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Three Books of Golden Dawn Tarot

Jeffrey S Kupperman reviews Three Books of Golden Dawn Tarot in Divination, Vol 1 No 4, from the archive of Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition.

Wang An Introduction to the Golden Dawn Tarot

An Introduction to the Golden Dawn Tarot [Amazon], Robert Wang. 158 pages. Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach, ME. $7.95 USD

First published in 1978, An Introduction to the Golden Dawn Tarot was the first book available that discussed solely the tarot as conceived by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (GD). Now students of the works of Israel Regardie, who had a great deal of input to both this book and its corresponding “Golden Dawn Tarot” deck had a quick reference manual for all of “Book T”. “Book T” also appears in the Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic and the Golden Dawn, however neither of these works are known for their easy indexing.

An Introduction contains more than just the raw tables of “Book T”. The first 51 pages of this small book discusses several topics anent the history surrounding the Golden Dawn tarot. For instance decks produced by various members of the GD are mentioned as well as how and often why they differ from the GD manuscripts. There is also a section talking about the differences between “exoteric” and “esoteric” tarot decks. More importantly, at least from the practicing magician’s point of view, there is a discussion on how the tarot can be used in ritual and for skrying.

The majority of the book contains the information from “Book T”, which includes not only the tarot descriptions and their meanings but also associated astrological information and the complex tarot reading known as the Opening by Key. Also included in this work is a paper by Mrs. Felkin, the wife of the Chief of the New Zealand Smaragdum Thalasses, an offshoot of the original GD after its schism. The book concludes with A.E. Waite’s “Ten Card Method of Tarot – Divination”, originally published in his Pictorial Key to the Tarot and a two page recommended reading list.

Perhaps the only thing that is disappointing about An Introduction to the Golden Dawn Tarot is the tarot deck that Dr. Wang produced to go with it. While the deck is accurate to the imagery of the Golden Dawn documents the illustration and color work are lacking in brightness, making the deck appear dull and faded. From the perspective of the GD’s color theory this will cause the tarot images to be less useful tools than they otherwise could be. From an aesthetic perspective the deck fails to compare with decks such as the Thoth deck designed by Aleister Crowley and painted by Lady Frieda Harris or Sandra Tabatha Cicero’s New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot Deck (discussed below).

Cicero The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot

The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot: Keys to the Rituals, Symbolism, Magic & Divination [Bookshop, Amazon] Chic Cicero, Sandra Tabatha Cicero. 235 pages. Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN, $14.95 USD

Published in 1996, nearly 28 years after Robert Wang’s Golden Dawn tarot book, The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot is the second of only three books released to the public concerning the Golden Dawn tarot system. Unlike Wang’s work, however, the Cicero’s have gone beyond the original GD documents to create an updated tarot book and deck, which is still based on the teachings of the Golden Dawn.

The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot, like An Introduction contains all of the material in “Book T” (minus the paper on the tarot projected into a sphere, which is also missing from Wang), though some of it has been rewritten in modern language. However, the tarot card descriptions go beyond the simple one or two paragraphs of “Book T” to discuss each card more in-depth. The only criticism of this is that these added descriptions seem to apply mostly to the newer designs developed by Mrs. Cicero and do not always apply to the GD tarot as a whole, though the creative student should have little problem in extrapolating from one deck to another or adding the new symbolism to his or her catalog of symbols.

This book also contains over 70 pages dedicated solely to ritual work and divination. Unlike in Wang, which aside from the Opening by Key only discusses ritual work in theory, the Ciceros give examples of rituals, divination and skrying techniques as well as the complete rubric for performing them. The book ends with a page on the 32 paths of wisdom, a later annotation to the Jewish Kabbalistic work the Sefer Yetzirah and a good sized bibliography.

Along with The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot there is a New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot Deck, designed and painted by Sandra Tabatha Cicero. This deck contrasts drastically from the Wang deck. Its colors are bright and vibrant and for the first time in a Golden Dawn deck the flashing colors are used. These aspects add to the overall usability of the deck for magical work. However the artwork of the deck is very stylistic, almost cartoon-ish, in nature and may not be to everyone’s liking.

