What if Waite and Crowley had Social Media?
The Wheel has turned, and it's time again for the Tarot Blog Hop. In keeping with the theme of Samhain/Halloween/Day of the Dead, our wrangler, Arwen, has asked us to write about a loved one or historical figure in spirit, and make a connection to tarot. We are to use tarot to “commune, communicate, commemorate those who have gone before us”.
I have many beloved family members and friends in spirit, but it is not to them that I turn my attention in this post.
Recently, I’ve had a bit of a renewed interest in tarot history. Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin are primarily to blame. Their book, Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot, shares a lot of previously undiscovered primary source material that really piqued my interest.
It says something (perhaps unflattering) about my personality that the nugget of historical wisdom I enjoyed most in that book is that Crowley often referred to Waite as “Dead Waite”.
We all know that Waite and Crowley had an adversarial relationship. Crowley’s writings are filled with eloquent insults toward Waite, and others.
When I first came to tarot, I had a hard time understanding Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot, because I didn’t realize that some of the text was directed against Crowley and his philosophies.
The fact is, Waite and Crowley differed on many points. Both felt compelled to not only point out the differences, but to do it with ridicule and derision.
Many years later, the images conceived by Waite and Crowley comprise the world’s two most popular tarot decks. We who use these decks, both personally and professionally, often find ourselves embroiled in arguments of philosophy and ethics, just as, apparently, Waite and Crowley themselves did.
I often tell my students that “your tarot friends are your best friends.” I actually believe this. Your tarot friends understand you in a way no one else can. At the same time, we all know that the online tarot community is filled with name-calling and rude behavior. It’s possible that you not only have tarot friends, but also tarot enemies, or perhaps “tarot frenemies”.
We hear whisperings that a certain organization is at odds with another, for example, or that a certain tarotist is not welcome at another tarotist’s event.
This sort of behavior, much like the “witch wars” of the Pagan community, happened in local communities long before social media was a thing. In the 1990s, I had a local competitor who would call hotels into which I had booked psychic fairs, pretend to be me, and try to cancel my events.
Years later, I’m still in business, and I’m not sure what became of her. Now I can laugh at her petty antics. At the time, they hurt my feelings and made my professional life more difficult.
Often we lament the contentious aspect of our relationships with each other in the tarot world. Often, we blame the nature of the internet, and social media, for the fact that we seem to enjoy picking at our differences more than celebrating our commonality.
History shows us that this behavior is not new. Social media has not turned us in to monsters. Social media has only magnified our natural monstrous behavior.
Let’s then, for a moment, dream of a world in which A.E. Waite and Aleister Crowley had Facebook accounts. Imagine the memes, the stories and the blog posts that might have flown back and forth between them.
Would Crowley tell folks on his friends list that they must not be FB friends with Waite? Would Waite write disparaging reviews of Crowley’s work, and hit “like” on all the agreeing comments? Would they write "open letters" to each other in their blogs?
Perhaps it is just human nature to mock and taunt those who think differently than we do. Perhaps the passion it takes to be a tarotist, or a magickal person, necessitates this behavior in some of us.
Often, we compare the online antics of some of our tarot community with the social media bullying that influences teens to take their own lives. Certainly, lies, disrespect and insults can be hurtful. Sometimes, in the tarot world, that hurt can even be financial. That’s hard to ignore, especially for tarotists who are supporting children with their tarot income.
At the same time, maybe Waite and Crowley were guilty of taking themselves a bit too seriously. Maybe, sometimes, we are, too.
The next time I find myself saddened by our infighting, or hurt by a comment on social media, I will try to remember this, and laugh.
When we rudely fight with each other over dogma, doctrine and belief systems, we are unwittingly following a proud tarot tradition. In a way, we are honoring by imitation those two men without whom, none of us would be tarotists.
Perhaps the psychic energy of those two magickal giants, Waite and Crowley, works its way into our itchy keyboard fingers.
Maybe, at this time of the thinning veil, we can use the energy and example of Waite and Crowley in a different way. Rather than channeling their desire to insult each other, we can channel their desire to divine.
Perhaps those itchy keyboard fingers are happier when they are shuffling cards.