Arthur Edward Waite
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Arthur Edward Waite (1857-1942) was an occultist and co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. Born in America, and raised in England, A.E. Waite joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1891 and also entered the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia in 1902. When he became Grand Master of the Order in 1903, changing its name to the Holy Order the Golden Dawn (or possibly the Independent and Rectified Rite of the Golden Dawn), many members rejected his focus on mysticism over magic, and a rival group, Stella Matutina (Morning Star), split off at the urging of poet William Butler Yeats. The Golden Dawn was torn by further internal feuding until Waite's departure in 1914; a year later he formed the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. By that time there existed some half-dozen offshoots from the original Golden Dawn, and as a whole it never recovered.
Waite was a prolific author of occult texts on subjects including divination, Rosicrucianism, freemasonry, black and ceremonial magick, the Qabalah and alchemy; he also translated and reissued several important mystical and alchemical works. His works on the Holy Grail were particularly notable, they were influnced by his friendship with Arthur Machen. A number of his volumes remain in print, the Book of Ceremonial Magic, The Holy Kabbalah, and New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry having seen reprints in recent years.
Waite is best known as the co-creator of the popular and widely used Rider-Waite Tarot deck and author of its companion volume, the Pictorial Key to the Tarot. This was notable for being one of the first decks to illustrate all 78 cards fully, not just the 22 major arcana. Golden Dawn member Pamela Colman Smith illustrated the cards, and they were first published in 1910.
Crowley's Relationship with Waite
When Aleister Crowley became interested in occultism, his first textbook was Waite's Book of Black Magic and Pacts, and he wrote to the author for advice. Waite counseled Crowley to read Eckarthausen's The Cloud upon the Sanctuary, which was instrumental in forming Crowley's ideals regarding occult orders.
Many years later, after Crowley and Waite had been peers in the Golden Dawn, Crowley subjected Waite to numerous scathing reviews in The Equinox, often with the fictitious pretense that Waite was Crowley's "disciple." Crowley even went so far as to publish an obituary for the still-living Waite.
Writing his memoirs in the 1920's, Crowley called Waite "the only survivor" of the Golden Dawn "who still pretends to carry on the business, though he has substituted a pompous, turgid rigamarole of bombastic platitudes for the neophyte ritual, so that the last spark of interest is extinct for ever."
Equinox reviews of Waite's Works
- A Book of Mystery and Vision
- Wisdom While You Waite
- Arthur in the Area Again!
- Waite's Wet
- Dead Weight
- Crowley, Aleister. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979.
- Wikipedia (2004). Arthur Edward Waite (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Edward_Waite). Retrieved June 10, 2004.