The Golden Dawn Tarot is a striking large-format tarot deck based on the long-secret notebooks and records of the Order of the Golden Dawn, a powerful magical society active in late Victorian Britain.
As an organisation the Order of the Golden Dawn was short-lived but immensely influential: led by charismatic occultist SL MacGregor Mathers, the Golden Dawn explored and promoted Hermetic Qabalah, a complex philosophy variously influenced by Western astrology, freemasonry, Jewish Kabbalah and the tarot. Mathers was able to synthesise these different philosophies into one coherent system of magic, and in doing so attracted many significant late Victorian figures to his side, including occult writer Aleister Crowley, Irish poet WB Yeats and the freemason Arthur Edward Waite.
The Golden Dawn Tarot deck, then, is a powerful visual exploration of the mysteries and magic of this secret Order. Illustrated by Robert Wang (illustrator of the much-loved Jungian Tarot) under the stewardship of the late Dr Israel Regardie (author of The Golden Dawn and one-time secretary to Crowley), the deck takes a relatively conventional Rider-Waite structure but then layers on the striking and complex symbology of the Golden Dawn. The card backs illustrate this perfectly: included in the many-layered design is the Qabalistic Tree of Life, the 22 characters of the Hebrew alphabet and the Golden Dawn's Egyptian ceremonial phrase "Khabs Am Pekht" - literally, "Light in Extension".
With his drawings throughout the deck, Robert Wang has achieved a kind of powerful, primitive style which builds on the magic of the Golden Dawn without ever getting in the way of its ancient Qabalistic traditions; the deck feels stark, sweetly innocent and yet somehow deeply significant.
Highly recommended as a divinatory deck but also as a gateway to exploring the secretive and magical Order of the Golden Dawn, without whom there would be no Thoth Tarot, no Hermetic Tarot and no Rider-Waite Tarot.