Arthur Edward Waite (October 2, 1857 – May 19, 1942), commonly known as AE Waite, was a British poet born in the United States and a scholarly mystic who wrote extensively on occult and esoteric subjects, and was the co-creator of the deck of the Tarot Rider-Waite.
As his biographer RA Gilbert described it, “Waite's name has survived because he was the first to attempt a systematic study of the history of Western occultism, seen as a spiritual tradition rather than as aspects of protocience or as the pathology of religion "
Waite was born in Brooklyn, New York, United States.
Waite's father, Captain Charles F. Waite, died when he was very young, and his widowed mother, Emma Lovell, returned to his home country, England, where he was raised.
Since they had no money, Waite was educated in a small private school in North London.
When he was 13, he was educated at Colegio San Carlos and when he left school to become an office worker he wrote verses in his spare time.
In 1863 Waite's mother converted to Catholicism.
The death of his sister Frederika Waite in 1874 soon attracted him to psychic research. At age 21, he began reading regularly in the British Museum Library, studying many branches of esotericism.
In 1881 Waite discovered the writings of Eliphas Levi.
When Waite was almost 30 years old he married Ada Lakeman (also called "Lucasta"), and they had a daughter, Sybil.
Some time after Lucasta's death in 1924, Waite married Mary Broadbent Schofield.
He spent most of his life in or near London, connected to several publishers and editing a magazine, The Unknown World.
Waite joined the Foreign Order of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in January 1891 after being introduced by E.W. Berridge
- In 1893 he retired from the Golden Dawn.
- In 1896 he rejoined the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn.
- In 1899 he entered the Second Order of the Golden Dawn.
- He became a Mason in 1901 and entered the Rosicrucian Societies of Anglia in 1902.
- In 1903 Waite founded the Independent and Rectified Order R. R. et A. C.
- This Order was dissolved in 1914.
The golden dawn was torn by internal disputes until Waite's departure in 1914; In July 1915 he formed the Fraternity of the Pink Cross, which should not be confused with the Rosicrucian Societies.
By then there were already half a dozen stems of the original golden aurora, and as a whole it never recovered.
Aleister Crowley, the enemy of Waite, referred to him as the villain "Arthwate" in his novel Moonchild and referred to him as "Dead Waite" in his magazine Equinox.
Lovecraft has a villainous wizard in his story "The thing at the door" called Ephraim Waite; According to Robert M. Price, this character was based on Waite.
The author and scholar Waite was a prolific author and many of his works were well received in academic circles.
He wrote hidden texts on subjects such as divination, esotericism, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, ceremonial magic, cabalism and alchemy; He also translated and reissued several mystical and alchemical works.
He wrote about the Holy Grail, influenced by his friendship with Arthur Machen.
A number of its volumes remain printed, including The Book of Ceremonial Magic (1911), The Holy Kabbalah (1929), A New Encyclopedia of Masonry (1921), and its edited translation of the Transcendental Magic of Eliphas Levi (1896) , his Doctrine and Ritual (1910), after having seen reprints in recent years.
Waite also wrote two allegorical fantasy novels, Prince Starbeam (1889) and The Quest of the Golden Stairs (1893), and edited Elfin Music, an poetry anthology based on the folklore of English fairies.
Arthur Edward Waite and the Tarot Rider-Waite-Smith
He is best known as the co-creator of the Tarot Rider-Waite-Smith deck and author of his companion volume, the Tarot Key, reissued in expanded form the following year, 1911, as the Pictorial Key of the Tarot, a guide for Tarot reading.
The Rider-Waite-Smith tarot was noted for being one of the first tarot decks to illustrate all tarot cards in their entirety, and not just the 22 major arcane cards.
Pamela Colman Smith, a member of Golden Dawn, illustrated Waite's letters, and the deck was first published in 1909.
It remains in publication today.
It is known that the inspiration for this deck was partly provided by the Sola-Busca tarot (Northern Italy, 1491), the first and only Tarot deck fully illustrated until the publication of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot.