Thoth Tarot Deck vs Other Popular Tarot Decks: What Sets It Apart?

Tarot cards have been utilized for divination and fortune-telling for centuries, with each deck having its own unique symbolism and meaning. One of the most intriguing and intricate decks is the Thoth Tarot Deck. Despite being one of the newer decks, the symbols, colors, and images in the Thoth Deck have captured the attention of many readers. This article explores the differences between the Thoth Tarot Deck and other popular decks and will provide insights into why this deck continues to fascinate so many individuals, even today.

History of the Thoth Tarot Deck

History Of The Thoth Tarot Deck
The story behind the creation of the Thoth Tarot Deck is steeped in mystery and controversy. The deck is known for its unique symbolism and intricate artwork, which have made it a favorite among many tarot enthusiasts. Some of the most notable figures in the occult world were involved in the creation of this deck, including Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris. To fully appreciate the beauty and complexity of the Thoth Tarot Deck, it’s important to understand its history and origins. This section will delve into the details of how the deck came to be, as well as its unique features that set it apart from other popular tarot decks. If you’re interested in learning more about the Thoth Tarot Deck, be sure to check out some of our other articles on the subject, such as Thoth Tarot Introduction and Thoth Tarot Major Arcana Guide.

The Creation of the Thoth Deck

The Thoth deck, also known as the Thoth Tarot, was created by Aleister Crowley, a prominent figure in the world of Western esotericism. The deck was illustrated by Frieda Harris, an artist who shared Crowley’s interest in the occult. The creation of the Thoth deck was a collaborative effort between Crowley and Harris, with Crowley providing the overall structure and symbolism for the deck, and Harris creating the intricate and detailed artwork.

Crowley’s goal for the Thoth deck was to create a tarot deck that was aligned with his philosophical and spiritual beliefs. In particular, Crowley was influenced by the teachings of Thelema, a religious belief system that he had developed. The Thelemic philosophy emphasized the idea of personal fulfillment and spiritual evolution, and Crowley believed that the tarot could be a powerful tool for achieving these goals.

To create the Thoth deck, Crowley drew on a wide range of mystical and occult traditions, including Kabbalah, astrology, and alchemy. He also incorporated his own unique interpretation of the tarot’s symbolism, often departing from traditional interpretations in favor of his own ideas.

One of the key features of the Thoth deck is its intricate color symbolism. Crowley believed that each color had its own spiritual significance, and he worked closely with Harris to ensure that the colors used in the deck were aligned with his overall vision. For example, he believed that the color blue was associated with purity and clarity of thought, while red represented passion and desire.

The creation of the Thoth deck was a significant achievement in the world of tarot. Crowley’s unique vision and Harris’s exquisite artwork combined to create a deck that has become a favorite among tarot readers and practitioners of esotericism. Today, the Thoth deck is known for its powerful symbolism and is often used in conjunction with other esoteric practices, such as astrology and Kabbalah. To learn more about the Thoth deck and how it can be used in divination and ritual magic, see our related articles on Thoth Minor Arcana, Thoth Tarot and Astrology, Thoth Tarot Tree of Life Analysis, Reading Tarot Tips with Thoth, and Thoth Tarot Deck in Ritual Magic.

Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris

The creation of the Thoth Tarot deck was a collaborative effort between the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley and the artist Lady Frieda Harris. Crowley, who proclaimed himself the “Great Beast” and was known for his controversial teachings and rituals, had a deep interest in tarot and its symbolism.

Harris, on the other hand, was a talented artist who had previously collaborated with well-known literary figures such as Bram Stoker and T.S. Eliot. Together, they worked on the Thoth deck for five years, from 1938 to 1943.

Crowley provided the deck’s structure and meaning, while Harris brought the cards to life with her intricate and vivid illustrations. The two communicated through letters and telegrams, with Crowley providing detailed instructions for each card and Harris sending him sketches for approval.

