Tag Archives: Pamela Colman Smith

Tarot @ Teatime: The Rider Waite-Smith Deck

We’re pleased to intro­duce the new sea­son of our orig­i­nal series, Tarot @ Teatime, which airs every Sun­day and Thurs­day at 12 noon and 4pm SLT/Pacific.

In this new sea­son, your host Hon­ey Heart, PhD* pro­gress­es through the Waite-Smith deck — the most pop­u­lar of all Tarot decks — one card at a time.

For each, she dis­cuss­es a num­ber of fea­tures of the card: the Car­di­nal Direc­tion asso­ci­at­ed with the card, its Numero­log­i­cal sym­bol­ism, the Astro­log­i­cal influ­ences, the Ele­men­tal con­nec­tions, and the rela­tion­ship with Jun­gian arche­types. She even relates the card to Shake­spear­i­an char­ac­ters. Heart then casts and inter­prets a demon­stra­tion 3‑card read­ing fea­tur­ing the card and pro­vides hints and tips to help you gain your own under­stand­ing of the cards.

The Waite-Smith deck is the most pop­u­lar Tarot deck avail­able, and fea­tures the art­work of Pamela Col­man Smith (illus­trat­ed, from an image in The Crafts­man mag­a­zine). Hon­ey Heart’s com­men­tary includes a dis­cus­sion of the fea­tures of the card illus­tra­tions, and it may assist you in catch­ing the sub­tle nuances of these clas­sic illus­tra­tions to have today’s card in front of you. If you don’t own a RWS Tarot deck, you can find the card illus­tra­tions here.

Smith’s illus­tra­tions were influ­enced by many sources, notably the Sola Bus­ca tarot, the ear­li­est known com­plete Tarot deck.

In 1907, the Bus­ca-Ser­bel­loni fam­i­ly donat­ed black-and-white pho­tographs of all 78 cards to the British Muse­um (see Queen of Batons, right), where they were like­ly seen by A. E. Waite and Pamela Col­man Smith, inspir­ing their own tarot deck (1909 exam­ple Tem­per­ance, left).

The sim­i­lar­i­ties between the art­work of the Minor Arcana of the Waite-Smith deck and Sola-Bus­ca’s plain suits has led some schol­ars to sug­gest that Col­man Smith drew inspi­ra­tion from the ear­li­er work. Smith cre­at­ed the art for her deck two years after the acqui­si­tion of pho­tographs of the Sola-Bus­ca deck by the British Muse­um, and like­ly saw the cards on dis­play there. Notable sim­i­lar­i­ties include the Three of Swords card and the Ten of Wands card in the Rid­er deck, which is very sim­i­lar to the Ten of Swords card in the Sola-Bus­ca deck.

*Hon­ey Heart in first life has a doc­tor­ate in transper­son­al coun­sel­ing, with her dis­ser­ta­tion writ­ten on a phe­nom­e­non observed in Tarot.