1st Ten Major Arcana Wrapup

We pause for a summary overview of the first group of ten major arcana. My “read” of Waite’s reinterpretation of the symbols of tarot skews heavily towards “Christian” concepts. I think the High Priestess and the Lovers are the best examples of his divergent use of symbols. Waite also puts additional meanings in previously used symbols. He takes the very basic archetypes of the rennaissance cards, the kings, queens, marriage, pope, abbess, etc., and adds new symbolic meanings. In doing so, he shows his genius, as well as the genius of the Golden Dawn which overloaded those earlier cards with meanings drawn from, not from Christianity, but from the Qabal and numerology, which is where Waite differed from them.

Read more

Stength: Waite’s Symbols

For a card relatively light on symbolism, Waite goes overboard to “Christianize” the context of the Strength card, adding symbols and changing the ones previously depicted. Connecting fortitude with the mysterious aspects of the divine union required significant changes to this card. This is especially ironic given that the four cardinal virtues predate Christianity. Another change, to its very order within the tarot deck, affected the numerological interpretation of the Strength card.

Read more

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.”

Read more