Their collaboration was not without its challenges, as Crowley often had very specific and detailed requirements for each card, which Harris had to translate into visual form. However, their partnership ultimately resulted in a deck that was both beautiful and rich in symbolism.

Today, the Thoth Tarot deck remains one of the most popular and respected tarot decks in the world, admired for its stunning artwork and deep mystical significance.

Unique Features of the Thoth Tarot Deck

When it comes to the Thoth Tarot Deck, there are several unique facets that set it apart from other popular decks. From its intricate color schemes to the symbolism used in each card, there is much to explore and appreciate. Let’s dive deeper into the distinctive features of this deck and unravel the mysteries behind its creation.

Color Schemes and Symbolism

The Thoth Tarot deck is known for its unique and striking use of color schemes and symbolism. Each color and symbol used in the deck, from the vibrant hues to the intricate details, has a specific meaning and purpose.

Color Schemes:
The Thoth deck features vibrant and bold colors, unlike traditional tarot decks. Aleister Crowley, who played a significant role in the creation of this deck, believed that color had a significant impact on human consciousness, and therefore he incorporated bright and lively colors in his cards. Some of the primary colors used in the Thoth deck include fiery red, oceanic blue, and sunshine yellow.

The Thoth Tarot deck also utilizes symbolism to convey its messages. The symbols on each card are carefully chosen and have deep meaning. For instance, the sun symbolizes enlightenment, while the moon represents the unconscious mind. Further, the Thoth deck features several mystical symbols, such as the Eye of Horus and the ankh, which are said to hold immense power and significance.

The combination of color and symbolism in the Thoth Tarot deck creates a visually stunning and spiritually potent tool for divination and self-discovery. Each card is a masterpiece of esoteric art, with every detail carefully chosen to convey a particular message or meaning.

The Major Arcana

The Major Arcana in the Thoth Tarot Deck consists of 22 cards that represent the deeper, more significant aspects of human consciousness and experience. Each card has a unique design and symbolism, depicting various archetypes and characters that serve as gateways to new levels of awareness.

The Fool: The first card in the Major Arcana is The Fool, representing new beginnings and possibilities. The card shows a young man about to step off a cliff, symbolizing his journey into the unknown.

The Magus: The second card, The Magus or The Magician, depicts a figure with one arm pointed towards the sky and the other towards the ground. This card represents manifestation and the power of will.

The High Priestess: The third card, The High Priestess, represents intuition and inner knowing. The card shows a figure of a woman sitting between two pillars, holding a scroll with the word “Tora” on it.

The Empress: The fourth card, The Empress, represents fertility, nurturing, and abundance. The card depicts a woman with a crown of stars and a scepter, surrounded by fertile land and vegetation.

The Emperor: The fifth card, The Emperor, symbolizes structure and authority. The card shows a figure of a man seated on a throne, holding a scepter and an orb.

The Hierophant: The sixth card, The Hierophant, represents tradition and adherence to structured beliefs. The card shows a man in a robe and a crown of three suns, seated between two pillars.

The Lovers: The seventh card, The Lovers, represents duality and choices. The card depicts a man and a woman standing naked in front of a tree, with an angel hovering above them.

The Chariot: The eighth card, The Chariot, symbolizes willpower and determination. The card shows a figure standing in a chariot, being pulled by two sphinxes.

Strength: The ninth card, Strength, represents inner strength and courage. The card shows a woman holding a lion’s jaws open, with her other hand placed over its head.

The Hermit: The tenth card, The Hermit, represents self-reflection and introspection. The card depicts a figure of a man holding a staff and a lamp, standing alone on a mountain.

The Wheel of Fortune: The eleventh card, The Wheel of Fortune, represents the cyclical nature of life. The card shows a wheel with various figures and symbols on it, being turned by a sphinx.

Justice: The twelfth card, Justice, represents balance and fairness. The card shows a woman holding a sword and scales, symbolizing the judgment of actions.

The Hanged Man: The thirteenth card, The Hanged Man, represents surrender and sacrifice. The card depicts a figure of a man hanging upside-down from a tree, with a halo around his head.

