The Tarot of Marseille
At the beginning of the 20th century, in excavations carried out in a well of the Sforza Castle in Milan, letters from the 15th century with the typical design of the Marseilles Tarot were found. This reinforced the old theory that the Tarot, the first and true, was born in Marseille.
Philippe Camoin, a descendant of one of the oldest Tarot printers of Marseille, and Alejandro Jodorowsky, the most internationally recognized tarot reader, argue that the sages of each religion preserved the sacred secrets of humanity in popular playing cards, before wars and confrontations destroy ancestral knowledge.
In this sense, Jodorowsky points out clearly Christian symbols (The Pope, The Judgment), references to the Jewish Kabbalah (the 10 buttons on the chest of The Hanged Man are assimilated to the 10 Sefirot of the Tree of Life) and to the traditional Muslim initiation, with 9 as the sacred number (the 9-point circle of the Ace of Cups). In this way, the secrets were hidden for years in broad daylight.
The Rider-Waite Tarot
«There is an explanation about the major arcana that can be obtained through the combination of the figures that belong to the highest order of Spiritual Truth; but it is not possible to communicate this explanation, since it lies inside the Sanctuary itself.
Each one must be able to find the higher meanings, manipulate the messages and modify their combination, so as to build an organic whole whose representation must be made with the mind.
Without the kaleidoscope of external things, the Quiet Light can arise within the mind, in that state of purity that is the Life of the Soul in God »
The Rider-Waite Tarot (published in 1910), has become over the years, one of the most popular decks of Tarot cards used for divination in the entire world.
It is also known as:
- Rider-Waite-Smith deck
- Waite-Smith deck
- Waite-Colman Smith deck
- Rider deck
- Waite deck
One of the main characteristics of the Raider-Waite deck is the simplicity of its images, which does not free them from being loaded with symbolism, a fact that facilitates the work of the oracle by exciting their imagination and intuition.
The attenuation of Christian iconography is especially noted in this Tarot deck.
Some clear examples are The Pope (Major Arcana V) who becomes the High Priest, or the Popess (Major Arcana II) who mutates into The Priestess.
This trend in the Rider-Waite deck is undoubtedly due to the influences of hermetic orders such as the Golden Dawn, to which Waite belonged, and which had great popularity in London at the beginning of the 20th century.
These orders, to which influential figures of London at the time belonged, permeated all the cultural and religious tendencies of society with mysticism and secrecy.
The person in charge of the pictorial work of these Tarot cards is the versatile English illustrator Pamela Colman Smith, who met Arthur Edward Waite in the Halls of the famous Golden Dawn mystical order.
Once they made contact, in such a propitious environment, Waite commissioned the illustrations for his vision of a new Tarot, and Pamela was in charge of creating them and endowing them with their special sensitivity and with the inspiration of the symbolism of the magician and occultist of the 19th century. Eliphas Levi, the rest is history….
One of the essential characteristics, and that make this Tarot deck different from the rest published to date, is the total remodeling of the minor arcana, which until then were limited to showing the number and the corresponding suit.
But from the creation of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, the minor arcana are endowed with explicit images, which try to reflect the divinatory and symbolic meaning of the card, facilitating even more if possible, the work of the tarot player and providing them with a magic and special meaning, in addition to the absolute aesthetic enjoyment that it represents for the fan of this art.
The deck was originally published in 1910, by publisher William Rider & Son, in London.
The first edition consisted of the 78 cards plus a small instruction book so that the neophyte in the art of the Tarot, could begin to start in it.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of Waite and Pamela Colman was the fact that they opened the art of Tarot to the world, taking it out of closed groups of initiates and giving it a more global and clarifying vision.
Since then, we can all enjoy and dream by delighting in the vision of the Rider-Waite Tarot cards.