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Madeline Marmite

October 29, 2011

Opinions are split on Madeline Montalban. Those who met her tended to react as people do to the U.K. yeast product Marmite: they loved her or hated her. Some thought her a charlatan and a braggart, others that she was one of the most accomplished magicians of her age. There were readers of her Tarot column in Prediction who hung on her every word, while others found her articles of little worth.

The Prediction articles were written for a wide audience. For this reason Miss M. only hinted in them at the higher uses of the Tarot cards, evidently believing that those who had eyes to see and ears to hear would seek to penetrate further in the Tarot mysteries, either through solitary study and experimentation or by turning to Miss M. herself for guidance. A friend of mine, Tony Willis, author of a book on runic divination and magic variously named The Runic Workbook and Discover Runes, took the articles Miss M. wrote about the Tarot and Arthurian legend in the mid-’50s and added to them a set of exercises, thus transforming them into a course of self-initiation that, correctly followed through, will bring the student to doors of the Temple of the Third Degree. The person pursuing this course of action cannot be a complete novice in occultism, but anyone working alone in the esoteric field who has attained a good basic knowledge of occult theory and practice can, by these exercises, prepare themselves mentally and spiritually for receipt of the Third Degree, which in this context should be seen as on a par with the Golden Dawn’s Grade of Zelator Adeptus Minor.

Tony has graciously agreed that I can publish his exercises alongside his edited versions of Miss M.’s original articles. This puts a powerful and valuable tool in the hands of those who recognize it as such and know who to wield it. Tony’s view is that if the publication of the exercises helps just one solitary occultist to reach the doors of the Temple of the Greater Mysteries he will consider the venture well blessed. These exercises have worked for others; they may work for you.

I will publish the articles one at a time. Tony’s exercises begin once the Introduction is out of the way.



In order to get the most out of these papers, it would be prudent for the student to have an idea of the outline of the story contained in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. It is not necessary to have read Malory, however. T.H. White’s The Once and Future King is based on the Morte d’Arthur, and the musical Camelot is in turn based on White’s book. To have read The Once and Future King or to have seen Camelot, or simply to know the plots of any of these, will suffice.

The main body of the text — those sections of each chapter in which the links between the Tarot Trumps and the characters that appear in the Morte d’Arthur are explained — were written by Madeline Montalban in the late ’50s. I have edited her original work and added the exercises. The result is a program of work suitable for anyone who wishes to advance spiritually while at the same time continuing to function effectively in the mundane world. It is possible to maintain a career and a moderate social life and to fulfil one’s obligations to a family whilst working through this paper because the only major sacrifice required of the student is half an hour of their time per day. No more than 15 minutes should be spent on the daily meditations. It should then take approximately 15 minutes to write up your magickal diary. Entries should be written into your diary as soon after you have completed a meditation session as is practicable.

It is suggested that these meditations are carried out with the eyes open; that is to say, while gazing at the Tarot card you have been asked to meditate upon, and drinking in, as it were, the significance of the design. Another alternative is to start off with the chosen card before you, to close your eyes, picturing the Tarot image with your mind’s eye, and then to commence the meditation exercise. Except in very exceptional cases, you are not asked to go on astral journeys; you are expected to think about the inner meaning of the Tarot card you are working on in the light of information given to you in the chapter relating to the card in question.


by Madeline Montalban

The Tarot’s hidden lore has been studied by occult students the world over, but the subject is so immense that not only have books on occultism to be combed for the fragments they contain, but libraries and museums have also to be searched, and the literature of every nation has to be studied. No one person can hope in the course of a lifetime to correlate this scattered knowledge, or hope to hear about all manuscripts both published and unpublished which contain the necessary information.

Some years ago I came into contact with a learnedPraguescholar who had devoted his life to tracing the connection between the secrets of the Tarot and the legends of medievalEurope. Long before his task was finished he fell victim to political terror, and disappeared. Most of his work, save some notes which I had taken from his documents, was destroyed, as was his irreplaceable library. Though the Professor had never claimed to be either adept or guru, our talks together taught me more about occultism than I had learned previously in all my years of study.

I met him through an article of mine which had been printed in a German magazine, but which had lost a lot of its sense in the translation. This traced the connection between Sir Thomas Malory’s imagery in the Morte d’Arthur, the legend of the Knights of the Round Table, and Tarot lore. After reading this the Professor wrote to me suggesting that we met and compared notes with a view to collaborating on a book. He too held the belief that scholars of all nationalities were aware of magickal knowledge, and employed it discreetly in the form of romantic stories and plays, as did Goethe and Shakespeare, to mention but two.

All World Teachers have spoken in parables, and students interpret them according to their ability and knowledge. The Tarot is actually a series of parables, and each card hides a cosmic truth, but only until such time as the earnest seeker needs to understand it. It is then that the knock of desire on the door of concealed secrets is answered by the gradual opening of that door. Initiation is not a thing that takes place in some secret temple. Life itself is the initiator, and the knowledge gained by experience helps every student to understand the wider implications of the Tarot. Each of us is an initiate, of a less or greater degree, according to what we have learned and assimilated.

Students and teachers of the Tarot have realised that the study of its secrets helps one to know not only one’s Self, but the magnificently conceived Plan which the Divine Parent has implemented in order that humankind may progress upwards by gradual stages. The Tarot can be compared to a secret book that can be read only by those who have learned the language of occultism. The greatest secret of the Tarot is that it is not hiding one — not if you really want to understand it. It can be compared to a sphinx without a secret, and only asks that you accept each card as a simple parable which tells a great truth, and interpret and use it according to your understanding.

