The Spirit of the Tarot
The Search for God's Picturebook

New Age

The Tarot and the New Age marched hand and hand through the Sixties and Seventies. Like other alternative tools and practices with a little magic, a little occult, and some human potential,  the use and the creation of the cards expanded through out this time, appealing to all ages. By the 1980s, the Tarot had become a significant industry and practice.

In looking at the Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s, few recall ever seeing Tarot cards. One issue of the Oracle features an article on the New Aquarian Tarot Deck and one on the card “The World” (Volume 1, Issue #9, 1967 August).  Only a few decks were available at that time:  Smith-Waite,  Marseille de Tarot, some from magic stores, and some decks from occult organizations.  Similar to the personal practices of using I Ching and astrology (daily horoscopes in newspapers began in the 1930s), curiosity and use of the tarot became less rare. In the United States, artists, writers, visionaries, and those interested in personal development or the occult, worked on the use and design of the tarot, reinterpreting its look and use, but mostly following the Smith-Waite cards.

Here is a rough timeline:
  • Eden Gray’s books were very popular, beginning with The Tarot Revealed (1960) and continuing with A Complete Guide to the Tarot (1970) and Mastering the Tarot: Basic Lessons in an Ancient, Mystic Art (1971) using Smith-Waite cards for examples.
  • University Books publishes the Rider-Waite decks throughout the 1960’s. In a flyer from 1959, the publisher announces color printing of the cards and Waite’s The Pictorial Key to the Tarot. The  writing promotes Pamela Colman Smith as the artist and appears to be extracted from  Gertrude Moakley’s introduction to Waite’s book. A New York Public librarian, Moakley is one of the first respected scholars on Tarot.
  • John Cooke, who helped plan the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on January 14, 1967, creates T The New Tarot (1969) with Rosalinde Sharpe Wall (Gayla was her pen name for the Oracle), using descriptions revealed by a Ouija board in 1962-1963. This deck is a Sixties approach at rethinking the images and traditional meanings of the cards. Cooke was famous as a psychic, temporarily living on the West coast, who owned a tarot deck with written annotations by Aleister Crowley.
  • Stuart Kaplan founds U.S. Games Systems in 1968, first selling the Swiss 1JJ Tarot deck in America, then a Marseille style deck called Tarot Classic (based on 18th century woodcuts by Claude Burdel), and a few years later the Smith-Waite deck, the most popular deck in the world. His first book on Tarot, explaining the meanings of the cards, sold over 200,000 copies. He and his company significantly spread the use and information of most things Tarot.
  • The Holy Order of MANS (Mysterium, Agape, Nous, Sophia; religious mystery, love, divine mind, gnostic wisdom) was officially founded by Earl W. Blighton in July 1968 and based in San Francisco. They assisted with caring for recently arrived youth to the city and conducted various classes on a range of topics, including a weekly class on Tarot. The founder’s wife Ruth taught the class with a modified version of the B.O.T.A. Tarot, later printing their version and a guide to the Major Arcana. The class was focused on instruction and devotion rather than divination. When the founder died in 1974, the new leader shifted the order to a traditional orthodox Christianity and destroyed all esoteric materials. (See Ronald Decker and Michael Dummett, A History of the Occult Tarot, 2003; Phillip Charles Lucas, The Odyssey of a New Religion: The Holy Order of MANS from New Age to Orthodoxy, 1995; and Mary K. Greer.) 
  • Thoth Tarot Cards by Aleister Crowley (author) and Frieda Harris (illustrator) are published by Ordo Templi Orientis and available in 1971. Completed in the 1940s, these provided another interpretation of the cards from the Golden Dawn perspective that had also shaped the Smith-Waite deck.
  • Members of the Grateful Dead play in a band called Tarot in 1970. Over the years, Tarot themes run through their lyrics, as seen with the lovely 2020 animated video of “Ripple.” For the band’s influence,  this site is worth exploring: The Sacred and the Dead.
  • Marge Piercy in 1971-1972 writes a series of poems based on Tarot readings (“Laying down the tower” in To Be of Use).  She says, “I find that contemplating the cards moves those levels of my brain that begin the vibrations that become poems.”
  • David Palladini creates the Aquarian Tarot in 1970, updating the Smith-Waite deck with art deco imagery. The deck is still available.
  • Paul Huson publishes The Devil’s Picture Book in 1971,  one of several publications adding a Wiccan context to the Tarot. He updates the book in 2004, titled Mystical Origins of the Tarot, providing a chronology of card interpretations through 1910.
  • Jack Hurley, Rae Hurley,  and John Horler, after three years in Esalen and spending time with Joseph Campbell, move to Sausalito and publish The New Tarot in 1973. The cards are black and white.  A deck not based on Smith-Waite, they also promoted projective tarot reading and published Tarot Network News.
  • A Feminist Tarot: A Guide to Intrapersonal Communication, Sally Gearhart, with help from Susan Rennie, appeared in 1977.  The book sold over 11,000 copies from through 1981 and supported the lesbian feminist publisher, Persephone, in Watertown, Massachusetts.
  • Billie Potts with others in Santa Cruz, reimagined Tarot from a feminist perspective and created A New Women’s Tarot (1978), Amazon Tarot (1979), and New American Tarot (1984).
  • Karen Vogel and Vicki Noble, create Motherpeace images in 1978-79, later self-published in Berkeley as round cards in 1981. Dior licensed their images many years later creating a fashion line in 2017. (
  • Starhawk is influential in the Wiccan and feminist  Tarots. She publishes The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess: Rituals, Innovations, Exercises, Magic  in 1979. See a compendium of articles from Reclaiming Newsletter & Quarterly .
  • William Haigwood creates “a selective-if still broad-inventory of events that views the Counterculture’s primary, oscillating experiences through the lens of a reactivated psyche.” Journeying the Sixties: A Counterculture Tarot (
  • Mary K. Greer traces the modern Tarot renaissance to 1969. See her insightful blog.

