HOGD Cross

The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn

The Golden Dawn Tarot, was first constructed, in part, by MacGregor Mathers, the founder of the Order. Mathers, at that point, had only drawn the cards shown in the Outer Order rituals. When the Order fragmented in 1900 they found that there was no complete Golden Dawn deck to use. Descriptions were given for the Court Cards and Minor Arcana, these being issued as part of the papers for the Zelator Adeptus Minor and only shown to the Golden Dawn’s Inner Order, the R.R. et A.C. During this early period many Golden Dawn members felt frustrated that no tarot deck was available and even Mathers himself suggested the use of one of the standard European decks for divination purposes with the addition of some colouring around the border. Just before the Waite deck was published, Felkin approached Wynn Westcott, former Order head, to help him construct a Golden Dawn deck. Westcott was the one who drew the Court cards for Mathers, and these cards were the ones the descriptions in the Book "T" were taken from. Mathers had done some rough notes on the descriptions of the cards for the paths above Tiphareth but for the most part some of these were rejected in favor of something more stylized. Within a short, time, and with Westcott’s help Felkin had the rest of the trumps drawn up.

 In the Golden Dawn temples loyal to Mathers (now called the Alpha et Omega), there was still frustration at not having a full tarot deck available. Mathers had written a paper on the “Seven Branch Candlestick” for the Theoricus Adeptus Minor grade of the Golden Dawn (prior to 1900) which gave some descriptions of the Tarot Keys allied to the planets. This is part he tried to merge with formula of Talismatic images applied to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. An example of this, taken from the Empress key:

Aleph: A winged white, brilliant, radiant Crown.

Nun: Arms bare and strong: on Right, a shield, Golden, and charge with a dove (the eagle on the card in the ordinary pack is a corruption): in the left hand, Three lillies, held like a scepter, and the Crux Ansata or “Nile Key” hanging form the left wrist –the coloring bluish green.

Yod: A yellowish-Green robe, covering a strong breast, on which is a square Golden lamen, in the angles of which are respectively the Crux Ansata: The conch shell and the Sigil of Venus traced in scarlet….

While he gave some detail here the Talismatic Hebrew letter association was too esoteric to follow in standard context. They in turn were very general. Mathers goes on state in this paper.

 “These Tarot Trumps, and the Instructed Adept of our Order may, if he pleases, make for himself cards embodying these corrected designs; or, if he uses the ordinary cards, he shall mentally correct the Symbols and the coloring.”

The basic outline given inn the 6=5 rituals are much vaguer, and no descriptions for the Keys analogous to the twelve Zodiac Signs were ever handed out. So some were detailed, some were also very sketchy at best. Even at the grade of 7=4 in the A.O. temples a full deck was never completed by Mathers. Many in the A.O. temples were continually frustrated by this. Also in the 1920’s, the A.O. and Stella Matutina members would meet informally in the Sun Order and would often exchange ideas and sometimes papers. When Felkin’s full Golden Dawn deck was drawn up and handed out to its Inner Order members this was also shared unofficially with the A.O. temples who used it. Many of these members knew each other well and shared the same lodges of the Sun order. So in effect, the completed Golden Dawn deck, was the one designed by the Felkin come Westcott combination.

 The first real work published on the Golden Dawn Tarot was by Robert Wang who brought out an interesting version of the Golden Dawn Tarot. The colouring in the deck though, especially the Minor Arcana, was not that used within the Stella Matutina. In fact the Golden Dawn deck should have been colored like the Crowley one, which was taken from the paths and Sephiroth of the Four Color Scales of the Golden Dawn as applied to the Tree of Life. Wang brought out a useful little book that went a long way into describing the Golden Dawn symbolism. The Cicero’s brought out a Golden Dawn deck and an excellent tarot book for their American Golden Dawn temples “The Golden Dawn ritual tarot” which went a lot further than Wang in explanation. In many instances they corrected much of the Wang symbolism. A good example of this shows a close inspection of their Universe key shows the correct zodiac positioning missed by Wang.

