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katyanne  katyanne is offline
Join Date: 22 Apr 2017
Location: Mississippi USA
Posts: 110

See I could see owning a set of RWS to study them maybe. But they definitely don't speak to me and I definitely don't like them, but sometimes we need to study things we don't like. That's why I asked the question, to get different perspectives.
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ldiddy  ldiddy is offline
Join Date: 05 Apr 2015
Location: Texas USA
Posts: 235

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When I first started, I did buy the off-the-shelf cheapo plastic, horribly colored RWS deck. I thought the Tarot of Vampires and Light Gray tarot were going to be much more my speed and style. A couple of years later, the RWS is my primary reading and study deck.

One reason I like it (and investing my time into learning it) is that in the rare instances I do read for other people, if I give them a choice of deck, they almost always choose the RWS. When the average person thinks "Tarot" they think of and picture the RWS deck.
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katyanne  katyanne is offline
Join Date: 22 Apr 2017
Location: Mississippi USA
Posts: 110

Originally Posted by ldiddy View Post
When I first started, I did buy the off-the-shelf cheapo plastic, horribly colored RWS deck. I thought the Tarot of Vampires and Light Gray tarot were going to be much more my speed and style. A couple of years later, the RWS is my primary reading and study deck.

One reason I like it (and investing my time into learning it) is that in the rare instances I do read for other people, if I give them a choice of deck, they almost always choose the RWS. When the average person thinks "Tarot" they think of and picture the RWS deck.
It just doesn't speak to me one bit and it's so incredibly ugly that I don't know if I can do it. (Pay good money for ugly art, I mean).
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Nemia  Nemia is offline
Join Date: 29 Sep 2013
Location: End of Nowhere
Posts: 2,492

I read tarot for many years without RWS and it took a long time (and the commemorative edition with the very good book) until I could appreciate Smith's art.

IMO Pamela Smith's art is not ugly but her deck didn't speak to me at all for many years. I still prefer Thoth and Thoth-style decks, and the literature about it may be less abundant but that's not a bad thing in my book.

I regret the RWS monoculture and wouldn't like to contribute to it by recommending you buy a deck that you don't like. You can learn the RWS tradition (it's only one amongst many and in no way superior to others, only better-known) just as well, if you're interested in doing so, by using an RWS based deck like the Golden or Morgan Greer.
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ayuryogini  ayuryogini is offline
Join Date: 13 Dec 2016
Location: CA USA
Posts: 105

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Originally Posted by Le Fanu View Post
I shall go against the grain here.
Some people just want to be intuitive readers and are not interested in tarot knowledge - but your tarot knowledge will be incomplete, like it or not. That doesn't make someone a worse reader. For me, a familiarity with the RWS in the context of tarot is like Shakespeare in the context of literature. You can still read books but your knowledge of literature will be incomplete because Shakespeare - like the RWS in tarot - is such a towering figure.........
I think this is a really good point; it probably depends upon what you want to do with Tarot, but at some point, lineage matters.

If it doesn't now, don't worry about it, but I suspect it will eventually, and when it does, you can pick up a RWS deck; maybe you'll like it by then.
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Spiffo  Spiffo is offline
Join Date: 23 Jan 2013
Location: Australia
Posts: 313

I totally agree with the sentiment that the RWS is an important deck (although arguably only in the English speaking world). Most books, lessons, discussions, the good and the mediocre, use it as the basic deck. And that it certainly is, a good common work horse of a deck.

I hope I'm not straying off-topic too much; but this thread got me wondering why there is a veritable avalanche of clone decks, with a new one being released seemingly each day, a proliferation of RWS-clones, homages, post-modern reinterpretations, Everyman & Everywoman's attempt to do 'their-own' version, and so on?

And goodness me, the vast majority of decks that proclaim their originality are just the RWS gussied-up, dressed-down, punked, pimped, cgi'd to death, or fiddled with to dress-up one particular style of deck.

I mean that's what RWS is, one style of deck, of many, no more or less deserving of appreciation. But ...

The RWS grew out of one School of Mysticism, and there are others. I often grin when people proclaim the almost insurmountable task of reconciling RWS and Thoth; goodness they both grew out of the Golden Dawn and have far more in common than not, idiosyncrasies of their respective author and artist aside.

It could be that there is a quid to be made in selling, and publishers are just playing too, or satisfying, creating, a demand.

