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Thoth a Pagan themed deck?

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Originally Posted by inanna_tarot
I knew Gardner was in the same hermetic circles as crowley but didnt know he was part of the OTO.
There are disagreements as to when Crowley and Gardner first met. However, there is little good evidence to dispute Gardner's own statement that he first met Crowley in 1946; especially as this is backed up by Arnold Crowther who stated that he introduced the two men that same year. However he may have known some members of the OTO and other acquaintance of Crowley's a lot longer. It is claimed by some for example that Louis Wilkinson (a IX degree member of the OTO and long time friend of Crowley) was present at 'Operation Cone of Power' (or Operation Mistletoe - according to which account you prefer to believe); along with Chief Druid MacGregor Reid (extensive correspondence between Crowley and Reid is still extent at the Warburg Institute), and Charles Seymour.

Crowley way before this time had also been discussing 'the witchcraft' with Maxwell Knight and Tom Driberg. Crowley had long been in correspondence with Dion Fortune as well. As the secretary of her order (of the Christian mystic branch) destroyed all such documents, and because Crowley's copies have disappeared, we cannot know what the subject matter was (except that it apparently upset one of her Christian colleagues). Kenneth Grant who was present at two of the meetings between them both in 1945 however has said the conversation was about the revival of paganism. Its of interest also that her one time magical partner and an acquaintance of Crowley's through their mutual involvement in the British secret service, Charles Seymour, was involved in the promulgation of the 'old religion' and said to be present by some, with Louise Wilkinson at operation 'cone of power'. Wilkinson of course is the only corroboration of Cecil William’s original/Gardner's continuing story of 'cone of power'. Could it be that as brothers in the OTO they shared a common agenda?

We know from Crowley's diaries that by May of 1947 Gardner was a member of the OTO, a 3rd degree brother and Prince of Jerusalem. It was probably at this time Crowley gave Gardner his charter to run a camp of the OTO to the degree minerval. The charter still exists and is presently owned by Tau Allen Greenfield. We also know from a letter from Crowley to Gerald Yorke that Gardner purchased 4 copies of 'The Equinox of the Gods' from Crowley at this time; this is significant if you realise that one of Gardner's duties as a Brother and Head of a Camp of the OTO would have been to spread the Law of Thelema (i.e., Do what thou wilt). A letter from Gardner to Crowley in June of 1947 reveals that Gardner had advanced by that time to the VII degree. Gardner’s ‘magical name’ in the order was ‘Scire’, and signs himself as such in the preface to his book on witchcraft.

Later in the year Gardner travelled to America where it is said he met Karl Germer, who confirmed him as Head of the Order in Europe. There is a letter extent that confirms the arrangements for such a meeting. According to Bill Heidrick this meeting may have taken place. However, Mr. Heidrick also states that while Germer may have accepted Gardner's credentials as a member of the OTO, and the authority for Gardner to run a camp of the OTO to the degree Minerval, there is no evidence that Gardner was recognised as the official Head of the OTO in Europe. In fact, what evidence there is tends to point against it.

According to Fred Lamont Gardner also met Jack Parsons while on his visit to America, which may be significant in that Parsons' writings at this time reveal he was also promulgating a new pagan religion under the banner of witchcraft. As Doreene Valiente wrote in a letter to T. Allen Greenfield:

"I have a remarkable little book by Jack Parsons called MAGICK, GNOSTICISM AND THE WITCHCRAFT. It is unfortunately undated, but Parsons died in 1952. The section on witchcraft is particularly interesting because it looks forward to a revival of witchcraft as the Old Religion.... I find this very thought provoking. Did Parsons write this around the time that Crowley was getting together with Gardner and perhaps communicated with the California group to tell them about it? Parsons began forecasting the 'revival of witchcraft' in the notorious 'Liber 49 - The Book of Babalon' written in 1946. The timing of the genesis of 'The Book of Babalon' - which forecast a revival of witchcraft in covens based upon the number eleven (the Thelemic number of MAGICK) rather than the traditional thirteen, seems to coincide with Crowley's OTO Charter to Gardner, Gardner's U.S. visit, and also coincides rather closely with the writing of HIGH MAGIC'S AID by Gardner."

However, Bill Heidrick has pointed out Gardner was in Tennessee and New York, Parsons in California. So a meeting between the two seems unlikely. Was there correspondence between the two? If so, it is not extent. Had Gardner gained possession of Parson's writings on the subject? This is more probable, but again there is no evidence to support that this was the case. Mr. Paul Hume has pointed out though that Parson's did spend periods of time on the East Coast, in pursuance of his job and with defence contracts. Was there a 'window of opportunity' for the two to meet on such an occasion? I do not know, but it remains a possibility. It is also possible that this meeting did not take place on this visit, but a later one in the winter of 1950/51.

