Path fall by the wayside and the focus from then on concerns more general applications of individual Trump’s energies. Perhaps the initial articles had served their purpose and those truly possessed by the urge to study the magick of the tarot had by then made contact with Ms M., who ran a correspondence course in the subject, and had found a home within a competent and functioning school of the mysteries. The quota of students filled for the time being, maybe there was no longer a need to trail this aspect of the tarot in her Prediction articles.

She ends paragraph 6 by returning the reader to the Juggler aspect of Trump 1, as this is the facet of the card she wishes to explore in this article.

Paragraph 7 is brief but vital. As Niccolo Machiavelli said, “A sign of intelligence is an awareness of one’s own ignorance.” In Ms M.’s philosophy, the ordinary person who wishes to go looking for esoteric wisdom must first admit their own ignorance of the subject. If you don’t know how to write shorthand but desire to learn how to do so, you can sign up for a course. Alternatively, you can attempt to learn the subject from a book, though the self-teaching route is generally a more protracted one than the learning-in-class route as it is subject to diversions and delays. When a person tutoring themselves encounters a problem, some fact they don’t comprehend shall we say, they have to wait until the book containing the explanation they require comes into their hands, and that could take years. On the other hand, a student with a teacher can take their confusion to somebody wise in the ways of the subject they have chosen to study and receive from that person a reasonable explanation of whatever it was that was troubling them. Whichever way anyone reading Ms M.’s article decides to proceed, certain preparatory mental adjustments need to be made.

“The first step,” Ms M. tells us (paragraph 8), “is to acquire a balanced mind” about the journey one is about to undertake, continuing, “from the Tarot point of view it is mental balance and dexterity that is implied.”

In order to reach this stage, one must set aside all preconceived ideas one has about magick. Not all magick is black magick, she asserts. There is such a thing as black magick but its practitioners are almost as scarce as hen’s teeth. The greater proportion of magick performed in the world is a form of theurgy, the intention of which is to bring the worker of magick into a closer alignment with the gods.

Horror films and novels about Satanist groups are responsible for the mistaken beliefs lodged in the mind of the general public concerning the widespread prevalence of black magick in the world. On the other hand, where the public get the idea from that magical powers “can be obtained with no effort or study” is hard to imagine. It is probably part of the same mindset that believes that absolutely anyone can sing well enough to fill the Hollywood Bowl to capacity three nights in succession before embarking on a sold-out world tour. Singing is a natural capacity, so this form of reasoning goes, and therefore anyone can do it; all one needs are the breaks, a shot of tv exposure on America’s Got Talent and hey presto! one is the next Jay-Z or Beyoncé. The same logic applies in the field of magick, fed by a misunderstanding of tenets such as “magick is as much a part of you as your bloodstream.” In truth, becoming an adept takes as much study and effort, in the form of repetitive practice, as the acquirement of any other skill. Tennis players don’t just hit a ball with a high degree of accuracy; they bone up on the science of the game, how balls react on different playing surfaces, how the perfect top spin is produced and all the technical side of the sport. Bear in mind the connection between the words ‘technical’ and ‘technique’. Believe me, magical powers are only obtained through effort and study.

Another myth firmly rooted in some minds is that adepts are free of “the limitations and trials that life imposes on us all”. They are not, for the simple reason that life is a school; we are all here on Earth to learn, which is why Ms M. concludes the paragraph with the words: “Life is experience; from experience comes wisdom. Wisdom is magic, when you learn to use it.”

Having set one’s misconceptions aside by determining to study magick with an open mind, testing the teaching offered step by step, the next lesson the apprentice magician needs to absorb is that talking about one’s magical training with outsiders is a fruitless activity, generally speaking. As Ms M. says (paragraph 9), the more advanced initiates have their own magical assignments to work on and will have little inclination to discuss the topic with raw beginners. There are teachers available and it is not too difficult to discover who they are and what they have to offer. But not every adept chooses to teach, and where teaching is available it is frequently set at a fairly basic level. The magical beginner has two stark choices: tutor themselves or latch on to someone willing to instruct them in its fundamentals.

Outside of the esoteric community, there is usually little point discussing magick with those who either know nothing about it or have their heads stuffed full of the misapprehension that it is the work of the devil. Ms M.’s injunction notwithstanding, it is most often through bitter experience that the wise student learns to keep what they learn to themselves. (Paragraph 10.) This lesson is encapsulated in “the symbolism of the little seal on the right-hand side of the Juggler diagram,” a representation of “the Egyptian God of Silence, called Harpocrates, seated on the lotus of knowledge, with his finger to his lips.”


Putting aside for now Ms M.’s lurid claims of what happened in former times to those who broke their esoteric vows (paragraph 11), she certainly has something valid to say about knowledge and power. And about foolishness, too. Ms M had an old school attitude to the tarot Fool. To her the card was a symbol of folly plain and simple and that view permeates the latter part of the current article. Elsewhere she had written that we all start out as the tarot Fool. Some of us, coming in contact with the world of occultism, leave the path of folly and, by setting foot on the road to magical attainment, transition from The Fool, Trump 0, to The Magician, Trump 1.

In doing so, the person gains knowledge and with knowledge comes power. Those occult schools that are genuine repositories of magical wisdom put a good deal of energy into discouraging or deflecting fools from their portals. Ms M. gives the reason in splendid synopsis: “power . . . put into the hands of fools, can be very dangerous. Fools will not be taught, cannot learn, and will not be parted from their folly. Moreover, they are unscrupulous. Their own folly makes them so.”

As Ms M. says in paragraph 12, “Even today, any occult school that teaches things of worth asks for a pledge of secrecy from its students. They still follow the old system, because they have found it is good.”

And with that, Ms M. returns to her main theme, silence. “Nobody can teach you when to talk, but you can learn not to talk . . . until you have attained Adept degree, when, oddly enough, you won’t want to talk about it!”

Ms M. was an expert at interpreting symbolism. Everything I know of that subject, I learnt from her. She puts her skills to good use in paragraphs 13 and 14 when she dissects the image she has attached to her article. I recommend that you study the illustration and then read those paragraphs again, for by doing so you will learn an immense amount about how pictographs are to be interpreted.