Death: The fourteenth card, Death, represents transformation and change. The card shows a figure of a skeleton holding a sickle, standing in front of a rising sun.

Art: The fifteenth card, Art or Temperance, represents balance and harmony. The card depicts a figure holding two cups, pouring water back and forth.

The Devil: The sixteenth card, The Devil, represents temptation and bondage. The card shows a figure of a devil with a torch, surrounded by two chained figures.

The Tower: The seventeenth card, The Tower, represents chaos and upheaval. The card depicts a tower being struck by lightning, with figures falling out of it.

The Star: The eighteenth card, The Star, represents hope and inspiration. The card shows a woman holding two cups, pouring one into a lake and another into the land.

The Moon: The nineteenth card, The Moon, represents the subconscious mind and illusions. The card depicts a moon with a face, surrounded by two wolves and two towers.

The Sun: The twentieth card, The Sun, represents vitality and joy. The card shows a child riding a horse while holding a red flag, surrounded by sunflowers.

Judgment: The twenty-first card, Judgment, represents rebirth and awakening. The card depicts a figure of an angel blowing a trumpet, while people rise up from their graves.

The Universe: The final card in the Major Arcana, The Universe, represents wholeness and completion. The card shows a figure dancing, surrounded by the signs of the zodiac and other alchemical symbols.

The Minor Arcana

The Thoth Tarot Deck has a unique approach towards the Minor Arcana, which sets it apart from other popular tarot decks. Unlike other decks, the Thoth Tarot Deck does not follow a traditional approach towards the Minor Arcana. Instead, it uses a system of correspondences that is based on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

Each suit in the Minor Arcana (Cups, Wands, Swords, and Disks, also known as Pentacles), is associated with a specific Sephirah on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The Sephiroth are the ten points or nodes in the Kabbalistic Tree, which represent different aspects of divinity and the human experience.

The Cups Suit: The Cups Suit is associated with the Sephirah of Binah, which represents intuition, consciousness, and understanding.

The Wands Suit: The Wands Suit is associated with the Sephirah of Netzach, which represents creativity, energy, and passion.

The Swords Suit: The Swords Suit is associated with the Sephirah of Geburah, which represents strength, power, and justice.

The Disks Suit: The Disks Suit is associated with the Sephirah of Malkuth, which represents the physical world, wealth, and material possessions.

This system of correspondences provides a deeper understanding of the Minor Arcana and how it relates to the human experience. Additionally, it allows readers to gain insights into the different aspects of their lives that are represented by each suit.

In the Thoth Tarot Deck, the Minor Arcana cards also have unique designs and symbols that further enhance their meanings. For example, the seven of Cups features a design that includes multiple cups, each with a different object inside that represents different desires or distractions. This design emphasizes the meaning of the card, which is choices and illusions.

The Thoth Tarot Deck’s approach towards the Minor Arcana is a departure from traditional tarot decks, but it allows for a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the cards and how they relate to the querent’s experiences.

Comparing the Thoth Tarot Deck to Other Popular Decks

Comparing The Thoth Tarot Deck To Other Popular Decks
Exploring the world of tarot can be a daunting task, especially when you come across various decks with their unique symbols and interpretations. The Thoth Tarot Deck is no exception. In this section, we will delve into how the Thoth Tarot Deck differs from other well-known decks, such as the Rider-Waite-Smith Deck, the Golden Dawn Deck, and the Visconti-Sforza Deck. Through a careful comparison of symbolism and design, we will discover what sets the Thoth Tarot Deck apart from its counterparts. So, let’s take a closer look and unravel the mystery of the Thoth Tarot Deck.

Rider-Waite-Smith Deck

When comparing the Thoth Tarot Deck to the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, there are some notable differences to consider. Firstly, while the Thoth deck was created by Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris in the 1940s, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck was created almost a half-century earlier in 1909. Secondly, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck is considered to be the standard tarot deck that most subsequent decks have modeled themselves after.

