Review by Bonnie Cehovet
I truly have grown fond of Tarot decks
with a great deal of esoteric imagery, so it was a joy
to review this deck. I was fascinated to learn that
it had first been comissioned by Isreal Regardie for
work by the Golden Dawn Society. (Yes, by name I knew
that this was where the deck originated, but I did not
know the "story behind the story" - that which makes
decks come vitally alive.) The "Golden Dawn Magical
Tarot" is intended to be used for work within the system
of symbolic and ritual requirements necessary for
Golden Dawn cabalistic work. It can be used, however, by
Tarot students at any level for divination, meditation
and ritual work.
The 177 page LWB that comes with
this deck is quite interesting on its own - and very
well written. Tarot students at all levels would be
able to comprehend the message here. The emphasis is
that, aside from being a divinitory tool, the Tarot has
many levels of wisdom contained within it. There is a
nicely done section on the origins of the Tarot, followed
by Tarot's connection with the Golden Dawn.
is a well done section on Qabala and the Tree of
Life, complete with diagrams and a discussion of the
Sephirah's. The four qabalistic worlds are discussed in
connection with the Tree Of Life. There is a chart covering
the major arcana that is a true joy to read, with its
astrological, numerological and Hebrew attributes. (The only
problem here is the the book is only slightly larger than
the cards - so the type of the diagrams and tables is
oh so small!)
The section on the minor arcana talks
about the attributions to the four elements and teh four
Qabalistic worlds, as well as to the Tetragrammaton. Pips
2-10 correspond to decants of the zodiac (the Aces are
not included because the symbolism of Kether is the
primary influence. The court cards are seen as
representing the the elemental forces of the Tetragrammaton
(YHVH) in each of the four Qabalistic worlds. Each court
card represents a sub-element in its particular
Each suit in the Tarot carries the color that
represents its element: Wands (Fire) is red, Cups (Water) is
blue, Swords (Air) is yellow and Pentacles (Earth) is
brown. Each element has two "flashing", or complimentary
colors assigned to it. In this manner, entering the
astral and elemental planes is made easier.
At the end
of the book, there is a quite unique section on
reading the cards, with a short discussion on card
groupings (a majority of of Trumps; a majority of Wands,
Cups, Swords or Pentacles; a majority of each of the
pips or court cards), on possible influences when two
suits rule the spread and on calculating time. Several
spreads are presented, including ten and fifteen card
spreads, the Opening of the Key Spread, horeshoe and
astrological spreads. Ritual work is also presented in a very
The presentation of the cards is well
organized - the only thing lacking is a scan of the card.
The Major Arcana has the name, the key, the path and
the Hebrew letter, the attribution, the esoteric
title, the Qabalistic connection, keywords, related
ideas, images and interpretations in a reading. The Pips
have the Decan, the Sephorah, the world, the keyword,
image and interpretation in a reading. The Court Cards
have primary element, world, subelement, esoteric
title, keyword, image, and interpretation.
themselves are on glossy card stock, 3 1/8" by 4 5/8" - a
nice size for small hands to work with. The backs have
a stark black background, with a large red cross
above, and connecting to a large white triangle. The
middle of the triangle is black, and contains a yellow
semi-circle, with a thin red semi-circle creating a border for
seven black circles within the yellow semi-circle.
front of the cards are based in white, with fine black
edging around the picture. The Major Arcana have the
number at the top, with the card title across the bottom.
There are astrological and Hebrew symbols on either side
of the title. The Pips have the number and suit name
at the top, with a keyword across the bottom and the
elemental sign on either side of the keyword. The Court
Cards have the title across the bottom and the elemental
synbol at the top.
The Major Arcana all have pictures,
as do the Court Cards. The Pips are simply the
symbols of their respective suits. I found all of the Aces
to be intense cards - very easy to use. Other cards
that drew me to them were The Fool, which shows a child
with a wolf on a leash - reminding me very much of
Coyote in Native American legend; the Two of Cups, with a
hand holding a flower between two cups; the Wheel of
Fortune - a very symbol intense card and Death, which
shows a dancing skeleton with a smile on his
Human figures are done in a not too realistic manner in
this deck - and with considerable nudity, although it
is not done in an offensive manner. There are,
however, some really good cards: Temperance, a very intense
and lovely card; The Star, filled with symbols yet
getting the point across with one glance; The Empress,
another lovely lady surrounded by symbols; the High
Priestess, with two sets of arms that just seem to belong
there and The World, with the symbols of Man, Eagle,
Lion and Bull surrounding the twelve astrological
The more I work with this deck, the easier I find it
to use. At first, I thought it might be an
"interesting" deck that was used for reference and personal
work. It certainly can be used for that, but I feel that
it could be used by any level of Tarot student to
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.
Review by Solandia
The Golden Dawn Magical Tarot deck comes in a small compact cardboard box, the cards contained in a separate second box from the instruction book. This deck's packaging is totally unlike the usual Llewellyn tarot box, and a vast improvement. The tarot cards themselves are beautifully printed on thin and flexible card stock and shuffle well.
The scenes in the major arcana cards have stylised, brightly coloured and contrasting artwork with semi naked human figures. The borders incorporating astrological and Hebrew symbols in the borders. The minor arcana are unoriginal and repetitive. It seems like the author spent all their time on the first twenty two cards, then rushed through the final fifty four with only Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot for inspiration.
All the cards have magical symbols in the white borders surrounding the central scene. The majors have an Hebrew and an astrological symbol; the minor cards have alchemical symbols.
It's not a deck for everyone. The major arcana are very striking, but the minor arcana do not have enough detail to be easily distinguishable for beginners. People familiar with the Order of the Golden Dawn and with an interest in the ritual and symbolism of Western Ceremonial Magick will get the most out of the Golden Dawn Magical Tarot.
Kate Hill (also known as Solandia) is the founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.