It could be that the lowest common denominator comes into play and, a universal work horse deck, really does meet most people's needs.

Or is real originality and an inspired vision something so rare that, with occasional exceptions, most decks are just a rehash of something done 100 odd years ago?

Personally I tend to think it's a combination of factors; not least of which is, that most contemporary decks, especially RWS clones, are so bloody awful, and woohoo-defective, that 'we' are forever searching for our perfect deck, or the best deck, or the deck that works, and just keep buying in hope.

(I'm going with the idea that all discussion is good, and may have played Devil's Advocate.)

You don't have to buy and use an RWS to somehow be a complete tarot reader. If you're concerned with its import, read a good book about the deck, a biography, some history, whatever.

If the RWS is so worthy of study, then it could be argued the other 'bigges' should be studied as assiduously. Therefore, study Thoth, TdM, Visconti, the European variations, the Spanish decks, or at the very least take a look at the real foundation, of the RWS, which is the Golden Dawn. Even a cat in a velvet doublet, holding a key, can only be but satiated with study, or maybe not, look mouse.
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Darytessekhmet  Darytessekhmet is offline
Join Date: 26 Aug 2011
Location: Indiana, USA
Posts: 44

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I figure you should buy a deck you like and speaks to you. I didn't like the RWS deck when I first started many years ago. I thought it ugly too. But after learning more and more about it, I was surprised at the depth of knowledge contained in it and I fell in love. Now I have many versions of it and I have many clones too. But I keep going back to my Riders. And not all versions of the Rider Waite have bad coloring. I particularly like the Samuel Weiser edition. Maybe one day you will come to like it. Or not. Just sharing my experience with it.
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Nepenthes  Nepenthes is offline
Join Date: 23 Apr 2017
Location: Germany (US)
Posts: 11


I definitely feel that if the visual elements are not appealing that you may find that there are versions that can meet many elements of the original symbolism while having a perceived higher level of quality to them. What come to mind immediately is the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot by UUSI. While a bit pricey to some, the first set I ordered was as a gift - so was the second - and the third I'll keep even though I'm not learning RWS or derivatives.

The radiant version is a retouch of the original and may be a big improvement to many but from what I've perceived it wouldn't make the cut for you based on what you have written - same basic artwork.

If you like the examples of the Pagan Otherworlds I can vouch for the quality of card stock, packaging and feel of this RWS derivative.

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Gwynydd  Gwynydd is offline
Join Date: 20 Feb 2016
Location: Australia.
Posts: 381

I don't like to dictate what others do with their tarot practice, and I honestly think if what you're doing works for you and you're happy with it, then go for it!

Here's what has happened for me, and how it's shaped my own practice. Of course, it's different for everyone

My first deck was the Wildwood. It's a magnificent deck, but it was a bad choice for me as a beginner. I connected to it somewhat, but I knew I was missing the basics, and I realised I personally needed to learn the foundations of tarot first. I bought the book, Tarot 101 and a pocket Morgan Greer deck, after doing some research on good decks and books for beginners.

I studied the book alongside the Morgan Greer. It was great, except for me, because the images are more 'zoomed in' than the original rider waite smith deck, I began to struggle a little after a few months. In my book, a lot of symbolism was mentioned that was missing on my Morgan Greer. It mattered to me, that I wanted to see that symbolism in action, to help with my understanding.

I really didn't like the rider waite smith artwork at first. But, I decided/knew I personally need at least one copy of that deck, even just for use as a study deck. I got the centennial tarot commemorative set. The colouring of that version really hit me in the guts! It's just so beautiful, I could not stop raving about it.

It really helped me to see the symbolism in action, just as I wanted it to. An unexpected bonus was the book that came in the set, talking about Pamela Colman Smith, the artist. I looked at her other beautiful artworks, I read her story, and came to have a new, huge respect and love for her artwork on the rider waite smith deck. I came to understand why those images can be not so aesthetically pleasing at first.

Now I have a bit of a foundation behind me with the rider waite smith, I find the Wildwood easier to read, and the Morgan Greer is a dream for me. It's been hugely necessary for me personally to study on a rider waite smith deck, and funnily, now I have multiple rider waite smith decks, and am planning to get more, including vintage ones! I feel very privileged to have had my mind opened to loving her artwork, and I honestly never thought I would even like it. I love that I see it differently now.
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cynthea  cynthea is offline
Join Date: 15 Jan 2016
Location: Oregon USA
Posts: 27
21st C idea ? cards are supposed to speak to you?