Card Meanings:
One of the major differences between the two decks is the way card meanings are interpreted. The Rider-Waite-Smith deck is much more traditional in its interpretations, using many of the same images that have been seen on tarot cards for centuries, sometimes with slight modifications. Conversely, the Thoth deck incorporates more of Crowley’s abstract spiritual beliefs, utilizing esoteric symbolism and unique interpretations.

Artistic Style:
Another visible difference between the two decks is their artistic style. While both decks use vibrant colors and intricate details, the Thoth deck leans more towards a slightly surreal, abstract style, with bold, bright hues and striking contrasts, while the Rider-Waite-Smith deck uses a more traditional, realistic art style, with softer colors and less dramatic imagery.

The Rider-Waite-Smith deck is often seen by some as being more accessible to beginners, as it is designed to be intuitive and easy to understand. Many of the cards feature clear and recognizable symbols, such as the cup symbolizing emotions, the sword symbolizing intellect, and the pentacle representing the physical realm. In the Thoth deck, however, the symbolism is often more esoteric and abstract, with the reader needing to have a deeper understanding of occult and metaphysical concepts.

Reader’s Experience:
In the end, a reader’s experience with either deck will be largely subjective, and ultimately decided by personal preference. While some may prefer the accessibility and traditional interpretations of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, those drawn to more abstract spiritual beliefs and esoteric symbolism may find the Thoth deck more appealing. It’s important to choose a deck that resonates with your own spiritual journey and purposes.

Golden Dawn Deck

When comparing the Thoth Tarot Deck to the Golden Dawn Deck, there are quite a few differences to note. The Golden Dawn Deck, also known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Deck, was first created in the late 19th century by members of the Golden Dawn organization. This deck was heavily influenced by the teachings of the organization, which focused on Hermetic Qabalah, astrology, and alchemy.

One of the key differences between the Thoth Deck and the Golden Dawn Deck is the color scheme. While the Thoth Deck features a more vibrant and saturated color palette, the Golden Dawn Deck tends to have a more muted color scheme, often featuring earthy tones and pastel colors. Additionally, the Golden Dawn Deck also uses more traditional and recognizable symbolism in its cards, whereas the Thoth Deck often incorporates more abstract or unconventional symbols.

To better illustrate the differences between the two decks, here is a table comparing some of their key features:

Feature Thoth Tarot Deck Golden Dawn Deck
Color Palette Vibrant and Saturated Muted and Earthy
Symbolism Abstract and Unconventional Traditional and Recognizable
Major Arcana Names Unique and Non-Traditional Traditional and Standard
Minor Arcana Depictions Abstract and Color-Coded Traditional and Scene-Based

It’s important to note that both the Thoth and Golden Dawn Decks have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. The Thoth Deck may be better suited for individuals who are open to more abstract interpretations of the cards, while the Golden Dawn Deck may appeal more to those who prefer a more traditional and straightforward approach. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and what resonates most with the reader.

Visconti-Sforza Deck

When comparing the Thoth Tarot Deck to the Visconti-Sforza Deck, it’s important to keep in mind that the Visconti-Sforza is one of the oldest surviving tarot decks, dating back to the 15th century. This deck is known for its intricate and detailed artwork, which features ornate gold leaf accents and richly colored backgrounds.

One similarity between the Thoth and Visconti-Sforza decks is their use of symbolism. Both decks feature imagery that is rich in symbolic meaning, and which requires careful study and interpretation.

However, there are several important differences between these two decks as well. For one, the Visconti-Sforza deck is a pip-style deck, meaning that the minor arcana cards are similar to playing cards and lack the detailed scenes and characters found in the Thoth deck. The Thoth deck, on the other hand, features fully illustrated minor arcana cards that are rich with symbolism and meaning.

Another key difference between these two decks is their color schemes. While the Visconti-Sforza deck features a somewhat muted color palette, the Thoth deck is known for its bold and vibrant colors, which are intended to evoke emotional responses in the viewer.

