The Golden Dawn Tarot

There is only one known, published, reference to the origin of the Golden Dawn Tarot. This appears in the 1945 autobiography of Irish artist and poet, Ella Young. In the book, Flowering Dusk she describes a visit to the home of the Mathers, having been brought there by Maud Gonne, a member of the Order. Maud Gonne had herself been brought into the group by William Butler Yeats, who courted her unsuccessfully for many years.

Ella Young describes having been attracted to some large illustrations of Egyptian Gods executed in paper mosaic, and claimed by MacGregor Mathers to have been done by him in one night.

When we are in the quiet street again, I say to Maud Gonne, "How can he expect us to believe that he did those mosaics in one night?" "I think it quite likely that he did."

"But—to cut those strips of paper, sort the colours, glue them into position: to say nothing of designing and drawing the figures - it seems to be impossible!"

"He can do things like that. One time he made up his mind that the society should have Tarot cards. At headquarters he took a packet of white cards, asked a member to mark them, went into an inner room for a little while, and came out with those marked cards. The Tarot signs were painted on them. The cards used by the society are copied from the pack." I had seen those cards. To produce them at short notice "while you wait" was a feat equaling the mosaics.14

It appears that a finished deck was painted by Mrs. Mathers, a very accomplished artist. Her deck was subsequently lent to members of the Inner Order who were required to copy it by hand. This was the procedure followed by the late Golden Dawn lodge to which Israel Regardie belonged, the Stella Matutina, although at the time preparation of a Tarot deck was optional.

Photographs of Regardie's deck (the original having been stolen) were the basis of the Golden Dawn Tarot, painted by Robert Wang under Regardie's direction, and published in 1978.

Continue reading here: The Riderwaite Deck

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