Coming Soon: An RWS Keywords and Reversals Deck from U.S. Games

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Sometimes happenings confirm to me that prayers are answered and the universe is looking out for me. A little while ago, I put together a Rider-Waite-Smith keywords and reversals deck, three versions, (original blog post here) and granted all files out to the public domain and made it available to everyone for free download.

It included a Read-Me document that explained exactly how you could fully customize the deck files for yourself, from selecting your own card back design while still giving you dozens of free card back design options, and even how to edit and change the keywords to reflect ones you like. I also explained that folks could do as they will with the digital files I made.

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While I received many thanks and good wishes, I received an even greater torrent of messages from people kind of expecting free customer service to go along with the free deck files. It was nuts and utterly outweighed and outnumbered the thank yous.

What do I do? If I ignore them and don’t answer their messages, I’d feel like a terrible snob. If I answer all of them one by one, I would not have time for anything else in my regular life. People were asking the whole range of questions, from questions that were already answered in the Read-Me document to questions about the keywords and how they would have opted for this and that keywords instead of the ones I picked or they would ask me to provide a rationale and explain why I chose the keywords I chose. I got questions asking what I thought were the best ways to use the deck, or where to print them, how to print them, logistics, how to design a card back, which card back design was my favorite… Wow. Really? I was inundated with people wanting me to hand-hold them.

I went to sleep one night thinking that cliché thought of “gee, no good deed goes unpunished.” I hate dealing with sales and customer service and by giving the deck files out for free, I had opened up an unforeseen can of worms. I had figured folks would understand they’re on their own. I guess not. Suddenly, I was being treated like a deck creator even though I am not one, don’t identify as one, and don’t want to be one.

And yet I really liked the idea of the keywords and cut-splice card images for reading reversals. I wanted it to be made available to the public but– admittedly– I didn’t want to deal with the public…

Continue reading “Coming Soon: An RWS Keywords and Reversals Deck from U.S. Games”

Waite-Smith Tarot Keywords Study Deck

10/06/2016 Update: I have exciting news to announce soon enough! For the time being, I’ve de-activated the zip file download link in anticipation of the cool news to come! All my love.

10/08/2016 Update: Read about the exciting announcement of a new deck to be released here.

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I don’t know how you feel, but I really like how this deck looks.

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And the card backs. I love the card backs. Oh, wait you probably can’t see it that well in the above pic. Here you go.

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Two versions. Two different card back designs. Two different sizes. I like the big one better. That’s the black one above on the left, at 3.5″ x 5.75″.

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This is the second version. Can you spot the difference? One has astrological/elemental correspondences in the top corners and this one above does not. There is a third version, too, but we’ll get to that.

September 20. That morning I pulled the Ace of Wands from the Tarot of the Holy Light and thought it pertained to this book I’m working on at the moment. So to heed the divinatory message, I was outlining and note-taking for the manuscript. For some reason (won’t talk about it now) I needed to look up card images from the Grand Etteilla. Then a bunch of loose ends connected with each other in my head. Now I wonder if maybe the Ace of Wands had nothing to do with that book I was/am working on and instead has to do with this, what this post is going to be all about.

Card I pulled that morning, as posted on my Instagram. From the Tarot of the Holy Light.
Card I pulled that morning. From the Tarot of the Holy Light.

A few days prior I had a conversation with a friend who was lamenting about how she wanted to learn to read tarot with reversals but she found the upside down images visually distracting, so much to the point that she couldn’t get over it. I then thought about how the card layout of the Grand Etteilla would work quite well for someone like her, if the larger box featured the card image upright and the smaller box had it going in the opposite direction.

Let me explain.

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Review of the Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Set

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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.

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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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Scot Slaby’s The Cards We’ve Drawn, Tarot Inspired Poems

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Poet Scot Slaby sent me a copy of his chapbook The Cards We’ve Drawn (Bright Hill Press, 2014) to read and I want to share it with all you tarot enthusiasts out there. I very much enjoyed it and read it through cover to cover several times. These are poems that can really tug on your heartstrings, even more so for the tarot enthusiast who can truly appreciate the depth of Slaby’s lines.

