Friday, January 13, 2006

The Rider Waite Tarot Deck

The Rider Waite Tarot Deck Cover

Book: The Rider Waite Tarot Deck by Arthur Edward Waite

Things that are deeply touch people are the Things That survive the test of time and are well known. The Mona Lisa, for example, is considered a pivotal piece of art and is universally recognized, even though there are thousands of portraits that are both more realistic and completely finished. Somehow, this piece resonates with people in some way so that it's appeal and visceral attraction never fades.

The same is true of the Rider Deck. As noted in other reviews, there are quite literally hundreds of decks ranging from everything from baseball to vampires to dragons to unicorns. Many people collect Tarot cards, but most everyone starts here with the Rider Deck. Indeed, of the hundreds of books published on the Tarot, almost every book I've seen for the beginner to the advanced uses the Rider deck as an example. Most decks are based in the symbolism of the Rider deck as well and if they don't work as well, it's because they've glossed over the symbolism so pivotal in the Rider.

Why, then has the Rider not only survived but evolved to be an archetype of the tarot itself? I think because it speaks to us and it's the easiest to understand even at a quick glance. The symbolism is so strong that the beginner can easily remember what any given card represents (no mean feat when there are 72 cards to remember and read!) The symbolism is also so detailed and deep that the advanced caster is always able to find deeper meaning, make more and more connections between cards during a casting.

Drawn almost like an illuminated manuscript in solid colors with clear, black outlines before the age of airbrush or computer 3D rendering, there is something timeless about it that connects us to it's rich and deep history. It's not flashy or zippy, but yet it's imagery is everywhere if we choose to look for it (didn't Led Zepplin even put the tarot of The Hermit on one of their album covers??)

Today there are literally hundreds of tarot decks to choose from, most of which are artistically superior to this seemingly rudimentary little deck. And yet, those many decks, which use subtle colors, modern printing techniques and even computer imaging, fail to compete with it. Why? The Rider deck truly has a soul, and it's images shoot straight to the heart. People can often "intuitively" read this deck without any previous Experience With the tarot. If the point of art is to make you feel your humanity, this deck's art is truly amazing. For all it's coarse lines and flat colors, the deck somehow rises above itself, gracefully conveying all aspects of the human condition. The Rider deck is a perfect first and last deck. Pamela Coleman Smith's unique symbolism ranges from the simple to the truly arcane...It stirs the psyche and livens the soul. If you are in the market for a deck, my advice is to look not only with your eyes, but with your heart. The Rider deck is not as "glittery" as some of it's more modern counterparts, but in the long run it is a wonderful and rewarding tarot without equal.

While there's certainly nothing wrong with exploring other decks, the Rider-Waite is the perfect place for the beginner, ESPECIALLY because any good book on the tarot will use this very deck to explain the symbolism of the cards. Learn on the Rider, become proficient at it, then, if you like, branch out into something different like Egyptian Tarot or the Halloween tarot (my other favorite for it's playful holiday symbolism). Beginning with a different deck and working with it right away will not be as satisfying or as easy to understand as the Rider. Like great art, it's timeless because it resonates with us in deep and profound ways. It may not have been the first, but in many ways, it may well be the BEST. This is a wonderful deck for someone new to the Tarot and even for a person who is adept with the Tarot. I just wish I bought it earlier. Lovely deck that I highly recommend.

Buy Arthur Edward Waite's book: The Rider Waite Tarot Deck

Free eBooks (Can Be Downloaded):

Arthur Edward Waite - The Pictorial Key To The Tarot
Aleister Crowley - The World Of Tarot
Aleister Crowley - The Zodiac And The Tarot
Aleister Crowley - Thoth Tarot Deck