The B.O.T.A. Tarot is a deck of playing cards that were based on the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck. They were produced by Paul Foster and his wife, Doreen Virtue, in the 1980s. The deck has a very unique interpretation of Tarot, which has caught the attention of many people, and has led to the creation of many others.
We once came across a book that contained a copy of a Tarot card that was not from the B.O.T.A. Tarot deck, but from a deck that had been published by a man named Paul Foster. This deck, known as the Paul Foster Tarot, was a deck that we had not come across before. This deck began to gain popularity on the Internet after a person named “M” created a website dedicated to the deck, when he realized that the deck had been used for a murder case in the United States. We were curious about this deck, so we decided to do some investigating and learn what we could about the deck and about the crime case that it was used for.
“The B.O.T.A. Tarot and Paul Foster Case” by Thomas DeForte is a very interesting and entertaining read about the relationship between two people who are two polar opposites. It has everything from a mystery about who’s is in the right to who’s is in the wrong. There are articles about the case and much more. This is a very good read and something you should check out if you are interested in all the details on the case.
Let’s wrap off Golden Dawn Tarot Week with a GD branch, The Case of Paul Foster’s B.O.T.A. Tarot, drawn by Jessie Burns Parke. The fully colored Majors in this blog post are from a 2009 Ishtar Publishing edition of Paul Foster Case’s Tarot Essentials: Tarot Cards for Beginners (1932), courtesy of the Internet Archive.
The B.O.T.A. web shop, accessible here, sells digital pictures for the Minor Arcana cards for $5.00. For an additional $5.00, you may get digital pictures of the Major Arcana by clicking here.
Case dates the tarot’s connection to the occult to an 1854 resurgence attributed to Eliphas Levi’s Doctrine and Ritual of Transcendental Magic in Learning Tarot Essentials. Levi was influenced by the French occultist Dr. Gerare Encausse, also known as Papus. On Tarot of the Bohemians, I offer a free two-part video lesson that was part of Sightsee the Tarot.
This deck assessment will also include Case’s discussion on tarot card meanings from his 1922 book Introduction to Tarot.
The deck’s coloring instructions may be found in Tarot Fundamentals (1936). For the Fool card, for example, the backdrop should be yellow, the clothing green, violet mountains, the eagle on his backpack brown, a white sun, the Fool flesh-toned, with blond hair, and so on.
The First Septenary of the Major Arcana
Key 2: The High Priestess is the keeper of the past’s memories and records. Key 2 gives us the ability to recall information.
There are a few bits in Case’s writings that date them, such as the explanation for why The Emperor follows The Empress: “A man cannot be ruler of his home until his partner has produced offspring.” (An Introduction to Tarot, Lesson Three, On Key 4: The Emperor) Or referring to Asians as Orientals, which I don’t mind at all. The context is crucial.
The Inner School is where and how esoteric knowledge is maintained alive and handed on via the tarot cards, according to the case. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe this is the same connection that Robert Wang makes in An Introduction to the Golden Dawn Tarot when he says that his Mathers-based deck is based on the Inner Tradition. These allusions contrast with an exoteric approach to religion, or divination in this case. Thus, an esoteric approach to the cards is referred to as the Inner School or Inner Tradition.
“The main lesson of this Key [The Lovers] is of significance to everyone who want to make the greatest use of their powers,” Case says of Key 6. In basic words, superconsciousness (the angel) has an equal effect on both self-consciousness (the man) and subconsciousness (the woman) (the woman).
Modern-day tarot readers frequently express confusion about the astrological correspondence of Cancer, a Water sign, with Key 7: The Chariot, especially in light of the classical card meaning attributed to The Chariot–kinetic energy, progressive movement, achievement, the vehicle of the mind in full motion, and so on. It doesn’t seem to go with introversion, which is a typical Cancer characteristic.
“When the uneducated hear the word water, they think of cloud water; but if they knew our [occultists’] writings, they would realize that it is a permanent or fixed water… our water is a heavenly water that does not wet the hand… water is the source of all minerals… In a nutshell, occult ‘water’ is the Astral Fluid, the electromagnetic energy that underpins everything.”
The Second Septenary of the Major Arcana
Waite’s movement between Keys 8 and 11 is followed by Case’s arrangement of the Majors. The serpent and the lion, The Adversary and The Redeemer, are the two main symbols in the power behind this Key in terms of strength. Exoteric religion would have you think that the two are inextricably opposed, while esotericism and occult knowledge teach you that they are not only inextricably linked, but that one can never exist without the other.
