Review by Talisman
To start with,
I had to look up "adytum" in a dictionary, which
defines the word as the innermost room or shrine in
certain old temples, to be entered only by a priest, or a
So, there is a mystery tradition associated with this
deck. Well, I'm here to talk about the deck I hold in
my hand, and not the mysteries the deck may be about.
I purchased my deck shrink wrapped, without a box
and without a booklet. Just a deck of cards, which
cost $7 (US).
Just a bit of background: The story is,
every initiate in the seminal Hermetic Order of the
Golden Dawn, the late 19th Century esoteric society, had
to make a personal copy of the master Golden Dawn
Tarot. Members of the order included Pamela
Coleman-Smith, William Butler Yeats, Aleister Crowley, Arthur
Edward Waite and Paul Foster Case. Three of them went on
to publish their own decks and found new traditions:
Crowley, Waite and Case. The B.O.T.A. is the deck created
This is a 78 card deck. In the Major
Arcanum, Strength is 8 and Justice is 11. The suits are
Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. The court cards are
King, Queen, Knight and Page. The majors and court
cards are illustrated; the minors revert to the
Marseilles tradition and are illustrated only with suit
symbols. The art is black line drawings on a white
background. The cards, whose corners are squared off and not
rounded, are just a little heavier than index cards, or
business cards. In fact, the backs of the cards, with a
symbol in the center and the B.O.T.A. address printed at
the bottom, look like over-sized business cards. The
cards are 2 1/2" x 4 1/4" inches (6.5 x 11).
The Smith-Waite deck was first published in 1909, and the B.O.T.A.
deck just a few years later. The cards in the Major
Arcana are so similar, this might be the first
Smith-Waite "clone." There are differences. The Death card,
for example, depicts a skeleton walking through a
wasteland past severed heads and body parts.
It seems this
deck also is available with an instruction booklet
written by Case and describing the cards and giving
coloring instructions. I haven't seen this booklet. But,
mystery tradition aside, if you want an original
self-colored deck, why follow someone else's
And, the fact that you can color this very inexpensive
deck yourself, is one of its joys. Whether you use
watercolors, watercolor pencils, Crayons, Magic Markers, or
almost anything else, the flimsy card stock is sturdy
enough to stand up to rigorous coloring. I find, when
coloring in the tiny details on the cards, that I really
think about the symbolism.
Here's a tip, whatever
medium you use to color the cards. After they are
colored, at art stores you can buy a fixitive spray. Do
not spray this directly on the card -- you might end
up with a squiggley mess. Instead, hold the card
vertically, and spray parallel to it, so just the fine mist of
overspray lands on the cards. And, since fixative in art
stores is very expensive, try cheap, generic hair spray.
I strongly recommend this deck for anyone
who wants to try coloring their own Tarot deck.
I do not recommend B.O.T.A. for a reading deck. The black
and white line drawings are very dry. The deck would
not stand up to repeated shufflings.
Review by Tom Hutcheson
Case was the foremost Tarot interpreter of the 20th century. The only possible competitor is Crowley, who never intended any of his work to be easily accessible and whose methods are unsafe even for many who have already experienced cosmic consciousness.
Waite's and Case's Tarots are similar because they are both based on the Golden Dawn Tarot. Case's is later
and more refined than Waite's. The major arcana of this deck was published uncolored in the original
edition of his introductory work, "The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages," widely regarded as a highly
profound work. By presenting the principles of Tarot construction explicitly and thoroughly, this book prepares
students to begin to use Tarot as it was intended, as a gateway to higher consciousness.
Case was the first, and may be the only, initiate to publish a deck intended to be colored by the student, as was required in the Golden Dawn. Instruction for coloring this deck are available in the booklet "Highlights of Tarot" from Builders of the Adytum (www.bota.org).
Coloring each card while spending substantial time meditating on the points
raised in "The Tarot" is an excellent exercise for students at any level. The student will be following
Mathers, Waite, Crowley, Regardie, Yeats, and Fortune, as well as Case. No other deck allows, let alone
promotes, this kind of work or the benefits to be gained thereby.