Introduction to Tarot

Pamela Colman Smith

Pamela Colman Smith
Pamela Colman Smith

This tutorial employs the 78-card deck used by Arthur Edward Waite in his book The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (1910), and first published by William Rider & Son, Ltd., they are often called the Rider Pack.

Miss Pamela Coleman Smith is the artist who designed these images for Arthur Edward Waite.

Pamela Coleman Smith was born in England on February 16, 1878. She spent much of her time in Jamaica and New York where she trained at the Pratt Institute which is a school for artists and creative professionals. She supported herself as an artist throughout her life. She died September 18, 1951, at the age of 73.

Almost everyone agrees that the modern playing cards have descended directly from the Mystic Tarot deck. The similarities between the two decks are too close to be coincidental.

The Tarot deck is divided into several parts or subsets of cards. The Minor Arcana consists of 56 cards divided equally between four suits – Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles which resemble today’s – Clubs, Hearts, Spades, and Diamonds respectively.

The remaining 22 cards make up the Major Arcana. These special cards depict symbolic figures, elements in nature, and the experiences of man in his spiritual journey.

Most people also accept the grouping of the higher-ranking cards from each suit into another subset called the Court Cards. These cards are the Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages. Although the Court Cards are not technically a separate subset of the tarot you will often hear them spoken of in this fashion because they hold special value in many situations.

There are many beliefs as to where the power to divine comes from. Some believe that it is in the cards themselves, others that a greater being offers us guidance as we look at the cards. The possible explanations are as numerous as the cards themselves.

No one can answer that question for you. Your ideas and life experiences will undoubtedly provide you with an answer to this question that follows your belief structure.

At the very least, studying the Tarot cards will help us to develop our own intuitive processes so that we can gain insight into the world around us.

Regardless of where you believe the power to divine comes from, it is your responsibility to always take care of your cards and treat your seeker with respect and honesty.

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