The first part of the book consists of 11 poems, each poem expressing one card and position in the Waite Celtic Cross spread. Of all signifiers, it’s the Knight of Cups. What is it with poets and the Knight of Cups? =) No, seriously. The Knight of Cups frequently appears in readings I do for poets.

If the first 11 poems of the book were to be configured into an actual CC spread, here’s what it would look like:

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Hey Tarot Reader, What’s In Your Bag?

1 Handbag

I’m an avid follower of fashion and beauty blogs, and those bloggers frequently post a glimpse into their handbags du jour. Certain fashion magazines include a feature where they photograph the contents of handbags belonging to celebrities. Don’t people care about what’s in the bags of tarot readers? Specifically, do tarot readers carry tarot paraphernalia around with them wherever they go? Or no, that’s crazy talk?

The above is the bag I carry. It’s by an independent handbag designer who I know personally and adore. He hand-weaves each of these bags! Well, not he himself, but his team. He’s the head designer now. Fancy. His name is Sydney and his label is SD Marvel. Definitely check his bags out. I cannot recommend them more highly. I rave about them to anyone who will listen.

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A Tarot Deck Library: The Hobby of Collecting

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I will start by saying that you only need one tarot deck to be a practitioner. Every deck over one is excess. That being said, if you’re a tarot enthusiast, there will be no convincing you to stop hoarding tarot decks. I mean, you probably only need one pair of shoes, and yet I have fifty. I like to collect. So if you, too, must collect, then at least try to keep your collecting focused. This post will offer tips on building a tarot deck library.

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In Defense of the Rider-Waite

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I am grateful that I did not access the Internet during my formative years of learning tarot. Communities of self-proclaimed advanced tarot practitioners have brought into being the supercilious notion that the Rider-Waite or Rider Waite Smith (RWS) tarot deck is a “beginner’s deck” and that a high level practitioner will have moved beyond the RWS into another more specialized deck.

What hooey.

These practitioners need to revisit the RWS and re-evaluate for themselves how well they truly understand the RWS. Are they really using the symbology contained in the deck to its full extent? Do they understand the elemental influences, astronomical, seasonal, and the nuances of every last bird in the sky, leaf, and blade of grass?

As I have said, as of the present there are three prevailing tarot deck systems. The Marseille with the pip cards, the RWS, and the Thoth. The three are very different from one another and every practitioner should be fluent with reading all three. From there, you will find that you gravitate more toward one of those three. That will most likely become your primary reading deck.

The three systems have inspired numerous contemporary derivative decks. These decks are generally based on one of the foregoing three systems, or are a hybrid. Most of these derivative decks are created to reconcile an omission in one of the three main systems. A basic example of that are the fancy, beautifully illustrated RWS decks that are aesthetically more pleasing to the eye than the original RWS. There are decks that attempt to better flesh out the interpretive methods of the Golden Dawn. Others fuse the foundation of the tarot with imagery that is more specific to a particular faith, philosophy, or culture. All of these decks are legitimate reading decks and if you find yourself connecting to one more so than the RWS, then that’s really great for you.

However, it does not mean you’re now more advanced. People start with the RWS not because it’s a beginner’s deck, but because it is a traditional system. The Marseille is another traditional system, but not everyone has developed and honed their intuitive abilities to a point where they can read pip cards meaningfully. The RWS is like Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major while the Thoth is like Stravinsky and the classical musician will have attempted to master both, but neither one is hardly considered “beginner” stuff. Playing Vyacheslav Artyomov or Gheorghi Arnaoudov doesn’t make you more advanced than the fellow working on the Tchaikovsky piece.

So please do not listen to the snobbery, my dear RWS reader. If that was your first reading deck and still remains your only reading deck, then that is what works for you. That shouldn’t even be said in a patronizing way. Seriously. RWS is an incredibly complex deck and anyone who thinks it’s the training wheels of tarot is someone who still has a beginner, rudimentary understanding of the study.