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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Term: Rider-Waite-Smith



Name for a popular deck of Tarot cards. It was designed by A. E. Waite, drawn by Pamela Coleman Smith, and originally published (in 1909) by Rider. It was based on the Tarot of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as well as some earlier decks, but is unique in that the Minor Arcana cards, for the first time, were given full symbolic imagery. This fully graphic design, combined with a book by Waite (in 1910) specifically for this deck (as opposed to Tarot decks in general) combined to make this a wildly popular deck.

The basic design has become a de facto modern standard. Many decks today copy this standard and only offer different artistic styles. Other decks are sometimes qualified by how much or how little they vary from this “standard.” For some time this deck was referred to as the “Rider-Waite” deck, ignoring the value and input of the artist. Although some people still use that description, Tarot authorities are now leaning toward the more accurate “Rider-Waite-Smith” name.


Review of The Manga Tarot
Summary: The Manga Tarot is a beautiful and insightful deck. It skillfully combines the evocative and fantastical feel of Manga with the equally evocative format of Tarot. Add to the mix some creative changes and juxtapositions and you’ve got a deck ...
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Review of the Celtic Tarot
Summary: Beautiful deck made in the Rider-Waite-Smith pattern, but with a unique Major Arcana and a focus on Celtic myth and legend. Perfect for Celtic Wiccans and all Pagans drawn to Celtic lore. Beside being good for doing divination (especially ...
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Review of Gothic Tarot of Vampires
Summary: Although this deck will obviously appeal to those who are interested in vampire culture, Interview with the Vampire, the Twilight series of books and the TV show True Blood, people uninterested in that mythos shouldn’t dismiss this deck ...
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Review of the Golden Dawn Magical Tarot
Summary: A brilliant deck that is ideal for practitioners of ceremonial magick and for those following the system of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Will also interest those researching the link between earlier traditional Tarot decks and the ...
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Kamasutra Tarot Review
Kamasutra Tarot Review Summary: While catching the flavor of 17th and 18th century Indian art, this deck seems to force the explicit sexual images into fitting the Tarot model. Still, a collection of such art is rare and valuable, making this a ...
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The Yoga Tarot Review
Summary: The Yoga Tarot combines two powerful tools of self-discovery into one. This deck encourages a turning inward, a self-examination, and a questioning that may, for a while leave the reader with more questions. But then, eventually, the path ...
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Review of Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn
Summary: Although it doesn’t live up to its name as the Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn, the brilliance of the art and the deck’s adherence to the concepts of the Golden Dawn make this the ultimate deck for doing readings according to the ...
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Review of the Minchiate Tarot Deck
Summary Minchiate decks are an important part of the history of cartomancy. Similar to a Tarot but with the addition of a few more cards, a Minchiate deck can give a very nuanced reading. In addition, whether used for study or divination it brings ...
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Review of The Fey Tarot
Summary: The Fey Tarot invites you into a world of joy and magic. The faeries in these cards are not traditional English spirits but altogether different and completely enchanting. Likewise, the meanings of the cards and the messages they give are ...
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Review of the Mayan Tarot
Summary: The Mayan Tarot is a doorway into another world, into a culture, into the past. Just like any lost civilization, this one gives teasing glimpses of what might have been and invites discovery. By losing oneself in the art, by letting ...
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Review of The Enochian Tarot
Summary: Not a beginners deck, the energy and passion in the art, combined with a unique focus on the Enochian system that only loosely—very loosely—follows standard Tarot protocols, make this deck a powerful addition to any magickian’s toolkit, ...
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A few years ago, my youngest son was arguing with his friend about the age of Honey, our wild golden retriever. His friend insisted that Honey was five, because the dog had been alive that many years. Said Gabe, "Sometimes Honey is really one, like when he chews our shoes; sometimes he's 89, like when he pretends he's too old to listen when you... read this article
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