The Knapp-Hall Tarot: Symbols and Sources - Ron Decker
Report by Diane Wilkes
Having gotten to know Ron Decker at a workshop a few weeks prior to the 2002 WTC, and having been impressed with his natural intuition, modesty, and gently humorous scholarship, I was determined not to miss his lecture, which was on a deck I own but never worked with much: the Knapp-Hall Tarot.
While this deck is presently out-of-print, Decker announced that U.S. Games may be re-publishing it, now that Stuart Kaplan knows there is someone willing and more than able to write a companion book for it (you guessed it: Ron Decker!). The Knapp-Hall Tarot is an esoteric deck, a collaboration of artist Augustus Knapp and occultist Manly Hall, whose book, The Tarot: An Essay, offers images but minimal written information about his deck).
Ron provided a handout with an extensive bibliography and the historical/occult influences of the Knapp-Hall deck so that participants could focus solely on his lecture and deck slides, a gift for which I was extremely grateful. One of his major discoveries about the deck involves the symbols depicted on all of the cards (each card has a shield with a different icon). These images are designed for meditation, but Hall and Knapp didn't explain the derivation for these symbols. Decker discovered that the meditation symbols on the Major Arcana are derived from Barlet's themes (Initiation and Involution/Evolution) and can be read about in more detail in the Curtiss books (The Key to the Universe and The Key of Destiny). The majority of Ron's presentation involved an explanation of each of these images.
Speaking of collaborations, Decker and Michael Dummett have a new book published last month in Great Britain: The History of Occult Tarot. You can pre-order the book from Amazon, since it will be out in another month in the United States, but if you absolutely can't wait, you can order it from the British Amazon.com. There you'll find more about the stories behind the Knapp-Hall deck, as well as chapters on Crowley, Dion Fortune, and Eden Gray, among many others. The book also contains photographs of the second tarot deck Waite was working on with another artist (not Pamela Colman Smith) which are quite fascinating and beautiful. The photograph and the top of the page shows Mary Greer looking at these images, as she, "Bunny" Bob O'Neill, and Ron Decker exchange pleasantries at the end of the lecture.
You can read much more about the Knapp-Hall deck in an interview with Ron Decker here.
Photograph of Ron Decker talking to Mary Greer and "Bunny" Bob
O'Neill © 2002 Sally Anne Stephen
Report and page © 2002 Diane Wilkes