The Kobe Tarot

Blank-eyed Motley trudges along at Allach concentration camp
in Trump I of the Kobe Tarot

There is a Tarot, done just one year after the writing of Crowley's Book of Thoth, which you should know but you do not.

It is one of the most powerful Tarots you shall ever see. (Although do note the point below about the necessity of possessing power-recptors in your eyes.)

It makes claims of the aesthetic power of most of the Tarotic junk we see published today seem not merely ridiculous, but obscenely so.

This was not a Tarot done to profit some playing-card magnate (at least not so far), or to affirm the ego of a deservedly obscure artist, or to promote the new and profound occult visions of the latest avatar of Magister Charlatan.

This amazing Tarot is the work of Boris Kobe, which depicts life (which is to say, living death) at the Allach concentration camp a "sub-camp" of Dachau.

The Kobe Tarot.

While the article says "There is no occult meaning in these cards", I would disagree with this from a couple of angles:

1. This deck raises again the question of what we can know of meaning when it is so old or alien to us and our eyes, it is effectively occulted to us. The memory of the Holocaust fades every year of course, and certainly memory of many of the specifics of the images we see in the Kobe Tarot is confined to a small group of survivors or specialists in the study of German concentration camps. I can imagine many younger viewers of these cards, if they were not told what they were, would find them more curious than disturbing. So, we see "power" does depend on what you are able to see, and that depends on what you know. This is a key concept in occult Tarot.

2. There are a number of the Kobe Tarot trumps which seem alluded to standard Tarot themes. For example, trump XX, which in standard Tarot symbolism and dogma depicts the opening of the graves for the Last Judgment, in the Kobe Tarot shows the shedding and piling up of discarded death clothes by the former Allach inmates, under the direction of the liberating angel—a black American GI.

Shedding their death-skins after being liberated

If any deck demonstrates the truth of an idea I have promoted in the past, that every card in the Tarot pack means death, it would be this Tarot. Yet also, every card suggests both the power of the will to live, and that even in the darkest hellhole imaginable, some hope of life may still shine through, and even a hope of salvation.

Perhaps it would be fair to say the Kobe Tarot was the first pomo Tarot, since in spite of its allusion to some traditional Tarot themes, it is obviously largely adapting Tarot to its own purposes. And in this, it shows us how a skilled artist, motivated by a passion to express truth as he knows it, can make a powerful statement with Tarot even if his chief aim was not to make some rectification or clarification of obscure occult dogmas.

Tarot artists today, especially ones seeking to use Tarot as a platform to push their pet agendas, should have very much to learn from a thoughtful consideration of the beauty and pain of the Kobe Tarot.

Update: where to purchase copies of the Kobe Tarot—A contributor to Tarotica group, Mojca Lubej, found a link to the museum store at the National Museum of Contemporary History in Slovenia, where you can buy copies of the Kobe Tarot, or as they call it the "Prison Camp Tarot", in other words "Concentration Camp Tarot".