29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 21 December 2007
I bought this book alongside Rachel Pollacks excellent '78 degrees of Wisdom', which uses the Rider-Waite deck as it's primary reference.Don't be put off by the old-style language in A.E.Waites book, for if you persevere with it his words add so much extra insight into the meaning of the cards. Note also, it is wonderful being able to view the original black and white card images presented in the book.If you are keen on the Rider-Waite pack, it is essential, in my view, to own this book alongside any later references. I strongly advise you to buy it alongside Rachel Pollacks book, then alternate between each as you learn.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 7 January 2010
Arthur Waite provides information for the widely known and original Tarot deck that he created.
"...the pictures are like doors which open into unexpected chambers, or like a turn in the open road with a wise prospect beyond" ~A.E Waite
The English is a little difficult to understand and he doesn't seem to give that much information on his deck, since there is a lot more information available published by other authors. But, he does give simple meaning for his cards in the upright and reversed positions and, as the name of the book suggests, a good explanation of each picture. He also offers a good overall view of what his deck is about, its development, possible origins and its true purpose. It also provides a full reference list to all the sources Arthur has used in his book, which would of excellent use for those wishing to study the Tarot's origins and development.
If you are a serious Tarot student, then it would be a good thing to have read this book and to have it on your shelf. And not just because Arthur is the creator of the original Tarot deck but because there is some information in this book, that is overlooked by today's authors on the subject.
ETA: I highly recommend the new Tarot student starts with 'Tarot Card Meanings: Fundamentals' and 'Tarot Card Meanings: Interpretations' - By Paul Foster Case. He tells you what A.E. Waite didn't!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 2012
This book is widely regarded as a definitive work on Tarot , accompanying as it did the original designs for the 'Rider-Waite' Tarot. The author explains some of what went into the designs and as such it is the only truly authoratitive account of the origins of this partiular deck ( and similar derivative decks);this was among the first decks to have pictorial illustrations for each and every card , and many other decks use the same symbols today . Arthur Waite himself came up with or refined the content of all the cards in the deck , and supervised the designs which were drawn and coloured (at least as prototypes for printed versions) by Pamela Coleman Smith.
All this makes this seem to be an ideal book to learn about tarot from , but unfortunately the case is not so simple . The main problem with the book is that it is all written from A.E Wate's rather antiquated and lofty point of view . Waite himself was an early member of the Golden Dawn , a Victorian society which has been alternately scandalised and glamourised largely due to the reputation of its most notorious member , Aleister Crowley . The truth about the Golden Dawn is that it was largely composed of scholarly members of the 'upper classes' , generally educated in private schools , who were probably slightly rebellious and expressing this though an interest in 'the occult sciences' . For this reason much of what they wrote about was based upon scholarly studies of subjects such as Egyptology and the like ; in other words their 'occultism' is underpinned with an elitism , both of a social and intellectual nature .
This is the problem with this book. Particularly in the descriptions of the 'Majors' or 'Trumps' the author is very unclear about many of the meanings , and tends to make multiple references to little known 'occult lore' as if expecting the reader to be an expert on the subject .
For those who are knowledgeable about 'occult traditions' this is a very useful guide to the intricacies of the cards, but for the 'beginner' or casual reader curious about how to use or read the Tarot it is over scholarly , too obscure and written in a very awkward and old fashioned style .
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2011
Arthur Edward Waite was a famous figure in the British spiritual movement of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. He was born in Brooklyn, United States of America but spent most of his life in England. The Roman Catholic church was strongly influential in his life, and he firmly believed in the existence of an esoteric Christian church - it was upon this belief that his involvement with magic and the occult was built. For a long time he was closely associated with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.. He wrote books on ceremonial magic, freemasonry, the Holy Grail and the Rosicrusian Brotherhood, and died in 1942.
Waite's stated intention in writing this book is expressed in three parts - "I have dealt with the antiquities of the subject and a few things that arise from and connect therewith" (p.viii). Secondly, "I have dealt with the symbolism according to some of its higher aspects" (viii). Thirdly, (with regard to divination), "I have given prominence to one method of working........having the merit of simplicity" (p.ix).
As a whole, the book is also presented in three parts - i) the seemingly obvious outer symbolism of the Tarot, making a brief visit to both Major and Minor Arcana, and an exposition of the Tarot in history; ii) a more in-depth look at the Major cards; and iii) the Minor Arcana, and divination.