Now into the final furlong, Ms M. notes (paragraph 15) that if the reader has made it this far into the article they are definitely attracted to the occult path and moreover feel the need to learn the lore and laws of magick. That being so, she reminds us (paragraph 16) that the most powerful weapon we possess is our minds, and “An instructed mind is a power-house that can sway events and forces.”

Lastly, harking back to the idea of Faustian pacts with the devil, she asserts that the only pact the magician makes is with her- or himself. “The pact is that you will learn, and not abuse what you learn.” This cannot be stressed strongly enough. Abuse of occult knowledge leads to the revocation of magical powers and a the unfolding of a situation in which the magician’s clairvoyance is clouded over and their ability to sway invisible forces is subtly sidelined by the Higher Powers until they are back on a par with the uninitiated and those ‘fools’ who aren’t even aware that another, invisible world even exists.

But for the student starting out for the first time on the path to occult knowledge, Ms M.’s uplifting message is: “If you stretch out your hand from the Pit of Ignorance, the God of Knowledge will grasp it.” And she promises (in paragraphs 18 and 19) to tell us more about this process in her next article.

The Magical Tarot

Two articles by Madeline Montalban with commentary

by Auntie Tarot      

While I am not in a position to stage a come-back just yet, I haven’t been idle. In moments I’ve had to myself, I’ve continued to delve deeper into the lore of the tarot. One gem of a discovery I made consisted of two articles by Madeline Montalban on the tarot, magic, and the approaches made by the tutelary deity of the tarot deck, the Egyptian god Thoth, to those would-be students of the occult uses of the cards. These articles start off a series that Ms Montalban wrote devoted to the Trumps. Unfortunately, after the second one, Ms M. shifts her focus onto the wisdom lying behind the cards and ceases to describe the specific steps of spiritual development to which each individual Trump corresponds. Nevertheless, because what she has written sheds light on the initiatory process, whether yoked to the tarot or not, and because information of this sort is not often given out, I thought it would be a service to tarot students interested in setting out upon the magical path to have the information available to them.

First I will post Ms Montalban’s preliminary article. For convenience of reference, I have numbered the paragraphs. In a day or so, I will post my own comments and explanations of the beliefs and concepts Ms M. presents in this article. I suggest you read the article and think about its contents before turning to my exposition. Later on I will post the second article followed by my commentary on that too.

After that, I will be returning to the back-seat again, leaving Tony Willis to continue his admirable curatorship of the blog.

Knowledge is Magic: Beginning of a new series on The Tarot
by Madeline Montalban    

1. With this article I am starting a new series on the Tarot; one which is designed to answer the hundreds of questions that have been put to me over the years I have writing on the subject. The new series will deal with the Tarot in its aspect as the Book of Thoth, for that is what it is. Hidden in the pictures and symbolism is all the accumulated arcane knowledge of the ages, for Thoth was the name of the ancient Egyptian Recorder, the preserver of all knowledge, both arcane and otherwise.

2. Because this is a mighty study we are all beginning together. I am not going to deal with the Tarot from the predictive point of view. It is, and always has been, for more than a mere fortune-telling device. For looking into the future, the method that uses an ordinary pack of playing cards is much simpler to learn than is the Tarot. Books and methods abound on reading the Tarot as a predictive medium. Those who just want to study it for this purpose are recommended to a booklet called The Tarot, written by McGregor Mathers, which can be supplied by John Watkins of 21 Cecil Court, London, E.C.2, price 7/6. This is one of the most comprehensive and cheapest books on the fortune-telling side of the Tarot and, having recommended it. I feel that for the purpose of this series of Tarot articles we can turn to the magic of the Tarot itself.

3. For the Book of Thoth is the book of knowledge, and knowledge, when properly applied, is magic, inasmuch as it can work wonders.

4. The person who really wants to understand the magic and mystery of the Tarot has taken the first step to gaining this wisdom and magical knowledge. The second step is to be aware that the pictographs of the Tarot are manifold; as is its wisdom. There is no such thing as a complete book on the magical side of the Tarot in existence. It could not be contained in one book, or a hundred; a whole library would be needed to give even any idea of its immensity.

You start as a fool

5. As a beginner wanting to understand the magic power of the Tarot; you are represented by Trump No. 1, or the Juggler. The name “juggler” is applied to the aspect of Trump 1 that represents an uninstructed person (sometimes called the Fool). He is trying to “juggle” with what he knows about life and the hidden powers within himself, some good, some evil, which can cause him to make mistakes, and through them come to wisdom.

6. The other name for Trump No. 1 is The Magician, or Adept, which represents the instructed, aware and magically-powerful student of the occult who has learned of the powers behind Nature, its laws and lore, and the Universe itself, and who has the wisdom to apply them. We shall wind up this series by dealing with the Magician-Adept side of Trump No. 1, when we have come full circle through the mysteries of the trumps. But we must begin at rock bottom, by dealing with the lesser side of the trump, known as The Juggler, and by finding out what he represents.

7. Briefly he stands for the curious and inquiring mind that is desirous of leaning the magic of the Tarot, but which admits that it knows nothing. This is the beginning of all magical learning. To admit you know nothing is the beginning of wisdom.

Not an escape from life

8. The first step is to acquire a balanced mind about it. All juggling implies balance and dexterity, and from the Tarot point of view it is mental balance and dexterity that is implied. So you must begin by laying aide all preconceived notions that magic is necessarily black magic, that powers can be obtained with no effort or study, or that even the knowledge of an Adept will free you from the limitations and trials that life imposes on us all. It will not. Life is experience; from experience comes wisdom. Wisdom is magic, when you learn to use it.

9. Again, as the beginner, the juggler with words, ideas, conceptions and symbols, you must avoid falling into a very obvious trap; that of wanting to talk about it when you stumble on a secret of importance. Conversational get-togethers on the subject of magic, when the student is in the initial stages, do far more harm than good. Nobody who knows a great deal more than you do will want to talk to you about it. Those who know less, or just the same amount, have nothing of value to contribute.


