Review by Macavity
As a devotee of Paul Hughes-Barlow's Supertarot website, I was greatly pleased with my recent purchase of his book Tarot and the Magus. Quite simply, ALL the material with which I had become familiar (the Elemental Dignities, Card Pairing and Counting) is present here, but in improved book format. This, together with significant new material, in a single stylish volume, attractively illustrated with (monochrome) images of the Crowley-Thoth deck, makes this book a wonderful addition to any Tarot or Magickal library.
For those (like me) in the process of honing personal systems of divinatory "meaning" for the cards, the methods described here allow significant progress towards producing useful readings in the interim. Separation of the more "mechanistic" part of reading (forming an underlying Tarot "story") from the subjective or intuitive process, allows additional meaning to be added as an thin layer, according to the experience and the progress of the reader. As a bonus the book could even be used with other popular decks based on the Thoth structure but e.g. with more pictorial minor arcana scenes.
The book is structured around the traditional Eleven Chapters of Magickal texts of history. A cursory glance at the text reveals too a significant departure from the usual format of introduction and end material, surrounding a lengthy list of card meanings! Each chapter here, begins with illustrated pairs of Major Arcana cards, but selected according to a new, intriguing take on an ancient Qabalistic (Atabash) sequence. Lest anyone be put off by the notion, suffice it to say that this provides an interesting and logical take on the Major orderings! Aces and the Minor (including Court) cards then take their place in chapters, according to more familiar "Tree of Life" positions.
Rather than the usual commentaries on card meaning, the text here concentrates on more useful, personal observations made by the author and includes notable commentary on Crowley's original texts. In this sense, perhaps the book becomes more appropriate for someone with some basic notion of Tarot? Despite that, it remains an eminently approachable text and above all, appropriate to someone with the serious desire to learn (a whole lot!) more.
The novel card ordering is also used to advantage, using Gematria values of card combinations to generate new meaning and even suggest hitherto occult (sic!) significance in the original Tarot card ordering! The specific topics (cited above) form the remainder of each chapter. This had an effect of curbing this reader's inate tendancy to skip about and miss out on other important information!
Half way through the book, we are lead, albeit fairly seamlessly, into more Magickal areas promised by the Title. Again, no very specialist knowledge, experience or initiatory status is needed, but a basic understanding of some terminology might be an advantage. This could already be within the grasp of the many readers, particularly those familiar with or using the Thoth deck.
Some of them may also be familiar with the attribution of various "spirits" to the Tarot cards. Previously, decks such as Lon Milo Duquette's popular Tarot of Ceremonial Magic, gave correspondences for Enochian Angels, Goetic Deamons, Shemhamphorash Angels and the lesser known Spirits of Crowley's Liber 231! Despite this, the neophyte could perhaps be forgiven for being a little confused as to exactly HOW these entities could indeed be useful?
Methods for evoking the Goetia are perhaps common enough, even in beginner texts on High Magick! But these often seem to depend on a process of cajoling reluctant entities, followed by extreme effort to restrain the powers thereby released! (Not for the fainthearted!) But here, it is the authors view (and indeed experience), that all these (especially Liber 231) spirits appear as a direct and painless consequence of the presence of certain "unaspected" (qv) cards revealed during the practice of reading techniques described in earlier chapters. At very minimum this must represents a significant contribution to the working and understanding of the relatively unfamiliar Liber 231 spirits.
Despite this reviewer's own Magickal experience being limited to "theory" in these areas (and a background in professional science, laced with skepticism) I found the topics discussed in this book to be totally captivating. True knowledge of this material (and ones own Holy Guardian Angel) is perhaps indeed something to which one might aspire. Overall, Tarot and the Magus represent a unique insight into the workings of a modern-time and practicing Magus and Tarot Reader.