Tarot tradition could be said to consist of four main threads, or themes. 1) The Italian/Marseille theme - clearly from my naming it so there can be an argument as to whether this is one, two, or more, themes here. Suffice to say this is the 'old European' style. Decks that were, for the most part, used primarily for the "jeu de Tarot", and which echo long neglected/forgotten alchemical, mystical themes. 2) The Rider Waite Smith Tarot - not the first to illustrate the minor arcana/pip cards - but the most popular deck in the West. This relies heavily upon Christian symbolism, blended in with Alchemical elements (small 'e'!) 3) The Thoth Tarot, by Aleister Crowley and Lady Harris. Sadly, for all its beauty, this deck has two major issues for many people. Apologists for Crowley aside, many people find Crowley a fascinating, brilliant-minded, but repulsive man. The second issue is the sheer complexity of the fabulous imagery upon these cards. Crowley's "Book of Thoth", the 'guide' to the deck is considered near-impenetrable by many, although we can thank Lon Milo DuQuette for helping us out in this regard. [And it is this tradition that most heavily influences Clark in his Magickal Tarot] 4) The fourth stream, well, is hard to quantify, but suffice to say we can call it the post-1960's tradition and not go too far wrong. It includes everything from the legendary Greenwood Tarot, to the Tarot of Vampires, and if you can think of it, then there is probably a deck to represent it, or which at least includes elements of it.
The Magickal Tarot emerged in the 1980's, it seems, according to the author, reluctantly. A practitioner of Magick, he was clearly taken with Crowley's brilliance, and sought to distil the insights of the man, and those of Lady Harris' wonderful art, into a deck with closer alchemical links, and which was easier to use. Others have reviewed the set (which has the same cards in it, plus a companion book, but seems to oscillate between stupendously expensive and merely prohibitive in price) and attest to the potency of these cards in providing 'uncannily accurate readings'. I would say that many well thought out decks can do that, in the right hands. But, if the imagery, elegant, simple and powerful in my eyes, calls to you, if the departure from the heavily-influenced-by-Christian-symbolism earlier traditions appeals, if the Thoth is impenetrable, and some of the New Age-y stuff is just a bit 'thin' for you, then I would urge you to discover for yourself just why this deck turns mild people into bidding warriors on auction sites, and why it is that prices for this long out of print deck keep heading skywards.Read more ›