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Arthur Edward Waite (1857–1942)

Author of The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

222+ Works 4,847 Members 50 Reviews 8 Favorited

About the Author

Arthur Edward Waite was born on October 2, 1857 in Brooklyn, New York. He was a poet and scholarly mystic who wrote extensively on occult and esoteric matters, and was the co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. Waite joined the Outer Order of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in January 1891 show more after being introduced by E.W. Berridge. In 1899 he entered the Second order of the Golden Dawn. He became a Freemason in 1901, and entered the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia in 1902. In 1903 Waite founded the Independent and Rectified Order R. R. et A. C. Waite was a prolific author and many of his works were well received in academic circles. He wrote occult texts on subjects including divination, esotericism, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, and ceremonial magic, Kabbalism and alchemy; he also translated and reissued several important mystical and alchemical works. His works on the Holy Grail, influenced by his friendship with Arthur Machen, were particularly notable. A number of his volumes remain in print, including The Book of Ceremonial Magic (1911), The Holy Kabbalah (1929), A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry (1921), and his edited translation of Eliphas Levi's 1896 Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual (1910), having seen reprints in recent years. Waite also wrote two allegorical fantasy novels, Prince Starbeam (1889) and The Quest of the Golden Stairs (1893). (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)


Works by Arthur Edward Waite

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (1910) 1,223 copies, 17 reviews
The Book of Black Magic (1898) 748 copies, 9 reviews
Rider-Waite Tarot Deck (1909) 724 copies, 6 reviews
A New Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry (1921) 351 copies, 1 review
The Holy Kabbalah (1929) 238 copies, 2 reviews
The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross (1924) 132 copies, 1 review
The Hermetic Museum (1990) 101 copies
The Hidden Church of the Holy Graal (1909) 62 copies, 1 review
Alchemists Through the Ages (1888) 51 copies
The Illustrated Key to the Tarot (1916) 36 copies, 1 review
Azoth: Or the Star in the East (1973) 29 copies, 1 review
Secret Tradition in Alchemy (1969) 28 copies
Lamps of Western mysticism (1973) 27 copies
Emblematic Freemasonry (1925) 17 copies
The Doctrine and Literature of the Kabalah (1992) 16 copies, 2 reviews
Three Famous Mystics (1992) 12 copies
Shadows of Life and Thought (1992) 12 copies
The Serpent Myth (1998) — Author — 9 copies
Tarot Original 1909 Deck (2021) 9 copies, 1 review
Tarot Vintage (2021) 6 copies
Universal Waite Tarot (2003) 3 copies
Strange Houses of Sleep (2009) 3 copies
Steps to the Crown (2010) 3 copies
Hermandad De La Rosa Cruz (1999) 2 copies
Tarot Original 1909 Kit (2021) 2 copies
The Bells Of Faerie (2005) 2 copies
The Way of Divine Union (2019) 2 copies
The Science Of Hermes (2010) 1 copy
Roger Bacon (2006) 1 copy
Co-Masonry - Pamphlet (2006) 1 copy
The Mysterium Fidei (2006) 1 copy
O Livro dos Feitiços (2002) 1 copy
Obermann 1 copy
Ocultismo Al Desnudo (2000) 1 copy, 1 review

Associated Works

Transcendental Magic (1856) — Translator, some editions — 680 copies, 7 reviews
The History of Magic (1860) — Translator, some editions — 527 copies, 4 reviews
Universal Tarot (2001) — Designer — 36 copies
Alchemical Writings of Edward Kelly (1676) — Translator, some editions — 19 copies
Magical Writings of Thomas Vaughan also known as Eugenius Philalethes (1992) — Translator, some editions — 10 copies
Collectanea. Volume 4, Part 3 : The Martinist Order (1950) — Contributor — 8 copies
Some Characteristics of the Interior Church (1798) — Introduction, some editions — 7 copies, 2 reviews
Collectanea. Volume 1, Part 2 : Fratres Lucis (0193) — Contributor — 7 copies, 1 review


Common Knowledge



I realize that there might be minor publication differences between editions of the ‘Rider pack’, as it’s sometimes called (I usually just call it the classic tarot deck, or the 1909 Tarot), such as different hues or levels of brightness in the colors, and of course, different companies. I’m not against people making money; it’s just a little amusing when so many groups all offer the same product, basically, you know; it’s all the same classic deck. Anyway, I’m briefly going to review the old 1909 Tarot for you.

It is a little hard getting distance from the classic pack enough to review it; with most Rider-derived decks, I’ll pick a few cards to talk about how they differ from the 1909 images; obviously that doesn’t work with the 1909 images themselves. But I’ve briefly flipped through—I don’t count them as ‘read’ yet, since I didn’t carefully study a few a day, and Crowley in particular made no sense; it was like, This is a horse of a different color! This is a Fancy Horse!—both the Tarot de Marseille and the Thoth Tarot, which I’m told are the two main other decks that have influenced Tarot history—readings and musings and derivative decks—other than the classic deck, which is what’s shaped most modern Tarot studies the most, being the main image-template for the large majority of Tarot fools, you know. (Although Arthur came before Eden Gray grandmothered the hippie generation, you know. Arthur probably thought of himself as the Hermit, or perhaps a sort of Hermit-Emperor that only he could understand, right.)

Anyway. It must be a let-down after all that—although that’s not long for me—but I guess I can just say that I can get get how the 1909 pack rode off with the Tarot world, you know. It’s fashionable to deride the almost-popular alt culture; it’s certainly cool to say that Wiccans are already too popular, (where? one almost has to ask), although the Thoth has never really made many popularity-contest inroads on Arthur and Pam, you know. But although I get why it might be fun to learn Thoth Tarot, and the desert-sands and/or modern architecture simplicity of Marseilles is also immediately apparent, I can get the value of the classic set of cards. It’s the easily-dismissed middle-way, that the masses often tend to love in all its forms. It’s in between the pictorially ‘laconic’ Marseille and the (to a non-initiate, busy) ‘fancy’ Thoth; 1909 produces images that are simple and sometimes unmistakable, although sometimes ambiguous and often quite profound as well.

It’s as though it mastered the art of seeming commonplace—at least for a Tarot deck; some people see any card, the Four of Pentacles, probably, and run—while actually having layers. While actually being profound. Marseilles isn’t un-profound, of course; but it’s rough. 1909 is simple, but polished: smooth.
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goosecap | Dec 29, 2023 |
The brief history of tarot is nice. Although there is probably some useful information in here, it is not really the simplest book for a beginner to learn about tarot. It can certainly be used as a reference but it is not written well for a quick cheat sheet type reference. There are multiple meanings to each card listed in separate sections of the book
Crystal199 | 16 other reviews | Nov 12, 2023 |
Warning: This largely overlaps A. E. Waite, The Holy Kabalah q.v.
Cr00 | 1 other review | Apr 1, 2023 |
The classic "standard" tarot deck - if you see a gypsy fortune teller in an old American movie reading the cards, this is the deck she's using. The packaging on this edition is a bit questionable - tough to get the cards out and the book in. Also in the book, a few of the illustrations are printing in color - but only the first few cards. And the color has bled thru the page! Weird - haven't ever seen this is a modern paperback. But still three stars for the "King James" version the tarot.
dhaxton | 16 other reviews | Jan 28, 2023 |


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