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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.

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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.

tarot-swords-10

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.

tarot-cups-10

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.

R-W-S Images/G.D. Meanings, 1

Sport Cards: Relation of Picture to Meaning

The images that grace the Waite-Smith spot cards, so familiar to today’s tarot students, were an innovation at the time the deck was first published, an innovation questioned by many. John Brodie Innes, a member of the Golden Dawn, had something to say on the subject in an article published in the Occult Review, Vol. XXIX, No. 2 (February 1919). Brodie Innes starts with a remark about the picture on the Waite-Smith 2 of Pentacles but almost immediately broadens the scope of his argument. “From whence comes Mr Waite’s dancing man? If he belongs to any of the old forms of the Tarot, or is in any way connected with the original designers, he is worthy of serious consideration. But one would like to know his origin and credentials. And the same remark applies to the other designs.”

I have heard it said that the Waite-Smith spot card images reflect the Golden Dawn’s understanding of those cards. This remark can be applied with a good degree of confidence to the court cards but it is true of precious few spots, and where it is true of a spot card, the image usually highlights one of several significances allotted to it by the G.D. whilst marginalizing or sidelining the rest. As we run through the Waite-Smith images for the spots the truth of this statement will become clear. I have gone into detail in my dissection of the Waite-Smith images, maybe more detail than many of my readers feel the need to concern themselves with. But I constantly come into contact with students of the tarot who believe they are employing the G.D. meanings in their readings based on the assumption that those meanings are faithfully reproduced in the pictures of the Waite-Smith spot cards. I have written this article, in part at least, with the aim of correcting this misapprehension.

It has become so long, however, that I have divided it into four parts, one for each suit.

The Wands Spot Cards

The 2 of Wands in the Waite-Smith pack depicts a man, standing, holding the world in his hands, gazing down from the battlements of a castle. He is lord of all he surveys.

The Golden Dawn meaning for the card is: “Authority, power, control, ascendancy. Victory, or at any rate the fruits of victory, such as influence (as when ‘money talks’).” The Waite-Smith image encompasses the keywords Authority, Power and Dominion but gives no sign of any “victory” while casting only an oblique glance in the direction of “the fruits thereof.”

wands 2    wands 3

Of the design on the 3 of Wands, Waite tells us: “A calm, stately personage, with his back turned, looking from a cliff’s edge at ships passing over the sea. Three staves are planted in the ground, and he leans slightly on one of them.” The ships are his, according to Waite. One can conclude that the man’s ship has come in, in both senses of the phrase, literal and metaphorical.

The G.D. meanings are: “Realisation of hope; completion of labour, struggle successfully concluded, established strength.” The image encompasses “realization of hope” and may be considered as a pictograph of the words “established strength”, but since there is no hint in the image of energy being expended, the meanings “completion of labour” and “struggle successfully concluded” are marginalized almost to the point of extinction.

Waite describes the image on the 4 of Wands as: “From four great staves planted in the foreground there is a great garland suspended; two female figures uplift nosegays; at their side is a bridge over a moat, leading to an old manorial house.”

The G.D. interpreted the card as signifying: “Matter settled and arranged. One’s work perfected. Completion of a thing built up with trouble and labour. Rest after labour.” The party atmosphere presented to us on the Waite-Smith card can be taken as referring to the joy felt at the completion of a thing built up with trouble and labor. The other, more important indications, such as rest after labor, a matter settled to one’s satisfaction, have been banished from the scene.

wands 4    wands 5

The 5 of Wands depicts “a posse of youths, who are brandishing staves, as if in sport or strife.”

Somewhat exceptionally, the Waite-Smith image accurately represents the G.D. meanings – “Quarrelling. Fighting. Strife and contest. Competition” – although Waite weakens the connection by suggesting that the youths may only be participating in a sham fight.

For the 6 of Wands, the Waite-Smith image is this: “A laurelled horseman bears one staff adorned with a laurel crown; footmen with staves are at his side.”

The meanings the G.D. attached to this card are “Gain and success. Victory after strife. Success through energy and industry; pleasure gained by labour.” The image embodies victory after strife but not the more subtle significations supplied by the G.D.: pleasure gained by labor, success through energy or industry.

6 wands w-s     wands 7

“A young man on a craggy eminence brandishing a staff; six other staves are raised towards him from below.” That is how Waite describes the image for the Waite-Smith 7 of Wands.

The G.D. meanings are: “Opposition, obstacles, difficulties; sometimes courage in the face of same. Valour. Possible victory, depending upon the energy and courage exercised.” As with the previous card, one G.D. meaning – Valor – is represented well enough. More complex interpretations of the card are not in evidence, a common trait with the Waite-Smith designs.

Waite describes the image on the 8 of Wands as: “A flight of wands through open country; but they draw to the term of their course.”

The G.D. interpretation of the card is: “A hasty communication, letter or message. Activity; swiftness; approach to goal.” For once several of the Golden Dawn significances can be found in this image: Swiftness, and approach to goal, with activity tangentially alluded to. The “hasty communication, a letter or message” cannot easily be read from the design.

wands 8     wands 9

On the 9 of Wands we find a man with a bandaged head leaning on a staff, standing four-square in front of a row of eight other wands which according to Waite resemble a palisade. The man seems watchful, wary.

The G.D. meaning is: “Great Strength. Power. Energy. Health. Recovery from sickness. Great success, but accomplished only through striving and the output of a great deal of effort.”

The image only partially conveys the G.D. meanings, suggesting possible success in one’s endeavors but only if concerted effort is put into them. The bandaged head hints at recovery from illness, but rather too obliquely in my opinion. The Great Strength (the G.D. documents refer to it as Herculean strength) and Power cannot be intuited from the image.

wands 10

On the 10 of Wands we see a figure striding purposefully toward a distant town. He is bowed down by the weight of the ten wands he carries on his back.

For the G.D. this card represented: “Cruelty and malice towards others. Harshness, overbearing strength. Revenge. Injustice. Oppression. Sometimes shows failure in a matter, with the opposition too strong to resist.” Waite attempts to have his cake and eat it where this card is concerned, for on the one hand he says the man is bowed down by the weight of the wands he carries – i.e., he is oppressed by them – while on the other, he implies that the man will use the wands to beat the inhabitants of the town he is approaching. As is usual with the Waite-Smith images, just one basic element of the card’s significance is portrayed, in this case Oppression, with the more complex implications not being addressed at all.

To be continued.

Waite-Smith Designs, G.D. Meanings

by Tony Willis  

Whatever A.E. Waite may say on the matter, the images of the Waite-Smith tarot rely as much on the significances the Golden Dawn attach to the cards as they do on any interpretations offered by his alternative sources. It should not be forgotten that Waite and his artist Pamela Coleman Smith were both members of the Golden Dawn when the latter drew and painted, under the former’s direction, the pictures for the tarot deck that now bears both their names.

If the Waite-Smith images reflected the Golden Dawn meanings in an undiluted state, writing this article would be a far easier task to complete. But, for reasons best known to himself, Waite decided to have the images of the spot cards partly relate to the Golden Dawn meanings and partly to certain other sets of meanings which, where the minor arcana are concerned, tend more often than not to run counter to those advocated by the G. D.

The Trump cards pose less of a challenge and I will start with them. Nowhere in The Key to the Tarot (or in the illustrated version, The Pictorial Key to the Tarot) does Waite express his own opinion as to the meanings of any of the cards belonging to either arcana. Instead he tells us what significances other authorities have assigned them. He does, however, record his approved interpretations of the Trumps in a book first published under the pseudonym Grand Orient. These can be extracted and compared with the Golden Dawn meanings. When I speak of Waite in the following section, I am referring to him writing under the nom de plume ‘Grand Orient’.

In every case, the first meaning cited is Waite’s, the second being the official G.D. reading of the card.

For Trump number 1, which he calls the Juggler, Waite gives the following meanings. “Skill in any department within the sphere of the subject [consulted about]; subtlety; savoir faire; on the evil side, trickery; also occult practice, apart from [i.e., not including] the wisdom of adeptship.”

