The Magician: Waite’s Symbolism

We list the symbols in Colman Smith’s Magician illustration which Waite dictated in his Pictorial Key to the Tarot (1910). We compare his descriptions to MacGregor Mathers (The Tarot, 1888),and the Book T of the Golden Dawn society. In this case we note Waite makes a point of explaining the Magician’s gesture, which it appears is a refinement of Mathers notes regarding the Hebrew character aleph; Waite also appears to specify the lemniscate above the magician’s head as a means of emphasizing previous writings which referred to a hat like an aureole. Where Waite appears to distinguish himself from his contemporaries is his ascribing the symbols of the four suits on the table as being “the elements of natural life.”

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The Fool: What Symbols does Waite Mention?

We examine the symbols in the Fool illustration that Waite described in his Pictorial Key to the Tarot (1910). We compare his descriptions to MacGregor Mathers (The Tarot, 1888),and the Book T of the Golden Dawn society. In this case we note the dog is “friendlier” as illustrated by Colemn Smith than any text description; that the precipice probably corresponds to “transcending the Earth,” as noted by The Book T; and finally, that we have no text documentation (at least not yet) for some of the key elements, such as the Fools’ wand and rose.

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Tarot Decks and Databases Share Basic Functions

The tarot deck and the interpretation of tarot share key characteristics of a computer database: storage, access and organization. In particular, the organization of a given tarot card into discreet pieces of information (such as the name) and the collections of multiple discreet pieces of information (the symbols) mirror the flexibility of the data structures in a modern computer database.

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