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Tarot of the Bohemians, The

Product no.: 0-87980-158-1
Each of the 22 Hebrew letters corresponds with a number according to its rank, with a hieroglyphic according to its form, with a symbol according to its affinities with the other letters.

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Publisher's Synopsis

The Tarot of the Bohemians by Papus is one of the most influential Tarot books to come out of France. A.E. Waite translated it from the French, and it is quite possible that Aleister Crowley was inspired to name his own deck The Book of Thoth, after the same title that appears several times in Papus' book. Given the importance of this book, it is surprising the silence maintained by Waite and Crowley on the structure of Tarot that Papus uses.

Modern Tarot students know that the 78 cards can be modeled on either the Tree of Life or the astrological decanate system, but Papus models the entire 78 cards on the triplicity of Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis, where the product can be developed in the final Heh of YHVH. The Princess of Pentacles is particularly important in the Book of Thoth, as She is on the brink of transformation, a key phrase that echoes a common thread running through Tarot of the Bohemians.


"In the last hundred years the Tarot has had a growing influence on creative writers and students of analytical psychology. It plays an important part in T. S. Eliot's famous poem, The Waste Land, and in Jessie Weston's From Ritual to Romance. It is well known that the poet W. B. Yeats belonged to a magical order which had its secret tradition of the Tarot. Looking at it from a different angle, the followers of C. G. Jung are beginning to accept the Tarot images as mysteries agreeing with the archetypes of the collective unconscious.

It is hardly likely that this would have happened except for this classic book, The Tarot of the Bohemians. Written by a physician, Gerard Encausse, under his occulist name Papus, it is one of the three pillars of occult Tarotism. Antione Court de Gebelin was the initiator of the movement, and Arthur E. Waite introduced fresh mystical interpretations and some healthy skepticism, but it was Papus who gave us the impressive compilation which might almost be called the theological apparatus of Tarotism.

The occult tradition is one of secret wisdom handed down faithfully, generation after generation, from those ancient peoples most devoted to such wisdom: the Egyptians, the Tibetans, the Chinese, and the Celts. This wisdom, though consciously held by initiates, is veiled from the profane. It is like the Yin-Yang symbol, whose dark side has a little spot of brightness at its center.

To complete our idea of the Tarot symbolism we need to add to the darkly veiled side the bright conscious side with the spot of dark unconsciousness at its center. That is, we need to recognize that the literal facts about the Tarot cards are probably quite different from the occultist account. But this brings us again to another veiled darkness: the unconscious motives of those who meant to use the symbols only to add to the amusement and excitement of a Carnival game. We may then accept the occultist tradition as a valid myth, that is, a solemn way of stating a truth symbolically with such imaginative force that even its authors at first always mistake it for the literal truth.

Philippe Encausse, the son of Papus and himself a physician, remarked that it might be said of Papus that he was the Balzac of occultism, the founder of freemasonry, and the popularizer of every branch of occult science."       ~Wilshire Book Company


"The Gypsies possess a Bible, which has proved their means of gaining a livelihood, for it enables them to tell fortunes; at the same time it has been a perpetual source of amusement, for it enables them to gamble.

Yes; the game of cards called the Tarot, which the Gypsies possess, is the Bible of Bibles. It is the book of Thoth Hermes Trismegistus, the book of Adam, the book of the primitive Revelation of ancient civilizations.

Thus whilst the Freemason, an intelligent and virtuous man, has lost the tradition; whilst the priest, also intelligent and virtuous, has lost his esoterism; the Gypsy, although both ignorant and vicious, has given us the key which enables us to explain all the symbolism of the ages. We must admire the wisdom of the Initiates, who utilized vice and made it produce more beneficial results than virtue."       ~The Gypsies, Chapter I

Author Papus (M. Gerard Encausse)
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 385 pp.
Publisher Wilshire Book Company 1976
Gold Medal

Gold Medal


  Gold Medal Essential Reading

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