In the Golden Dawn system of divination, a card might be ‘dignified’ or ‘ill-dignified’. For our purposes, we can take these terms as signifying ‘upright’ and ‘reversed’ respectively. Waite may or may not have intended ‘trickery’ to be a quality of Trump 1 only when it is ill-dignified. I cannot be certain as there was a tendency in the first half of the twentieth-century to allow the Juggler to indicate trickery even when upright, a reflection of the juggler’s status as a fairground huckster, whose main aim was to extract money from potential customers. Setting that consideration aside, Waite’s meaning for the card matches very well that assigned it by the Golden Dawn, which was: “Skill, wisdom, adaptation. Craft [including craftiness], cunning, etc., always depending on its dignity. Sometimes Occult Wisdom.”

Of the significance of the High Priestess, Waite tells us that she indicates: “Nature generally and particularly also as regards her operations, including therefore the material side of generation and reproduction; fertility; change.”

Apart from the abstruse attribution of Nature to the card, Waite remains, as he did with Trump 1, in line with the Golden Dawn understanding of the card.

“2. High Priestess. Change, alteration, Increase and Decrease. Fluctua­tion (whether for good or evil is . . . shown by cards connected with it.)”

As can be seen, the G.D. express the same ideas as put forward by Waite but in different terms.

Having established the principle that Waite’s interpretations of the Trumps are broadly in line with those laid down by the Golden Dawn, I am going to list the remaining meanings, those put forward by Grand Orient and those of the G.D., side by side. The correspondence between the two is, in almost every case, unmistakable.

3. Empress – The sphere of action; the feminine side of power, rule and authority; woman’s influence; physical beauty; woman’s reign; also the joy of life, and excesses on the evil side.

3. Empress. Beauty, happiness, pleasure, success, also luxury and some­times dissipation, but only if with very evil cards.

4. Emperor – Logical understanding, experience, human wisdom; material power on the male side, and all involved thereby.

4. Emperor. War, conquest, victory, strife, ambition.

Although Waite, in his summation of The Emperor’s divinatory meanings, appears to move away from the G.D. paradigm, note that Paul Foster Case, who like Waite and Coleman Smith, had been a member of the Golden Dawn, agrees with his interpretation. Case gives the meanings for Trump 4 as: Stability, power; reason (vide Waite’s ‘logical understanding’); ambition. Not all the Order’s teaching relating to tarotmancy is to be found in the its Knowledge Paper on the Tarot.

5. Pope, or Hierophant – Aspiration, life, power of the keys; spiritual authority developed on the external side; temporal power of official religion; on the evil side, sacerdotal tyranny and interference.

5. Hierophant. Divine Wisdom. Manifestation. Explanation. Teaching. Occult Wisdom. Also advice, meaning Good Counsel.

Waite’s perception of the card veers in a spiritual, even a sacerdotal direction; the instructions given by the G.D. tend more toward the material, with its Teaching, Explanation, and Good Counsel. The appraisals are, of course, nothing more than two sides of the same coin.

6. Lovers – Material union, affection, desire, natural love, passion, harmony of things; contains also the notions of modus vivendi, concord and so forth; equilibrium.

6. The Lovers. Inspiration (passive and in some cases mediumistic). Motive-power and action, arising from Inspiration and Impulse.

While Waite does not repeat the significances allotted to Trump 6 in the G.D.’s Knowledge Paper on the Tarot, mark well that other ex-G.D. alumni supply readings for the card paralleling those put forward by Waite writing as Grand Orient. Crowley has: attraction, beauty, love, and when reversed or ill-dignified instability, indecision, union in a shallow degree with others. Paul Foster Case’s reading of the card is even closer to that suggested by Grand Orient.

7. Chariot – Triumph of reason; success in natural things; the right prevailing; also predominance, conquest, and all external correspondences of these.

7. The Chariot. Triumph. Victory. Health. Success though sometimes not stable and enduring.

8. Fortitude, or Strength – Courage, vitality, tenacity of things, high endurance.

8. Fortitude. Cour­age, Strength, Fortitude. Power not arrested as in the act of Judgment, but passing on to further action; sometimes obstinacy, etc.

9. Hermit – Caution, safety, protection; wisdom on the manifest side; and the isolation thereof; detachment; the way of prudence; sagacity; search after truth.

9. The Hermit, or Prophet. Wisdom sought for and obtained from above. Divine Inspiration (but active as opposed to that of the Lovers).

This is a further instance where other products of the G.D. training system concur with Waite/Grand Orient. Crowley assigns the card the meanings: wisdom, prudence, circumspection, retirement from participation in current events. Paul Foster Case agrees with all of this, excluding only ‘retirement from participation in current events’.

10. Wheel of Fortune – Mutation, circumstances; revolution of things, vicissitude; time and its variable development; all that is understood by the external side of fortune.

10. Wheel of Fortune. Good fortune and happiness (within bounds), but sometimes also a species of intoxication with success, if the cards near it bear this out. In practice the Wheel signals a change of fortune for the better.

Waite’s approach to Trump 10 is high-minded and esoteric, as it so often is; but basically he adheres to the G.D. view of the card. Speaking of the more day-to-day significance of The Wheel, Paul Foster Case invests it with the meaning: Destiny; good fortune; turn for the better. Crowley writes of it in the same vein.

11. Justice – Equilibrium on the mental side rather than the sensuous, for which see No. 6; under certain circumstances, law and its decisions; also occult science.

11. Justice. Eternal Justice and Balance. Strength and Force, but arrested as in the act of Judgment. Also in combination with other cards, legal proceedings, a court of law, a trial at law, etc.

12. Hanged Man – The symbol of renunciation, for whatever cause and with whatever motive.

Waite does not use the word ‘sacrifice’ in relation to Trump 12, but it evidently belongs under this heading, and almost every other commentator of the time places it here, the author of the G.D.’s Paper on the Tarot included.

12. Hanged Man or Drowned Man. Enforced sacrifice. Punishment, Loss. Fatal and not voluntary. Suffering generally.

Crowley gives this Trump the meanings: Redemption through sacrifice, enforced sacrifice, punishment, loss, suffering in general, defeat, failure, death. Paul Foster Case concurs. All the keyword Crowley employs are compatible with the interpretation the G.D. put upon the card. We can assume that Waite accepted them too, even if he prefers the term ‘renunciation’.

13. Death – Contains naturally the meaning implied by its name and illustrated by its pictorial symbol, but not only and not at all of necessity; transforming force, independent of human will; may signify destruction; power behind the world which alters the face of the world, but it is this power in one of its respects only.

13. Death. Time. Ages. Transformation. Involuntary Change. Sometimes death and destruction, but rarely the latter, and the former only if it is borne out by the cards with it.

14. Temperance – New blood, combination, admixture, with the object of amelioration; providence in desirable change.

14. Temperance. Combination of Forces. Realisation. Action (material). Effect either for good or evil.

For once, Waite’s keywords for the Trump throw light on those favored by the author of the Order’s Paper on the Tarot. Other G.D. students found the Order’s suggestions regarding the meaning of this card less than helpful. Thus Paul Foster Case assigns Trump 14 the significances: Combination, adaptation, economy, management. Case, like Waite/Grand Orient, overlaps with the Order’s meanings only on ‘combination’. In the G.D.-type temple I attended, Trump 14 was assigned supplementary meanings closer to Waite’s and Case’s. They were issued orally and I and my fellow students were very glad to have them.

15. Devil, or Typhon – Fatality, evil, the false spirit; can indicate also the good working through evil.

15. Devil. Materiality. Material Force. Material temptation; sometimes obsession, especially if associated with the Lovers.

Here is yet another example of Waite gearing a meaning towards the abstract spiritual; and even when he travels down the planes a notch or two – and speaks of good working through evil – he does not provide specifically event-oriented keywords either to match or to compete with the Order’s ‘Temptation’ and ‘Obsession’. We can turn to Paul Foster Case to flesh out the meanings supplied by Waite and the G.D. He furnishes his pupils with the terms ‘Bondage’ and ‘Force’ (citing particularly the force of convention and public opinion).

16. Ruined Tower – Destruction, confusion, judgment; also the idea of Divine Wrath.

16. Tower. Ambition, fighting, war, courage. In certain combinations, destruction, danger, fall, ruin.

Waite concentrates on the latter portion of the meanings that the Order associates with Trump 16. But since most authorities on the tarot of his era do the same, Waite can hardly be criticized for that.

17. Star – Light descending, hope; the symbol of immortality.

17. Star. Hope, faith, unexpected help. But sometimes also dreaminess, deceived hope, etc.

While the Waite/Grand Orient meaning is sketchier, there can be no doubt that the two lists depend upon the same comprehension of what Trump 17 represents.

