A Journey Through Time and Symbolism
Over 40 years ago, a wave of personal liberation washed over society, fostering a sense of freedom and artistic expression. However, these uprisings were interrupted by the chaos of the First and Second World Wars.
In the 1970s, interest in tarot experienced a resurgence, coinciding with the rise of feminist, anti-war, and international human rights movements. It was during this time that the Waite-Smith tarot deck gained popularity. Today, tarot remains a powerful tool for self-understanding, utilized through practices such as readings, dream interpretation, and daily card selection.
Unveiling the Origins of the Waite-Smith Deck
The captivating illustrations of Pamela Colman Smith's tarot deck drew inspiration from symbols and characters originating in 15th century Italy. Initially published in 1910, the deck became known as the "Waite-Smith" or "Rider-Waite-Smith" deck. However, the new Taschen edition, titled 'The Tarot of A.E. Waite and P. Colman Smith: The Story of the World's Most Popular Tarot', provides an in-depth exploration of the deck's history, importance, and enduring popularity.
An Artistic Collaboration for the Ages
The creation of the Waite-Smith deck marked an important cultural junction of the early 20th century. It resulted from the collaboration between British artist and illustrator Pamela Colman Smith and mystic Arthur Waite, who met through a secret society called the "Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn." Combining Waite's spiritual concepts with Smith's Art Nouveau-style illustrations, the duo crafted a tarot deck that would captivate generations to come.
"Tarot is an offer for people. It's more than just fortune telling. You as the reader of the cards are invited to come in and have a dialogue with the card's image, and so it becomes a mirror." - Johannes Fiebig
The Tarot's Timeless Allure
One of the profound attractions of the Waite-Smith deck lies in its ability to help individuals confront their personal truths, particularly during times of crisis. In a world where many yearn for new ways of life, identities, and collective values, tarot provides answers. The cards serve as a mirror, allowing seekers to glean wisdom from within.
An Enduring Legacy of Interpretation
The Waite-Smith deck's illustrations possess a remarkable openness. This quality has given rise to countless reinterpretations, especially in recent times, as interest in tarot grows. However, even these reinterpretations remain grounded in the deck's original symbolism and motifs, as highlighted by tarot expert Rachel Pollack in her essay for the Taschen publication.
The beauty of the Waite-Smith deck lies in the versatility of its 78 illustrated cards. Each card represents a unique blend of recommendation and warning, reflecting myriad interpretations. The "Hanged Man" card, for instance, symbolizes an opportunity for sharing rather than something to fear, while the "Star" card embodies both light and purity, as well as the potential for narcissism and rigidity.
The Artists Behind the Deck
Pamela Colman Smith's artistic style was influenced by diverse elements, including Jamaican folktales, Japanese prints, and her involvement in theatrical performances and set design. In 1907, Smith and Arthur Waite likely visited an exhibition featuring a 15th century Italian tarot deck at the British Museum, serving as a catalyst for their own creative journey.
A testament to their genius, the enduring popularity of the Waite-Smith deck can be attributed to the captivating imagery that allows each seeker to embark on their own unique tarot experience. The collaboration between Smith and Waite birthed a masterpiece that, albeit often overshadowed, continues to inspire seekers of truth.
Embracing the Wisdom Within the Cards
The allure of the Waite-Smith tarot deck lies in its profound ability to facilitate encounters with personal truths. As individuals seek answers and strive to forge new paths in uncertain times, tarot offers a means of exploration and self-discovery. Indeed, as Pamela Colman Smith once expressed, "Learn from everything, see everything, and above all feel everything."
Discover the mesmerizing history of the Waite-Smith tarot deck in the Taschen publication, "The Tarot of A.E. Waite and P. Colman Smith." Unveiling the captivating story behind the world's most popular tarot, this book provides a comprehensive look into the deck's origins, significance, and enduring legacy.