Could Crowley have been the link between the common interest in witchcraft between the two? In a letter from Grady McMurtry to Crowley in 1944, McMurtry writes, in connection to Parson's promulgation of witchcraft:

" I know that witchcraft is all very interesting and has its place etc but to go into it to the detriment of the work as a whole seems such a waste of time and talent. After all it is only a small part of the task."

After Crowley's death, in a letter dated December 24 1948 and sent from Memphis Tennessee to Vernon Symonds Gardner states that “....Aleister gave me a charter making me Head of the OTO in Europe." From the evidence we have this seems to be a matter of confusion on Gardner's part, who may have misunderstood what rights his charter to run a camp gave him. Crowley seems to have given Gardner a charter to run a camp of the OTO to the degree Minerval, this is no way entitled Gardner to proclaim himself 'Head of the OTO in Europe' after Crowley's death. Even if such a camp was the only 'active' operation of the OTO in England at the time. However there is also a letter from Lady Frieda Harris to Karl Germer, dated January 2 1948, in which she also refers to Gardner as Head of the OTO in Europe. So there is obviously some amount of confusion on this issue.

Sometime between 1948 and 1950 Gardner gave up what was either his (self-appointed?) role as Head of the OTO in Europe, or his charter to run a camp (or both). He wrote to Gerald Yorke that his attempts to start an encampment of the order had been foiled through ill health. He still remained a member of the order however, and kept up a regular correspondence with Karl Germer (including sending him copies of his books) and participated in some of the rituals of Kenneth Grant. (There is no record of Gardner either having resigned or being expelled from the order. Bill Heidrick has confirmed that Gardner and Germer continued to have friendly relationships and that he knows of at least one autographed edition of one of Gardner's books that was sent to Germer).

I am not sure when Gardner and Grant first met, but it was unlikely to have been before Gardner's return from America in 1948. As one of the only active members of the OTO in England, Grant appears to have taken a role in its administration and promotion. When it became clear that Gardner was too busy with the development of his witchcraft to have much time left for the running of a camp of the OTO, Germer chartered Grant to operate a Camp in the 'valley of London' in 1951. Active membership of both the OTO and of Gardners new movement being low, it appears there may have been rituals carried out by witches and magicians together, and for there to have been some cross fertilisation of membership. An account of such a ritual in 1949 can be found in Grant's "Nightside of Eden" and also Valiente's "The rebirth of witchcraft". The participants of which were Gardner, Grant and his wife, Olive North and founder of the Order of the Morning Star Madeline Montalban.

This cosy arrangement wasn't to last however. The first to break out of the arrangement was Madeline Montalban. Madeline, who has been described as a famous 'London Occultist', was the founder in the mid 1950's of the 'Order of the Morning Star'; which appears to have taught 'angelic MAGICK'. Although often referred to as 'the witch of St.Giles' it seems she was a ritual magician in the ceremonial tradition of the Golden Dawn/OTO. She is on record as having described Gardner as 'ritually inept' and a 'fraud'. The cause of her falling out with Gardner is unclear, but the result was that she barred her students from participation in witch rituals. There is a rumour that Montalban's fallout with Gardner followed an incident in which she agreed to take part in a rite with him and ended up, as she is said to have described it, "tied up naked and tickled with a feather duster". It could be that she was describing a ritual flagellation that has got a little garbled in the telling, for Gardner's instructions on ritual flagellation describe an action so mild as the results may have felt more being 'tickled with a feather duster' than a 'scourging' of any description.

Gardner and Grant's relationship appears to have lasted until the point in 1955 when Grant was expelled from the order; one report that I have read says that Germer then wrote to Gardner asking if he were willing once again to take up the reigns as Head of the Order in Europe but Gardner declined. It was shortly after Grant's expulsion that the infamous 'magickal war' between Gardner and the Nu-Isis lodge began.

For those that may not have reference to it the 'magical war' broke out in latter half of 1955. Grant has said that he cannot remember the original reason for their falling out but I doubt it is no coincidence that it started at the same time Grant was expelled from the OTO on July 20 1955. It is perhaps significant that it was after Grant was expelled from the OTO that Gardner appears to have barred coven members from attending Grant's Nu-Isis lodge.