18. Moon – Half-light, mutation, intellectual uncertainty, region of illusion; false-seeming.

18. Moon. Dissatisfaction, voluntary change. Error, lying, falsity, deception. The whole according whether the card is well or ill-dignified, and on which it much depends.

As with the Star, while Waite tends to be more ethereal and conceptual in his language, the parallels between his meanings and those of the G.D. are manifestly present – ‘false-seeming’ on the one hand, ‘lying and deception’ on the other, and so on. The phrase ‘half-light’ plainly has special connotations in Waite’s philosophy; compare with ‘full light’ assigned to The Sun in the following paragraph.

19. Sun – Full light, intellectual and material; the card of earthly happiness, but not attained individually.

19. Sun. Glory, Gain, Riches. Sometimes also arrogance. Display, Van­ity, but only when with very evil cards.

When he uses the phrase ‘earthly happiness’ Waite has material satisfaction in mind, e.g., riches or monetary gain. His ‘full light’ translates, in G.D. terms, into ‘glory’ on the positive side and ‘display’ on the negative. Waite also subscribes to a tradition that the G.D., in my experience of its tarot method, did not: he reads the boy and girl on the Marseille version of the card as a paring, a couple, and this accounts for his observation that earthly happiness is not attained individually. In some French schools of tarot, the card symbolizes marriage, and accounts such a union as another facet of earthly, that is to say physical, happiness. There are continental decks whose symbolism points more candidly in that direction. (See below.)

19t marriage emphasized

20. The Last Judgment – Resurrection; summons to new things; a change in the face of everything.

20. Judgment. Final decision. Judgment. Sentence. Determination of a matter without appeal on its plane.

Waite’s understanding of the Trumps rarely goes against the G.D. interpretations, but here we have one of the exceptions. It is a divergence I can sympathize with. In my time as a member of a G.D.-type temple, most of my fellow students had problems absorbing the significance given to Trump 20 in the Order’s Instruction Paper on the Tarot. Meanings more in line with those favored by Waite/Grand Orient – summons to new things, change in the face of everything, new life breathed into an old ambition – tended to be adopted in place of the G.D.’s ‘final decision, judgment, sentence.’ Crowley brings a degree of clarity to the matter with his description of the card’s meaning in his Book of Thoth: “Final decision in respect of the past, new current in respect of the future; always represents the taking of a definite step.” In practice, Crowley’s first two significances frequently run together, affording the card an aura of ‘out with the old and in with the new’.

21. The World – The glory thereof under the powers of the higher providence, the sum of manifest things; conclusion on any subject.

21. Universe. The matter itself. Synthesis. World. Kingdom. Usually denotes the actual subject of the question, and therefore depends entirely on the accompanying cards.

Here we have one of the few instances where the meaning suggested by Waite, in the persona of Grand Orient, needs analyzing. (When writing as Grand Orient, Waite is generally more straightforward and less grandiloquent than he normally is. In this instance, however, he regresses into Waite-speak.) Under this heading, he is referring to the glory of the World operating under the powers of the higher providence, the Cosmos as the container of all things manifest. Or in G.D. language, the matter inquired about. A more useful meaning for those working with the predictive tarot is ‘the conclusion of a subject’. Oral teaching within the Order is summed up in Paul Foster Case’s recommended reading of the card. “Well-dignified it signifies success, a favorable issue to the circumstances. Sometimes change of place.” That last phrase, ‘change of place’, in tarot parlance invariably indicates elevation, a promotion or its equivalent. The G.D. named the card The Universe and, in the Waite-Smith tarot, A.E. Waite follows suit.

Writing as Grand Orient, Waite gives no predictive meaning for The Fool card. He takes it as his significator and associates no other connotations to it. To divine how he would have interpreted it in a reading made with all 78 cards we need to look at the significance he allows it in The Key to the Tarot. There he takes a view both traditional and widely accepted at the time he was writing: “Folly, mania, extravagance, intoxication, delirium, frenzy, bewrayment [betrayal, though literally ‘to have one’s true character exposed’]. Reversed: Negligence, absence, distribution, carelessness, apathy, nullity, vanity.”

This matches neatly the meaning the G.D. gave to the card, which was:

The Fool: if the Divination be regarding a material event of ordinary life, this card is not good, and shows folly, stupidity, eccentricity, and even mania, unless with very good cards indeed. It is too ideal and unstable to be gen­erally good in material things.

Changes of Symbolism in the Waite-Smith Trumps

There are many innovations to be found among the Waite-directed designs for the Waite-Smith Trumps. The illustrations for Trump 6, The Lovers, and Trump 0, The Fool, are original conceptions. Otherwise, however, none of pictures for the Trumps in the Waite-Smith deck seem to have been plucked out of thin air; they all have a history.

The blueprints for Waite’s Magician and High Priestess are to be found in the ‘Egyptian tarot’ published in Practical Astrology (by Edgar de Valcourt-Vermont but published under the pseudonym of Comte C. de Saint Germain, 1901). The designs for the Trumps of the ‘Egyptian tarot’ are based on the teachings of Paul Christian.

01 c  of lightQ  the-magician-rider-waite

Trump 1: The ‘Egyptian tarot’ calls this card the Magus, following Christian’s lead. This may be where the G.D. got the idea to call their version of Trump 1 The Magician. Waite has his artist embellish the design with roses and lilies, a snake belt, and a change of costume that befits the magus’s station in life. The reason for these additions, as well as for the inclusion of roses over the Magician’s head, are explained by Paul Foster Case. (See the chapter on The Magician in his The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages [NY: Macoy Publishing Co.].) Waite reverses the hand gestures found in the Marseille tarot so as to have the magician hold the wand in his right hand. This change should perhaps not be considered an innovation, as the exchange had occurred on previous occasions on the design of the Juggler card in decks printed by means of woodblocks. Though an image may be incised correctly on woodblock, the picture appears in reverse, as in a mirror, when the card is printed. The illustrations of the Trumps presented by Court de Gébelin in Le Monde Primitif suffer the same fate. Furthermore, the Magus of the ‘Egyptian tarot’ holds his wand in his right hand.

2 b of light    r-w priestess 2

Trump 2: Neither in the ‘Egyptian tarot’ nor in the Waite-Smith deck is there any sign of the Tarot de Marseille’s Papess in their respective representations of Trump 2. Waite has Coleman Smith elaborate the picture by putting on the veil between the pillars a design suggesting the layout of the Qabalistic Tree of Life and by situating a crescent moon in the card’s bottom right-hand corner, the G.D. associating Trump 2 with the Moon. The symbol on the priestess’s breast is, in the ‘Egyptian tarot’, is the sigil for Mercury, ruler of Virgo, the zodiac sign which that deck associates with Trump 2. On the Waite-Smith card, the Mercury sigil is altered to a Greek cross, representing the four lunar phases (although continental commentators tend to call it a Solar Cross). The ‘Egyptian tarot’ presents the pillars either side of the priestess in different colors – white and black or black and red. Waite has letters imprinted on the pillars, B and J, standing for Boaz and Jachin, thereby identifying the Temple at whose entrance the priestess sits as that of King Solomon. Waite may not be the first to name the pillars. Morley, in his Old and Curious Playing Cards of 1931, has a depiction of the High Priestess, still named La Papess, flanked by pillars bearing the names Boaz and Jakin written in full. (See below.) Jakin is the preferred spelling of the word among French Masons. Morley’s card, which he dates to the nineteenth century, shows the priestess adorned with a Greek cross, a crescent moon at her feet, exactly what we find in the Waite-Smith version of the card.

Trump2HTM    2 la_papesse

Examine the Marseille version of the Trump and compare it to the Morley card, of which the Waite-Smith rendering is a modification. Plainly, a huge chasm lies between the two concepts. The change was brought about by Paul Christian’s commentary on the Trumps. He renames Trump 2 The Gate of the Occult Sanctuary and presents the priestess as guardian of that gate. The ‘Egyptian tarot’ obliges by depicting her in front of two pillars, one red, one black as per Christian’s instructions. Later rectifiers of tarot turn the pillars into those of the Solomonic temple and align the priestess with the moon. Waite and Coleman Smith were inheritors of that tradition and incorporated it into their work on the Waite-Smith tarot.