Originally Posted by katyanne View Post
I don't own a Rider-Waite deck and don't want to. Is that a bad thing? Someone told me everyone should own one of those but I really don't like them at all. I thought the cards were supposed to speak to you in some way.

I always saw the RWS, which I equated with Tarot, as having strange, magical mysterious symbols which made me curious and interested. I never asked if I preferred this art etc, or did I "connect". I just thought of learning all the mysterious symbolic meanings, and the strangeness was part of the curiosity and mystery.

I love the RWS and feel it is very important to learn and understand, but that is just me If all I had seen was the new edition now being sold, I would probably not like it either. I do love the Universal Waite edition, but imho the Centennial cannot compare to the older RWS editions. For me, the older editions are essential!

I think this is a new idea: "I thought the cards were supposed to speak to you in some way."

I have been thinking a lot about this. Do you think readers in the 1600's, 1700's, 1800's asked if their Marseille Tarot deck spoke to them lol? Yes, there are different editions, but I think aesthetics had less to do with making a new edition than meaning/interpretation. I have been wondering how our social/cultural influences, such as capitalism and materialism, may have influenced this, as we all salivate over the next new deck. It has been ingrained in us that we always need something else, something more, by advertisers and companies just trying to make money. Sometimes as consumers we forget this, and do not reflect on these urges to buy. This is not a criticism I have been on an eBay buying spree for 2-3 months, constantly checking, a bit obsessed but lessening? now that I have many decks I wanted. Just received my first Thoth deck. I could not resist newer vintage deck for great price ($37.00 total also included mini RWS, 2 pendulums in bag and another bag)

I think the new Rider decks have garish, gaudy colors especially the "yellow" which is more of an orange yellow. My first deck (10 years ago I finally opened my husbands deck, packed away for 20 yrs of marriage! I can't believe I was never curious to open it) just happened to be serendipitously, a Blushing Fool RWS pre-copyright edition, w/soft colors and better cardstock- matt - papery feel. (I had no idea it was rare and special for months!) You can still find a regular vintage edition (not blushing Fool) on Ebay for 30-40$ (watch closely many are over priced etc). The NY editions (address on LWB) Park Ave has no copyright, and E.32nd St, has copyright, but still soft colors and same or nearly same cardstock. I just scooped up one (Park Ave/no copyright edition) -buy it now for 24.99 !! I could not resist at that price! Rare but it does happen:

EVERYTHING on the RWS cards have a meaning and reason/purpose for being on each card; every object, colors, background/no background etc. The color/objects are not there just for looks As I learn about all the symbolic meanings including flowers/birds etc it helps me understand and Remember the card meanings. If you use decks with the RWS style, you will discover how much is often left out by other card creators, as if all they need is to put people in the same situation! There is so much more that is often left out that I feel is important ie 6 of Swords- the water proximal (close up- usually on right) is choppy w/ waves and on left and in distance is smooth water. It bugs the hell out of me- pet peeve-rant, when there is no difference. This is just one example, where everyone includes the boat & people (main image), but miss the details and do not substitute with other symbols (I find substitutions creative & delightful).

I am in the process of learning and collating many sources ie numerology & elemental meanings, Marseille developmental changes/meanings, RWS meanings, Thoth meanings and astrological & kabbalah meanings. It seems like a lot, but most have similar reinforcing meanings. I thought at first I would first learn RWS, which I have been doing for past 1-2 years casually, and do not know all cards yet. I thought I needed to learn one system at a time ,but now that I have been reading tons on history, and have some pip style decks that review numerology, and so many different decks, I want to put it all together rather than compartmentalize which as a newbie, I thought was the way to learn from what i have heard some say. I was under the impression I should first learn RWS, then add on either Marseille or Thoth etc. I am in the process, so I can't say which is better, but I am finding many similar meanings, versus having to learn all different meanings. All the LWB's (BP Grimaud Marseille, Thoth, RWS) seem to have unusual card descriptions/keywords compared to modern day interpretations/explanations I read in books and online.... I am the type person that has to understand everything about a subject, so it took me this much time to learn about the religious, social, cultural, art influences over the centuries when Tarot started and developed, the changes when individuals adding occult meanings etc. I now have a better understanding and it is starting to come together.

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