A Pictorial Key to the Tarot
by A.E. Waite

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Download the seminal book on Tarot by the co-creator of the Rider Waite tarot deck, A.E. Waite. One of the most important tarot guides ever written, and an essential companion for your tarot readings. A free eBook download in PDF format.

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An Excerpt from the Foreword

Foreward to the 2nd Edition by Jon Samvere

"... Stitching centuries of mismatched Tarot lore, hermeticism, esotericism, and mysticism into an ambitious whole, A.E. Waite managed to give us one of the earliest glimpses of how Tarot can weave together the unlike threads of humanity’s disparate belief systems. Waite intertwines his Tarot story into a tantalizing tapestry that very nearly explains the mystery of the cards.

But it doesn’t explain the mystery.

Therein lies the principal criticism of Waite and this book: He takes us to the doorway. He tells us what we need to know. But then Waite so often moves-on before finishing his explanations, leaving us wondering if we know anything at all.

As so many students of Tarot know, Waite is fond of painting an almost complete picture; Serving up a basis for understanding and then pointing off into the distance, as if to say: That way lies enlightenment —when you’re ready for it. At other times Waite simply states that prepared minds will understand what he means, while other minds will not. Which are we, we wonder?

Waite has a formidable command of occult lore. It is not by some sleight of hand that he points to enlightenment and then fails to take readers by hand and walk them into the light. Rather, Waite is deeply, often profoundly, cognisant of the process of enlightenment that each of us must endure.

This book is incomplete. It is meant to be incomplete. It offers tastes, ideas, guidance and the occasional promise. But it consistently stops short at the threshold of understanding.

It is in these shards of partial knowledge that we come to understand Waite’s original, and often forgotten, subtitle to the book: Being Fragments of a Secret Tradition Under the Veil of Divination. Indeed, these are but fragments, and divination is but a wrapping for the knowledge herein.

When I first considered the task of writing the preface for this iFate.com edition, it took me back to my first reaction to this book many decades ago: A younger version of me was deeply frustrated by this book. I found it to be too cryptic, disconnected from the cards, and sometimes I found its esteemed writer to be seemingly unaware of his own creation.

The older me realizes that Waite stopped at exactly the point where he wanted to stop. While his long-winded style may be a symptom of a more flowery age, it is not his rococo prose nor his never-ending sentences which invite the most criticism. Instead, it’s the passages where his writing is sometimes infuriatingly unclear; often confoundingly brief - and at other times intentionally terse.

Tarot is a riddle — A gigantic towering riddle of the ages, built out of 78 beautifully composed, self-contained puzzles. Every aspect of Pamela Colman Smith’s iconic artwork from botanical references to elemental symbolism to subtle variations in color palette, convey vital clues about a vast esoteric truth which lies locked within..."

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