Trump3HTM    3t rw

Old and Curious Playing Cards is a fascinating book but I am puzzled by the dates attributed to some of the Trump cards used as illustrations. Morley has examples of Trumps 3 and 4 that are almost exact duplicates of their Waite-Smith fellows. The former is dated to the nineteenth century, the latter is undated but appears to come from the same deck as his illustrations for The High Priestess and The Empress. However, his L’Imperatore, as said, differs not at all from Coleman Smith’s Trump 4. He wears the same headgear, holds the same scepter, as the Waite-Smith Emperor does; he faces out of the card and sits on a throne decorated with ram’s heads again exactly as the Emperor does. The ram’s heads link the Trump to the sign Aries. Morley’s card has a French title but no French school of tarot associated Trump 4 with Aries, and in the nineteenth century, neither did any British or American school of tarot, apart from the Golden Dawn, whose attributions, at that time, remained a secret. I am, therefore, wary of the dates Morley gives to any of the Trumps in his book that closely resemble Waite-Smith designs.

Emperor not ws    w-s-emperor

Having covered Trumps 3 and 4, I shall move on to Trump 5.

Whereas, in her transition from Papess to Priestess, the figure on Trump 2 lost all her papal regalia, the renaming of Trump 5 after the chief officer of the Eleusinian mysteries has no effect on the way the central figure on that card is presented. It remains a pope, despite the change of name. The triple tiara, the crosses on the stole and slippers, the tonsure of the supplicants at hierophant’s feet all proclaim a Christian as opposed to a pagan setting.

Trump 6: Waite replaces the traditional design with a representation of the Garden of Eden before the Fall. This symbolism has great significance in G.D. teaching, which is why he chooses to introduce it here. Again, the most reasonable explanation of the image is to be found in Paul Foster Case’s The Tarot.

Trump 7: The Waite-Smith picture is a partial redrawing of the Marseille card. (Sphinxes now draw the chariot instead of horses, for instance.) The image relies on Eliphas Levi’s re-envisioning of the card. Otherwise there is nothing novel or innovative about the illustration.

Trump 9: Waite has thoroughly overhauled this Trump, though the changes are not immediately apparent, and the too-trusting student might easily miss them. The traditional Hermit is in motion; often he is compared to Diogenes, searching for a good man by the light of a lantern in broad daylight. In the Tarot de Marseille’s card, the lantern is partly concealed by the hermit’s cloak, hence the mystic title Christian gives the Trump: The Hidden Light. In contrast, Waite’s hermit stands atop a mountain, his lantern held on high, visible to all. Waite specifically says (in The Key to the Tarot) that the lantern is a beacon for others. He rejects the idea that the hermit’s “lantern contains the light of occult knowledge and that his staff is a magic wand.” Waite argues instead that “this is a card of attainment . . . rather than a card of quest.”

9 tdm hermit   Arcane-Arcana-09-hermite-hermit   9 hermit

Of the designs of Trump 8 and Trump 11 there is nothing to say. Waite exchanges their positions, renumbering them in the process. However, their designs are the familiar Tarot de Marseille ones, smartened up somewhat by Ms Coleman Smith’s elegant draftsmanship.

The Waite-Smith Trump 10 is a redrawing of the traditional illustration, in this instance relying heavily on Eliphas Levi’s re-imagining of the card.

10-tarot-eliphas-levi    RWS_Tarot_10_Wheel_of_Fortune

Trump 12: As was the case with The Emperor, the Waite-Smith Hanged Man has been remodeled. Most notably the gibbet from which the figure hangs has been transformed into a T-cross. Waite, a committed Christian, possibly wanted the symbolism to replicate as nearly as possible the image of Christ on the cross. Waite has had his artist insert a halo around the hanged man’s head. Of the inner significance of the card, Waite is coy, telling readers of The Key to the Tarot only, “I will say simply on my own part that it expresses the relation, in one of its aspects, between the Divine and the Universe.”

12 II    r-w 12-The-Hanged-Man

For Trump 13, Waite sets aside the Marseille image and has Ms Coleman Smith instead adapt one of the earliest Italian designs from the mid-fourteenth century.

13 cary yale    r-w death

Trump 14: For this card, Waite has had his artist redraw the traditional design to include a stream at the angel’s feet beside which a clump of irises grow. Other additions include the geometric figure on the angles breast and the haloed crown glittering in the distance.

Trump 15: Morley has an illustration of The Devil in Old and Curious Playing Cards that is almost the twin of the Waite-Smith picture. He claims it dates to the seventeenth-century although its style is that of those nineteenth-century cards also included in the book that bear suspicious similarities to their respective Waite-Smith equivalents. The Waite-Smith Devil is in many ways a toned-down version of Eliphas Levi’s design for the card (second image below).

Devil not ws    levi15devil

Trump 16: The Waite-Smith Tower is at base a redrawing of the traditional illustration. The major adjustment is that the crenelated battlements of the top of the tower in the Tarot de Marseille version now resemble a crown suitable for a medieval king to wear. This may not have been the original intention, but ‘crown’ is a highly charged word to Qabalists such as Waite and Foster Case, and it is noteworthy that Case too, in his BOTA deck, has the upper part of the tower resemble a toppled crown (second image below).

16 tower g    bota trump 16

The Waite-Smith tarot’s Trump 17 is little more than a redrawing of the traditional design, as is its Trump 18, except that the latter has acquired some of its symbolism either directly from the ‘Egyptian tarot’ image or obliquely from Paul Christian’s card description on which the ‘Egyptian’ designs were based.

18 b of light    waite_moon_large

For Trump 19, Waite again jettisons the traditional design in favor of a very early one depicting a boy on a horse carrying a banner. To this Waite has had his artist add a wall over which the heads of sunflowers are visible. He has also had her add a feather to the wreath on the child’s head, replicating the wreath sporting a single plume that adorns the brow of the Waite-Smith Fool.

rw sun    20t judgement

Trump 20 is Ms Coleman Smith’s rendering of the traditional design, to which she has added other bodies rising in the background of the card. The intention almost certainly is to indicate that what is represented esoterically by the Trump can, and indeed will, given time, happen to everybody and not just to the three individuals usually on view. This moves the imagery away from the emblematic in the direction of a Christian vignette of the Last Judgement.

Once again, Trump 21 is essentially a redrawing of the Tarot de Marseille card.

21 II    rw-World

The Waite-Smith Trump Zero’s design was a novel one when it was first introduced, something that tends to get forgotten today. It is Waite’s “interpretation” of the G.D.’s understanding of the Trump. Not wanting to reveal the image used by the Order (a naked male child plucking a yellow rose, accompanied by a wolf, which the boy has on a leash, reproduced below), Waite created another, the picture we are now all familiar with. Like the G.D., Waite turns his back on the traditional image – a ragged beggar attacked by a dog or a lynx-like animal. Paul Foster Case’s deconstruction of the Waite-Smith card’s symbolism is illuminating. It can be found in the chapter on The Fool in his book The Tarot.

0 Fool22 fool z

While Case approves many of Waite’s innovations, and indeed builds upon them at times, improving or clarifying them where he feels it necessary to do so, note that he reverts to Tarot de Marseille models for cards such as The Emperor, The Hanged Man, Death, and The Sun, evidently preferring these images to those Waite replaced them with.

This discussion of the symbolism and significance of the Major Arcana has taken more space than I at first intended to allow it. With this work carried out, however, I will continue in my next article to look at the pictures on the Waite-Smith spot cards and their relationship to the divinatory meanings sanctioned for them by the Golden Dawn.

Waite-Smith Trumps & G.D. Meanings

by Tony Willis    

Whatever A.E. Waite may say on the matter, the images of the Waite-Smith tarot rely as much on the significances the Golden Dawn attach to the cards as they do on any interpretations offered by his alternative sources. It should not be forgotten that Waite and his artist Pamela Coleman Smith were both members of the Golden Dawn when the latter drew and painted, under the former’s direction, the pictures for the tarot deck that now bears both their names.

If the Waite-Smith images reflected the Golden Dawn meanings in an undiluted state, writing this article would be a far easier task to complete. But, for reasons best known to himself, Waite decided to have the images of the spot cards partly relate to the Golden Dawn meanings and partly to certain other sets of meanings which, where the minor arcana are concerned, tend more often than not to run counter to those advocated by the Golden Dawn.