10. The wise student must learn to keep what he learns to himself. This is the symbolism of the little seal on the right-hand side of the Juggler diagram. It represents the Egyptian God of Silence, called Harpocrates, seated on the lotus of knowledge, with his finger to his lips.

Learn not to talk

11. In ancient days the student occultist was bound to silence by a series of most sacred and terrible vows, and his life was at stake if he revealed what he learned. And for a good reason. Knowledge and power, if put into the hands of fools, can be very dangerous. Fools will not be taught, cannot learn, and will not be parted from their folly. Moreover, they are unscrupulous. Their own folly makes them so.

12. Even today, any occult school that teaches things of worth asks for a pledge of secrecy from its students. They still follow the old system, because they have found it is good. Nobody can teach you when to talk, but you can learn not to talk . . . until you have attained Adept degree, when, oddly enough, you won’t want to talk about it!

13. The seal on the left-hand side of the Juggler represents Hermes, or Mercury, god of communications, intelligence and magic, whose name in ancient Egypt was Thoth. He bears in his hand the winged caduceus, representing mental, spiritual and physical expansion, and he is raising from the Pit of Ignorance the psyche, or soul, always represented as a female figure.

14. Taken together the whole pictograph means: “You, the beginner, the Juggler, are about to learn the mysteries and powers that lie within you, and which will emerge as the result of an instructed mind. To this end you are enjoined to silence. Reflect upon what you learn, but do not talk about it. Then the God of Wisdom and Magic will lift your soul from the pit of ignorance and materialism. With this promise to yourself, and the will to learn, you have embarked upon a path that winds ever upwards, and when you reach the summit you can understand the mysteries of the Gods.”

Your mind as power-house

15. It sounds a tall promise, but is no more than a fact. If you have read this far, you are already interested, which means that you feel the need for such lore and learning.

16. The most powerful weapon you have in your armoury is your mind. Again, this is represented by Hermes-Mercury-Thoth. An uninstructed mind is one without power to guide its owner through the labyrinth of life. An instructed mind is a power-house that can sway events and forces.

17. All magic, or occult force, works upon mental power allied to knowledge. It is not a matter of magic circles and diagrams, of mystic signs and strange pacts. Those are but the methods by which you learn. The only pact you make is with yourself and the creative power that brought you into being. The pact is that you will learn, and not abuse what you learn. That you will value knowledge and applied mind-force, and realize that by so doing you can improve not only your own lot, but that of others about you.

18. If you stretch out your hand from the Pit of Ignorance, the God of Knowledge will grasp it, and lead you by simple but enthralling ways to possession of powers you did not know existed.

19. In the next article, I will tell you of the subtle approaches that Thoth, Recorder and God of Knowledge, will make to you.

[First published in Prediction, Oct. 1965]

A Guest Appearance

by Tony Willis

In a day or two, Auntie Tarot will be returning to the blog for a short time only. She has dug out two articles by the redoubtable British tarot expert Madeline Montalban that explain how the path to magick opens up to those students of the Tarot who choose to delve deeper into the science of metaphysics via the medium of the cards. Auntie Tarot has written commentaries on Ms Montalban’s articles and they will be posted to the blog along with the original articles themselves.

Once these articles and Auntie Tarot’s commentaries upon them have been published, Auntie Tarot will be taking a back seat once again and I will be starting a new series of posts concentrating on divination, focusing mainly on the minor arcana.

alephtrt7Cups   alephtrtNinePence   swords 7 tdm

cups 10  rods 10  early9Rods

Boris Johnson in 2020

by Tony Willis

I live in the UK. At the end of January this year, the UK will leave the European Union, a momentous modification of the nation’s destiny. Over New Year I began to wonder what 2020 would bring for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He is a most unusual person to hold that office. He is known for his many affairs; a jibe frequently aimed at him by political commentators is: “We don’t know how many children he has.” He is widely held to be untruthful and many say he misrepresented Brexit to the British public in the 2016 referendum. And yet the Conservative party elected him as their leader and, at the December 2019 elections, the party won a stonking majority in the House of Commons. There are many who view that election as a second referendum. As well they might. Mr Johnson went into the election under the battel-flag “Let’s Get Brexit Done.” This earned him an 80-seat majority. The Liberal Democrats presented themselves as the party that would keep the UK in the EU. As a result, the LibDems’ share of the vote diminished by a couple of points and the party leader lost her seat in Parliament.

The Conservatives are now the most powerful party in British politics. But I have always felt that Mr Johnson was elected party leader on a stop-gap basis. It seemed to me that, once he had navigated the country out of the EU, the party would dump him at the first convenient moment. With that thought in mind, I decided to ask the tarot what the first three months of 2020 held for him.

                                          mmTarot 12

mmTarot 11mmTarot 14mmTarot 21

                                         mmTarot 05

The Hanged Man in the first position reveals that, at the start of the period under consideration, Mr Johnson will be concentrating mainly on duty. He will no doubt wish to see not only that his slogan “Get Brexit Done” is fulfilled but also that workable plans for a new trade agreement between the UK and the EU are drawn up, because Mr Johnson wants the details of the trade agreement settled by the end of the year. At that point, the UK would be “out” of the EU in every sense of the word, and that is the conclusion Mr Johnson wants.

That he is also conscious of the need for the deep rifts within the nation caused by the Brexit debate to be healed is signified by the presence of The Hierophant in second position. The Hierophant, insofar as he is a priest, represents priestly functions, one of which is the authority to perform a marriage service. In this case, the “union” Trump 5 represents is the making whole of the nation. Mr Johnson spoke of this on January 1st, after I had made my divination, and I have no reason to believe he was insincere when he expressed this sentiment.

In third place we find Strength, implying that Mr Johnson will keep to the program he has laid down for himself, since the card signifies both resolution and determination, and the ability to keep on keeping on. As The World lies in fourth position we can deduce that this strategy will yield outstanding results for him, though the end of the three month period sees him treading a middle way between extreme Conservative views on the one hand and on the other the fervent desire of the European Union not to appear to have dealt too leniently with the UK over “the divorce settlement”.

