Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot: An Authoritative Examination of the World's Most Fascinating and Magical Tarot Cards Paperback – Tarot, 1 Dec 2003
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About the Author
Lon Milo DuQuette has been involved with occult studies since the late 60s and has become an acknowledged and widely-recognized authority within the world of modern occultism. He is the U.S. Deputy Grand Master of the O.T.O. and lives with his wife Constance in Costa Mesa, CA
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I've read the Book of Thoth many times, but have always left it almost as mystified as I was when I started reading it. Common gossip has it that Crowley was off his face when writing the Book of Thoth. What this book does is to explain what was actually meant (even including a few "I haven't a clue about this" remarks. It's basically the Book of Thoth written in accessible language. The Book of Thoth makes a little more sense now, but it's to this book I turn when I want to study a card in depth.
It's notable in that I bought the paperback, but when I got a Kindly I bought the somewhat overpriced Kindle version too.
On the Thoth Tarot itself, Duquette makes a point of saying he is trying to keep as much of himself out of this work as possible, wishing only to portray Crowley's ideas. I really don't understand this as Crowley's already done that in his own work, 'The Book of Thoth'! 'Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot' offers NOTHING new on the subject! In fact, in trying to condense Crowley's ideas into manageable, easily read portions, this book offers a lot less than is available already.
DuQuette even comes up with sentences like, "I don't know what this symbol means because Crowley never said. I have my own ideas but I want to keep as much of myself out of this as possible." While I can understand his point of view I bought this book hoping for as much of DuQuette as possible. I think the audience would be intelligent enough to recognise the difference between DuQuette's theories and Crowley's intentions.
There are a few little extras which are quite useful, such as the discussion of the Rose Cross which appears on the reverse of the cards, and a short history of Crowley and the development of the cards, but I would imagine anyone wanting to buy this book would probably already be familiar with such subjects. Of most use are the Thelemic Glossary and the index, a concept Crowley seemed unfamiliar with. DuQuette also brings the Alchemical aspects to greater attention than Crowley did, though he only gives a small portion of the story and leaves out the most important cards altogether.
All in all this book is a good basic introduction for anyone new to the Thoth Tarot but it could have been so much better had LMD allowed himself to publish his own thoughts alongside what is already known of the subject.
PS... For anyone interested, DuQuette says of ATU XXI: "There are several elements in the card I don't understand at all. For instance, what is the black crescent-shaped object in the goddess's right hand? I don't have a clue. I can't find any reference to it in The Book of Thoth. If Crowley explains it in any other writings, I confess it has escaped me completely." -- It is to be found in the 'Old Comment' on verse II:51 in 'The Law is for All'. This comment explains all elements of the card which aren't immediately apparent.
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