The Trump cards pose less of a challenge and I will start with them. Nowhere in The Key to the Tarot (or in the illustrated version, The Pictorial Key to the Tarot) does Waite express his own opinion as to the meanings of any of the cards belonging to either arcana. Instead he tells us what significances other authorities have assigned them. He does, however, record his approved interpretations of the Trumps in a book first published under the pseudonym Grand Orient. These can be extracted and compared with the Golden Dawn meanings. When I speak of Waite in the following section, I am referring to him writing under the nom de plume Grand Orient.

In every case, the first meaning cited is Waite’s, the second being the official G.D. reading of the card.

For Trump number 1, which he calls the Juggler, Waite gives the following meanings. “Skill in any department within the sphere of the subject [consulted about]; subtlety; savoir faire; on the evil side, trickery; also occult practice, apart from the wisdom of adeptship.”

In the Golden Dawn system of divination, a card might be ‘dignified’ or ‘ill-dignified’. For our purposes, we can take these terms as signifying ‘upright’ and ‘reversed’ respectively. Waite may or may not have intended ‘trickery’ to be a quality of Trump 1 when ill-dignified. I cannot be certain as there was a tendency in the first half of the twentieth-century to allow the Juggler to indicate trickery even when upright, a reflection of the juggler’s status as a fairground huckster, whose main aim was to extract money from potential customers. Setting that consideration aside, Waite’s meaning for the card matches very well that assigned it by the Golden Dawn, which was: ”Skill, wisdom, adaptation. Craft, cunning, etc., always depending on its dignity. Sometimes Occult Wisdom.”

Of the significance of the High Priestess, Waite tells us that she indicates: “Nature generally and particularly also as regards her operations, including therefore the material side of generation and reproduction; fertility; change.”

Apart from the abstruse attribution of Nature to the card, Waite remains, as he did with Trump 1, in line with the Golden Dawn understanding of the card.

“2. High Priestess. Change, alteration, Increase and Decrease. Fluctua­tion (whether for good or evil is again shown by cards connected with it.)”

The G.D. express the same ideas as put forward by Waite but in different terms.

Having established the principle that Waite’s interpretations of the Trumps are broadly in line with those laid down by the Golden Dawn, I am going to list the remaining meanings, those put forward by Grand Orient and those of the G.D., side by side. The correspondence between the two is, in almost every case, unmistakable.

3. Empress – The sphere of action; the feminine side of power, rule and authority; woman’s influence; physical beauty; woman’s reign; also the joy of life, and excesses on the evil side.

3. Empress. Beauty, happiness, pleasure, success, also luxury and some­times dissipation, but only if with very evil cards.

4. Emperor – Logical understanding, experience, human wisdom; material power on the male side, and all involved thereby.

4. Emperor. War, conquest, victory, strife, ambition.

Although Waite, in his summation of The Emperor’s divinatory meanings, appears to move away from the G.D. paradigm, note that Paul Foster Case, who like Waite and Coleman Smith, had been a member of the Golden Dawn, agrees with his interpretation. Case gives the meanings for Trump 4 as: Stability, power; reason (vide Waite’s ‘logical understanding’); ambition. Not all the Order’s teaching relating to tarotmancy is to be found in the its Knowledge Paper on the Tarot.

5. Pope, or Hierophant – Aspiration, life, power of the keys; spiritual authority developed on the external side; temporal power of official religion; on the evil side, sacerdotal tyranny and interference.

5. Hierophant. Divine Wisdom. Manifestation. Explanation. Teaching. Occult Wisdom. Also advice, meaning Good Counsel.

Waite’s perception of the card veers in a spiritual, even a sacerdotal direction; the instructions given by the G.D. tend more toward the material, with its Teaching, Explanation, and Good Counsel. The appraisals are, of course, nothing more than two sides of the same coin.

6. Lovers – Material union, affection, desire, natural love, passion, harmony of things; contains also the notions of modus vivendi, concord and so forth; equilibrium.

6. The Lovers. Inspiration (passive and in some cases mediumistic). Motive-power and action, arising from Inspiration and Impulse.

While Waite does not repeat the significances allotted to Trump 6 in the G.D.’s Knowledge Paper on the Tarot, mark well that other ex-G.D. alumni supply readings for the card paralleling those given by Waite writing as Grand Orient. Crowley has: attraction, beauty, love, and when reversed or ill-dignified instability, indecision, union in a shallow degree with others. Paul Foster Case’s reading of the card is even closer to that suggested by Grand Orient.

7. Chariot – Triumph of reason; success in natural things; the right prevailing; also predominance, conquest, and all external correspondences of these.

7. The Chariot. Triumph. Victory. Health. Success though sometimes not stable and enduring.

8. Fortitude, or Strength – Courage, vitality, tenacity of things, high endurance.

8. Fortitude. Cour­age, Strength, Fortitude. Power not arrested as in the act of Judgment, but passing on to further action; sometimes obstinacy, etc.

9. Hermit – Caution, safety, protection; wisdom on the manifest side; and the isolation thereof; detachment; the way of prudence; sagacity; search after truth.

9. The Hermit, or Prophet. Wisdom sought for and obtained from above. Divine Inspiration (but active as opposed to that of the Lovers).

This is a further instance where other products of the G.D. training system concur with Waite/Grand Orient. Crowley assigns the card the meanings: wisdom, prudence, circumspection, retirement from participation in current events. Paul Foster Case agrees with all of this, excluding only ‘retirement from participation in current events’.

10. Wheel of Fortune – Mutation, circumstances; revolution of things, vicissitude; time and its variable development; all that is understood by the external side of fortune.

10. Wheel of Fortune. Good fortune and happiness (within bounds), but sometimes also a species of intoxication with success, if the cards near it bear this out. In practice the Wheel signals a change of fortune for the better.

Waite’s approach to Trump 10 is high-minded and esoteric, as it so often is; but basically he adheres to the G.D. view of the card. Speaking of the more day-to-day significance of The Wheel, Paul Foster Case invests it with the meaning: Destiny; good fortune; turn for the better. Crowley writes of it in the same vein.

11. Justice – Equilibrium on the mental side rather than the sensuous, for which see No. 6; under certain circumstances, law and its decisions; also occult science.

11. Justice. Eternal Justice and Balance. Strength and Force, but arrested as in the act of Judgment. Also in combination with other cards, legal proceedings, a court of law, a trial at law, etc.

12. Hanged Man – The symbol of renunciation, for whatever cause and with whatever motive.

Waite does not use the word ‘sacrifice’ in relation to Trump 12, but it evidently belongs under this heading, and almost every other commentator of the time places it here, the author of the G.D.’s Paper on the Tarot included.

12. Hanged Man or Drowned Man. Enforced sacrifice. Punishment, Loss. Fatal and not voluntary. Suffering generally.

Crowley gives this Trump the meanings: Redemption through sacrifice, enforced sacrifice, punishment, loss, suffering in general, defeat, failure, death. Paul Foster Case concurs. All the keyword Crowley employs are compatible with the interpretation the G.D. put upon the card. We can assume that Waite accepted them too, even if he prefers the term ‘renunciation’.

13. Death – Contains naturally the meaning implied by its name and illustrated by its pictorial symbol, but not only and not at all of necessity; transforming force, independent of human will; may signify destruction; power behind the world which alters the face of the world, but it is this power in one of its respects only.

13. Death. Time. Ages. Transformation. Involuntary Change. Sometimes death and destruction, but rarely the latter, and the former only if it is borne out by the cards with it.

14. Temperance – New blood, combination, admixture, with the object of amelioration; providence in desirable change.

14. Temperance. Combination of Forces. Realisation. Action (material). Effect either for good or evil.

For once, Waite’s keywords for the Trump throw light on those favored by the author of the Order’s Paper on the Tarot. Other G.D. students found the Order’s suggestions regarding the meaning of this card less than helpful. Thus Paul Foster Case assigns Trump 14 the significances: Combination, adaptation, economy, management. Case, like Waite/Grand Orient, overlaps with the Order’s meanings only on ‘combination’. In the G.D.-type temple I attended, Trump 14 was assigned supplementary meanings closer to Waite’s and Case’s. They were issued orally and I and my fellow students were very glad to have them.

15. Devil, or Typhon – Fatality, evil, the false spirit; can indicate also the good working through evil.

15. Devil. Materiality. Material Force. Material temptation; sometimes obsession, especially if associated with the Lovers.

