I’ve gushed about Oswald Wirth before. The truth is, I find his brand of the occult positively fascinating. His book is one of my absolute favorites on esoteric Tarot, and his cards have a certain aesthetic appeal to me – they appear traditional, almost like Marseille cards, yet they are intentionally imbued with occult symbolism. I love the juxtaposition (this is a huge draw for the Medieval Scapini Tarot, as well, which incidentally uses Wirth’s as a basis for some of the underlying symbolism).
My introduction to Wirth came in the form of his book Tarot of the Magicians (which is an English translation – the book was originally published in French in 1927). The book came complete with a set of his cards printed on heavy cardstock pages in the back. These cards were the early version – from 1889 – but when Wirth published his book, he updated the cards, too, and the latter version is what was actually used to illustrate the book.
Well, after a long time, I decided to get myself an edition of Wirth’s updated cards. They are a huge improvement over the cut-out cards from the back of the book.
Was it entirely necessary for me to get these cards? Probably not, to be honest, but I have no regrets. This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten a slightly different version of cards I already own (I’ve got 3 separate Rider packs, not to mention the several RWS-inspired decks, and a couple TdM and Thoth decks, as well). These cards are so much nicer than the cut-outs, and considering how much I admire Wirth’s work, I thought a proper edition of his deck belonged in my collection.
These cards are large, which I like, and are overlaid with a glittery-golden foil that changes in the light when you look at them from various angles. Way cool. These cards are worthy companions with which to work through the exercises set forth in the book. Of course, this is a Majors-only deck, which means I’m hesitant to actually call it a “Tarot”, but it is fantastic for what it is. Wirth’s method only calls for the Major Arcana, after all, and sometimes that’s all a reading calls for, as well. It’s much more convenient to have a Majors-only deck lying around for such occasions than having to sort through a complete pack.
All in all, these cards are ideal for studying and contemplation of the occult, and they work as well as any traditional Major Arcana for divination. They’re beautiful and good-quality cards, and they occupy an important place in Tarot lore.
While I’m here, I’d like to revise a couple things I’ve said in previous posts about Wirth and his cards. First of all, I’ve made it seem like Wirth is solely responsible for all this. While he did draw the cards, and he did write the book, he worked very closely with his mentor Stanislaus de Guaita prior to its publication, who was a huge influence on everything produced by Wirth. Wirth did not plagiarize by any stretch – a great deal of the introduction to his book is spent giving credit to de Guaita, who he held in very high esteem. It was my own misrepresentation in earlier posts, rather, that may have made Wirth seem like he was acting alone.
Furthermore, Wirth and de Guaita were not exactly creating an original Tarot. Their work is largely inspired by descriptions from French occultist Eliphas Levi, whose treatises on the occult were among the most influential works in the history of occult Tarot, particularly in terms of Kabbalah. There would be no Wirth Tarot if there had not first been Levi.
That’s all I’ll say about that for now; at some point I’ll review Tarot of the Magicians, in which I’ll go more in depth about Wirth’s occult background.