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.

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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.

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