Here is yet another example of Waite gearing a meaning towards the abstract spiritual; and even when he travels down the planes a notch or two – and speaks of good working through evil – he does not provide specifically event-oriented keywords either to match or compete with the Order’s ‘Temptation’ and ‘Obsession’. We can turn to Paul Foster Case to flesh out the meanings supplied by Waite and the G.D. He furnishes his pupils with the terms ‘Bondage’ and ‘Force’ (citing particularly the force of convention and public opinion).

16. Ruined Tower – Destruction, confusion, judgment; also the idea of Divine Wrath.

16. Tower. Ambition, fighting, war, courage. In certain combinations, destruction, danger, fall, ruin.

Waite concentrates on the latter portion of the meanings that the Order associates with Trump 16. But since most authorities on the tarot of his era do the same, Waite can hardly be criticized for that.

17. Star – Light descending, hope; the symbol of immortality.

17. Star. Hope, faith, unexpected help. But sometimes also dreaminess, deceived hope, etc.

While the Waite/Grand Orient meaning is sketchier, there can be no doubt that the two lists depend upon the same comprehension of what Trump 17 represents.

18. Moon – Half-light, mutation, intellectual uncertainty, region of illusion; false-seeming.

18. Moon. Dissatisfaction, voluntary change. Error, lying, falsity, deception. The whole according whether the card is well or ill-dignified, and on which it much depends.

As with the Star, while Waite tends to be more ethereal and conceptual in his language, the parallels between his meanings and those of the G.D. are manifestly present – ‘false-seeming’ on the one hand, ‘lying and deception’ on the other, and so on. The phrase ‘half-light’ plainly has special connotations in Waite’s philosophy; compare with ‘full light’ assigned to The Sun in the following paragraph.

19. Sun – Full light, intellectual and material; the card of earthly happiness, but not attained individually.

19. Sun. Glory, Gain, Riches. Sometimes also arrogance. Display, Van­ity, but only when with very evil cards.

When he uses the phrase ‘earthly happiness’ Waite has material satisfaction in mind, e.g., riches or monetary gain. His ‘full light’ translates, in G.D. terms, into ‘glory’ on the positive side and ‘display’ on the negative. Waite also subscribes to a tradition that the G.D., in my experience of its tarot method, did not: he reads the boy and girl on the Marseille version of the card as a paring, a couple, 19t marriage emphasizedand this accounts for his observation that earthly happiness is not attained individually. In some French schools of tarot, the card symbolizes marriage, and accounts such a union as another facet of earthly, that is to say physical, happiness. There are continental decks whose symbolism points more candidly in that direction. (See illustration.)

20. The Last Judgment – Resurrection; summons to new things; a change in the face of everything.

20. Judgment. Final decision. Judgment. Sentence. Determination of a matter without appeal on its plane.

Waite’s understanding of the Trumps rarely goes against the G.D. interpretations, but here we have one of the exceptions. It is a divergence I can sympathize with. In my time as a member of a G.D.-type temple, most of my fellow students had problems absorbing the significance given to Trump 20 in the Order’s Knowledge Paper on the Tarot. Meanings more in line with those favored by Waite/Grand Orient – summons to new things, change in the face of everything, new life breathed into an old ambition – tended to be adopted in place of the G.D.’s ‘final decision, judgment, sentence.’ Crowley brings a degree of clarity to the matter with his description of the card’s meaning in his Book of Thoth: “Final decision in respect of the past, new current in respect of the future; always represents the taking of a definite step.” In practice, the first two significances frequently run together, affording the card an aura of ‘out with the old and in with the new’.

21. The World – The glory thereof under the powers of the higher providence, the sum of manifest things; conclusion on any subject.

21. Universe. The matter itself. Synthesis. World. Kingdom. Usually denotes the actual subject of the question, and therefore depends entirely on the accompanying cards.

Here we have one of the few instances where the meaning suggested by Waite, in the persona of Grand Orient, needs analyzing. (When writing as Grand Orient, Waite is generally more straightforward and less grandiloquent than he normally is. In this instance, however, he regresses into Waite-speak.) Under this heading, he is referring to the glory of the World operating under the powers of the higher providence, the Cosmos as the container of all things manifest. Or in G.D. language, the matter inquired about. A more useful meaning for those working with the predictive tarot is ‘the conclusion of a subject’. Oral teaching within the Order is summed up in Paul Foster Case’s recommended reading of the card. “Well-dignified it signifies success, a favorable issue to the circumstances. Sometimes change of place.” That last phrase, ‘change of place’, in tarot parlance invariably indicates elevation, a promotion or its equivalent. The G.D. named the card The Universe and, in the Waite-Smith tarot, A.E. Waite follows suit.

Writing as Grand Orient, Waite gives no predictive meaning for The Fool card. He takes it as his significator and associates no other connotations to it. To divine how he would have interpreted it in a reading made with all 78 cards we need to look at the significance he allows it in The Key to the Tarot. There he takes a view both traditional and widely accepted at the time he was writing: “Folly, mania, extravagance, intoxication, delirium, frenzy, bewrayment [betrayal, though literally ‘to have one’s true character exposed’]. Reversed: Negligence, absence, distribution, carelessness, apathy, nullity, vanity.”

This matches neatly the meaning the G.D. gave to the card, which was:

The Foolish Man: if the Divination be regarding a material event of ordinary life, this card is not good, and shows folly, stupidity, eccentricity, and even mania, unless with very good cards indeed. It is too ideal and unstable to be gen­erally good in material things.

Changes of Symbolism in the Waite-Smith Trumps

There are many innovations to be found among the Waite-directed designs for the Waite-Smith Trumps. The illustrations for Trump 6, The Lovers, and Trump 0, The Fool, are original conceptions. Otherwise, however, none of pictures for the Trumps in the Waite-Smith deck seem to have been snatched out of thin air; they all have a history.

The blueprints for Waite’s Magician and High Priestess are to be found in the ‘Egyptian tarot’ published in Practical Astrology (Edgar de Valcourt-Vermont, 1901). The designs for the Trumps of the ‘Egyptian tarot’ are based on the teachings of Paul Christian.

01 brotherhood of light       2 b of light

Trump 1: The ‘Egyptian tarot’ calls this card the Magus, following Christian’s lead. This may be where the G.D. got the idea to call their version of Trump 1 The Magician. Waite has his artist embellish the design with roses and lilies, a snake belt, and a change of costume that befits the magus’s new station in life. The reason for these additions, as well as for the inclusion of roses over the Magician’s head, are explained by Paul Foster Case. (See the chapter on The Magician in his The Tarot.) Waite reverses the hand gestures so as to have the magician hold the wand in his right hand. Though this change should perhaps not be considered an innovation, the exchange had occurred previously on occasion on the design of the Juggler card in decks printed by means of woodblocks. Though an image may be drawn correctly on woodblock, the picture appears in reverse, as in a mirror, when the card is printed. The illustrations of the Trumps presented by Court de Gébelin in Le Monde Primitif suffer the same fate.

01 II  the-magician-rider-waite

Trump 2: Neither in the ‘Egyptian tarot’ nor in the Waite-Smith deck is there any sign of the Tarot de Marseille’s Papess in their respective representations of Trump 2. Waite has Coleman Smith elaborate the picture by putting on the veil between the pillars a design suggesting the layout of the Qabalistic Tree of Life, and by situating a crescent moon in the card’s bottom right-hand corner, the G.D. associating Trump 2 with the Moon. The symbol on the priestess’s breast is, in the ‘Egyptian tarot’, is the sigil for Mercury. On the Waite-Smith card, this is altered to a Greek cross, representing the four lunar phases (although continental commentators tend to call it a Solar Cross). The ‘Egyptian tarot’ presents the pillars either side of the priestess in different colors – white and black or black and red. Waite has letters imprinted on the pillars, B and J, standing for Boaz and Jachin, thereby identifying the Temple at whose entrance the priestess sits as that of King Solomon. Waite may not be first to name the pillars. Morley, in his Old and Curious Playing Cards of 1931, has a depiction of the High Priestess, still named La Papess, flanked by pillars bearing the names Boaz and Jakin written in full. Jakin is the preferred spelling of the word among French Masons. Morley’s card, which he dates to the nineteenth century, shows the priestess adorned with a Greek cross, a crescent moon at her feet, exactly what we find in the Waite-Smith version of the card.