I must confess that I am no supporter of Mr Johnson. In my unregenerated state I continue to hope that the Conservative party will make use of him while ever it suits them do so and then drop him like the proverbial hot potato the second they feel certain they can manage well enough without him. The reading covering Mr Johnson’s first three months of 2020 doesn’t predict his fall from grace and that left me feeling chagrined. I, therefore, asked the tarot what the second three months of 2020 held for the UK’s Prime Minister.

                                          mmTarot 21

mmTarot 01mmTarot 18mmTarot 19

                                           mmTarot 05

The World in first place echoes its placement in the previous reading (where it occupies fourth position). Evidently, Mr Johnson remains Fortune’s darling at the commencement of the year’s second quarter. Moreover, Trump 5, The Hierophant, continues to occupy the second position in the spread. Those of a religious disposition may care to ponder the higher meaning of the Trump: it signifies the Will of God. Although I have an antipathy to Mr Johnson, being out of tune with his political stance as well as disinclined to believe a single word he says (based on his track record), I know enough of the way occult forces work to acknowledge that the instrument of Divine Will does not have to be the tee-total vegetarian. Winston Churchill (another man whose politics I disagree with) was neither tee-total nor a vegetarian but he brought the light of hope to Britain in its darkest hour and saw the nation through the horrors of the Second World War. I have come to believe that it is the UK’s destiny, for good or ill, to leave the EU. If I am right, then the Higher Powers will keep Mr Johnson in power until that divorce is complete down to the last detail. This may well be the message of Trump 5’s appearance in second place in both readings.

The Moon in third place predicts a period of relative quite between April and July. Trump 18 rules all that is hidden and so we may adduce that, while headway is being made behind the scenes, the general public will hear little of how negotiations are progressing between the UK and the EU. ‘Moon periods’ tend to be both complicated and demanding, and so we can expect talks to be hard fought and exhausting. The presence of The Sun in the next position, however, suggests that those talks will, all the while, be tending in the direction of agreement in such a way that both parties feel they have gained more than they have given away.

The beginning of July sees Mr Johnson in a commanding position in relation to domestic policy, still popular with his supporters, those who voted Conservative back in December in the hope that Mr Johnson would indeed “Get Brexit Done”. This is no great revelation, it is a prediction one would expect to see in the reading. Mr Johnson has such a huge majority, it would take a revolution to unseat him. But what The Magician in final place confirms to us is that Mr Johnson is a man of action, and not one to let the grass grow under his feet while he is in possession of such a commanding majority. He will be making reforms on the home front (rumblings about which are already audible) at the same time as negotiations are going on, slowly but surely, with the European Union.

I still don’t have the answer I wanted to see – Boris Johnson ousted as leader of the Conservative Party – but I was overoptimistic in expecting that result to occur in the first half of 2020. Mr Johnson wants the UK to fully extricated itself from the EU by December 31st this year. Rationally, no attempt to get rid of him is going to take place in 2020. I shall have to wait another year at least before I see my personal wishes for the political scene in the UK to come true. In the meantime, I shall just have to be patient.

R-W-S Images/G.D. Meanings 4

by Tony Willis            

The Pentacles Spot Cards

Waite tells us that on the Waite-Smith 2 of Pentacles we find depicted the following: “A young man in the act of dancing, has a pentacle in either hand, and they are joined by that endless cord which is like the number eight reversed.” The number eight represented here is more on its side, assuming the form of the lemniscate. Waite, for reasons of his own, doesn’t make the connection explicit. The sea behind the young man is greatly disturbed, the ships upon it tossed as though by a tempest.

To the G.D. this card was a symbol of Change, described variously as Harmonious Change or a Pleasant Change. It might also signify “visit to friends, and the like” which sounds very much like a break in routine.

However, the Waite-Smith image hardly suggests Harmonious Change nor does it indicate any of the other meanings the Golden Dawn has for the card. Although the image does hint at Change, from the visual indications it would appear to be an extremely precarious change that is being forecast; or one that is difficult to sustain, if the young man is presumed to be juggling with the coins, for if that is the case, he might at any moment fumble one.

2-of-pentacles-rider-waite-tarot       pentacles 3

The image on the 3 of Pentacles presents us with an ecclesiastical setting. A stone mason is working on an arch while near at hand a monk and another man who holds architectural plans are in conference. In the upper part of the card, three pentacles have been carved into the fabric of the building as decoration.

The G.D. meanings for the card are: “Business, paid employment. Commercial transactions. The realisation and increase of material things, increase of substance or influence, cleverness in business, commencement of a matter to be established later.” Furthermore, they assign it the title Lord of Material Works, which Dion Fortune helpfully translates into "activity on the plane of form."

It is hard to see any part of the Golden Dawn meanings reflected in the Waite-Smith image unless it be Paid Employment, for one can assume that the stone mason will be remunerated for his labor. In fact, so far as the Golden Dawn meanings are concerned, the symbolism goes no further than depicting the elementary concept of Material Works; the rest – paid employment, commencement of a matter to be established later, et al – have all gone into the discard.

Waite describes the 4 of Pentacles in these words: “A crowned figure, having a pentacle over his crown, clasps another with hands and arms; two pentacles are under his feet. He holds to that which he has.”

In G.D. terms, the card signifies: “Gain of money and/or influence. A gift or present. Skill in directing material forces. Assured material gain.” They give it the title Lord of Earthly Power. The image speaks well enough of the latter meaning (earthly power), in the sense that money talks and the figure on the card appears to be brimming over with coins. But visually the crowned individual is already in possession of money and the influence that goes with great wealth whereas the G.D. meaning for the card is of money and influence coming to the inquirer; and at the same time, the idea of a Present heading the inquirer’s way or of Skill in directing material forces are not to be detected in the picture the Waite-Smith deck offers us.

pentacles 4      pentacles 5

Waite’s brief assessment of the image on the 5 of Pentacles is: “Two mendicants in a snow-storm pass a lighted casement.” One of the beggars is a cripple. In the building they are passing is a stained-glass window wherein representations of five pentacles and three roses can be discerned.