Tarot Essentials is a book that teaches you how to read tarot (1932, Ishtar Publishing edition, 2009)
“The four mystic creatures described by the prophet Ezekiel, and reappear again in the Apocalypse,” said the outside corners of Key 10. The four mystic animals represent the four fixed stars, or elements, that the Divine Name IHVH is associated with according to “occult tradition.” As a result, IHVH is carved into the Wheel, alternating with ROTA, which means wheel, and the Latin sentence: “The Wheel of Tarot expresses the Law of Ator (Hathor),” says Rota Tarot Orat Tora Ator.
The Hanged Man is the “most significant symbol in Tarot,” according to Case. The Hanged Man symbolizes the Law of Reversal, which is described as “one of occultism’s major mysteries.”
Using Case as an example, this is the secret of the Law of Reversal:
“It is essential to think, talk, and act in ways that are the polar opposites of those in which most people think, speak, and act in order to reverse the circumstances of misery, illness, and failure and replace them with their opposites of health, happiness, and success.” (Key 12: The Hanged Man, An Introduction to Tarot, Lesson Seven)
And “proper use of Key 12” is one such way for properly comprehending and using the Law of Reversal.
The Hanged Man’s crimson trousers and legs, which form the figure 4, link Key 12 to Key 4: The Emperor, thanks to the red hue and the figure 4. Both instruct the seeker on how to use power. Meanwhile, the Hanged Man’s garment is blue, evoking a lunar presence and linking this Key to the High Priestess and the element of Water.
“The fundamental concept of Key 14 is verification,” Temperance says. This is the result of a trial that led to the discovery of the truth. The Great Work is required to “combine and harmonize all the different components that go into the making of human personality, integrating them into one whole.”
Temperance is the alchemical combining and harmonizing process that leads to the completion of your Great Work. The angel in Key 14 is identified by Case as Archangel Michael, Angel of the Sun. IHVH is inscribed on his robe, which means “One Reality” and “All Aspects of One Life.”
The Third Septenary of the Major Arcana
According to Case, the final seven Keys of Tarot, starting with Key 15, depict seven stages in man’s spiritual development. Fear, ignorance, and sadness are confronted in the first stage, which starts with The Devil card. Without initially facing The Devil, there is no way to spiritual ascension.
“Use this Key to conquer your superstitions,” says Key 16: The Tower. Make use of it to clear your thoughts… Use it anytime you’re faced with what seems to be a problem. Because you are uninformed, you have a problem. You are uninformed because you have taken certain appearances at face value in the past. You’re in big danger since your statements are based on incorrect logic.” As a result, Key 16 is an occultist’s weapon for dealing with difficulties, ignorance, and erroneous thinking.
There should be eighteen descending Hebrew Yods, colored red and yellow to symbolize the life energy, on The Moon card. The exoteric image of pouring blood is red, whereas the esoteric vision of Light is yellow. The two battlemented towers that make up Key 18 create a doorway. There should be a hint here that the towers link to a fortified wall beyond the card’s boundaries, and that the only route onward is via this portal shown in The Moon card. Canines symbolize the two sides of man: the wolf represents natural evolution and the dog represents human adaptation.
The Sun card is used to collect conscious energy and utilize it as a source of power to drive earthly operations forward. Sunflowers “represent the solar force’s expression in the biological world underneath man.” The tarot Sun card depictions of human youth are meant to symbolize “the blossoming of renewed human awareness.”
Gabriel is the angel in the Judgement card, according to Case. However, he draws a difference here between the Biblical concept of the Last Judgment and the tarot’s Key 20. The Great Work’s completion is the subject of Key 20 Judgement. The Fourth Dimension is also accessible via Key 20. The magus’s instrument for “personal realization of immortality” and “realizing that you are alive in the Fourth Dimension right now” is this card.
Notice a man, woman, and kid emerging from the three coffins in the sea in this card picture. The kid “stands presenting the customary symbol of Typhon, or Apophis the Destroyer,” and the man and woman are once again two elements of awareness coupled. This is due to the fact that he symbolizes the rebirth that results from conquering the destructive force. “The three characters, Isis, Apophis, and Osiris, combined, symbolize an old secret formula… One of the most powerful phrases of strength is I A O, or Yaho.” (From An Introduction to Tarot, Lesson Eleven.)
By the way, if you want to learn more about Invoking HRU and the allusions to I A O, watch an old Sightsee the Tarot video called “Invoking HRU and the Riddle of the Sphinx,” in which we explore M. M. Meleen’s Book M: Liber Mundi (2015).
While the Tarot Tableau, as shown above, is most likely older than Case, it was popularized by Case, thus he gets the credit. With the Tarot Tableau, he discusses pathworking and meditation. (Thomas of Hermit’s Mirror wrote an excellent contemporary perspective on using a Tarot Tableau.) Here’s my review of the book.)
