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8 vs 11

In the mid 19th century an anonymous occultist, who has since been tentatively identified as an English Mason named Makenzie brought to light a document purported to be a finite and definitive examination of the occult. This document contained super-secret information from an underground stream of ancient origin. Included was a description of the absolutely true and faithful interpretation of the TAROT, complete with astrological, numerological, Kabalistic, and alchemical correspondences.

This Underground Stream inner circle manuscript came to be called the Cipher Manual. From this manuscript came the founding of an influential secret-document, semi-Masonic, initiatory organization called "The Golden Dawn" (AKA the Lodge of the Nascent Dawn, the Order of the Asiatic Brethren, the Knights of the Rising Dawn, the Brothers of St. John the Evangelist of Asia in Europe, etc.), founded by wizards S.L. MacGregor Mathers and Dr. Wynn Wescott. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a complex body of teaching and ritual magical practice that amalgamated Kabalistic cosmology, the Rosicrucian initiation system, ritual magic, Egyptology, astrology, tarot, and various other such magical and occult streams. Mathers and Wescott did such a masterful job of interconnection that the influence of the Golden Dawn is still felt today; indeed, together with Madame Blavatsky's Theosophy, the Golden Dawn is seen as one of the parents of contemporary Western esotericism.

The organization was composed of many contemporary and influential and artistic personalities, i.e. the artist Aubrey Beardsley, the poet, W.B. Yeats, Dionne Fortune and Aleister Crowley. From these diverse personalities was formed a syncretistic form of magic which carries over to the present.

Unfortunately the Cipher Document was a forgery. The direct and linear ascendancy from an utterly authoritative Rosy Cross, that is Rosicrucians, out of a magical lodge, Germanic pre-history is false as well.

The upshot, for tarotists, that remains evident in today's tarot can be summarized thusly:

The Cipher Manuscript (named thusly for the super-secret code in which it is written) countered several hundred years of tarot history and perfectly workable tarot decks to enlighten via the workings of cards VIII and XI.

The Cipher Manuscript, (in a nutshell) states that, contrary to several hundred years of tradition, i.e. exoteric, wherein Justice = VIII and Strength = XI, the absolutely correct, i.e. "esoteric" tarot switches provides a needed alteration of these cards. Therefore Strength = VIII and Justice = XI. The main reason this was done, according to the forged manuscript was based upon the premise that the Eighth Trump should be assigned to Libra (the Scales); therefore, it was imperative to assign Justice (who holds the scales) to the number eight.

Thus, when Waite and Smith, both members of the Golden Dawn, created their deck they "chose'' to elaborate upon the Golden Dawn system of tarot assignments. The world of Tarot decks has never been quite the same.

Should your modern or post-modern deck have VIII=Strength, its a good bet the designer used Waite-Smith as the chief point of departure for the design. Crowley's Thoth deck reverted to the older numbering sequence.

  1. The Continental/Tarot de Marseille model: VIII=Justice
  2. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn cum Waite-Smith model: VIII=Strength
  3. The Crowley-Harris model: VIII=Justice

It's in the cards!


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