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Arthur Edward Waite


Arthur Edward Waite

Arthur Edward Waite, born in 1857, was an English occultist and member of the famous magical order, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and published a number of important books on esoteric matters. His most enduring legacy is the Tarot deck he created, which was probably the most popular deck of the twentieth century. In 1891, Waite joined the Golden Dawn, and he remained a member through its upheavals at the turn of the century, actually becoming leader of the London temple in 1903 and changing the Order's name to the Holy Order of the Golden Dawn. Waite's emphasis on mysticism rather than magic was not too appealing to the majority of Golden Dawn members, who subsequently left with William Butler Yeats to found a rival order, the Stella Matutina ('Morning Star').

Waite's Tarot deck is known as the Rider-Waite, Rider or Waite-Smith deck (Rider was Waite's publisher). Waite directed fellow Golden Dawn member Pamela Colman Smith in the design of this beautiful set of cards, whose main innovation was the illustration of all the Minor cards in ways redolent of their divinatory meanings. (Previously, most decks had taken a rather literal view of illustration, with the Four of Swords being depicted as four swords, for example.) He also transposed the traditional positions of the Trump cards Justice and Strength. The deck was used to illustrate his book "The Key to the Tarot", published in 1910. Waite produced translations of Eliphas Levi and Papus, as well as reissues of mystical and alchemical works, such as those of Thomas Vaughan. The Holy Order of the Golden Dawn declined after Waite's departure in 1915, and Waite died in 1942.

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