I recently finished painting the 22 Major Arcana of the The Builders of the Adytum Tarot Deck by Paul Foster Case, founder of B.O.T.A., and the artist Jessie Burns Parke.
Not only was it elucidating, it was for me almost a full pathworking through all 22 cards. I tended to paint one a day, and the energies stirred up while painting each card was distinct and uncanny. I learned as much about the tarot in the last month by painting them as I have in many years of simple study. I can’t recommend painting your own deck enough. Some day I hope to design my own, but in the meantime this was extremely satisfying.
I feel the design of the deck this deck is quite accurate and usable. My only problem with the BOTA tarot decks (which all come in black and white and unpainted), is that they only have the Major Arcana in the large size (4″ x 7″). The full deck comes only in a small size which is difficult to paint (especially the details.) This wasn’t too big of an issue for me though because as I’ve gotten older I find I’m more fascinated with the Major Aracana alone for both meditation and divination, and that I hardly need to bother with the 56 cards of the Minor Arcana at all. I hope one day they make the full deck in the large size though (kind of doubt it, but who knows : -)
I’m also a fairly big fan of Crowley’s Thoth deck overall, though as the years have progressed I don’t love all of Crowley’s reworkings (I don’t love the Aeon card, for example.) I do agree with Crowley’s attribution of Tzaddi to the IV. Emperor instead of the XVII. The Star card (so I made the small change on my BOTA deck); however, I do NOT agree with Crowley’s placement of these two cards. The Emperor should still be up top the Tree of Life connecting Chokmah to Tiphareth. The Emperor simply feels right to bring down the Wisdom of Chokmah, but more than that, the other related Major Arcana “Court” cards like The Hierophant, The High Priestess, and The Empress, are also at the top of the Tree of Life. Whereas The Moon, The Sun, and hence The Star as well, belong lower, down near Yesod.
I also decided to leave Justice as 11 and Strength as 8. The design of these cards works better that way. The Crowley deck is a little different with its Thelemic influence so 11 as “Lust” does make sense there, but I feel Justice as 11, with 11 as the balanced center of the 22 Major Arcana, is more fitting here. (Also for me, the Justice card is like a balanced equation, i.e. 1=1. Also I don’t think it’s a shallow coincidence that the Strength card has the “lazy eight” of infinity over the woman’s head. )
In the end I find the tarot more useful for meditation (and creating magick spells from) than I do for divination, which is abused heavily in the occult world. Divination should only be used for the most serious of questions, and not brought out for petty day-to-day concerns. Also one should always learn to trust their first layout on any specific topic (whether it seems like a good reading or not). I’ve seen too many people, especially who do readings for themselves, simply leading themselves into a pit of self-delusion, by forcing the cards (often subconsciously) into what they fear or hope for most, instead of a balanced and accurate result. At least by trusting one’s first intuition and not contorting it, one will learn to become a better diviner. Also it’s much easier to be unbiased when doing readings for others so if one must practice divination with Tarot, that is the way to do it.
To conclude, I’ll leave you quote from Paul Foster Case himself, which I wholeheartedly concur:
“Finally, let me reiterate the thought that this is not to be used for vulgar fortune telling, or to amuse a party of friends. If you yield to the temptation so to abuse this information, you will pay for it in the loss of all power of true divination, and probably in the loss of ability to control the higher rates of psychic vibration.”