The G.D. named the card Lord of Material Trouble and the Waite-Smith image sums up that phrase admirably. However, as well the title of the card, the G.D. assigned a host of meanings to the 5 of Pentacles when appearing as part of a divination: “Loss of profession; loss of business (meaning loss of trade). Monetary anxiety. Loss of money or position. Trouble concerning material things. When very well dignified: money regained after severe toil and labour.” This last, more positive, meaning for the card cannot be read from the Waite-Smith design. And most of the other significances – loss of profession, business losses, trouble concerning material things, which can point to such matters as hold-ups with property repairs – though they could be intuited by the reader who has spent time contemplating the image, are notions one would struggle to arrive at unless one was already conversant with the meanings the G.D. assigned to the card.

The 6 of Pentacles bears an image Waite describes as follows: “A person in the guise of a merchant weighs money in a pair of scales and distributes it to the needy and distressed. It is a testimony to his own success in life, as well as to his goodness of heart.”

As with the previous card, the ascribed image illustrates the G.D. title for the 6 of Pentacles – Lord of Material Success – aptly if crudely. The meanings the G.D. associated with the card are: “Material Success, (reworded as success in material things). Prosperity in business. Gain in material undertakings.”

Yet the symbolism of the Waite-Smith image points in another direction, to receipt of money, possibly as a gift or loan, though these eventualities are not in line with the significances put forward by the Golden Dawn. Most of the Golden Dawn meanings for the card are not highlighted by the vignette on the 6 of Pentacles, Prosperity in Business and Gain in Material Undertakings, for instance. Particularly noticeable by its absence is the latter – Gain in Material Undertakings – since the beggars appear to have expended no effort in order to obtain the coins they receive. The Waite-Smith 6 of Pentacles seems more a card of charity or reliance on the goodwill of others, and that is a common way I see the card being interpreted in readings nowadays.

6 pentacles w-s     pentacles 7

In the 7 of Pentacles we have “A young man, leaning on his staff, looks intently at seven pentacles attached to a clump of greenery on his right; one would say that these were his treasures and that his heart was there.” Or so Waite describes it in The Key to the Tarot.

The Golden Dawn understood the card to represent: “Unprofitable speculations or employments; also honorary work un­dertaken for the love of it, and without desire of reward. Little gain for much labour. Promises of success unfulfilled. Loss of apparently promis­ing fortune. Some­times it denotes slight and isolated gains with no fruits resulting therefrom, and of no further account, though seeming to promise well.” This is a wide range of meanings, hardly any of which can be drawn out from the Waite-Smith image. When this card was designed, Waite evidently had it in mind to illustrate other meanings than those advanced by the G.D. One of his sources gives the meanings for the 7 of Pentacles as “money, business, barter.” These are suggested by the picture: if Pentacles are taken as synonymous with coins, then money is growing on plant the young man is regarding so intently; and if the Pentacles are thought of as the fruit of the tree then the farmer can exchange that fruit for money or other goods, the first action being good business, the second a transaction based on the barter system. All well and good so long as one subscribes to those particular meanings for the card. But they are not the G.D. meanings and nor are they the other types of meaning Waite tells us were associated with the card in his day, these being: altercation and quarrel by one faction and innocence, ingenuity and purgation by another.

What is the Waite-Smith image assigned to the 8 of Pentacles? An artisan in his workshop engraves a pentagram on a circular piece of metal (though Waite declares it to be stone). Six other examples of his handiwork hang on the wooden doorframe. Another stands by his workbench and an eighth lies on the floor beside him.

As well as naming the card Lord of Prudence, the G.D. gave it the meanings: “Skill, prudence, but also artfulness and cunning (depending on the cards associated with it.) Gain of ready money in small sums. Skill in material affairs.” The image aptly illustrates the ideas Skill and Artfulness, where the latter does not encompass Cunning, Trickery. It also conveys proficiency in practical matters, a meaning the astute taromancer will be able to convert into the G.D.’s “skill in material affairs”, by which the Order intended to be understood “cleverness with money, generally, by not always, in a business context”. What is not conveyed by the Waite-Smith picture are the meanings “gain of ready money in small sums”, “prudence”, and the negative side of the card, “cunning”.

pentacles 8     pentacles 9

For the 9 of Pentacles, the Waite-Smith deck presents us with the following image: “A woman with a bird upon her wrist, stands amidst a great abundance of grapevines in the garden of a manorial house. It is a wide domain, suggesting plenty in all things. Possibly it is her own possession and testifies to material well-being.”

Without the aid of Waite’s description, the image on its own does not bring to mind any of the approved Golden Dawn meanings: “Much increase of money or of goods. Complete realisation of material gain. Inheritance, legacy.” The woman on the card is not shown about to receive valuables or a legacy. On the contrary she appears to be already in receipt of money or something of worth as she is clearly a lady of leisure.

10 pentacles w-s

Waite describes the image on the 10 of Pentacles in this way: “A man and woman beneath an archway which gives entrance to a house and domain. They are accompanied by a child, who looks curiously at two dogs accosting an ancient personage seated in the foreground. The child’s hand is on one of them.” The obscurantist in Waite does not allow him to pass on to his readers the information that, superimposed on the scene, are ten pentacles set out so as to represent the spheres of the Tree of Life.

To the G.D., the card was the Lord of Wealth and denoted “Riches and wealth. Business prospers. Completion of material gain and fortune, but nothing beyond.” While, so long as one knows that the card’s overall meaning is Wealth, one can use the Waite-Smith image as a mnemonic to call to mind the interleaved concepts of Riches, Wealth and Material Prosperity, this nexus of ideas could surely have been better represented. Why did Waite choose this image, or, if it emanates from the imagination of Pamela Coleman Smith’s, on what grounds did Waite approve it? Waite is silent on this point.

