Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot


It is not often that book comes along that really changes the way we understand tarot. Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin are incredibly thorough and dedicated researchers who have written a book that will change almost everything we think we know about the Waite-Smith Tarot.

Using Waite’s own writings (heretofore unpublished), visiting the place where the images were created, and immersing themselves in Pamela (Pixie) Coleman Smith’s world, Marcus and Tali answer questions about symbolism and design that we’ve only been able to guess at.

For example, the mismatched shoes on the figure in the 7 of Wands have been an issue of speculation for as long as I’ve been reading the cards. Here is the secret, straight from the book:

One feature of this image is that the figure wears obviously mismatched footwear. It has been commented on with various explanations, although the obvious answer is (as ever) in Pamela’s theatrical background. The image would have been instantly recognisable to her and her friends—although it may well have passed Wait by, given his lack of involvement and interest in the minors. It would be similarly the case with the 9 of Cups, 9 of Pentacles, and other cards. The character in this card is Petruchio, from Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of the Shrew.” He is the character who is trying to “tame” his wife-to0be, so he arrives very badly dressed for their wedding:

Why, Petruchio is coming in a new hat and an old jerkin, a pair of old breeches thrice turned, a pair of boots that have been candle cases, one buckled, another laced; an old rusty sword ta’en out of the town armory, with a broken hilt and chapeless, with two broken points (Act III, scene II).

We see immediately that Pamela has deliberately drawn one buckled boot and one laced shoe—and the loose lace is even completely clear.

Marcus and Tali go on to explain more about the character and in doing so show us how in choosing Petruchio, Pamela added meaning to this card that goes well beyond the words or descriptions provided by Waite.

Written by Barbara Moore
The tarot has been a part of Barbara Moore’s personal and professional lives for over a decade. In college, the tarot intrigued her with its marvelous blending of mythology, psychology, art, and history. Later, she served as the tarot specialist for Llewellyn Publications. Over the years, she has ...