“The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn” also gives an explanation of the Golden Dawn Tarot symbolism. Much of the information came from members of the now defunct Whare Ra temple in Hastings, New Zealand, which closed its doors in 1978. The deck they used was the old Felkin one and the figures were so badly drawn that colouring the cards and using them came as a real chore. I was always amazed that no one in that temple did any more in depth work on the tarot and in 1982 started a series of notes which eventually became the book “Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn”’. My wife Chris and I worked together on this book for many years. During this time Chris investigated the color schemes applied to the Four Trees and put her own color descriptions to some of the colors. Like the Vault wall the color scheme of the Four Trees never had the same color appearing twice. It was always a shade darker or lighter. Chris redrew the color scales many time before we came up with a solution to suit us both. While we have given the more modern scales in this book, and more importantly how they were derived, we still included the old colouring descriptions at the beginning of each card so a choice can be made as to which ones the reader may prefer to use.

There are many interesting new innovations in this book. For the first time a complete alchemical system is given for the whole deck. In the past, a number of authors have pondered on the alchemical aspects of the tarot. Most of these though were simply hit and miss applications to some cards, with the whole context the 78 cards of the deck not taken into consideration. Some years ago I had worked out (in the “Kabbalah of the Golden Dawn”) an alchemical system of applying the steps of alchemy to the Sephirah Yetzirah. This was the path associations to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This brought the Alchemical steps in line with the color scales as well. One color generating another. Simply put, alchemy has a three, seven and twelve stage system which can apply directly to the cards. The court cards became the four alchemical colors of the experiment and the minor arcana also had a series of alchemical steps which allied back to the Trumps. This was worked out by my wife Chris is a practicing alchemist, and who, was fortunate enough to make the very difficult liquid stone during one experiment. So every card had an alchemical association in juxtaposition with every other card.

 Also in the book I have given detailed descriptions of the Mathers’ explanation of the Trumps taken from the `Seven Branch Candlestick’ and the A.O. 6=5 paper. There is also some rewrites of multidimensional paper on the Convoluted Forces paper.

 About six years before this book was published I was put in touch with an American Golden Dawn member and professional artist, Skip Dudchous. Unfortunately due to other commitments Skip could not complete the Golden Dawn drawings during the time scale allowed. His work though is excellent and something to see. Jon Pierce stepped into help and did a set of complete black and white cards in about three months for us, which enabled to get the book published. His black and white style of drawing was not liked by everyone, but the symbolism was correct as we could get it John’s work though really shines through when he colored the deck (yet to be released) in pretty much the correct colors scheme allied to the four trees. This colored version really flashes when using them. In other words the deck has much the same colors as the Crowley one. We also took the liberty of using Westcott’s original drawing of the Court cards, supplied to us by Bob Gilbert, as these matched the descriptions given in Book `T’. Jon redrew these to suit the style of the rest of the deck. In the card associations we have also given herbs, crystals and many more newer analogies.

Each of the Trump card discusses the following:


Numerology (both Hebrew and English versions)

Astrological attributions


Hebrew Letter



Chakra (applicable to the planetary trumps)




Psychological Mode of expression

There are also numerous other aspects to the cards that are given as well, each piece of symbolism is explained. The meaning and Introduction to the Court Cards have been greatly expanded from its original Golden Dawn format as given in Book `T’, with more in depth meanings of the cards in both the mythology and divination area.

In this book there are example reading from the Golden Dawn’s Book `T’ and more recent resources plus a strong meditation guide for each Key. Also there are numerous other one off spreads that the reader will find interesting as well. Chris has also included her drawings the Star maps with all the cards divisions clearly marked on the heavens for both the Southern and Northern Hemisphere.


“…the Zalewski’s pointed out the variations and changes in teachings that can occur in a living tradition such as the Golden Dawn. Teachings can vary from one branch of the order to another, and even from temple to temple. Throughout the history of the Golden Dawn and its offshoots, this has been the case. The authors stress experimentation with the tarot, which is a mark of a vibrant magical system, rather than a stagnant one. The descriptions of each tarot card are very reliable and very complete. We particularly liked the added alchemical associations and the authors’ work on the gematria or numerology of each card. There is also a good deal of added astrological information and divinatory meanings/interpretations that are quite useful. Some of this material has been updated by the authors to reflect modern interpretations of certain tarot cards, something that we wholeheartedly agree with. Several excellent suggestions for studying and meditating on the cards are provided by the authors. This book is a balanced combination of both historical and new material presented by the Zalewski’s that stands firmly rooted in Golden Dawn teachings and ritual practice.”

Chic & S. Tabatha Cicero

The book is in A4 size (standard typing sheet size) and is jammed packed with information of nearly 400 pages, spiral bound with laminated cover.




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