Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wisdom, Beauty and Images

To me, one of the benefits of appreciating different artist interpretations and using different decks is how this expands my ability to read with any deck. The sheer creativity and imagination displayed in many decks serves the purpose of deepening knowledge.

RWS (Rider Waite Smith, the most common, most familiar deck) was my first deck, and one that I still use, although there is another that I use most of the time. I also find it invaluable when teaching tarot. I lay out cards from RWS side by side with the same cards from other decks. This helps the person learn how the meanings can vary or expand and enlarges their ability to read.

A fascinating side note to this discussion. For many years, what many refer to as the standard tarot deck, was called the Rider Waite. Rider was the original printing company and Waite was the author who created the concept. Pamela Colman Smith was the artist who created the pictures for this revolutionary deck. What was revolutionary was that there was a picture on each of the 78 cards, where earlier decks only had picture cards for the major arcana and court cards. The minor arcana consisted of pips. Pips are the number cards in a playing card deck, where you have the numeral plus the suit sign. So the RWS deck made it easier for people to read and use. Many people have long felt that not having the artist's name on the deck was an oversight. This has been corrected with the new Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative set, issued for the 100th anniversary of the creation of this deck. it contains a book about the artist containing a large number of her non-tarot art, as she was a successful artist before creating the deck, the original text by Waite, and a reproduction of the original deck.

I always felt that some of what Waite wrote about in his book on the deck put unrealistic expectations on a reader. For example, for certain cards, he says that if you get this one, you will meet a blue eyed, blonde person, and if you get this one, you will meet a person with red hair and green eyes. This is far too limiting, so I disregarded comments such as this years ago.

Same thing for some of the obscure symbology he worked into the cards. In fairness, of course, other designers take pains to explain why certain images contain a blue butterfly or a yellow flower in the background, which may or may not be a factor in your interpretations.

Rather, I pay attention to the major focus on the cards. For example, the differences between the depiction of the Magician as a ceremonial one, versus a shamanic one or the older version, where he is more of a slight of hand magician. Or perhaps the differences between Judgment, karma or reconciliation.

Many people have sought out variations from the RWS because they are turned off by some of the Christian iconography such as the Devil, Pope and the Last Judgment, and choose decks that have changed those images. Of course, it is practical to acknowledge that such imagery was chosen because it was universally recognizable.

Comparative study is valuable in helping me to relate to the imagery in different ways and interpret cards for different readings and it enhances my ability with the RWS and other decks when I use them. Collecting decks appeals to both my taste for art and creativity and the pursuit of the wisdom encoded in symbols and stories.

I too, used to question myself about why I owned a number of decks rather than just one, but owning a number of decks is no different than a person owning several pieces of art.

So although I have one deck I use mostly, my appreciation and understanding of tarot in general has been enhanced and expanded by having more than one deck, including a variety of Lenormand types and oracle decks as well.

The beauty and imagination that various artists have employed in creating new tarot decks offer us insights and wisdom by viewing a concept from different angles and then there is the sheer aesthetic beauty that gives pleasure in the viewing and stimulates imagination, passion, creativity and the development of psychic and intuitive abilities.

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