While allowing Gain and Wealth as possible meanings for the card in The Key to the Tarot, Waite also furnishes his reader with other meanings for the card that vary between “family matters, archives, extraction, [and] the abode of the family”, or simply a house or dwelling. Of these family matters, the family home or more abstractly a house can be drawn out from the illustration. So can gain and wealth if the suit symbols are read in an elementary way; for where Pentacles stand in place of Coins, the 10 of Coins is the highest number of coins available in the deck and therefore epitomizes financial abundance. These various ways of looking at the symbolism still leave “archives” and “extraction” out in the cold.


My objective in this article has been to dispel the illusion some people are under that the illustrations on the Waite-Smith spot cards reflect the meanings the Golden Dawn assigned to those cards. Due to the fact that Waite was a member of the Golden Dawn (before going on to found his own mystical order), and not only Waite, but Pamela Coleman Smith as well, it is sometimes assumed that the pictures must somehow convey the G.D. significances. As we have seen, this is hardly ever the case. The furthest the pictures go in that direction is that several of them epitomize the G.D.’s mystical title for the card – the 10of Wands, 2 of Cups, 3 of Swords, and 4 and 5 of Pentacles for example – even if one is required to scrutinize the image with great thoroughness in order to find the link.

Waite made the decision to have the illustrations for the spot cards encompass as many disparate meanings as possible. Goodness knows why. There could be many reasons for his decision and I am not going to speculate. What is certain is that this was his intention. There is a humungous problem with this approach – there are only so many incongruent meanings that can be incorporated into a single image. The strategy is most effective where the meanings agree or at least are consonant. According to my count, this occurs only eight times among the thirty-six spots. The best examples are the 8 of Pentacles and the 4 of Swords. For the former, Waite lists these meanings: “Work, employment, commission [a commission to carry out a piece of work], craftsman, skill in craft and business.” All these attributes are connoted by the picture on the Waite-Smith card or can be extracted from it with relative ease. For the latter card, Waite supplies the meanings: “Vigilance, retreat, solitude, hermit’s repose, exile, tomb and coffin.” Of these, “vigilance” is the most obscure – until one links the representation of a knight atop the tomb with the vigil every candidate for the accolade was expected to carry out overnight in a church back in the days of chivalry. Sure, one has to come at this meaning by a convoluted thought process, but the other meanings are pretty much embedded in the details of the picture and therefore come to mind almost instantly.

Although all this goes out of the window when it come to reversals. In Waite’s day, a spot card’s meaning in reverse might have nothing to do with its upright meaning. Note, in this regard, that the 8 of Pentacles in reverse was taken to signify, variously, “voided ambition, vanity, cupidity, extraction, usury.” While Vanity, Cupidity, Extraction and Usury are all money-oriented terms, they are neither the opposite of the upright meanings nor extensions of them. The same condition pertains in the case of the 4 of Swords, where the reversed meanings given by Waite are “Wise administration, circumspection, economy, avarice, precaution, testament.” Evidently one tarot savant saw the 4 of Swords as a reflection of The Hermit card from the Major Arcana. This accounts for the 4 of Swords being assigned the upright meanings “retreat, solitude, hermit’s repose” and even “exile” – all concepts that have been associated over the years with Trump 9. It also accounts for such reversed meanings for the 4 of Swords as “circumspection” and “precaution” since these, too, have been consistently linked to the Hermit since at least the time of the French Occult Revival in the nineteenth century, although they have tended to be attached to Trump 9 when upright.

In Waite’s day, if one set oneself the task of memorizing the spot card meanings, the absence of any reasonable  link between the upright and reversed significances made the effort all the more onerous.

Little wonder that over the past fifty years students of the tarot have taken to interpreting the Waite-Smith pictures rather than bothering to learn any set of meanings whatsoever. And yet, Golden Dawn teaching was that the student should learn the significances of all seventy-eight cards by heart and not until that feat had been accomplished would the tarot speak truly to them.

In my next articles I intend to describe some divinations made using the G.D. meanings for the cards. As the Waite-Smith pictures so often lead the mind away from the sanctioned G.D. meanings, I will illustrate these articles with examples from Tarot de Marseille-type decks.

R-W-S Images/G.D. Meanings 3

The Swords Spot Cards

The Waite-Smith 2 of Swords depicts a seated, blindfolded female figure balancing two swords against her shoulders. Her back is to the sea and she holds a sword in each hand, their tips pointing heavenwards. Her arms are crossed at the wrists. A waning moon floats above her in a clear sky.

Of this card Dion Fortune, one-time member of the G.D., tells us: it "is called the Lord of Peace Restored, indicating that the disruptive force of Swords is in temporary equilibrium." The meanings the G.D. assigned to the card are: “Quarrel made up. Arrangement of differences, Peace restored, yet some tension in relations. Justice.” There is some sense of Justice to the image, perhaps, since the traditional figure of human Justice is blindfold and brandishes a sword. Apart from that, the main Golden Dawn significances of a Quarrel made up, Differences ironed out and so forth are in no way suggested by the picture.

swords 2    swords 3

Waite describes the 3 of Swords as “Three swords piercing a heart; cloud and rain behind.”

The G.D. gave this card the meaning: “Unhappiness, sorrow, tears. Disruption, separation, quarrelling.” These significances form a nexus of ideas so tightly knit together that the divinatory meanings of the 3 of Swords are one of the easiest sets to remember, for those who set out to commit the meanings of all the cards to memory. The Waite-Smith illustration is eloquent of the first three Golden Dawn meanings while not putting forward any cause for the unhappiness, sorrow, and tears it portends, being nothing more than a crude representation of the card’s title: Lord of Sorrow.

“The effigy of a knight in the attitude of prayer, at full length upon his tomb” is the image adorning the Waite-Smith 4 of Swords. An alternative description might be: a church interior showing a tomb with a recumbent figure modeled upon its upper surface. A sword is carved into the side of the tomb and three other swords are imprinted on a plaque above the supine figure.