[table] [thead] [tr] [th]Thoth Tarot Deck[/th] [th]Visconti-Sforza Deck[/th] [/tr] [/thead] [tbody] [tr] [td]Fully illustrated minor arcana cards[/td] [td]Pip-style minor arcana cards[/td] [/tr] [tr] [td]Bold and vibrant color schemes[/td] [td]Muted color palette[/td] [/tr] [tr] [td]Intended to evoke emotional responses in the viewer[/td] [td]Features ornate gold leaf accents and richly colored backgrounds[/td] [/tr] [/tbody] [/table]

Ultimately, the choice between the Thoth and Visconti-Sforza decks will depend on the individual reader’s personal preferences and needs. Some readers may prefer the simplicity and historical significance of the Visconti-Sforza deck, while others may be drawn to the Thoth deck’s vibrant colors and detailed imagery. Whatever your preference, both of these decks offer unique and valuable insights into the world of tarot.

Reader’s Experience with the Thoth Tarot Deck

As tarot reading becomes more popular, the choice of deck can have a significant impact on a reader’s connection to the cards and their ability to interpret them accurately. While the Thoth Tarot deck may not be as well-known as some of the classic decks, those who have experienced it often speak about its unique energy and approach to interpretation. In this section, we will explore the reader’s experience with the Thoth Tarot deck, including its pros and cons, and the personalized meanings readers have discovered.

Pros and Cons of the Thoth Deck

There are certain pros and cons associated with using the Thoth Tarot Deck. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages that readers may experience:


  • The Thoth Tarot Deck is a powerful tool that can offer deep insights into the reader’s life and the world around them.
  • The unique color schemes and symbolic depth of the Thoth Deck can help the reader connect with their intuition and access hidden realms of knowledge.
  • Many readers appreciate the way that the Thoth Deck blurs the boundaries between different spiritual traditions, allowing for a more holistic and integrated approach to divination.
  • The Thoth Deck is designed to help the reader connect with higher levels of consciousness and deeper levels of wisdom, making it a powerful tool for personal growth and spiritual development.
  • The Thoth Deck is particularly well-suited for people who are interested in the spiritual teachings of Aleister Crowley, as it reflects many of his esoteric insights and secret knowledge.


  • Some people may find the symbolism and imagery of the Thoth Tarot Deck to be overwhelming, confusing, or even disturbing.
  • Due to its complexity and depth, the Thoth Deck can be more challenging for beginners to use compared to other tarot decks.
  • The Thoth Deck may not be suitable for people who are uncomfortable with the spiritual teachings of Aleister Crowley or who do not resonate with his approach to mysticism.
  • It is important for readers to approach the Thoth Deck with an open mind and a willingness to explore difficult emotions and spiritual truths, which can be difficult for some people.
  • The Thoth Deck may not be appropriate for people who are looking for a more straightforward, literal interpretation of the cards, as it requires a deeper level of intuition and spiritual insight to fully appreciate.

Despite its challenges, the Thoth Tarot Deck remains one of the most powerful and respected tools of divination in the world of tarot. Whether you are a seasoned reader or a beginner, the Thoth Deck can offer deep insights into your life and the cosmos, unlocking hidden wisdom and spiritual truths that can help you navigate the challenges of this world and the next.

Personalized Meanings of the Cards

Each tarot reader has their own unique way of interpreting and personalizing the meanings of the cards in a reading. The Thoth Tarot Deck provides a rich tapestry of symbolism and imagery that allows for a multitude of interpretations, and readers can customize their readings to fit the individual needs of their clients or themselves. Here are some ways that the meanings of the Thoth Tarot cards can be personalized:

Intuition-Based Readings: The Thoth Tarot Deck offers a lot of room for intuition-based readings, where the reader relies heavily on their own psychic ability and intuition to interpret the meanings of the cards. This approach can offer deeper insights into the client’s situation and provide a more personalized reading experience.