2 la_papesse   Trump2HTM

Examine the Marseille version of the Trump and compare it to the Morley card, of which the Waite-Smith rendering is a modification. Plainly, a huge chasm lies between the two concepts. The change was brought about by Paul Christian’s commentary on the Trumps. He renames Trump 2 The Gate of the Occult Sanctuary and presents the priestess as guardian of that gate. The ‘Egyptian tarot’ obliges by depicting her in front of two pillars, one red, one black as per Christian’s instructions. Later rectifiers of tarot turn the pillars into those of the Solomonic temple and align the priestess with the moon. Waite and Coleman Smith were inheritors of that tradition and incorporated it into their work on the Waite-Smith tarot.

Old and Curious Playing Cards is a fascinating book but I am puzzled by the dates given to some of the Trump cards used as illustrations. Morley has examples of Trumps 3 and 4 that are exact duplicates of their Waite-Smith fellows. The former is dated to the nineteenth century, the latter is undated but appears to come from the same deck as his examples of The High Priestess and The Empress. However, his L’Imperatore, as said, differs not at all from Coleman Smith’s Trump 4. He wears the same headgear, holds the same scepter, as the Waite-Smith Emperor does; he faces out of the card and sits on a throne decorated with ram’s heads exactly as the Emperor does. The ram’s heads link the Trump to the sign Aries. Morley’s card has a French title but no French school of tarot associated Trump 4 with Aries, and in the nineteenth century, neither did any British or American school of tarot, apart from the Golden Dawn, whose attributions, at that time, remained a secret. I am, therefore, wary of the dates Morley gives to any of the Trumps found in his book that closely resemble Waite-Smith designs.

Trump3HTM   Emperor not ws

Having covered Trumps 3 and 4, I shall move on to Trump 5.

Whereas, in her transition from Papess to Priestess, the figure on Trump 2 lost all her papal regalia, the renaming of Trump 5 after the chief officer of the Eleusinian mysteries has no effect on the way the central figure on that card is presented. It remains a pope, despite the change of name. The triple tiara, the crosses on the stole and slippers, the tonsure of the supplicants at hierophant’s feet all proclaim a Christian rather than a pagan setting.

Trump 6: Waite replaces the traditional design with a representation of the Garden of Eden before the Fall. This symbolism has great significance in G.D. teaching, which is why he chooses to introduce it here. Again, the most reasonable explanation of the image is to be found in Paul Foster Case’s The Tarot (McCoy Publishing Company, 1947).

Trump 7: The Waite-Smith picture is a partial redrawing of the Marseille card. (Sphinxes now draw the chariot, for instance.) The image relies on Eliphas Levi’s re-envisioning of the card. Otherwise there is nothing novel or innovative about the illustration.

Trump 9: Waite has thoroughly overhauled this Trump, though the changes are not immediately apparent, and the too-trusting student might easily miss them. The traditional Hermit is in motion; often he is compared to Diogenes, searching for a good man by the light of a lantern in broad daylight. In the Tarot de Marseille’s card, the lantern is partly concealed by the hermit’s cloak, hence the mystic title Christian gives the Trump: The Hidden Light. In contrast, Waite’s hermit stands atop a mountain, his lantern held on high. Waite specifically says (in The Key to the Tarot) that the lantern is a beacon for others. He rejects the idea that the hermit’s “lantern contains the light of occult knowledge and that his staff is a magic wand.” Waite argues instead that “this is a card of attainment . . . rather than a card of quest.”

HTMFLtrump9b   9 hermit

Of the designs of Trump 8 and Trump 11 there is nothing to say. Waite exchanges their positions, renumbering them in the process. However, their designs are the familiar Tarot de Marseille ones, smartened up somewhat by Ms Coleman Smith’s elegant draftsmanship.

The Waite-Smith Trump 10 is a redrawing of the traditional illustration, in this instance relying heavily on Eliphas Levi’s re-envisioning of the card.

10 II    10 Wheel

Trump 12: As was the case with The Emperor, the Waite-Smith Hanged Man has been remodeled. Most notably the gibbet from which the figure hangs has been transformed into a T-cross. Waite, a committed Christian, possibly wanted the symbolism to replicate as nearly as possible the image of Christ on the cross. Waite has had his artist insert a halo around the hanged man’s head. Of the inner significance of the card, Waite is coy, telling readers of The Key to the Tarot only, “I will say simply on my own part that it expresses the relation, in one of its aspects, between the Divine and the Universe.”

12 II   r-w 12-The-Hanged-Man

For Trump 13, Waite sets aside the Marseille image and has Ms Coleman Smith instead adapt one of the earliest Italian designs from the mid-fourteenth century.

13 cary yale    r-w death

Trump 14: For this card, Waite has had Coleman Smith redraw the traditional design to include a stream at the angel’s feet besides which a clump of irises grow. Other additions include the geometric figure on the angles breast and the haloed crown glittering in the distance.

14 II   r-w temperance

Trump 15: Morley has an illustration of The Devil in Old and Curious Playing Cards that is almost the twin of the Waite-Smith picture. He claims it dates to the seventeenth-century although its style is that of those nineteenth-century cards also included in the book that bear suspicious similarities to their respective Waite-Smith equivalents. The Waite-Smith Devil is in many ways a toned down version of Eliphas Levi’s design for the card.

Devil not ws    RWS_Tarot_15_Devil

Trump 16: The Waite-Smith Tower is at base a redrawing of the traditional illustration. The major adjustment is that the crenelated battlements of the top of the tower in the Tarot de Marseille version now resemble a crown suitable for a medieval king to wear. This may not have been the original intention, but ‘crown’ is a highly charged word to Qabalists such as Waite and Foster Case, and it is noteworthy that Case too, in his BOTA deck, has the upper part of the tower resemble a toppled crown.

The Waite-Smith tarot’s Trump 17 is little more than a redrawing of the traditional design, as is its Trump 18.

18 moon   waite_moon_large

For Trump 19, Waite again jettisons the traditional design in favor of a very early one depicting a boy on a horse carrying a banner. To this Waite has had his artist add a wall over which the heads of sunflowers are visible. He has also had her add a feather to the wreath on the child’s head, replicating the wreath sporting a single plume that adorns the brow of the Waite-Smith Fool.

19t early w-s   rw sun

Trump 20 is Ms Coleman Smith’s rendering of the traditional design, to which she has added other bodies rising in the background of the card. The intention almost certainly is to indicate that what is represented esoterically by the Trump can, and indeed will, given time, happen to everybody and not just to the three individuals usually on view. This moves the imagery away from the emblematic in the direction of a Christian vignette of the Last Judgement.

20 judgment 75   20t judgement

Once again, Trump 21 is essentially a redrawing of the Tarot de Marseille card.

The Waite-Smith Trump Zero’s design was a novel one when it was first introduced, something that tends to get forgotten today. It is Waite’s ”interpretation” of the G.D.’s understanding of the Trump. Not wanting to reveal the image used by the Order (a naked male child plucking a yellow rose, accompanied by a wolf, which the boy has on a leash), Waite created another, the picture we are now all familiar with. Like the G.D., Waite turns his back on the traditional image – a ragged beggar attacked by a dog or a lynx-like animal. Paul Foster Case’s deconstruction of the Waite-Smith card’s symbolism is illuminating. It can be found in the chapter on The Fool in his book The Tarot.

22 fool zEgyptian trt 00-Fool

0 Foolw-s-fool

While Case approves most of Waite’s innovations, and indeed builds upon them at times, improving or clarifying them where he feels it necessary to do so, note that he reverts to Tarot de Marseille models for cards such as The Emperor, The Hanged Man, Death, and The Sun, evidently preferring these images to those Waite replaced them with.

This discussion of the symbolism and significance of the Major Arcana has taken more space than I at first intended to allow it. With this work carried out, however, I will continue in my next article to look at the pictures on the Waite-Smith spot cards and their relationship to the divinatory meanings sanctioned for them by the Golden Dawn.