To the G.D. it represented: “Convalescence, recovery from sickness, change for the better. Rest from sorrow, Rest from strife, yet after and through it. Relaxation of anxiety. Quietness, rest.” There is an oblique reference in the Waite-Smith image to Rest from Sorrow or from Strife, but the picture is hardly suggestive of the other indications the Golden Dawn associate with the card. In particular, change for the better is lacking. The image does a better job of depicting Death – the ultimate Rest from Strife! I understand that not every implication a card may carry can be represented by any vignette designed to illustrate it. My complaint is that, once an image is presented to the tarot reader, the meaning conveyed by that image tends to block out all other considerations.

swords04     5 swords w-s

Waite describes the 5 of Swords in the following word: “A disdainful man looks after two retreating and dejected figures. Their swords lie upon the ground. He carries two others on his left shoulder, and a third sword is in his right hand, point to earth.” I am indebted to Mr Waite for pointing out that the main figure on the card has a disdainful look on his face, because, if I had not been so informed, I would never have recognized the expression as one of disdain. The image, one must suppose, represents a man victorious on the battlefield gathering up the swords abandoned there by his fleeing enemies. If one interprets the picture in that way then the central figure suggests victory rather that its opposite, rout, which is the interpretation the G.D. gave to the 5 of Swords, causing them to award it the title Lord of Defeat. In full the meanings they gave the card are: “Malice, spite. Slander, evil-speaking. Slanderous reports, mischief-making. Failure, anx­iety, trouble, poverty. Defeat, loss; contest finished and decided against the person.”

The 6 of Swords depicts: “A ferryman carrying passengers in his punt to the further shore. The course is smooth, and seeing that this freight is light, it may be noted that the work is not beyond his strength.”

The G.D. meanings for the card are: “Labour, work; anxiety. Success after anxiety and trouble. Earned Success. Journey, probably by water (shown by cards nearby).” The Waite-Smith symbolism encompasses Journey by Water and Passage Through Difficulty (success after anxiety and effort) but not the subtler significances implied by the term Earned Success.

swords06     swords 7

On the 7 of Swords we find: “A man in the act of carrying away five swords rapidly, the two others of the card remain stuck in the ground. A camp is close at hand.”

“Vacillation. Partial success. Inclination to lose when on the point of gaining through not continuing the effort. Unstable Effort. Journey probably by land (shown by cards near, etc.)” These are the meanings allotted to the card by the G.D. The image reflects untrustworthiness as the figure gives all the appearances of stealing the swords. This has become a reading of the 7 of Swords in some quarters in modern tarot practice, I’ve noted, although it is not a meaning Waite, Etteilla, Mathers or any of the older authors advocate so far as I am aware. Partial Success is suggested insofar as the thief is making off with some but not all of the swords available to him. Unstable Effort may be bracketed under the same heading. Journey by land and Inclination to lose when on the point of gaining an advantage through not following up on one’s initial success are not represented.

On the Waite-Smith 8 of Swords we see depicted a bound and blindfolded woman hedged about by eight swords on a rocky beach. A castle perched on a cliff can be seen in the background.

According to G.D. tradition the card means: “Narrow, restricted, petty. A prison, as a metaphor. Life is arduous, petty and uninteresting. Waste of energy in minor details.” The title they give it is Shortened Force. The first of these meanings are intimated by the image, up to the point of suggesting that the inquirer experiences the conditions they are presently enduring as a form of incarceration. However, the minor notes, from wasting energy over petty details to finding life arduous, are totally absent.

swords 8     swords09

“One seated on her couch in lamentation, with the swords over her. She is as one who knows no sorrow which is like unto hers.” That is the way Waite describes the image on the 9 of Swords. The counterpane on the bed is patterned with roses and astrological glyphs.

The G.D. interpret the card thus: “Illness. Suffering. Malice. Cruelty. Pain. Despair, want, loss, misery. Anxiety, health suffers in consequence.” They give it the title Lord of Despair and Cruelty, but note that these meanings are kept separate in the G.D.’s list of keywords. The Waite-Smith image presents the tarot reader with a vivid depiction of Despair but the Cruelty the card can sometimes indicate is not present in the imagery. The meanings Anxiety and Misery could be drawn from the vignette, illness and physical pain, too, at a pinch, although one must strain to find Want and Loss in the picture.


In the 10 of Swords we are presented with a man lying on the ground, ten swords thrust into his body. It is a twilight scene. There are mountains in the background with what might be either a flat plain or a body of water between it and the recumbent figure. Waite describes the card tersely: “A prostrate figure, pierced by all the swords belonging to the card.”

The G.D. name it Lord of Ruin and for them it signals: “The ruin of all plans and projects. Failure. Defeat. Disaster. Disruption,” adding “With the appropriate cards, it may signify Death.” The Waite-Smith image depicts on the one hand death and on the other defeat, albeit in an exaggerated form. The niceties of Failure and the lesser misfortune, Disruption, are not encompassed by the Waite-Smith image. Nor is Ruin, other than as a total despoliation from which one would be hard put to recover.

To be concluded.

R-W-S Images/G.D. Meanings, 2

The Cups Spot Cards

Of the image on the 2 of Cups, Waite says: “A youth and a maiden are pledging one another, and above their cups rises the Caduceus of Hermes, between the great wings of which there appears a lion’s head.” He might have added that a cottage nestles in the low hills behind them.

The G.D. meanings range more broadly than any that the picture evokes: “Marriage, the home, love, pleasure. Warm friendship. Harmony.” Marriage, Love and Home are suggested by the image but neither Warm Friendship nor Pleasure are; and although Harmony could be extracted as a significance of the card by contemplation of the image, I suspect that precious few tarot readers go so far as to make the extraction, sticking rather with the simple, even simplistic, representation they are presented with of the card’s mystical title: Lord of Love.

cups 2    cups 3

Waite’s description of the 3 of Cups is: “Maidens in a garden-ground with cups uplifted, as if pledging one another.”

To the G.D., the card’s significance was: “Plenty. Hospitality, eating and drinking. Pleasure, dancing, new clothes and merriment. Abundance. Passive success, the result of luck or good fortune”, with the added proviso, “Can indicate love and/or marriage.”