At the beginning of the book Waite is at pains to point out that he has only written it in order to pre-empt anyone else's attempt to explain the Tarot. He states that "The fact remains that a Secret Tradition exists regarding the Tarot, and...........it will be as well to go before the event and to warn those who are curious in such matters that any rendering will contain only a third part of the earth and sea and a third part of the stars of heaven in respect of symbolism" (p.5). As an initiate into High Magic, he is zealous about protecting the real meaning of the Tarot and, therefore, seeks to have control through the writing of the book.
As the author begins his initial exploration of the Major Arcanca, it immediately becomes apparent that he cares little for what anyone else thinks about it, as in writing about many of the cards he makes seething remarks over what he sees as particular individuals' foolishness and self-deceit. some examples are as follows :- "Justice - Court De Gebelin believed that he had extracted what he wanted from the symbol of the Hanged Man.....wherein he deceived himself" (p.22); "The Star - This is one of the which Court de Gebelin describes as wholly Egyptian - that is to say in his own reverie" (p.25), (or, in modern parlance, 'in your dreams'!)' "The Last Judgement - M. Bourgeat hazards the suggestion that esoterically it is the symbol of evolution - of which it carries none of the sings..........Court de Gebelin makes himself impossible as usual....." (p.29-29). These examples are the first signs of Waite's arrogance in believing that he knows the truth about the Tarot whilst others are merely deceived or self-deceiving.
Waite then moves on to look at the Tarot in history, taking the opportunity to criticise and condemn many of his contemporaries and antecedents, and even states that his reason for addressing the history is so that many ideas about the Tarot "may be disposed of once and for all" (p.34). Waite condemns, amongst others, Court de Gebelin, Dr. Papus, Alliette, Dudesne, Singer, Chatto and Eliphas Levi.
Moving on from that, the author next addresses each of the Major cards from a more esoteric viewpoint and in more depth, along with black-and-white pictures of each one. For each card, Waite gives a literal description plus some thoughts on what some of the symbols might mean, being mainly ideas that are not often addressed today, e.g. "The Magician - In the Magician's right hand is a wand raised towards heaven, while the left hand is pointing towards the earth........it shews the descent of grace and light....(P.72); "the Empress - She is the inferior Garden of Eden, the Earthly Paradise" (p.80); "The Devil - What it does signify is the Dweller on the Threshold without the Mystical Garden when those who are driven forth therefrom have eaten the forbidden fruit" (p.131). There are other examples also, conveying without doubt Waite's Roman Catholic influence.
The final part of the book focuses on the Minor Arcana, and divination. Waite seems to take a no-nonsense approach, dispensing from the outset with the idea that numerology can play a useful part, and stating that the Minor cards are simply for fortune-telling. for each card, again accompanied by black-and-white pictures, he gives a very brief description, plus upright and reversed meanings. Having previously offered no divinatory interpretations for the Major Arcana, there is then a list of divinatory words/phrases for each one, in much the same style as other Tarot writers of his day. This is followed up by a list of further divinatory meanings for the Minor cards. It is not clear what Waite's thinking is in having two separate sets of meanings. An additional piece of very interesting information that the author gives is the possible meanings of "the Recurrence of Cards in Dealing" (p.295), e.g."4 Queens = great debate;......3 Sevens = infirmity;......4 Twos = contention;......2 Aces = trickery" (p.295-297).
Finally Waite describes three spreads - the Celtic Cross, a forty-two card spread with complex laying-out instructions, and a thirty-five card spread. Sadly, he doesn't present any sample readings. And on the last pages, Waite urges "any one who is a mystic" (p.315) to consider the Major cards in terms of two groups, one of which contains "the legend of the soul" and the other he refers to as "the accidents" (p.316). He does not, however, offer any explanation of what is meant by this or of how he came to this conclusion.
So has Waite achieved his intention in the creation of this book? He has indeed considered the Tarot in history; discussed some of the esoteric aspects of Tarot, and offered a few methods of divination. Whether the author has achieved his goal of revealing only a third of the truth about the Tarot can only be answered by Waite himself. The book is intellectual, complex, the product of a man of both arrogance and genius. He is the giant on whose shoulders all consequent exponents of the Tarot have stood. In this respect, he can be compared to Freud whose ideas in psychotherapy are now outmoded yet from whose propositions modern-day therapy has developed. It would be fascinating if it were possible to listen in on a conversation between Waite and some of the modern writers, maybe Cassandra Eason, Stuart Kaplan or Rachel Pollack! Perhaps there is a book or play in there somewhere.......Waite for it......