The Key to The Morte D’Arthur

Sir Thomas Malory’s book on the Knights of the Round Table was designed as a romance of chivalry and faith, but based on sound magickal teaching. Arthur the King, a man simple and devout of heart, is represented by The Emperor, or No. 4 in the Major Arcana of the Tarot, and Guinevere, his Queen, is No. 3, The Empress. Guinevere not only loves Arthur for his qualities, but also Sir Lancelot, the bold impressionable knight who cannot learn from precept, but only from personal experience, and through the emotions of love. Sir Lancelot is thus not complete in himself, for each facet of his character must be developed through contact with some lady, therefore his card is No. 6 in the Tarot, called The Lovers. Merlin, magician to the Court of King Arthur, is represented by No. 1, The Juggler (or in modern packs, and more appropriately in this case, The Magician), and his assistant and pupil, Vivienne, is No. 2, otherwise The Great Priestess.

Sir Galahad, the perfect gentle knight without spot or stain, is represented by No. 12, The Hanged Man, who realises that the world is topsy turvy, with the wicked often flourishing while the good suffer. So he views it from an upside-down position in order to get it in perspective. (The full meaning of this card’s symbolism will be the subject of a chapter later in the Paper.) Only Sir Galahad can draw and wield the sword Excalibur (represented by the Ace of Swords, and denoting complete temporal power) because both his heart and mind are pure, and he would not turn the power to selfish ends.

The Holy Grail, the Cup used at the Last Supper, is represented by the Ace of Cups, signifying complete happiness attained through the right employment of wisdom, beauty and truth. The knights who pursued it are each represented in the Tarot Trumps, and their adventures form the parables of the cards they represent. The Quest for the Holy Grail itself represents humanity’s search after truth, spiritual happiness and godliness, and each adventure depicted in the Morte d’Arthur is a parable describing what the dedicated searcher may expect to find on the path of occult study. From No. 1 in the Tarot Trumps to No. 21, every “initiation” and magickal secret is described and preserved. The beginner and adept alike are represented by the first card we will study — The Juggler or Magician. For remember that the person who knows one bit of occult knowledge becomes a magician to those who know nothing of the subject at all. Power is comparative, and is given only when the subject has learned to wield it, and then only bit by bit.


In the tradition discussed here, Excalibur is taken to be the generic name for the magick sword wielded by the Adeptus Major, and the Quest for the Holy Grail is also termed the Mission Perilous.

To get the most out of the Paper, you will need to furnish yourself with an esoteric Tarot pack, either a Rider-Waite deck or one of the many decks derived from it, or, for preference, the deck produced by the Builders Of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.). When it is ready, the best solution of all would be to work with the ToJ Tarot deck.


© Madeline Montalban, 1954

© Tony Willis, 2010


From → tarot

  1. If Miss M was like Marmite, then the spread of articles by her, must have been excellent. Anyone who inspires love or/and hate, is someone who has the ability to awaken a spark in the seeker.
    I look forward to following the writings by Madeline Montalban and added exercises by Tony.

    Thank you Auntie.

  2. Auntie,
    This is all moonshine, isn’t it? The tarot didn’t even exist in Malory’s day. That’s what you teach. So his Mort DArthur can’t have anything to do with the tarot.
    Madeline Motalban was away with the fairies according to some reports I’ve seen. Then some people have written that she told downright lies. Michael Howard says she claimed her students could walk on water. No wonder there are divided opinions. She didn’t help her own cause saying and doing the things she did.
    I don’t see that these articles on the grail and Merlin and stuff are a useful addition to tarot studies even with exercises tagged on.
    P.S. I really like the blog when it focuses on the history of the tarot in England during the forties and fifties.

    • Hi Walt,
      If you care to read the introduction again, you will note that it is full of references to such things as “the connection between Sir Thomas Malory’s imagery in the Morte d’Arthur . . . and Tarot lore.” Never once does Miss M. or Tony Willis say that occult lore was embedded in the Tarot in any way. They merely note the connection made by occultists.
      The Tarot is like a magic mirror in which occultists see reflected back at them whatever they most want to find in it. That doesn’t make the Tarot invalid as an occult tool. Many magicians have made good use of the Tarot’s symbolism, though many more have tripped on their egos and fallen flat on their faces. That, however, is not the Tarot’s fault, as the fall is always due to an already existing character flaw.

      I read with pleasure that you like the parts of the blog dealing with the Tarot from the perspective of its modern exoteric history. Miss M.’s articles are part of that history. They were printed openly during the fifties and sixties and affect Tarot students during that period. Carlyle Pushong, in his book The Tarot of the Magi (first published in the late sixties or early seventies) describes a use for the Pages in divination that parallels Miss M.’s way of working with them. I suspect he adopted it from Miss M. In subtle ways such as this she influenced many students of Tarot.
      Best wishes,

      • Okay, Auntie,
        You’re right.
        So there’s just a ‘correspondence’ between the tarot trumps and the legend Thomas Malory tells in the Mort DArthur. I’ll read the rest of the posts with that in mind.

  3. Hey Auntie,

    I love this allegory and correlation to the trumps.

    I just wanted to ask what tarot deck Tony is referring to when he says at the end, ToJ Tarot Deck?

    Many thanks,


    • Hi Catherine,
      Thanks for your kind comment.
      I’m using ToJ tarot cards to illustrate the articles. This is the tarot used by the group Tony was associated with – the Temple of Janus – and for which he wrote the exercises.
      Best wishes,

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