Court Cards, When Not People

Over the years, the question I have been asked most often is: What do the court cards mean if they don’t signify people. There is a part of my mind that, even after being asked this question numerous times over four decades, doesn’t understand why people are asking it. Our lives a composed of a sequence of interactions, with our spouse, our children, our relatives, our friends and work companions, surely it is useful, necessary even, to have cards to represent people in a divination, However, as so many would-be tarot readers have trouble interpreting the court cards in this manner, I have put together alternative meanings for these cards. Yet note that the two facets of meaning can be intertwined. The King of Wands reversed can signify approaching danger, but the source of that peril may very well be a go-getting, outwardly successful business-man type. With that point understood, let us move on to, first, a broad view of the courts as events rather than individuals.

Broadly speaking, court cards that forecast an agreeable outcome are: the upright King, Queen and Page of Wands, the Page of Pentacles, the King, Queen, Knight and Page of Cups and the King of Swords. Those forecasting an unwelcome outcome are the upright Knight of Pentacles and the Page of Swords. The other upright cards – Knight of Wands, King and Queen of Pentacles, Queen and Knight of Swords – bear a mixed influence.

King of Wands   PageWands   Queen of Wands

The King of Wands signifies successful business dealings, but this can be read as success in a general sense where the question is unrelated to career or business matters. His Queen is a symbol of generosity of spirit and of loyalty and trustworthiness. As the ‘result’ card she points to expansion or growth of some kind. So where the question is “Will I gain the promotion?”, her appearance gives the  answer “yes”. In a regular divination, the Page of Wands denotes: A message from someone closely related to you; also well-regulated financial affairs. In the ‘result’ position, and where the question concerns money, it is an excellent omen. In any other matters it signifies that favorable news concerning the situation will soon arrive.

The Page of Pentacles also announces good news but also forecasts a pleasurable or satisfactory end to the scenario under review. The King of Swords points to attainment, particularly where a decision has to be made by a third party that could benefit or disadvantage the inquirer, depending on which way it goes.

Page of Pentacles   King of Cups   Queen of Cups

The King and Queen of Cups likewise predict favourable outcomes. The keywords for the Cup courts are fertility and growth. Depending on the question asked, the result will be happiness, advantage, increase or pleasure. The Knight of Cups is indicative of promises being kept, the support of others and a pleasant trip or visit, if that fits in with the question the inquirer has posed. More broadly the card represents the goodwill of the gods, smiling down on the inquirer’s hopes. Good news concerning money or a birth are represented by the Page of Cups in any reading. As a ‘result’ card (position ten in a Celtic Cross spread, for example) it signals gain or growth. “Will my bid on a property be accepted?” The Page of Cups, as the last card in an Equal-Armed Cross reading, says, “You will obtain what you want.”

The Knight of Pentacles is not a good card to have in the ‘result’ slot. The card warns of a new and worrying influence coming into play that does not bode well for the inquirer’s dreams and ambitions. Nor is the Page of Swords a helpful card as to have as the ‘result’, for it speaks of evil tidings and impediments and, in matters of romance, a treacherous rival in love, who will strive to do the inquirer harm.

cups page   mmTarot 67   Swords Queen 2

Cards of mixed import are the hardest to interpret. They usually denote partial success in an enterprise, as with the Queen of Swords. Her meanings are: riches combined with discord, abundance together with worry, joy intermingled with grief. I have known the card appear where a dispute has occurred over a will, or when someone close to the inquirer has died (grief) but has left them a considerable sum of money in their will (joy).

The Knight of Swords has some of the qualities of The Juggler/Magician. Elsewhere in a reading the card signifies the skilful avoidance of trouble, prompt reaction to an obstacle that gets one’s plans speedily back on track. As the ‘result’ card, this Knight tells the reader that the inquirer will achieve her ends and will do so mainly through her own capable and ‘can do’ attitude. The point being, that there is something that first needs to be cleared up or attended to; success isn’t guaranteed, and if the inquirer is dilatory, she may well lose out because of it.

There are parallels with the Knight of Wands, whose meanings are prudence in money matters and the need to economize. Its appearance as the ‘result’ card intimates that attainment is possible, especially in money matters, but that ultimately success or failure is in the inquirer’s own hands. If they will rein in their expenditure of cash or energy, whichever applies to the question asked, much can be achieved, though perhaps not everything hoped for. The Knight of Wands is a symbol of unbridled enthusiasm and for anything good to come out of a situation this knight is involved in, energy needs to be focused or contained.

swords knight   wands knight   pentacles queen

The Queen of Pentacles indicates an urge to make money. Here the meaning is presented abstractly. Turned into concrete terms, it becomes: the inquirer uses her skills to make money. The card represents growth in material terms, but it is not good for emotional matters. However, if the Queen of Pentacles describes the inquirer’s love interest, obviously it is a good omen if the card falls in the ‘result’ position, for then it represents him gaining her affections eventually.

As mentioned at the outset, this is one of the drawbacks to using the court cards to represent something other than people. Most of those consulting the tarot are not hermits; they have relatives, friends and co-workers and these individuals will often turn up in a reading signified by a court card. For instance, the Page of Swords represents a rival in love but it can also describe the rival according to way the reader views the suit. A practitioner of the Golden Dawn method of interpretation would read the Page of Swords as someone with a subtle mind, clever and wise in the ways of the world; he may in his manner, display grace or dexterity or both. (I find it best in a multicultural world to keep to a description of temperament rather than concentrate on hair and eye color.)

The court cards in reverse are not promotors of happy results. The King of Wands reversed foretells danger ahead for the inquirer; at best the future is uncertain. The outcome is marred by suspicion, jealousy or mistrust where the Queen of Wands holds the ‘result’ position. Frequently, its message to the inquirer is “You need to be suspicious; there’s something here that doesn’t quite add up.” The Knight of Wands denotes bad luck often resulting from the imprudence of a friend. But it also signifies carelessness in financial matters, and the reader has to choose which of these two meanings to apply. The Page of Wands tells of a wasted opportunity, though it can also point to waste of another kind: thriftlessness or extravagance.

A brighter message is borne by the reversed King of Pentacles. The card denotes good counsel, and advice that should be taken. The intimation is that the inquirer will regret it if she doesn’t take the advice on offer. The Queen of Pentacles reversed is a ‘no’ to success, attainment or expansion. She is a symbol of obstacles, resistance, and opposition in general. Where the question concerns finances, her meaning is that monetary affairs will not proceed smoothly. The Knight of that suit in reverse portends ruptures, discord, and quarrels. In the ‘result’ position, it denotes failure due to a falling out or massive disagreement. The Page of Pentacles reversed also signifies failure of hopes, in particular highlighting the loss of money or prestige. The outcome pointed to by this Page will displease the inquirer, probably leaving her with a great deal to worry about.

q wands gd cicero R[2147]   q wands in gd mould R[2148]   q wands tmd R[2149]

Three examples of Queen of Wands reversed

The Cups courts in reverse continue the pattern. The King of Cups warns of shifty dealings, and like the reversed Queen of Wands, intimates that the inquirer has good reason to distrust the motives of another person involved in the situation, possibly a man fitting the description assigned the King of Cups. The Queen of that suit in reverse tells a happier story, for she portends success although with some attendant trouble. The card often signifies that the inquirer’s dreams are fulfilled only to a small degree, the whole package being denied her. The reversed Knight of Cups warns of duplicity or underhand dealings. The same interpretation should be put on the card when found in the ‘result’ position as was applied to the reversed Queen of Wands and King of Cups above. Much the same can be said of the Page of Cups, whose reverse meaning is flattery, artifice, or trickery.

mmTarot 115mmTarot 130mmTarot 101

The King Swords in reverse is a symbol of chagrin, worry, grief, fear, or disturbance. In essence, in the ‘result’ position, it is a ‘no’ to questions such as “Will I marry X?”, “Will I get the job?”, “Will I be awarded the contract?” If the rest of the reading has been positive in tone, the card can mean: You will get what you want but it will be such a headache to you that you will wish you hadn’t. The Swords Queen in reverse speaks of loss, privation, absence, separation. It is not a good portent for either romantic, family, career or financial concerns. The reversed Knight of Swords is one of the chief symbols of the inquirer being taken advantage of. The card denotes a treacherous situation, where the inquirer cannot trust the ground beneath her feet. Even if the foregoing part of the reading has been good, this knight in the ‘result’ position warns that all is not as it appears to be. The reversed Page of Swords is similar. Its message is to be vigilant, for bad luck, seemingly, is about to strike from out of the blue.

mmTarot 103   mmTarot 104