Rider-Waite tarot deck

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The Rider-Waite tarot deck (originally published 1910) is one of the most popular tarot decks in use today in the English-speaking world.[1] Other suggested names for this deck include the Rider-Waite-Smith, Waite-Smith, Waite-Colman Smith or simply the Rider deck. The cards were drawn by illustrator Pamela Colman Smith from the instructions of academic and mystic A. E. Waite, and published by the Rider Company.

Overview[edit]

While the images are simple, the details and backgrounds hold a wealth of symbolism. Some imagery remains close to that found in earlier decks, but overall the Waite-Smith card designs represent a substantial departure from their predecessors. Among other changes, Waite had the Christian imagery of most older tarot decks' cards toned down—the "Pope" card became the "Hierophant", the "Papess" became the "High Priestess". The Minor Arcana are illustrated with detailed scenes and images by Smith, again a departure from many earlier decks with much simpler designs for the Minor Arcana but aligning this deck with, for example, the Sola Busca Tarot. The symbols used were influenced by the 19th century magician and occultist Eliphas Levi.

Publication[edit]

The cards were originally published in 1910 by the publisher William Rider & Son of London. The following year, a small guide by A.E. Waite entitled The Key to the Tarot was bundled with the cards, providing an overview of the traditions and history behind the cards, criticism of various interpretations, and extensive descriptions of their symbols. The year after that, a revised version, Pictorial Key to the Tarot, was issued that featured black-and-white plates of all seventy-eight of Smith's cards. Several later versions of the deck, such as the Universal Waite deck, copy the Smith line drawings with minor changes and add more sophisticated coloring.

Copyright status[edit]

The deck was first published in December 1909 in the United Kingdom. Due to retroactive extensions of UK copyright law, it may remain copyrighted there until 70 years after the death of original artist Pamela Colman Smith. In the United States, retroactive copyright extensions do not apply to works published in the U.S. before 1923, and the original deck has consequently been freely used by American artists in numerous different media projects.

Influence[edit]

The Rider-Waite deck has been used in many television programs and motion pictures, notably in the James Bond motion picture Live and Let Die. (The deck was used along with a different deck created by artist Fergus Hall specifically for the film.)

The Rider-Waite deck has been used as an animated video backdrop in Madonna's Re-Invention World Tour 2004 for the song "Hollywood". ) The Hermit card in the Rider-Waite deck has been frequently used by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, most popularly in The Song Remains The Same and the inner sleeve of Led Zeppelin IV.

The Lovers card in the Rider-Waite deck was used in a theater poster for the musical Hair.

The Fool, The Hanged Man, and The Moon were used in the music video for "Riptide" by Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy.

Major Arcana[edit]

Minor Arcana[edit]

Wands[edit]

Pentacles[edit]

Cups[edit]

Swords[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Visions and Prophecies. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1988.

External links[edit]