The Mystery of the Two New Tarot Trumps

Is there room in the Major Arcana for more symbolism?

Iain Spence

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The Major Arcana, by Roberto Viesi, C.C. 4.0

This article has been shared on the New Trajectories web-ring. It also turns up in the e-book, Dreams of the Hare.

I recently found a curious reference to Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary in Rachel Pollack’s The New Tarot, (1989). According to Pollack, both men influenced the Kirwan Tarot in the late 1980s. The artist of the pack, Jim Kirwan, had added two extra cards to his Tarot pack. He was influenced by Leary’s book, The Game of Life, published in 1979. Pollack views the Kirwan deck as the first to incorporate Wilson and Leary’s idea of a 24 card deck, for the Major Arcana, in contrast to the regular 22 deck.

It seems that Kirwan also took inspiration from the Kabbalistic concepts of Ain, Ain Soph and Ain Soph Aur and included this in his Tarot.¹ Kirwan decided initially to have three Fools, numbered 0, 00, and 000. I’m guessing here that the two extra Fools would have related to Ain Sof and Ain Sof Aur: Infinity and Infinite Light, which lie just beyond the sphere of Kether within the Tree of Life. Leary and Wilson’s two extra trumps however, don’t relate to the Fool. We’ll come to their cards later; first though, a brief recap on the origins of the fusion of Tarot with the Tree of Life.

Èliphas Lèvi instigated the Kabbalistic Tarot in the 1800s by assigning the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet to the 22 trumps. This led to the cards being later placed onto the 22 pathways between the spheres on the Tree of Life, as illustrated by the popular representation shown below:

The Twenty Two Paths on the Tree of Life

Pollack compares Kirwan’s two extra Fool trumps to Frieda Harris’ two variations of The Magus.² Harris had painted these variations for Crowley’s Tarot back in the 1940s. In fact, she had painted many variations of different cards, so…

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Iain Spence

Based in Scotland. Interests in pop culture, mythology and psychology. Profile photo is rather out of date.