B.O.T.A. (Builders of the Adytum), like the Golden Dawn, emphasizes meditation over fortune-telling when utilizing the tarot. Case distinguished “divination” from “fortune-telling” by elevating the meaning of the term. Case goes so far as to label tarot fortune-telling “vulgar.” (from The Tarot: A Key to the Ageless Wisdom, 1947)
Case promotes an astral idea known as the Cube of Space, in which three axis (up-down, left-right, front-back, and also symbolic of the Tria Prima, Mercury, Sulfur, and Salt) link six sides of an astral cube and 12 edges: 3 + 1 + 6 + 12 = 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
The Platonian idea of all terrestrial stuff being made up of cubes may have influenced the Cube of Space, at least in part. I went all out with this Cube of Space idea, but through my own eyes.
Each of the units in the following hand-drawn diagram are intended to be perfect cubes. It isn’t built to scale. I drew it by hand, so by the time I came to the front/bottom half of that design, I ran out of room, and my “cubes” began to resemble anything other than cubes…
Anyway, in my approach, I saw each of the 22 Majors as an astral cube (one astral realm or gate of light), stacked as an astral ladder up to Knowing by Way of Unknown, resulting in Key 0, which may also be represented as a Holy Trinity, resulting in three Key 0s in my SKT deck.
The elemental worlds are made up of four elemental cubes (one cube for the Four of Fire, one cube for the Four of Water, four cubes for the Four of Air, four cubes for the Four of Earth) that combine to create a larger cube of four cubes. The court cards are the Light that travels through all cube-realm-gate-things in this…thing, and they symbolize the idea of a fifth element, Spirit. As a result, we have the idea of angels as messengers.
From the Atlas of Maps (2018 and 2019 Editions)
Here’s where I start thinking about how an equilateral triangle can be inscribed in a square, forming three right triangles in addition to that equilateral triangle that unites the three right triangles that, superimposing the multiple dimensions in the Cube, form the Merkahabah star, relating to the Chariot and Ezekiel’s vision, then somehow connect that to Ezekiel’s Wheel on Key 10: Wheel of Foulness. and the unit circle inside the square, sine and cosine wavelengths creating that unit circle, cycle of life, God, Squaring the Circle, and here is where my brain melts and I need to eat cake.
Paul Foster Case
In contrast, as far as I can tell, Case’s Cube of Space is symbolic of Creation on its own, both of how the divine created the cosmos and of how the magus produces, transmuting what was in the mind into what is now matter. The numerical sequence of the 22 Keys is the entire “in the beginning there was the Word” concept, since they correlate to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. And then you extend it into a step-by-step process for turning Word (thought) into reality (matter).
The Minors from the B.O.T.A. Tarot are organized into sets based on their numerological order. The image of the Wands is one of the “blinds” that Case allegedly removed from Waite’s deck so that more esoteric knowledge might be exposed to the lay. The Wands in this deck are drawn on the magician’s wand according to Eliphas Levi’s instructions.
A portion of it may be seen in the SKT Revelation Scepters. Should I use this opportunity to promote my newest tarot deck, the Revelation Edition of the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot? Click here to learn more!
The pips in the B.O.T.A. Tarot are basic, but the forms of the elemental relics are important, unlike the Rider-Waite-Smith, which was one of many inspiring inspirations, or at least sources of references to Case and his artist. The active Fours (Wands and Swords) create a square, with the passive Fours (Cups and Pentacles) serving as the four corners.
The active elements’ formations (Fire and Air) transport materials arranged by human intelligence and willpower, whereas the passive elements’ formations (Water and Earth) transport materials arranged by nature and organic evolution– Mother Nature’s architecture and expression of the building blocks of life.
One thing I’ve observed with Golden Dawn-based tarot basics books is how many pages are dedicated to the Major Arcana, while the Minor Arcana cards are essentially summed up in a few of pages, mostly based on numerological and elemental ideas. If you’re interested in learning more about Case’s take on the four suit correspondences, check out this 2013 blog post on Oracle of the Tarot (1333).
Case discusses the “Occult Meaning of Numbers,” and how you may extract a significance for each element-number coordinate by mapping elements and numbers on an astral Cartesian coordinate system. The 36 coordinates that make up the pip cards Twos through Tens correlate to the 36 decans (also known as 9 x 4) on the astrological zodiac wheel, showing a mathematical-space interaction that creates a continuum, giving birth to the Fourth Dimension that Case loves to discuss. Time is one way for a layperson to think about the Fourth Dimension. (For further information, see An Introduction to Tarot.)
Each of these element-number coordinates will be reduced to keywords in fortune-telling, exposing various formulae of generally experienced life events or feelings. Divination is reaching out to grab the astral, intangible Divine and bringing it down to the terrestrial plane via the acts of the magus and converting or translating it into a physical, concrete Mundane for the layperson to understand.
