The REAL High Priestess of the Tarot
“A most imaginative and abnormally psychic artist.”
— Arthur Edward Waite, English Occultist, speaking of Pamela Colman Smith
You’ll often see me refer to the popular “Rider-Waite” Tarot deck. But who created those images?
Well, it was the real high priestess of the Tarot: Pamela Colman Smith.
Pamela Colman Smith was born in London in 1878 to American parents. At age 15, she enrolled at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and studied drawing, painting and printmaking. After her mother’s death when she was 18, Smith left Pratt without a degree. Nevertheless, she found work as illustrator, doing the art for books by poet William Butler Yeats and “Dracula” creator Bram Stoker.
At 21, orphaned by the death of her father, she returned to England. Here she set up her own studio in London and worked as an illustrator and in theatrical design.
In London she joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret society devoted to the occult, through which she met Arthur Edward Waite, a prolific writer on metaphysical topics.
Recognising her talents, Waite asked her to produce an artistic Tarot deck. Tarot decks had been invented in Italy in the 1400s by supplementing four-suited playing card decks with a fifth suit of 21 cards called “trionfi” (“triumphs” or “trumps”) and an odd card called “il matto” (“the Fool”).
Previous Tarot illustrations were simple in both colour and design. Smith’s imaginative new paintings showed the divination meaning of each card. And each card’s imagery was vibrant and exciting, displaying elements of French Symbolism and William Morris’s Arts and Crafts movement.
Her 78-card Tarot deck was printed in 1909 by William Rider & Son, and Waite wrote the companion volume, The Pictorial Key to the Tarot.
By the end of World War One, Smith had moved to Cornwall, where she lived until she died in 1951 aged 73. Her vision endures, and today her stunning artwork remains the best-selling Tarot deck of all time.
Want more information about Tarot cards and readings? I offer you single-card, three-card, and Celtic Cross ten-card readings at various price ranges, all via email or face-to-face across Zoom or Skype.
And, although the world is an uncertain place right now, if you’re planning a party – whether it’s an intimate get-together or a large-scale event, consider adding the excitement of Tarot readings. I’d love to chat with you, so to find out more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am the Weekend Witch, and I can’t wait to help you meet your destiny!