The theme of this Samhain Tarot Blog Hop is feasting with our honored ancestors. Out of all the ancestors that I could raise a glass of mead with, the one that I would like to have a discussion with the most is a spiritual and magical ancestor, and not a blood relative.
One of the spiritual and magical ancestors of all students of the Golden Dawn tradition is the creator of the Cipher Manuscript. The Cipher Manuscript is the foundational document of the entire Golden Dawn system---without the Cipher Manuscript, the Order of the Golden Dawn would have never existed. The Cipher Manuscript is an outline of the Outer Order Grade rituals and subjects of study, enciphered with a substitution alphabet.
The most likely creator of the Cipher Manuscript was a Kenneth Mackenzie, Masonic scholar and occultist. Exactly who Mackenzie meant the rituals outlined in the Cipher Manuscript for we will probably never know for sure---but we do know that the rituals were not meant for Westcott and Mathers. Probably written sometime between 1860 and 1875, the Cipher Manuscript came into the possession of William Wynn Westcott after the death of Mackenzie in 1886. Westcott, with the help of his friend, Samuel Liddell Mathers, deciphered the Cipher Manuscript and fleshed out the rituals, creating a working Order in 1888.
|A page from the Cipher Manuscript---part of the 2=9 (Theoricus) initiation ritual.|
|Cipher Manuscript--Universe card description.|
The second mention of the Tarot occurs in the Theoricus Grade initiation, a ritual where the initiate is shown a key of the Tarot. In this case, it is the Universe card, which is described as 72 circles around Queen Isis, who is also Sandalphon, who bears wands and has crossed legs; there is also a seven pointed star, and four Kerubim in the corners of the card.
|Cipher Manuscript--drawing of the Judgment card.|
|Cipher Manuscript--drawing of the Sun card.|
Among the knowledge to be learned in the Practicus Grade is a system of "synonyms in tarot divination," a system of astrological correspondences that has made its way outside of Golden Dawn and is used by many Tarot readers, often without knowing that the system that they are using was a creation of the mysterious creator of the first draft of the rituals of Golden Dawn.
If you have ever used "Emperor is Aries; Hierophant (High Priest) is Taurus...," then you have used the system of correspondences that were first outlined in the Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscript.
Also included in this section of the Cipher Manuscript was a Tarot Lecture, talking about the four suits of the Tarot corresponding to the four worlds of the Kabbalah. The Lecture expounds for the initiate to "behold the true attribution of the Tarot--ponder it in thy heart--[reveal] not to the profane." The Lecture also mentions that the Keys of Strength and Justice need to be switched to correspond to the true attributions of the esoteric system of the Tarot, the true Book of Thoth.
|Cipher Manuscript--drawing of the Moon card.|
|Cipher Manuscript--drawing of the Star card.|
|Cipher Manuscript--drawing of the Tower card.|
At the end of the Philosophus ritual, the Cipher manuscript comes to an end. And while the Cipher Manuscript gives the "true" astrological correspondences to the Tarot trumps, there is a lot that the creator of the Cipher Manuscript does not tell us.
For instance, we are only shown the "true" depiction of six of the trump cards. One of the things that I would love to conjure the ghost of the creator of the Cipher Manuscript, and ask of it is "What do the rest of the Tarot trumps look like?" While later leaders of the Golden Dawn tradition have fleshed out the reminder of the Tarot deck, we have no idea what the original creator of Golden Dawn had in mind for the rest of the Tarot deck.
Likewise, we have no idea of what the rest of the rituals of the tradition were originally meant to be like---the additional rituals that we have were created by other people. Nor do we know what other sections of Tarot study that the creator of the Cipher Manuscript meant to include in the system.
Quite frankly, the creator of the Cipher Manuscript left more unfinished than finished when you actually look at the whole of the system. Nevertheless, without this slim outline, the tradition of Golden Dawn and its way of reading the Tarot would have never happened.
And I am not the only student of the Golden Dawn tradition that would like to ask the creator of the Cipher Manuscript a few dozen questions. I am merely one of the pushy ones at the front of the line.
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