Zalewski The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn

The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn: Divination, Meditation and High Magical Teachings [Bookshop, Amazon] Patrick J. Zalewski, Chris L. Zalewski. 395 pages. Open Mind Publications, Hastings, Australia. $50.00 USD Limited to 150 copies.

Published originally in 1997 but not released until several years later, The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn is possibly the most impressive of the Golden Dawn tarot books. This book is a massive volume, almost 400 pages in length on A4 size paper. Like the previous books this one discusses all of the material in “Book T” (including a re-written tarot and the celestial sphere paper). It also goes beyond the published GD documents in its treatment of the cards, however it does so in a traditional manner. Instead of creating a new version of the Golden Dawn tarot, the Zalewskis recreate a version of the original deck, even using images from the Smaragdum Thalasses’s original tarot deck.

The tarot card descriptions within The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn go far beyond the original descriptions and are often two to three pages in length. These descriptions include previously unpublished material from both S. L. MacGregor Mathers and various members of the Smaragdum Thalasses’s Ware Ra temple. Like in the Cicero’s book a great deal of research has been done into the history of the GD tarot and the tarot in general. There is a great deal of new information developed by the Zalewskis as well, as their discussion of the cards on an alchemical level or from the point of view of both spiritual evolution and involution.

Another new feature to this book is the discussion of color and how the GD tarot was traditionally supposed to be colored. According to the Zalewskis, they have published for the first time the correct Golden Dawn method for card coloring, which is apparently closer to that used in Crowley’s Thoth deck than in any other Golden Dawn based tarot. Along with this is a printing of the four color scales as used by Ware Ra, which different in numerous respects to those which have been printed by both Regardie and Crowley. The final 80 or so pages discuss numerous tarot spreads, including the Opening by Key, tarot skrying and meditation, and the re-written Golden Dawn paper entitled “Celestial Tarot”. The tarot spreads include some spreads which are the creation of the Zalewski and the section on mediation and skrying includes what can only be called “tarot poems” for each of the Trump Cards. Two methods for skrying are given in full as well as several examples of skryings already performed. The final section, “Celestial Tarot” contains reworked diagrams by Chris Zalewski. Unfortunately there is no bibliography, though many of the books used for researched are mentioned in the extensive footnotes.

There are two or three critiques to be made about The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn. The first of which is that, it being a work of self-publication, the binding method is worse than usual bookbindings. The comb binding used is inadequate for the size of the book causing the outside pages to tear. As mentioned there is no bibliography but there is also no index for cross-referencing. Finally there is not as yet a tarot deck to accompany this book, though according to Mr. Zalewski one being painted by Skip Dudchus is nearly finished.

Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition

Hermetic Library Fellow John Michael Greer reviews Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition: A Complete Curriculum of Study for Both the Solitary Magician and the Working Magical Group by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero in the archive of Caduceus: The Hermetic Quarterly.

Cicero Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition

For more than half a century, the system of magic presented in Israel Regardie’s epochal collection of Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn documents, The Golden Dawn, has been essentially the standard method of magical work in the English-speaking world. Most other books on magical subjects borrow from it liberally, to the extent that it’s possible to find works purporting to be about Norse neopaganism (to give only one of many possible examples) which use slightly rewritten versions of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, the Middle Pillar exercise, and similar Golden Dawn technical methods. Some of this borrowing is simple plagiarism, and more is a somewhat less discreditable effort to rework Golden Dawn technique to fit different symbolic, religious and political stances.

Some, on the other hand, derives from the extreme unwieldiness and the sometimes fragmentary nature of the Golden Dawn material as Regardie presented it. The Golden Dawn is more of an archive than a textbook; it’s possible to extract the meat of the Order’s system of training from the husk of knowledge lectures, ritual texts and often rambling documents in the collection, but there’s a good deal of work involved. As a result, there have been a number of attempts to produce an introduction to the Golden Dawn system designed specifically for the beginning student.

Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition is the most substantial of these to appear so far. Intended as a complete curriculum of study for the Outer Order work of the Golden Dawn system, it contains solo versions of the grade rituals from Neophyte through Portal, greatly expanded versions of the Order’s knowledge lectures, and additional instruction on topics such as alchemy and astrology. The material for each grade also includes practical exercises and meditations, a reading list, and an examination on the grade teachings.

