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Abiding in the Sanctuary

Abiding in the Sanctuary: The Waite-Trinick Tarot: A Christian Mystical Tarot (1917–1923). Tali Goodwin and Marcus Katz. Preface by Mary K. Greer. Keswick: Forge Press/blurb.com, 2011. 186 pp. including 65 full-page Tarot images, 23 full pages of support images, 2 diagrams with color thumbnails, and 4 charts. $97.00.

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Reviewed by Emily E. Auger


[This review originally appeared in Mythlore 117/118.]

It is a well-established fact that Charles Williams became a member of Arthur Edward Waite’s (1857–1942) Fellowship of the Rosy Cross in 1917 and was inducted into the innermost and secret part of that order in 1927. Waite was privy to the rituals and secret practices of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, founded on March 1, 1888, by William Robert Woodman (1828–1891), William Westcott (1848–1925), and S.L. (MacGregor) Mathers (1854–1918), but ultimately favored the path of Christian mysticism over that of magic. With the help of artist Pamela Colman Smith (1878–1951), Waite created the Rider-Waite Tarot (1909), which became the most popular Tarot deck of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; in 1910 he published a guidebook for its use titled The Pictorial Key to the Tarot. Though he knew the correspondences the Golden Dawn developed between the 22 Tarot trumps—the “fifth” suit added to the regular playing deck to create the Tarot gaming deck in the fifteenth century and later imbued with esoteric significance—and the paths on the Cabbalistic Tree of Life, Waite did not include any overt references to Cabbala in his first deck. He also expressed contradictory opinions regarding the validity and usefulness of such correspondences.

Williams shared Waite’s interest in Tarot, as is evident in his novel The Greater Trumps (1932), as well as Waite’s love of ritual, and readers may have wondered to what extent he shared Waite’s apparent ambivalence on the subject of Jewish mysticism and Tarot. Abiding in the Sanctuary, however, proves definitively that Waite found his own meaningful connection between the Tree of Life and the cards, as he went so far as to commission c. 1919 a second set of 23 Tarot images, most of which were created by artist John Brahms Trinick, and two by W.F. Pippet between 1919 and 1921. In 1973, Waite’s executors bequeathed the results of this commission, including preliminary sketches, to the British Museum; the museum’s records indicate that no one ever requested to look at this bequest. Black-and-white photographs of the images are held in a few private collections, some of which surfaced in Ronald Decker and Michael Dummett’s History of the Occult Tarot 1870–1970 (2002). When Marcus Katz discovered some similar photographs on eBay, he and Tali Goodwin set out on a quest to find the originals and the result is Abiding in the Sanctuary.

Abiding in the Sanctuary is a work-in-progress publication that is intended to make the core primary source material immediately available: because of it, black-and-white jpegs of the Waite-Trinick deck are now posted on the British Museum website for research purposes. The book itself includes

  • a preface by Tarot scholar and expert Mary K. Greer;
  • a personal account of Katz and Goodwin’s search for and discovery of Waite’s second Tarot;
  • biographical sections on those individuals associated with the creation of the new Tarot, including Waite, Trinick, Pippet, H.M. Duncan, and, less directly, Williams;
  • full color and black-and-white reproductions of the Waite-Trinick Tarot and related developmental sketches;
  • commentary and relevant text annotations taken from Westcott’s translation of the Sepher Yetzirah or Book of Formation (1887), Waite’s poems, and other sources; and
  • other supporting color and black-and-white plates and discussion.

Katz and Goodwin believe that Waite may have intended to complete a full set of 32 images to correspond to the 22 paths and 10 Sephiroth of the Tree of Life, but even the initial set of 23—the standard 22 trumps plus an image for “Da’ath”—remained unfinished as five of the images are incomplete. They do not believe these trumps were intended for use as cards, but rather “They were likely hung in the temple and a set of plates […] created from the images, possibly for personal study by members of the FRC” (24). Even more intriguing is Katz’s discovery that the assignments Waite made of the trumps to the Tree of Life paths differs from those that were standard in the Golden Dawn. While this new arrangement does not match any that might be inferred from The Greater Trumps, the revelation of Waite’s second Tarot, designed and executed for ritual purposes during the years of his known association with Williams, is one that could potentially lead to a better understanding of The Greater Trumps, as well as Williams’s other novels.


Abiding in the Sanctuary: The Waite-Trinick Tarot: A Christian Mystical Tarot (1917–1923). Tali Goodwin and Marcus Katz. Preface by Mary K. Greer. Keswick: Forge Press/blurb.com, 2011. 186 pp. including 65 full-page Tarot images, 23 full pages of support images, 2 diagrams with color thumbnails, and 4 charts. $97.00.

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