Another reason that may be significant in Gardner's disassociation from Grant and the OTO at this time may be because of media attention. In the summer of 1955 the "Sunday Pictorial" ran a series of articles associating witchcraft with devil worship. There was a panic among Gardner's group with claims of surveillance, phone tapping and interference with post. Gardner and Valiente in the panic destroyed documents and any correspondence that could in any way at all identify any of the members or be in any way suggestive of the group being involved in Satanism. In any media attack on witchcraft, devil worship, Satanism of course, the name of Aleister Crowley always appeared.

As to Grant's version of the so called 'magickal war. After Gardner's ban on involvement with Grant's group some left the coven and remained with Grant. One of these was a woman called Clanda who claimed to be a Water-Witch. Furious that Grant was 'stealing' his witches Gardner commissioned Austin Spare to prepare him a talisman for the return of stolen property to its rightful place. Spares method was to bind what he called an 'intrusive familiar' into the substance of the talisman by a sex MAGICK process.

According to Grant the charm had a dramatic effect at a ritual of the Nu-Isis lodge where Clanda lay on a massive altar placed between two stout tapers: "A current of ice-cold air swept through the room and at the same time an eerie scrabbling sound came from the region of a heavily curtained window. Terror was revealed in Clanda's eyes and her body was convulsed by violent shudders. She swayed and reeled; a fluttering noise came from the window; the curtains parted and a monstrous bird winged its way into the room and fastened its talons onto Clanda's flesh. It seemed, she said, as if the claws had lifted her high up into the room, through the ceiling and out into the open night..............She strove with all her will to resist the creatures urgent clutches and fell like a stone upon the altar and awoke sobbing, confused...as she stared at the window the heavy curtains billowed as if beneath the impact of a powerful breeze...glistening light upon the frosted window clearly revealed the unmistakable claw-marks of a giant bird ... and a deposit of some gelatinous substance, resembling seaweed, pulsated slowly on the window-sill as if breathing. "Having learned that Spare had made a talisman for Gardner I asked him what nature of demon he had bound to it. He replied: 'A sort of amphibious owl with the wings of a bat and the talons of an eagle'.

The ‘stolen property’ (Clanda) was not restored to Gardner or his coven however. Clanda left England for New Zealand, her ship was wrecked and she was drowned. Did something take Clanda back to her 'rightful place' as a Water-Witch - the waves?" (From an article by Grant in the Encyclopaedia of Witchcraft and Demonology - also published in Man, Myth and Magic and several other places).

Hutton casts doubt on this story because none of Gardner's members of the St. Albans coven can offer any corroboration. However there is no reason to believe that any of the St. Albans coven would have any knowledge of Gardner's London based activities or acquaintances. In fact it is clear from Louise Bourne's portrait of Gardner in "Dancing with Witches" that Gardner mixed in a variety of circles and took pains to ensure that they knew little of each other. Louise Bourne's account is also amusing in that she quotes some memorable quotes of Gardners without apparently realising he himself was quoting Crowley.

From the latter half of 1955 any ties between Gardner, Grant and the OTO seem to have been cut, and from that point on he sought to disassociate himself from both Crowley and the OTO. It was so effective one may speculate to how his association could have been so successfully concealed without the full approval and aid of the OTO itself. At least, no other member of the OTO who knew of his involvement in any appears to have 'outed' him at the time.

The title of Parson's book, "Magick, Gnosis and the Witchcraft", reflect the three main strands Crowley had struggled to create and maintain to further the formula of Thelema after his death; being the OTO, the Ecclesiastic Gnostic Church, and a new pagan religion to be promulgated under the banner of witchcraft. The central ritual at the heart of these was the ‘Gnostic Mass’. Doreene Valient took Gardners text of the ‘Book of Shadows’ and systematically removed or paraphrased much of the obvious Crowley sources to conceal his influence; despite this the relationship to the central ritual of wicca and the Gnostic Mass remains obvious. At this time the OTO and the Gnostic Church were close to extinction; and it may well have been decided that the witchcraft should be protected from its association with Crowley in order to assure that his negative reputation did not 'rub off' on the new movement and risk its progress.

So one ‘possible’ version of the history of the Witchcraft that was later to become Wicca is that it was originally conceived as either an Outer Order or encampment of the OTO (not the AA - a completely separate order). Being separated early on from the OTO it quickly became a growing, organic 'tradition' in its own right and has developed in a manner that neither Crowley nor Gardner could have envisaged - and with many offshoots of its own.

