Original Rider-Waite Tarot

June 15, 2009

The Rider-Waite Tarot deck is probably the most popular tarot deck in use today in the United States. It was first published in 1910 by Rider & Company, a London publisher. Arthur Edward Waite designed the deck in collaboration with Pamela Colman Smith, an American artist. Waite was a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, an occult society of the time. Waite considered symbolism of prime importance, so the cards of the Rider-Waite deck were created to communicate esoteric principles through symbols. Waite describes his interpretations in his book The Key to the Tarot, sometimes published with pictures as The Pictorial Key to the Tarot.

Waite made several changes from the tarot deck traditions of the time when he designed his deck. He switched the Strength and Justice cards so that Strength became card 8 and Justice card 11. Waite swapped the placement of Strength and Justice, without historical precedent, in order to make a better fit with the astrological correspondences he used. He and Smith also created full pictorial scenes for the minor arcana numbered suit cards. Before this time, these cards usually showed only the suit symbols as in the Tarot of Marseilles.

Described by publisher U.S. Games Systems as a facsimile edition of the RWS deck whose original plates were destroyed during the bombings of London in WW2, this edition of Waite and Smith’s famous tarot has more muted colors than other USG Rider-Waite printings, and includes the tudor rose back design. Packaged with Waite’s original Pictorial Key to the Tarot book.


Often recommended as the best ‘beginner’s deck,’ the Rider-Waite enjoys tremendous popularity among tarot readers of all experience levels. Editions of the Rider-Waite deck exist in numerous languages, and its images have been reprinted in altered and enhanced forms many times.


Pre-U.S. Games edition of the Rider-Waite deck. Basically the same as your standard USG edition, except perhaps for slightly deeper coloration. The card backs are pink-and-white striped, with the Albano-Waite ankh symbol in the center.


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