ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
© All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe 2015-17  All artworks copyright the estate of the artist.

taro pack

                                     1978

Enamel on paper. A series of designs for a Taro pack in the suits of: Swords      29½ x 33½in. (75 x 85cm.)(ss) Cups      29½ x 33½in. (75 x 85cm.) (ss) Wands      29½ x 33½in. (75 x 85cm.) (ss) Disks     29½ x 33½in. (75 x 85cm.) (ss) The Major Arcana     37½ x 33½in. (95 x 85cm.) (ss) Each card is monogrammed and dated ’77. Each card is attached to a white paper mount which bears the card’s esoteric name. Two of the cards (”The Spirit of the Primal Fire” and “The Prince of the Chariot of Fire”) have been glued in an inverted position on their paper mount, presumably inadvertently. Each suit is individually framed. Provenance NT. Exhibited Penzance, Newlyn Gallery, 1977. Literature A limited edition of one hundred packs was published in 2009 by Adam McLean. A pack is in the Tate library Morrisson & Shillitoe, 2014, illustrate one card, “The Lord of the Winds and the Breezes, the King of the Spirit of Air”, sometimes known as the Prince of Swords, as fig. 14. The Taro is a pack of 78 cards. It consists of four suits of fourteen cards each suit (there is an extra court card than in ordinary packs of cards) and twenty-two symbolic cards, known as the Major Arcana. Use of the Taro formed an important part of Golden Dawn workings. Original research on the cards had been done by (or revealed to) MacGregor Mathers. The cards have complex symbolic meanings, said to be traceable to ancient Egypt and related to the Tree of Life of the Qabalists. In her writings Colquhoun always used the more unusual spelling of Taro without the final ‘t’, believing it to be more in keeping with the pack’s  supposed Egyptian origin, and referred to the Suit of Disks rather than its more usual name of Pentacles. She also used the esoteric titles of the individual cards in preference to the mundane ones. The best known Taro pack with Golden Dawn affinities is that illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith under the instruction of A.E. Waite. Colquhoun was critical of that pack, regarding it as a distortion of Mathers’ researches. In particular, she accused Waite of introducing a gender imbalance into the court cards by substituting Knaves for Princesses. The colouring of each suit is based on the traditional elemental colour:  Swords (Air: pale yellow); Cups (Water: deep blue); Wands (Fire: scarlet) and Disks (Earth: indigo).  Subordinate colours in each card bring out relationships between cards. See also this page for more information on Colquhoun and the Taro.