The card’s mystical title is Lord of Abundance, and the image tangentially addresses this condition by depicting the material results of abundance. One can also read in it Dancing, Merriment, Hospitality, Eating and Drinking, though a person is most likely to see those things in the picture if they are already cognizant of the card’s meanings. The image does not convey any sense of Passive Success (my instructor in G.D. tarot reading taught me the phrase “success that was not anticipated” in connection with the 3 of Cups), Luck, Good Fortune, Love or Marriage.

“A young man is seated under a tree and contemplates three cups set on the grass before him; an arm issuing from a cloud offers him another cup. His expression notwithstanding is one of discontent with his environment” is how Waite describes the image on the 4 of Cups.

The G.D. meaning is: “Success or pleasure approaching their end. A stationary period in hap­piness which may or may not continue. Receiving pleasures or kindness from others, yet some slight discomfort and anxieties therewith. Blended pleasure and/or blended success in the form of success accompanied by worries or misgivings.” The Waite-Smith imagery mirrors “a stationary period in happiness which may or may not continue”, but everything else is missing.

cups 4    tarot-cups-05

The Waite-Smith 5 of Cups depicts “A dark, cloaked figure, looking sideways at three prone cups; two others stand upright behind him; a bridge is in the background, leading to a small keep or holding.” One might also note that, in the background, is a dwelling separated from the cloaked figure by a stream crossed by the bridge.

The G.D. gave this card the mystical title Loss in Pleasure, and the divinatory meanings they associated with it are: “Disappointment in love. Marriage, engagement or similar relationship broken off. Unkindness from a friend or friends. Loss of friendship. The symbolic death or end of pleasures. Disappointment. Sorrow and loss in those things from which pleasure is expected. Loss of a relative (by death).”

The image only obliquely addresses many of the Golden Dawn significations; although it is a vivid depiction of Disappointment. Cups, interpreted as affection in all its varied forms, functioning in negative mode, would serve as well, or better, as an aide-memoire to the G.D. meanings. The picture on the card indicates Disappointment only, and is open to other interpretations having nothing to do with the meanings with which the G.D. invested the 5 of Cups.

The image on the 6 of Cups is described as: “Children in an old garden, their cups filled with flowers.” An old house, seemingly part castle, forms the background to the scene. The boy is smelling a flower in the goblet he is holding. A man with a spear walking away from the children can be seen in the distance.

The card has the title Lord of Pleasure in the G.D. tarot system. The meanings they assigned to it are: “Commencement of steady increase, gain and pleasure, but commence­ment only. Beginning of wish, happiness, success or enjoy­ment. Success.” Nothing of this is replicated symbolically in the picture on the Waite-Smith 6 of Cups. In The Key to the Tarot Waite puts forward three interpretations of the card. The first is that it is a symbol of “the past and of memories, of looking back, as – for example – on childhood,” of enjoyment coming from past events, and of “things that have vanished”. The second is “new relations, new knowledge, new environment, and then,” he explains, “the children are playing in newly entered precinct,” none of which bears any relation to the G.D. meanings.

cups 6 (2)    cups 7

Waite sums up the picture on the 7 of Cups as depicting “Strange chalices of vision, but the images are more especially those of the fantastic spirit.” It shows a man entranced by a vision of seven cups, each containing a symbolic image – a laurel wreath for victory over adverse circumstance, jewels for wealth, a serpent representing enemies, and so on.

The G.D. meanings are: “Lying, deceit, promises unfulfilled, illusion, error, deception. Slight success, but not enough energy to retain it. Illusionary success.” Of these, only Illusion is successfully conveyed by the Waite-Smith image. Other significances, such as Lying, Promises Unfulfilled, Error and Slight Success, cannot, with the best will in the world, be drawn out from the Waite-Smith image.

The 8 of Cups depicts the following scene, “a man of dejected aspect is deserting the cups of his felicity, enterprise, undertaking or previous concern”, according to Waite. The locale is a rocky inlet, the full moon in the new moon’s arms (an esoteric symbol) looks down upon the scene.

The G.D. meanings for the card are: “Success abandoned, decline of interest in a thing, to lose interest (in something). Things thrown aside as soon as gained. Not lasting even in the matter in hand. Ennui. Instability. Loss of good name.” The G.D. title for the card is Lord of Abandoned Success and the Waite-Smith image represents this concept figuratively. The remaining concepts cannot so easily be deduced from the picture on the card, however, and “loss of good name” is not suggested by it in any way at all.

cups 8 (2)   cups 9a

“A goodly personage has feasted to his heart’s content, and abundant refreshment of wine in on the arched counter behind him, seeming to indicate that the future is also assured” is what Waite tells us is to be found on the Waite-Smith 9 of Cups.

For the G.D., this was a card of Material Happiness and its divinatory meanings were: “Complete success. Pleasure and happiness. Physical well-being. Wishes fulfilled.” Waite’s image indirectly addresses Golden Dawn connotations such as Physical Well-being. One cannot say that the concept of Material Happiness is well represented: one needs to have studied Waite’s commentary to pick up on this meaning, leaving those users of the Waite-Smith tarot who do not possess a copy of The Key to the Tarot in the dark where this facet of the card in divination is concerned.


Of the 10 of Cups, Waite says, “Appearance of cups in a rainbow; it is contemplated in wonder and ecstasy by a man and woman below, evidently husband and wife. His right arm is about her; his left is raised upward; she raises her right arm. The two children dancing near them have not observed the prodigy but are happy after their own manner. There is a home-scene beyond.”

To the G.D., this card portended: “Matters definitely arranged and settled in accordance with one’s wishes. Complete good-fortune. Perfected Success. Permanent and lasting success.” The Waite-Smith design suggests marriage and a family. That is one aspect of “matters definitely arranged and settled in accordance with one’s wishes” that will satisfy some, but not all, inquirers’ needs. Sadly the “complete good fortune” aspect of the card is not in any way addressed, while “permanent and lasting success” is conveyed only tangentially, to be picked up on by those who have eyes to see.