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Tarot Reflections

  Jan. 15, 2003

Deck Review: Builders of the Adytum Tarot
Christopher delaMaison, CPTR


The Emperor, from the
 B.O.T.A. Tarot.

Christopher delaMaison is a third generation Oregonian born in 1957. He has a Master of Arts Degree in Computer Studies from Vermont College of Norwich University.

He was originally introduced to the Tarot while a member of the Scottish Rite Mason in Portland. He is an active participant in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), and OryCon (Oregon Sci-Fi Convention).

Christopher currently teaches computer science courses at Pioneer Pacific College, a private college in the Portland area, and can frequently be found off-campus doing tarot readings for students and faculty members at the nearest Starbucks Coffee Shop.


My introduction to this tarot deck was with the Scottish Rite Masons in Portland, Oregon, during the early 1990’s. This deck was used as a supplemental teaching aid in several of the Scottish Rite degrees. As a young mason working my way through the Scottish Rite program, I had the opportunity to work with this deck, particularly the Major Arcana, as it applied to the degree being offered.

This deck was of particular importance to our Masonic study group, as the instructor Neil Fahrion, was an early student of Dr. Paul Case, after the establishment of the B.O.T.A. organization. The B.O.T.A. tarot deck, and Dr. Case’s book, The Tarot - A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, became the preferred materials for teaching Tarot-to-Qabalistic correspondences at the Scottish Rite in Portland, from the early 1950’s until Mr. Fahrion’s death in 1994.

What made this deck so useful was the fact that it is a “color-it-yourself” deck, which maintained much of the original symbolism of the Rider-Waite deck. For the Minor Arcana, Dr. Case reverted to the classic design of earlier decks, showing only the number of items for each suit. While most tarot readers might consider this a detraction to the deck, one should consider that the purpose of this deck was to provide a medium that could be “customized” during the tarot lesson, by being colored by the user.  Looking back at this experience, it was interesting to see several older masons (with an average age of 75 years) sitting in the library, coloring their tarot cards. The deck comes with a small booklet, Highlights of the Tarot, which lists coloring instructions, along the lines of the original Pamela Coleman-Smith artwork.

Having a tarot deck that was “customizable”, while still using the traditional Rider-Waite type of symbolism was of particular importance in the Scottish Rite, as these cards were used to lead the aspiring degree candidate through a series of “life lessons”, as portrayed by the Major Arcana in the deck. The lessons were taught as the candidate listened to the lecture and colored in his particular card. Each deck comes with a set of coloring instructions, providing a basic color scheme, following the Rider-Waite pattern. The student was reminded to follow the color scheme; and even though the color of each item on any card was that specified in the coloring instructions, each deck tended to look different, and became effectively “customized” for each student.

The cards, themselves, were printed on a stiff, card stock type of paper, with sharp corners and no lamination. It is obvious that these cards were created for use in a coloring class, rather than for use as a divination tool for any extended period of time. While these characteristics tend to make this deck of limited use to someone practicing divination for the public, it does lend itself well for use in the Scottish Rite degree classes. These classes are geared towards developing the student’s understanding of life’s journey, as depicted by the interrelationships between the Tarot and the Qabalah, rather than divination itself.

In my opinion, these cards would be best used in a classroom setting, teaching basic tarot concepts and their linkages to the Qabalah; which is what Dr. Paul Case and the B.O.T.A. organization originally designed them for. The lack of lamination is necessary to allow the user to color the cards, and this feature is what would tend to shorten the useful life of the deck, if it were used for divination on a regular basis. However, there is something to be said for learning the Major Arcana through the process of coloring the cards during a guided meditation. For such an exercise, this deck would be indispensable.

The B.O.T.A. deck, and its accompanying book, Highlights of the Tarot, are both published by the Builders of the Adytum, Los Angeles, California. ISBN 999-113-6657 and ISBN 0-938002-02-3, for the tarot deck and booklet, respectively.


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Tarot Reflections is a publication of the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2003
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