Like a lot of people out there, I started with the Rider-Waite Deck (RWS). It’s arguably the most popular deck in the English- speaking world. I started with it because there’s LOADS of literature on the subject. As a beginner – why complicate things for yourself? Why not learn from the wisdom of those that came before you?
The RWS was illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith under the instructions of academic and mystic A. E. Waite.
Published by the Rider Company by 1910, many laypeople are familiar with this deck without quite knowing why. I get it, though. There are way more pop culture references to this deck than people realise. Also – there is A LOT and I do mean A LOT of Judeo-Christian imagery.
The cards also correspond to the 12 zodiac constellations, the 8 (or 9?) planets in the solar system and the 4 (or 5?) classical elements. There are also numerous references to ancient Egypt, Kabbalah, Yin and Yang and a whole plethora of other concepts I simply cannot cover in this humble blog post.
I bought The Original Rider Waite Tarot Pack on Book Depository in February. The pack came with 78 cards and even a little book – which is full of the original (and outdated) meanings of the cards. I read it a couple of times and then gave up… Old fashioned, much?
Nevertheless, from the first shuffle – the RWS was like an extension of me. The symbols, the imagery, the interpretations of the cards felt incredibly natural. No mystical physic power was involved. For me it came down to education and intuition.
I am no stranger to the Bible. I spent ten years in the British-Christian education system. I also lived in Israel for a year. A diehard stargazer, I self-studied astrology for eight years. By the time I sat down with the RWS Tarot Deck, both my intellect and intuition were onboard. A huge dollop of curiosity didn’t hurt.
What about the gender bias? Three out of four court cards in every suit represent men. Whilst women are represented in the deck – their power is largely hidden. I know the 1900s wasn’t a period of gender equality. I also know that the images represent archetypes and energies and are not meant to be taken literally.
But I’m still sick of outdated gender roles where the only power a woman has is the influence she exerts on men and her children. Even in the Strength and High Priestess cards we see a passivity and docility that I don’t quite care for. The highest court cards are all kings. They portray an outdated, cold, distant, angry and aggressive masculinity which hurts men as much as it does women.
The deck is even referred to as the Rider-Waite deck, completely omitting the name of Pamela Colman Smith – the lady who illustrated this incredibly popular deck. Moreover, I can’t personally relate to any of the Queens in the deck – which is kind of sad, considering how much I’ve grown to love tarot.
So I finally purchased my second deck – the Wildwood Tarot. It arrived in the mail yesterday. YAY! I’m currently in the process of understanding the images, reading the book that came with it as well as doing simple three card readings. So far – it’s been invigorating. It fills the gaps that RWS doesn’t.
The RWS was my first. It will always be special to me. You can only ever have one first time. As you know, no one ever forgets their first… err tarot deck. But from experience I know that the second time will be even better.
Apologies as always for the terrible puns. I promise to work on both my tarot skills and my sense of humour. Till next time – enjoy.