Thursday, July 2, 2009

How to cope without your favorite Tarot deck

Late last night (or was it really early this morning), I was reading posts on a Golden Dawn Forum. Other people count sheep when they can not sleep; I browse for occult ideas.

One of the posts mentioned the (Lady) Frieda Harris/Aleister Crowley Thoth deck (English editions) was apparently out of print, and commanding high prices on the internet. This was news to me. Going over to Amazon and Google, I quickly learned that the poster was right. (English language) Thoth decks are going for a hundred dollars a pop at the moment.

For myself, this is not a big concern. I lean towards cards that do not overwhelm a client; I prefer using short explainations about the symbolism of Tarot, and the Thoth deck is a deep one. I own one for study purposes, but it is not used as heavily as other decks in my collection.

(All the professional and most of the semi-professional Tarot readers I know have several decks that they read with. Someday, I will blog about the reasons for this behavior.)

So in my case, I imagine that the deck will be back in print before I need to replace mine. But for some students and readers, they would like to be able to replace their decks right now without having to spend a hundred dollars or more.

(One of the basic economic rules of occultism is that out of print books and Tarot decks fetch outrageous prices. Even the most useless occult book or Tarot deck will cost you a hundred dollars or more. A high price on an out of print occult book or Tarot deck is no indication of the item's actual merit.)

Or at least, I presume that it will be back in print within the next couple of years.

(There are both economic and copyright issues that could complicate the situation, delaying a reissue of the deck for longer than I am estimating.)

So how does one cope with the unavailability of one's favorite Tarot deck?

One can simply do without it. This is what the poster has been doing. This may or may not be acceptable depending upon one's personal preferences. Especially if one does not have a strong link with a different variation of the Tarot.

Most modern occult students today (or at least the younger ones) do not realize how spoiled we are today; we have an overwhelming wealth of books and Tarot decks. We have choices in what to buy when we need (or simply want) a new Tarot deck or book.

This has not always been true. Even thirty years ago when I was a teenager edging into the occult and wicca, my choices were much more limited. And when my aunt entered the field a couple of decades earlier, the choices were just a couple of Tarot decks (and they had to be imported).

As for the Thoth deck itself, it was twenty-five years after it was designed by Harris and Crowley before it was actually issued. That is 1969 for those who are reading this instead of counting sheep.

Going back in time, the members of the original Order of the Golden Dawn had two choices when it came to the Tarot deck that they used. They could either paint their own, or they could buy a Tarot deck imported from Italy or France.

Substition or doing without is a long tradition among occult students, especially the initiated.

In the case of the Thoth deck, one might be able to obtain one printed in a different language. Maybe.

If your beloved Tarot deck is not too tattered, one can attempt to repair it. Or at least, attempt to prevent further damage. I remember one of the members of Hathoor Temple had a deck of cards that were laminated. It is hardly ideal, but one can understand the thought behind it.

Making your own Tarot deck is still an option today. In some cases, you might not even need art skills, just access to a good printer, a boatload of ink, some glue and cardstock. For those who are attempted to experiment doing it with the Thoth deck, one should note that I have encountered an entire set of jpegs of the Thoth deck on the internet.

The set of jpegs is also useful for the ultimate initiated answer of dealing with the unavailability of a Tarot deck.

I mentioned earlier that I lean towards using a simple (non-initiate) Tarot deck when I am doing readings for others. (Except of course, for members of our tradition, who get the full song and dance.) What I did not mention was the fact that the cards I lay on the table are not neccessarily the cards I see when I am doing the reading.

One of the things that we do as initiates in the esoteric Orders is to build up our visualization skills; we also make the symbolism of the Tarot (and other symbol systems) a part of our "mental furniture". Professional Tarot readers also do this.

There are many reasons why we do this. One of the side benefits of developing this skill set is that you can be doing a reading in a coffee house using a light Tarot deck as your physical prop; and in your mind, visualizing and reading from the initiated Golden Dawn Tarot or the Thoth deck.

The moral of all this is that with a little imagination, we can cope with our favorite Tarot deck falling out of print.

1 comment:

Devin Moore said...

Seems like people are craving their Thoth deck like their favorite drug. I actually had two decks. One is rather large and difficult to work with, but I like it because I've been using forever. The other was a smaller deck that I kept in my car for on the spot readings for my friends if they asked, until that one was stolen out of my car. I was rather upset about it because it was the first deck that I performed a full concecration ceremony on. Then I found out it was out of print just after i spilled Cappuccino on my large deck, and I was just about in a panic. Fortunately, there wasn't really any damage done to them. Just gained a healthy respect for keeping those cards safe.