To describe this book as comprehensive may be an understatement. The Ciceros earned a reputation for thoroughness with their last book, Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple, which explored the working tools and equipment of the Golden Dawn system in exhaustive detail, and this new release will do nothing to detract from it. Despite the sheer volume, however, the lessons are well paced and well organized, and should be well within the power of beginners to assimilate; the authors’ experience as chiefs of a working temple shows here.

It should be noted, however, that this book is indeed intended for beginners, and readers who have already worked their way through Regardie’s Golden Dawn and other works on the Order’s system are unlikely to find much new in it. A work of instruction rather than, say, history, it smooths over some of the discontinuities between the original Golden Dawn system and its current form; for example, although a great deal of basic astrological information is given, the fact that the Order had its own distinct system of astrology — a system differing sharply in some respects from the common form which the Ciceros give here — is nowhere mentioned.

Still, these are ultimately issues of genre, not of the work itself. Within the limits of what this book attempts to do, it succeeds well.

Weiser Antiquarian Books Catalogue #116 Israel Regardie and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Used and Rare Books

You may be interested in Weiser Antiquarian Books Catalogue #116 Israel Regardie and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Used and Rare Books.

“The majority of the books are from the library of a well-known English book-collector who is downsizing due to chronic lack of shelf (and floor) space. The collection includes most of the standard studies of the Golden Dawn, historical, theoretical and practical, by a variety of well known authors including R. A. Gilbert, Ellic Howe, R. A. Torrens, Chic & Tabatha Cicero, Darcy Kuntz, Pat Zalewski, and others, as well as various works by members of the original Order. Aside from mostly being in pristine condition, the books are distinguished by the fact that many are signed or inscribed by their authors or editors.

The catalogues also include a good selection of works by Israel Regardie, whose experience with the Stella Matutina led to the publication of his landmark compilation, The Golden Dawn, An Account of the Teachings, Rites, and Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, (4 Volumes — 1937–1940), since republished in a variety of different forms and formats. The current catalogue includes a number of books that are signed or inscribed by Israel Regardie including an extraordinary association set of the First Edition of The Golden Dawn, with each volume personally inscribed by Regardie to author and psychical researcher Hereward Carrington and including an additional handwritten note by Regardie. Other Regardie rarities include a copy of his The Enochian Dictionary (Circa 1971?) — which is without doubt one of the earliest of the modern Enochian research publications — and the seldom-seen first edition of The Art of True Healing. A Treatise on the Mechanism Prayer, and the Operation of the Law of Attraction in Nature (1937). As is well known Regardie for some time practised as a chiropractor and psychologist (P. R. Stephensen once unkindly termed him a “quack psychiatrist”) and two of the rarer items are pamphlets relating to this aspect of his career: Cry Havoc (1952), a study of the pitfalls of psychology, psychotherapy, and chiropractic; and the (by modern standards) rather chilling Analysis of a Homosexual (1949), a work in which Regardie recounts the case history of a patient whom he claims to have successfully “cured” of homosexuality.

The catalogue opens with a work called Springtime Two (1958). This anthology of poetry and prose by important avant-garde authors of the time is listed here as it includes the first publication of extracts from Ithell Colquhoun’s then-unpublished occult novel Goose of Hermogenes, her original poems: “Elegy on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn”, “Epithalamium”, and “Little Poems from Cyprus”, as well as some translations from French. We were able to secure a few copies of the book that had been in storage for a number of years, but these will almost certainly not last long. As always there are also a number of rarities scattered throughout the catalogue which include: an Edition de Luxe of L. A. Bosman’s, The Mysteries Of The Qabalah (1913?), inscribed by Alvin Langdon Coburn, a first printing of the W. Wynn Westcott edition of Eliphas Levi’s The Magical Ritual of the Sanctum Regnum interpreted by the Tarot Trumps (1896), and a number of issues of A. Greville-Gascoigne’s The Golden Dawn Magazine (1939-1941), which included contributions by Israel Regardie and others.” [via]

Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple

Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple: The Alchemy and Crafting of Magickal Implements (Llewellyn’s Golden Dawn Series) by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, the 1992 paperback from Llewellyn Publications, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Sandra Tabatha Cicero Chic Cicero Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple from Llewellyn Publications

  • Read the first book to describe all Golden Dawn implements and tools in complete detail!
  • See photos and drawings of almost 80 different tools
  • Learn the exact symbolism of each implement
  • Conduct new, never-before published rituals

A Must-Have for Every Student of the Western Magickal Tradition

From its inception 100 years ago, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn continues to be the authority on magick. Yet the books written on the Golden Dawn system have fallen far short in explaining how to construct the tools and implements necessary for ritual. Now, with The Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple, you get a unique compilation of the various tools used, all described in full: wands, ritual clothing, elemental tools, Enochian tablets, altars, temple furniture, banners, lamens, admission badges and much more.

