Have you ever wondered who is behind the deck cards of Tarot that you know today? Today we want to delve into the culture and history of the Tarot and in this article we intend to pay tribute to Pamela Colman Smith, the renowned illustrator behind what is known as «the modern Tarot».
The notoriety that the Tarot deck has achieved in popular culture is due, among other things, to the illustrations by Pamela Colman Smith, also known as Pixie. Colman illustrated the Tarot cards in a way that were easy to interpret and were adapted to the 20th century. Her work was so effective that today we identify the Tarot directly with his illustrations and is the main deck used to learn how to interpret Tarot cards.. The symbolism added to each card makes it more pedagogical .
Who is behind the Rider-Waite Tarot?
The Tarot Rider, was created by Edward Waite, and by the pioneering illustrator Pamela Colman. Born in London, Pamela Colman spent her childhood in Jamaica where she learned about the occult and the local traditions. Her fascination with mystery lasted until she moved to New York where she joined a secret order (Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) and met the artist Arthur Eduard Waite. Waite commissioned her to design a new Tarot deck that was adapted to the 20th century and where the cards were easy to interpret. Together they revolutionized the world of Tarot with their deck Rider – Waite. Waite laid the theoretical foundation with his profound knowledge of Tarot and Colman the illustration.
Pamela Colman, the pioneer artist of modern Tarot
So far, only the 22 major arcana (the most important) were represented with images of people, landscapes, objects and situations that favored their interpretation. The rest of the arcana were represented in a more abstract way and this made them difficult to interpret and connect to. Thanks to the designs of Colman Smith the minor arcana went from being abstract cards with numbers to cards charged with emotion and feeling. For example, until now the VI of Cups was only represented by six cups. This made learning and interpreting them more complicated. However, Pamela Colman in the Rider-Waite Tarot represented the VI of Cups through an illustration that allows you to connect immediately with the meaning and interpretation of the card.
The 56 cards of the Minor Arcana are numbered and are divided into four suits (hence the Spanish deck): wands, cups, pentacles and swords. Prior to Pamela Colman’s contribution, the only example of a fully illustrated Minor Arcana was found in one of the oldest surviving Tarot decks, the Sola Busca. This deck dates from the early 1490s and it appears that Pamela Colman was inspired by it to illustrate some of the Minor Arcana.
The influence of Colman Smith is still present 100 years later and on a day like today we want to pay tribute to the artist that established the basis for the modern Tarot .
The Rider-Waite Tarot waspublished by the editorial Rider and Sons, and that is why it is known by this name. Its use and popularity has been of such magnitude that today it competes with the Marseille Tarot. In fact, such is its popularity that the Rider-Waite deck is known as the Universal Tarot