Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) and Thoth Comparison with Spirit Keeper’s Tarot

Keys I to VII

Over the last few months as I shared progress photos of my card illustrations, especially when we got to the Minors, RWS folks started to get confused by my pictorial interpretations, though I think that’s because Thoth influences started to show up more prominently.

On my shortlist of objectives for creating Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, one of those objectives was to harmonize the RWS and the Thoth together, which I’m going to say right up front turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. It was so hard for me that in fact at many points during the process, I was beating myself up and lamenting, damn, I’m failing so bad at this.

I figure a side by side review of the decks will help clarify some of the confusion about where I’m getting what for the symbolism I’ve opted to go with in Spirit Keeper.

To do that, I’m using The Original Design Tarot Deck published by Siren Imports for the RWS and the Thoth Tarot Deck published by U.S. Games for the Thoth. I printed a sample copy of my deck, which you see above on the very right, but this is not what’s going to be produced for sale. I printed this physical copy to scrutinize the lines, production quality, alignment, that kind of thing, and because of that, I’ve already spotted things that need to be fixed, which will get fixed before final production. So just bear in mind that what you see here for the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot is pretty damn close to what will be offered for sale later down the line, but with editorial improvements.

Speaking on the design of the Majors from my frame of mind, the voice of what I might describe as my inner genius came through more distinctly. And by genius I don’t mean hey look at me I’m objectively a genius, no. I mean that inner genius we all have that we need to go through the structured, methodical process to unlock. That inner genius is what I’m saying really came out.

I say that because I think something shifts by the time I reach the Minors. More on that later.

Keys VIII to XIV (with Thoth VIII and XI switched intentionally)

I’m picturing the cards in the exact order I drew them. You’ll see back in the First Septenary Keys I to VII, there were no human figures depicted. I had started the project with the intent on having no depictions of humans. Where human-like figures would be used, they’d be, like, you know, with an animal head or something, the way you see in The Emperor, or most of the face concealed from view, like The Empress.

Then I got to Key 8 Strength and broke that rule. Doh.

By the way, I devote a whole section in The Book of Maps, the companion guidebook that will go along with Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, to the Key 8 and Key 11 situation and my struggle with deciding how to approach the 8 and 11 switch, which funny enough, involves the Justice card and those goddamn balancing scales.

I felt like there had to be more to the reasoning for Waite’s switch than the order of the zodiac wheel. My speculation at the end of that struggle is it had to do with differing theology, so then I had to decide where my own theologies aligned.

Since I went with Key 8 for Strength and Key 11 for Justice, following Waite’s switch, for an easier comparison, in the above photo I switched 11 for 8 and vice versa in the row of Thoth cards.

Keys XV to XXI

Although there are inevitable nods to the Marseille, the reason I didn’t focus my intentions on actively integrating the Marseille is because for Spirit Keeper, my focus is on the esoteric and occult expression of the tarot. The Marseille is by original intention a deck of playing cards that later got appropriated into a form of divination or fortune-telling, whereas both RWS and the Thoth were from beginning to end intended as esoteric and occult expressions of the tarot. You could even argue that both the RWS and the Thoth tarot decks are the product of spell-crafting, born from fertile pools of knowledge and magical experience. That is why these two in particular are the chosen parents.

Continue reading “Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) and Thoth Comparison with Spirit Keeper’s Tarot”

Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story

Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story is the most comprehensive, devotional, and poignant tribute to Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith we’ll see this century. It’s a magnificent treatise and homage no tarot lover will want to miss. Co-authored by Stuart Kaplan, Mary K. Greer, Elizabeth Foley O’Connor, and Melinda Boyd Parsons, The Untold Story is the sum total of knowledge, research, data, and documents we have on the artist behind the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck and her works.

Perhaps its greatest accomplishment is how it has brought Pamela Colman Smith to life. You’ll get to know her life and works, her family, her art, her interests, her personal spirituality, her quirks, and her multifaceted personality. Her words, through letters and the articles and stories she penned, reveal an animated, unconventional, extraordinary woman.

The first quarter of the book, “Pamela’s Life,” is authored by Elizabeth Foley O’Connor, an academic researcher who is writing the literary biography of Pamela Colman Smith.

Corinne Pamela Colman Smith, who went by the nickname “Pixie,” defied so many social norms, it’s hard to keep count. The more you read about her, the more impressed you get.

Continue reading “Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story”

Review of the Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Set

box set front 1

If you’re a Rider-Waite-Smith reader and you can still get your hands on the Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Set produced by U.S. Games, then do so. I  believe it came out in 2009. It’s an incredible set with two books, postcards and prints of Smith’s artwork, and an RWS replica called the Smith-Waite Tarot Centennial Edition deck. It is just a beautiful, beautiful deck. Get it.

deck with topcard

I’m not going to show all the cards because, um, I am pretty sure I don’t have to. You all know what the cards look like, I’m presuming. So let’s just talk about this amazing set.

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A Review of the Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot

01 Radiant Rider Waite deck

The Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot is aptly named. The colors are brighter and there is a wholly modern feel to this deck. The deck is laminated, glossy, and is printed on relatively sturdy cardstock. Holding the box, there’s a cheery vibration I get from it. The deck has a lot of great energy to offer a tarot practitioner.

I purchased the Radiant Rider-Waite because it comes highly recommended by some of the most acclaimed tarot professionals of this decade. I was looking for a professional tarot reading deck in the RWS tradition, one that would strictly be a Rider-Waite-Smith clone. I’ve started to get antsy about having too many random folk fondle with my original Rider Waite deck and my Golden Universal has been getting a lot of mileage, wear and tear as well. So I need a new professional reading deck I can use and let people play around with.

I was really, really hoping the Radiant Rider-Waite would be it.

Unfortunately, no.

02 Cartoony

Why not? It has nothing to do with the artwork, by the way. The artwork by itself is lovely. Compared to the original art by Pamela Colman Smith, this version, which are updated, vibrant recreations of Smith’s art by Virginjus Poshkus are superb. Poshkus thinned out the harsh black outlines from the Smith deck, added subtle shading, and recolored the deck so that now the images pop. There’s a bright, positive energy here, and I can see how it’s a great energy for young beginners in the RWS tradition to be working with. (And I do mean young beginners. I’m doubtful how well received this deck would be to mature beginners.)

03 Vivid

See, there’s also a cartoony vibe going on that I’m not sure works for me in a reading deck. The cartoonish renderings are distracting to me. Yes, Smith’s art isn’t fantastic, but the original RWS serves its purpose. The two-dimensional imagery in the original RWS and austere lines help me tap into my intuition. The vibrant cartoons in the Radiant Rider-Waite? Not so much.

Continue reading “A Review of the Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot”