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Anatomy of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Card Deck

The Rider-Waite Tarot deck was developed by British occultist Arthur Edward Waite and artist Pamela Colman Smith in 1910.

Waite was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret society that studied and practiced occultism, and he wanted to create a Tarot deck that reflected the symbolism and teachings of the order.

He chose Smith to illustrate the deck because of her ability to create images that captured the essence of the cards.

Kate Putnam, Dover, NH, Psychic Medium, Tarot Card Reader, Hypnotherapist

The Rider-Waite deck quickly became popular because it was the first Tarot deck to feature detailed illustrations on all 78 cards. The artwork was heavily influenced by the medieval and Renaissance periods and was rich in symbolism.

Waite also wrote a companion book, "The Pictorial Key to the Tarot," that explained the meanings of the cards and how to interpret them.

The Rider-Waite deck has since become one of the most widely used and recognizable Tarot decks in the world, and it has inspired numerous other decks and variations. Its images and symbolism continue to be studied and interpreted by Tarot readers and enthusiasts today.

The Rider-Waite Tarot by Pamela Colman and Arthur Waite is the traditional tarot deck that is loved and used by millions.

The cards were drawn in 1909 by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur Edward Waite. Smith's vibrant drawings transformed the standard tarot deck.

"A unique feature of the Rider-Waite deck, and one of the principal reasons for its enduring popularity, is that all of the cards, including the Minor Arcana, depict full scenes with figures and symbols. Prior to the Rider-Waite Tarot, the pip cards of almost all tarot decks were marked only with the arrangement of the suit signs -- swords, wands, cups, coins, or pentacles.
The pictorial images on all the cards allow interpretations without the need to repeatedly consult explanatory text. The innovative Minor Arcana and Pamela Colman Smith's ability to capture the subtleties of emotion and experience have made the Rider-Waite Tarot a model for the designs of many tarot packs." -- (from The Encyclopedia of Tarot, Volume III)

Rider-Waite Tarot was named one of the Top Ten Tarot Decks of All Time by Aeclectic Tarot.

Pamela Colman Smith

Born February 16, 1878, in Middlesex, England to American parents, Smith's childhood years were spent between London, New York, and Kingston, Jamaica.

During her teens, she traveled throughout England with the theatre company of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving. Thereafter, she began formal art training at the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, graduating in 1897.

Smith returned to England, where she became a theatrical designer for miniature theatre, and an illustrator -- mainly of books, pamphlets, and posters. Around 1903, she joined the Order of the Golden Dawn.

In 1909, under the guidance of Arthur Edward Waite, she undertook a series of seventy-eight allegorical paintings described by Waite as a rectified tarot pack. The designs, published in the same year by William Rider and Son, exemplify the mysticism, ritual, imagination, fantasy, and deep emotions of the artist.

Kate Putnam, Dover, NH, Psychic Medium, Tarot Card Reader, Hypnotherapist

Arthur Edward Waite

Born in America in 1857, Waite was raised and educated as a Catholic in England. Beginning at the age of 21, Waite pursued research and writing on psychical and esoteric matters.

Soon after joining the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, he became the Grand Master and redirected the focus of the order from magic to mysticism. The Golden Order, whose structural hierarchy was based on the Kabbalah, is considered the single greatest 20th-century influence on the occult.

Waite was a prolific author of occult texts, works on the Holy Grail, and the body of mystical knowledge, which comprises the basis of modern Tarot. He is best known as the co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck and author of its companion volume The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, first published in 1910.

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