The Complete New Tarot
The Complete New Tarot is the companion book that explains the theories and background to the Tarot in de Herstelde Orde, the Restored Order Tarot.
By Onno Docters van Leeuwen & Rob Docters van Leeuwen
Book - 480 pages - Published by Sterling
Review by Kate Hill
The Complete New Tarot was written to accompany the Tarot in De Herstelde Orde, the Restored Order Tarot, a deck of 81 images – 24 major arcana, 16 royal arcana, 40 minor arcana, and one back – and offers a detailed look at their Tarot theories and basis of reasoning for the reordering and extra majors. First published in 1995 by Sevire, as the ‘De Tarot in de herstelde order, theorie, geschiednis, pratijk’, this English translation was completed by Rob Docters van Leeuwen.
The essence of the Complete New Tarot concept is the restoration of two missing cards, Juno and Jupiter, and the reordering of certain cards of the major arcana. Rob and Onno worked for twenty-five years to "restore, structure, integrate, complete and correlate the Tarot", and to produce the card set and the 480-page companion book.
“Because of the absence of pictures on these two cards, it is our belief that the Tarot is incomplete and cannot function properly as a philosophical instrument.”
The book is divided into the following sections:
1 – What is the Tarot?
2 – The 24 Major Arcana of the Tarot as the Path of Life
3 – The 40 Minor Arcana and the Structure of Tarot
4 – The 16 Royal Arcana and Their Function in the Tarot
5 – The History of the Tarot
6 – The Tarot Obscured, Restored and Completed
7 – Mathematical and Esoteric Structures in the Tarot
8 – Theory of Divination
9 – Divination with the Tarot
10 - Meanings of the Tarot Cards
Chapter 1 explains the authors’ view on Tarot, that it embodies arcane and collective psychological information and archetypes through pictures and symbols. The original order was obscured by the disappearance of Juno and Jupiter, and by the apparent misunderstanding of several cards – The Priestess, The Priest, Empress, Emperor, Temperance and Death. When the cards are reordered into the sequence favoured by the authors, a strip develops, a cyclic story of a man who is born, goes through life, dies, goes to heaven, and incarnates again.
Chapter 2 links the major arcana cards with the cyclic processes, and the cycle of life as a frame of reference, in more detail. The cards, arranged anti-clockwise, in a square with seven-a-side, form a square and the path of life in 24 stages. The corners are the Universe, World, Truth, and Intuition; and these mark the boundaries. “The Major Arcana depict a path of initation, the psychological journey of a human being through two fields of activity, subdivided in four different work domains. Each Arcanum is an intermediate station after which the journey’s characteristic landscape alters.” All the majors are pictured and explained in order, with reference to their part in the story of life.
The idea of the 12 Principal Arcana is explained: the twelve pairs of majors that connect one card with the worldly tendency and one with the spiritual tendency. For example:
Worldly Aspect – The Soul’s Activity – Spiritual Aspect
The Fool – I Want – Strength
Magician – I Offer – The Hanged Man
These pairs form a ‘tarot helix’, a spiral with two windings of the connected pairs; an external spiral movement moving into higher levels of existence.
Chapter 3 focuses on the minor arcana, the forty suit cards numbered from the Ace to Ten, and their part as the life cycle in archetypes. "Each of the four quadrants in the Tarot life cycle is divided into ten specific stages. In this way, a continuous series of forty stages is formed that are called the Minor Arcana."
The minor arcana are described as phases of a task - after ten stages, success is achieved and a transformation completed. Then, transition to a new stage occurs. Images of all forty cards from the Restored Order Tarot are illustrated, along with their keyword and information on their particular stage.
Chapter 4 is devoted to the Royal Arcana, the court cards. These are the ‘collective-psychological family structure in the Tarot’, the governing and leading principles. N family life, the King is the father, Queen the mother, Knight, the eldest child, and Page the youngest child. All sixteen royals are also illustrated in the manner of previous chapters. Along with the images, a physical description of the person and personality,, then the interpretation.
This chapter also introduces to the 80-card mandala and the idea of the quartets, enabled by use of eighty cards in the deck, in diagram and in text. In each quartet, the major is the principle or law, the royal guides realization of the principle, and the minors are the actualisation of the principle in two steps. This to me is the most interesting idea put forward in the book, as it is a new way to work with the cards and to group its meanings.
Chapter 5 delves into Tarot history, beginning by linking it with its legendary past in Egypt and Alexandria. Moving onto the Middles Ages and the culture transfer from the East to West, via the Crusades and the Templars; onto de Gebelin and Levi, through Wirth to Waite, and Crowley, and onto the present. (Some rather definite claims are made in this section that run counter to what I know of Tarot history – for example, that playing cards were derived from Tarot, rather than the other way around.)
Chapter 6 outlines their understanding of the reasons for Tarot’s banishment, and claims that it was changed on purpose by leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, in order to undermine Tarot’s power. (The two cards, Juno and Jupiter, were concealed by hiding them underneath the Priestess and Priest, but other changes were necessary to emphasise the importance of the Church and further hide the traces of its removal.) The ‘concealment algorithm’ is then illustrated, showing pictorially the nineteen steps of the process by which the order was changed. Apparently, the two blank cards found in later decks were left as placeholders to those who could recognize them – they &qot;served for initiated people to supplement and complete the set to the original 24 major arcana" – but no mention is made of the possibility that these blank cards are simply a result of the printing process.
Chapter 7 correlates the 24 majors with esoteric and mathematical structures, linking the cards with taro/orat anagrams and hence with sounds and musical chords, and finally colours. Sheet music is provided for Incantations on the Celtic Cross and TARO-TORA-ROTA: Laws of a Changing Universe, pieces for four voices and variations for guitar and flute.
Chapters 8 and 9 cover divination, explaining how divination may work, the concept of synchronicity, and the approach of Tarot as a psychological instrument and how it may be used in practice. Also offered are several spreads from the Bow Spread to the Celtic Cross to the Ouroboros and Horoscope spreads.
Chapter 10 is straight-forward, offering the keyword and short-phrase divinatory meanings for each card when they are used in readings. There is a list of meanings for both upright and reversed orientations.
The appendices include spread worksheets, a comprehensive glossary, and a quick conversion table for the reordering of a regular 78-card Tarot deck.
The language of the Complete New Tarot is a little academic and wordy, but the plentiful use of diagrams, explanatory illustrations and card images prevents it from being too text-heavy. While I don’t necessarily agree with their Tarot ideas or understand how they came to the conclusions put forward in the book - and some of the historical research seems a little dubious - the authors have at least given us the interesting concept of the Tarot mandala and quartets.
Kate Hill is the owner, founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.