Experience-Based Interpretations: Another way that readers can personalize the meanings of the cards is by drawing from their own life experiences. By using their own understanding of the world around them, readers can offer interpretations that are uniquely specific to their client’s situation.

Understanding of Symbols: The Thoth Tarot Deck is rich with symbols and deep meaning, and readers who have a thorough understanding of these symbols can offer clients a more personalized reading experience. For example, the image of the snake on the Death card can be interpreted differently based on the reader’s knowledge of the symbolism of the serpent in different cultures and traditions.

Deck-Specific Spreads: Readers can also create their own spreads that are specific to the Thoth Tarot Deck. By doing so, they can ensure that they are maximizing the potential of the deck and providing readings that are unique to their own style of reading.

The Thoth Tarot Deck offers a lot of room for customization and personalization, which can be beneficial for both readers and clients. By tapping into their intuition, drawing from their own experiences, and deepening their understanding of the symbols in the deck, readers can provide readings that are rich with meaning and insight.


In conclusion, the Thoth Tarot Deck stands out from other popular decks due to its unique features and history. It was created by the infamous Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris, with an emphasis on color schemes and symbolism. The Thoth Deck is renowned for its breathtaking artwork and vivid colors that add to the overall experience of a reading.

One of the distinguishing features of the Thoth Tarot Deck is its Major Arcana, which incorporates Egyptian and Kabbalistic symbols that provide a deep understanding into the significance of each card. The Minor Arcana, on the other hand, follows the traditional suits of Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. However, the Thoth Deck includes Princesses instead of Pages and Knights, which sets it apart from the standard tarot deck format.

Compared to other popular decks such as the Rider-Waite-Smith Deck, the Golden Dawn Deck, and the Visconti-Sforza Deck, the Thoth Tarot Deck has a more modern feel and incorporates a wider range of symbolism. While traditional tarot decks may have a limited set of meanings for each card, the Thoth Deck allows for a more personalized interpretation based on the imagery and symbolism present.

Overall, the Thoth Tarot Deck is an excellent choice for those looking for a deck with a rich history and unique features that lend themselves to a deeper understanding of tarot readings. While its complexity may be intimidating for some, the Thoth Deck rewards those who take the time to delve into its symbolism and color schemes. With its vivid colors and intricate artwork, the Thoth Deck provides a stunning visual interpretation of the archetypes present in tarot readings that is sure to capture the attention of both beginners and experienced readers alike.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the history of tarot decks?

Tarot decks have a long and rich history, dating back to the 14th century in Italy. They were originally used for card games, but later gained popularity as divination tools.

What makes the Thoth Tarot Deck unique?

The Thoth Tarot Deck is unique in its use of color schemes and symbolism, as well as its connection to Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris.

Who created the Thoth Tarot Deck?

The Thoth Tarot Deck was created by Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris in the early 20th century.

What are the major and minor arcana in tarot?

The Major Arcana are the 22 trump cards in a tarot deck, while the Minor Arcana are divided into four suits (Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles) and represent everyday life experiences.

How does the Thoth Tarot Deck compare to the Rider-Waite-Smith Deck?

The Thoth Tarot Deck is more esoteric and mystic, while the Rider-Waite-Smith Deck is more accessible and traditional.

What is the Golden Dawn Deck?

The Golden Dawn Deck is a tarot deck that was used by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret society that was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

What is the Visconti-Sforza Deck?

The Visconti-Sforza Deck is one of the oldest known tarot decks, dating back to the 15th century in Italy.

What are the pros and cons of using the Thoth Tarot Deck?

The Thoth Tarot Deck can be a powerful tool for personal growth and self-reflection, but its esoteric symbolism can also be difficult to interpret for beginners.

Can I personalize the meanings of the cards in the Thoth Tarot Deck?

Yes, one of the strengths of the Thoth Tarot Deck is its flexibility and openness to personal interpretation.

What is the best way to use the Thoth Tarot Deck?

The best way to use the Thoth Tarot Deck is to approach it with an open and curious mind, and to practice regularly with the cards to develop your skills and intuition.


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