However, with occult tarot methods, you should keep your studies and meditations abstract and intellectual. So the occultist may simply concentrate on the basic blueprints in cards like the B.O.T.A. Tarot, or any deck where the pips are presented in an abstract, diagram-ornamental manner rather than humanistic and scenic.
These kinds of pips, like the ones you see here and in all of the Golden Dawn-based decks we examined this week, are “better” for meditation, according to that logic. I can understand and recognize the benefits of that point of view, even if I don’t agree with it myself.
In the Tens, this theoretical idea is most prominent. The active cards (Wands and Swords) demonstrate intelligent creation based on human creativity and willpower. As a result, you have the whole as above, so below pattern, with the square symbolizing the cube of space between the two triangles being harnessed. In alchemy, this is the coming together of opposites. Meanwhile, the passive cards (Cups and Pentacles) depict the relics arranged in a Tree of Life, which represents the natural order of design.
Considering how Case kept Waite’s court ranks, i.e., Page, Knight, Queen, and King, while removing the “blinds” from the RWS deck to provide a more accurate deck of esoteric knowledge, it’s fascinating to examine how he kept them here.
I’m trying to recall which esoteric book claimed this was one of the blinds Waite used in his deck to hide the judges’ real identities… argh… Yeah, I’m having trouble remembering, but I swear I read it someplace. As a result, some occultists (mostly from the Thoth schools) believe that this is a fallacy, and that the “true” order of the courts is Princess, Prince, Queen, and finally Knight.
Returning to the Golden Dawn decks we discussed last week on the blog, Robert Wang’s Golden Dawn Tarot, created with Israel Regardie’s guidance, uses the court titles Princess, Prince, Queen, and King, with imagery on the King cards that would look like Knights to a RWS reader, and the Prince cards riding chariots, as in Crowley’s Thoth.
The Princess, Prince (on chariots), Queen, and King are used in the New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot by Chic and Tabatha Cicero, which was also created under the supervision of Israel Regardie (with horses). The Tarot of Ceremonial Magick by Lon Milo DuQuette follows Crowley’s titles: Princess, Prince, Queen, and Knight.
The four Kings are depicted on horseback in Golden Dawn decks, says the Ciceros (in The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot), signifying “swift and exuberant but not lasting” energy, which RWS readers would scratch their chins and go, hmm, that sounds a lot like Knight cards.
Case’s deck, on the other hand, deviates from the claimed Golden Dawn tradition and instead resembles clones of Waite’s Kings.
“You don’t know anything that isn’t formed of Light. There is no force or strength you use that does not convert that same limitless radiance.” (from An Introduction to Tarot’s Key 3: The Empress entry)
Paul Foster Case argued that every serious tarot learner should color in their own tarot deck at some time, and he created a collection of black and white pictures for that reason.
The exercise embodies the trinity by reenacting the concept of you as a triangle prism. The pre-coloring white area on the cards represents the esoteric idea of Light, which includes the whole range of colors in their divine form, appearing as white light. You refract that white light into a rainbow of colors and patterns, revealing your own theology for how the Divine manifests itself in all areas of the mundane.
This practice of coloring in your own deck, or at least a complete set of Majors, was most likely inspired by the Golden Dawn initiatory tradition of making each of their members make their own tarot deck from start, according to specific Order guidelines.
The 22 Majors, 4 Aces, and 4 Archangels from the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, First Edition may be downloaded in black and white for free here. Because it’s just 30 cards, you can print it at home or at the workplace as long as your printer can handle cardstock. Alternatively, excellent art paper may be used. Print off the line drawings, color them in with colored pencils, watercolors, or art markers, cut them to size, and give them card backs by doing something creative (you figure it out).
Following the Golden Dawn color scales for coloring instructions may be beneficial, but it is not required for an enjoyable, spiritual experience. In fact, if you don’t instinctively resonate with the GD method, you’ll want to (and I highly advise you to) choose your own route. Allow your emotions and ideas to lead you through the coloring process.
That’s exactly how I went about doing it. I began out intending to follow the Golden Dawn scales, but after seeing that it wasn’t working for me, I decided to forge my own way. This isn’t about right or wrong. It’s all about finding out what works best for you.
I have an old Sightsee the Tarot video on how to utilize the First Operation from the Opening of the Key for general readings if you’d want to learn more about Paul Foster Case’s approach to the tarot. For $20, I also offer a video lesson on the OOTK.
As an example:
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I am a professional astrologer and counselor, who has been working with the B.O.T.A. Tarot for over a decade now. I have been collecting and studying the work of San Francisco Tarot Master Paul Foster for nearly twenty years. The B.O.T.A. Tarot and Paul Foster Case is a case study of a client’s attempts to deal with a relationship crisis. It has been fascinating to follow the case and see how the cards actually spoke through the client and the Tarot as it unfolded.. Read more about paul foster case pdf and let us know what you think.
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