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Online Reference For Body, Mind & Spirit

Term: Rider-Waite-Smith

DEFINITION:

Name for a popular deck of Tarot cards. It was designed by A. E. Waite, drawn by Pamela Colman 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.

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