  • As evidence of increasing acceptance in popular culture, the daytime soap opera Dark Shadows (original from 1966 -1972) presented the Tarot to millions of viewers. The cards were usually from the 1JJ Tarot.
  • The eighth James Bond movie, Live and Let Die, 1973, features Jane Seymour as a Tarot reader using the Tarot of the Witches deck created by Fergus Hall. The 1954 Ian Fleming book features Solitaire as a psychic using regular playing cards.
Eden Gray-The Tarot Revealed

Eden Gray’s books were readily available and the main source for further understanding of the cards. Illustrations were from the Smith-Waite cards. The Tarot Revealed, Bantam, 1960.

Stuart Kaplan, Tarot Cards for Fun and Fortunetelling

Stuart Kaplan authored this instruction book to accompany the 1JJ cards that U.S. Games Systems published in the United States. Tarot Cards for Fun and Fortune Telling, 1969.

“In the late sixties I began to handle the cards again. Whether using them in a mixture of divination and covert advice giving to friends or meditating on individual cards, I found they stirred my imagination and often provided imagery that would enter my work. For me they are rich and disturbing and provoke many levels of responding, feeling and knowing.”

Marge Piercy, introduction to Laying down the tower, a series of 11 poems based on a reading of 11 cards, 1971-1972, reprinted in Circles On The Water: Selected Poems of Marge Piercy, 1982, p 118.

The Matter: The tower struck by lightning reversed; the overturning of the tower

All my life I have been a prisoner under the Tower.

Some say that grey lid is the sky. Our streets our

Grey is the water we drink, grey the face I cannot love in

the mirror,

grey is the money we lack, the itch and scratch of skins

Grey is the color of work without purpose or end,

and the cancer of hopelessness creeping through the gut.

In my bones are calcium rings of the body’s hunger

from grey beard that turns to ash in the belly.

In my brain schooled lies rot into self-hatred: and who

can I hate in the cattle car subway

like the neighbor whose elbow cracks my ribs?


The Tower of Baffle speaks bureaucratic and psychologese,

multiple choice, one in vain, one insane, one trite as rain.

Military bumblewords, pre-emptive stroke, mind and body count and 

                strategic omelet.

Above in the sun live those who own, making our weather with

                 their refuse.

Their neon signs instruct us through the permanent smog.

Rockefellers, Mellons and Du Ponts, you Fords and Houghtons,

Who are you to own my eyes? Who gave me to be your serf?

I have never seen your faces but your walls surround me.

With the loot of the world you built these stinking cities

                as monuments.

The Tower is ugly as General Motors, as public housing,

as the twin piles of the World Trade Center,

tallest, biggest and menacing as fins on an automobile,

horns on a Minotaur programmed to kill.

The weight of the Tower is in me. Can I ever straighten?

You trained me in passivity to lay for you like a doped hen.

You bounce your gabble off the sky to pierce our brains.

Your loudspeakers from every television and classroom

And your transistors grafted onto my nerves at birth

Shout you are impregnable and righteous forever,

But any structures can be overthrown.


London Bridge with the woman built into the base

as sacrifices is coming down.

The Tower will fall if we pull together.

Then the Tower reversed, symbol of tyranny and oppression,

shall not be set upright.

We are not
turning things over merely

but we will lay the Tower on its side.

We will make it a communal longhouse.


Marge Piercy, from Laying Down the Tower, using the Smith-Waite deck. “The tower struck by lightning reversed; the overturning of the tower” from CIRCLES ON THE WATER by Marge Piercy, copyright © 1982 by Middlemarsh, Inc. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

XIX Sun-Motherpeace
XIX Sun ,The Motherpeace Round Tarot Deck, Karen Vogel and Vicki Noble, U.S. Games Systems Inc., 1981, 2008/2017. Tarot images used with permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902. c. by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
III Matriarch (for Empress), Billie Potts, other artists, The Amazon Tarot-Billie Potts and others-1979.
III Matriarch (for Empress), Billie Potts, other artists, The Amazon Tarot, Elf and Dragon Press, 1979. Exhibiting for educational purposes.
Sun-The New Tarot-Jack Hurley, Rae Hurley, and John Horler1973
XIX Sun, The New Tarot, Jack Hurley, Rae Hurley, and John Horler. Taroco 1973-75. Exhibiting for educational purposes.
XIX Sun, The Aquarian Tarot, David Palladino,
XIX Sun, The Aquarian Tarot, David Palladino, U.S Games Systems Inc. 1970, 2016. Tarot images used with permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902. c. by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
Doer-Sun Replacement-The New Tarot
Doer (Sun replacement), T The New Tarot, John Cooke and Rosalinde Sharpe, Western Star Press, 1969. Exhibiting for educational purposes.