The Crowley-Harris Deck, also known as the Thoth Tarot, is one of the most well-known and influential tarot decks of the 20th century. Designed by the British occultist Aleister Crowley and painted by Lady Frieda Harris, the deck features rich, complex symbolism and has been widely used for divination, spiritual exploration, and personal growth.
Background and History
Aleister Crowley was a highly controversial figure in the world of occultism and spirituality. Born in 1875, Crowley was a prolific writer, poet, and magician who spent much of his life exploring the boundaries of consciousness and spirituality.
Crowley was deeply interested in tarot and believed that the cards held the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe. He wrote extensively about the tarot, and in 1944 he began work on a new tarot deck that he believed would be the most powerful and effective ever created.
To help him bring his vision to life, Crowley enlisted the help of Lady Frieda Harris, a British artist and member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Harris was an accomplished artist and had studied under some of the most renowned artists of her time, including Walter Sickert and Augustus John.
Together, Crowley and Harris worked on the deck for several years, with Crowley providing detailed instructions and symbolism for each card and Harris bringing his vision to life through her paintings. The resulting deck, which they named the Thoth Tarot after the Egyptian god of wisdom, is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and powerful tarot decks ever created.
Design and Symbolism
The Crowley-Harris deck features 78 cards, divided into the Major Arcana (22 cards) and the Minor Arcana (56 cards). The Major Arcana cards, which are numbered from 0 to 21, represent powerful archetypes and universal themes such as death, love, and transformation. The Minor Arcana cards are divided into four suits (Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles) and represent more specific aspects of life such as emotions, intellect, and material possessions.
One of the most distinctive features of the Crowley-Harris deck is its rich and complex symbolism. Crowley believed that every aspect of the deck, from the colors to the shapes to the images, held profound spiritual meaning and could be used to unlock deeper levels of consciousness.
For example, the image on the Fool card, which represents new beginnings and taking risks, features a figure walking towards the edge of a cliff. The figure is surrounded by symbols of the elements (fire, water, air, and earth), as well as the sun and moon, which represent the masculine and feminine aspects of the self. The figure is also accompanied by a dog, which represents intuition and the animalistic aspect of the self.
Similarly, the image on the Death card, which represents transformation and change, features a skeletal figure riding a white horse. The figure is carrying a scythe, which symbolizes the inevitability of death and the need to let go of the old to make way for the new. The card is also surrounded by symbols of rebirth and renewal, such as the rising sun and a small child.
The deck also features a number of innovative and unconventional elements, such as the inclusion of a 23rd card (sometimes called the “Happy Squirrel” card) that was added as a joke by Harris but has since become a popular part of the deck.
Legacy and Influence
The Crowley-Harris deck has had a profound influence on the world of tarot and spirituality, and has been widely used for divination, spiritual exploration, and personal growth. The deck’s rich symbolism and complex imagery have inspired countless artists, writers, and spiritual seekers, and its influence can be seen in many other tarot decks and spiritual
One of the reasons for the deck’s enduring popularity is its association with Crowley, who remains a highly controversial figure. Crowley’s writings and teachings are often seen as divisive and even dangerous by some, and his involvement in the deck’s creation has led some people to view it with suspicion or skepticism.
However, many people see the deck as a powerful tool for personal growth and spiritual exploration, and its complex symbolism and rich imagery have inspired countless people to deepen their understanding of themselves and the world around them.
Today, the Crowley-Harris deck remains one of the most popular and widely used tarot card decks in the world, and it has been translated into numerous languages and adapted for use in many different cultures and traditions. Its influence can be seen in many other tarot decks and spiritual teachings, and it continues to inspire and challenge people to explore the depths of their own consciousness and spirituality.