From the view of its history Wicca is the offspring of Freemasonry and the Western Occult Tradition as it came to be amalgamated within the OTO. As such I think it would be true to say that it is a continuation of pre-christian traditions that survived the dark times. Traditions which include the doctrines and practices of the Pagan Mystery Schools. For all his faults I believe Crowley was attuned to the current of a new age; and that it is this same current that empowers the revival of paganism. It is the tool Crowley used, through the OTO, to evolve paganism into a shape fit for survival in a new age. An evolved paganism that differs from pre-Christian paganism in various ways:

Ethically - No volumes of Roman code, nor patriarchal/matriarch interference; just a simple model of freedom born of responsibility and the honour of light, love, liberty and life under the Law of Do What Thou Wilt.

Religiously - An end to bloodthirsty gods and goddesses; magick and worship demands not sacrifice. A religion founded not in fatalism, but joy.

Socially and Spiritually - The equality of men and women, priest and priestess, god and goddess.

I say one ‘possible’ because there are several versions of the history of wicca; and just as many pagans and wiccans seek to deny any influence of Crowley upon their history at all it is perhaps just as too easy to read too much into minor circumstantial evidence and conclude as greater role than the evidence merits. All of course is speculation. Facts, as they say, are what you make of them For myself I consider the truth of the matter inconsequential.

Inconsequential that is to my being a pagan witch. Whatever the truth our history proves to be, it is not fundamental to my beliefs; for that rests solely on the reality of my experience in the practice of Magick, of a divine reality that consecrates our lives in the pursuance of love, light, liberty and life. In my knowledge that life is a sacrament, blessed by joy. Neither Crowley nor Gardner are the authors of my reality, nor fundamental to it. They are at the most but primary spokesman of the 20th century of a tradition that stretches back through the Sabians of Harran to the Magick of Chaldea. Whatever the connections between them as individuals, they are ultimately connected by their mutual participation in and expression of the same ancient tradition. The rest is but glitter, which we may enjoy for its sparkle, but should not mistake for gold.

As I see it [IMHO] pagans do not recognise any scriptural authority any more than they do the intermediary of priests or prophets; false or otherwise. Rather they seek a personal relationship with the spirit of the creator through the miracle of creation itself; through the pursuance of self-knowledge and communion with the sacrament of nature.

For myself the BoS is not a fixed body of writings. It is an individuals notebook and diary that is an ever growing and changing journal of personal discovery on the path to self-realisation. It is regarded as 'sacred' only in the meaning and value it has to the person that keeps it; and is never to be treated as a source of doctrinal dogma.

Your friend in pursuit of inconsequential history,

Kwaw
References:
A True History of Wicca, an essay by T. Allen Greenfield (available on-line)
Notes on Gardnerian Wicca by Frederic Lamont (available on-line)
Response of Bill Heidrick to questions on the alt.magick newsgroup
Images and Oracles of Austin Osman Spare by Kenneth Grant
The Nightside of Eden by Kenneth Grant
The Rebirth of Witchcraft by Doreene Valiente
Crafting the Art of Magic by Aidan Kelly
Gerald Gardner, Witch by J. Bracelin (or rather, Idries Shah)
MAGICK, Gnosis and the Witchcraft by Jack Parsons
The Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton
also the following magazines/newsletters:
Thelema Lodge newsletter(s) (where several of the above quoted letters were published) LASHTAL 1 (1988), 47
Nuit-Isis 10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aeon418
Hi Kwaw. Can you give me a page reference for that quote ? It's been a few years since I read The Great Beast.
Its in the chapter 'Wizard in the Wood', p.194 in my edition [published 1971 by MacDonald & Co.].

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quote (see link below for source)
In Janine Chapman's Quest for Dion Fortune, she interviews Kenneth Grant, student of Aleister Crowley about his contacts with Dion Fortune. Kenneth Grant was at Crowley's house in Netherwood, Hastings in January or February 1945, when he was sent to meet Dion at the station. Dion was dying, but she was looking forward to seeing Crowley again. At the house was Frieda Harris, who was going through the rejected Tarot designs with Aleister. Grant remembers Aleister, Dion and Frieda admiring the pictures. Significantly, one of Grant's recollections of that day points to Frieda Harris' pagan connections:
“Further, he says that he well remembers Dion's zest in discussing with Crowley the possibility of reviving the pagan attitudes to cosmic and elemental forces. Louis Umfraville-Wilkinson, a writer and co-literary executor with John Symonds for Aleister Crowley, was also present on that occasion.”
(Quest for Dion Fortune, Janine Chapman)

"The goal of the occult path of initiation is BALANCE. In Freemasonry and High Magick, the symbols of the White Pillar and Black Pillar represent this balance between conscious and unconscious forces.
"In Gardnerian Wicca, the Goddess and Horned God - and the Priestess and Priest, represent that balance."