This was republished by Llewellyn in two parts as Creating Magical Tools: The Magician’s Craft (1999) and Ritual Use of Magical Tools: Resources for the Ceremonial Magician (2000). The first of these two appear to have been published again by a new publisher, Thoth Publications, in 2004, as far as I can tell without its mate, as Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple, Book 1: Creating Magical Tools.

Sandra Tabatha Cicero Chic Cicero Ritual Use of Magical Tools from Llewellyn Publications

Back in the day, Half Price Books in Seattle had a veritable metric ton of the two volume edition from Llewellyn, and they hung around for quite a while before the first volume completely disappeared in what seemed to me a sudden surprising rush leaving behind the second volume to linger on for quite a bit longer on its own. For some reason I never pick up the first in time, but did grab the second before it too finally sold out. Of course, the first was the one I should have grabbed instead. Years later, I did pick up the original single volume complete edition so that I’d have the construction plans and instructions.


The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Hermetic Virtues, Vol 6 Iss 1

Hermetic Virtues Magazine begins its 6th year with its 21st publication, Vol 6 Iss 1, available as a PDF via single issue download or 4 issue subscription. The Magazine is a project of the Hermetic Virtues site, which site is intended to be “a repository for hermetic knowledge and research. It is designed to be a place where people of good will from all orders, groups, places and backgrounds can communicate to freely share what they have discovered in the course of their exploration for the greater good of all and the expansion of our intellectual and spiritual horizons.”

Hermetic Virtues lamen

· The Alchemical Hexagram – Chic and Tabatha Cicero
· The Emperor by Harry Wendrich
· The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet – a book review by Aaron Leitch
· Group Work – an unpublished Whare Ra document – Mrs. Felkin with a commentary by Nick Farrel
· Hidden Treasures of the Golden Dawn – a book review by Samuel Scarborough
· Invocation of the powers of Aquarius – Jayne Gibson
· Astrological Magic – A book review by Samuel Scarborough
· Becoming the Star Child – Nick Farrell
· An Invocation of Kether – Samuel Scarborough

You can find an index of past issues at the Hermetic Virtues Magazine Index.


Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Golden Dawn Journal: Book I, Divination by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero from Llewellyn:

Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero's The Golden Dawn Journal: Book I, Divination Llewellyn


What a very fine idea! The amorphous dispersion and multiplication of the Golden Dawn as an institution, and the recognized insinuation of its technologies into virtually every corner of the contemporary practice of ceremonial magic, have set the stage for a momentous publishing project.

The Golden Dawn Journal is presented as an ongoing series of book-length anthologies on diverse topics of interest to the praciticing ceremonial magician. The first volume concentrates on divination, and projected themes appear to include everything from Alchemy to the Z documents.

As a material artifact, it is a little disappointing. The softbound book uses flimsy paper and coverstock. The cover bears an attractive design with a very conservative graphic, designed (I suppose) to attract stodgy ceremonialist types.

The editors preface the text with a fine essay on the general nature of divination and its role in ceremonial practice. I found myself getting annoyed that so many of the individual contributors then began their pieces with a reworking of the same generalities.

There is a wide mix of articles, though there is a predictable bias towards the Tarot among the available techniques. Any practicing magician is likely to find at least a couple of the 15 essays valuable.

The volume concludes with a “Forum” section, which appears to have been an interesting backfire. The concept was to get a variety of positions from the contributors in response to a single question on the topic. Instead, the query “Can a divination always be trusted?” elicited a high degree of consensus, broken mostly by semantic variations. That’s not too surprising, since it’s one of the few questions that I have not heard ever-contentious magicians disputing.

All told, this first volume of The Golden Dawn Journal is an ambitious project with mixed results and great promise. [via]



The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.