The Thoth deck
was designed by Aleister Crowley, and painted by Lady Frieda Harris. The project spanned some five years, from 1938 to 1943. Crowley was a member of the Golden Dawn, a secret society that pursued occult studies and magical workings based in part upon the ancient Hebrew Kabbala. The Golden Dawn had its' own Tarot deck, based upon its Kabalistic teachings, which was given to initiates who were required to make their own copies, and who often did so with their own embellishments.
Members were sworn to secrecy, but several members, including Crowley and Arthur Edward Waite, later designed and published decks based on the order's symbolism.
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Crowley eventually split with the Golden Dawn, founding several orders of his own, among which the Ordo Templi Orientis still exists and operates. In 1904, Crowley had a mystical experience which fundamentally changed the way he looked at the world and influenced all of his writings thereafter, including his tarot. For this reason, there are significant
differences between Crowley's Tarot and other decks based on the Golden Dawn system.