(The Secret History of Modern Witchcraft by Alan Greenfield)

What is interesting about this quotation is that Frieda and Aleister devote a lot of time in their letters on the Adjustment card, which is all about balance - and there is the title, 'the woman fulfilled', mentioned in the Book of Thoth; their letters make the sexual connotation abundantly clear. The Thoth Fool card has numerous Wiccan Gods associated with it: The Green Man, Dionysus, and Cerunnus; all fertility symbols. The Priestess card is associated with Artemis or Diana, Goddess of Wicca. Olive Wicher, who taught Synthetic Projective Geometry to Frieda, says that she wanted to be known as Diana.
end quote

From:
http://www.supertarot.co.uk/adept/fharris.htm

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Getting back to the original question. Is the Thoth tarot a pagan deck ? My answer is no. It contains some pagan elements organised under the scheme of the Qabalah, but that doesn't make it a pagan deck.

The Thoth tarot expresses Crowley's philosophy of Magick/Sex-Magick, Alchemy and most importantly the doctrines of The Book of the Law and Thelema.
Quote:
This new Tarot may therefore be regarded as a series of illustrations to the Book of the Law; the doctrine of that Book is everywhere implicit.

The Book of Thoth p.115/116
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Paganism is a very broad term open to several interpretations. Within certain qualifications I would say Yes, BoT could certainly be termed a pagan themed deck.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by kwaw
Within certain qualifications I would say Yes


In my opinion the Thoth deck is overtly Thelemic and for obvious reasons. (Crowley didn't even want the deck to be sold without his book to accompany it.) Of course there's no real clash between Thelema and Paganism even though Thelema is not one of the Neo-Pagan traditions.
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In his confessions Crowley states his incarnational purpose is to introduce Eastern Philosophy to the West and to inaugurate Paganism in a purer form.

Of the Thoth he wrote:
"This new Tarot may therefore be regarded as a series of illustrations to the Book of the Law; the doctrine of that Book is everywhere implicit."

The Book of the Law is in three parts, dedicated to a Goddess [Chap.I, Nuit], a God [Chap.2, Hadit] and an Initiator [Chap.3, Ra Hoor Khuit]. These also correspond to Isis, Osiris and Horus and the Aeons of the Mother, the Father, and the Child; and represent the hypostasis of the infinitely great, the infinitely small, and their synthesis in the marriage [or gnosis] of man with the transcendant. The doctrine is of a Pagan Theurgical 'Magick'.



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Quote:
Originally Posted by kwaw
In his confessions Crowley states his incarnational purpose is to introduce Eastern Philosophy to the West and to inaugurate Paganism in a purer form.
Did actually use the word "inaugurate" ? I can't find the exact reference.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kwaw
The Book of the Law is in three parts, dedicated to a Goddess [Chap.I, Nuit], a God [Chap.2, Hadit] and an Initiator [Chap.3, Ra Hoor Khuit]. These also correspond to Isis, Osiris and Horus and the Aeons of the Mother, the Father, and the Child; and represent the hypostasis of the infinitely great, the infinitely small, and their synthesis in the marriage [or gnosis] of man with the transcendant. The doctrine is of a Pagan Theurgical 'Magick'.
But are they actually "GODS" in the pagan sense of the word ? Thelema can Polytheistic, Monotheistic or Atheistic depending on how you interpret The Book of the Law.
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From Crowley's introduction to The Book of the Law:

The elements are Nuit - Space - that is, the total of possibilities of every kind - and Hadit, any point which has experience of these possibilities. (This idea is for literary convenience symbolised by the Egyptian Goddess Nuit, a woman bending over like the Arch of the Night Sky. Hadit is symbolised as a Winged Globe at the heart of Nuit.) p.7

It explains that certain vast 'stars' (or aggregates of experience) may be described as Gods. p.11
Literary convenience !

Thelema teaches that there are no external GODS outside of yourself. You are your own God. How that view squares with Paganism is something else altogether.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aeon418
Thelema can Polytheistic, Monotheistic or Atheistic depending on how you interpret The Book of the Law.
By that token, so can Paganism. Really there is a problem inherent in the question since no-one has really come up with a satisfactory definition of paganism and people's opinions vary greatly. You yourself are implying one particular version of affairs when you say "gods in the pagan sense of the word". What does that really mean? It's entirely subjective.
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