Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Commemorative Pamela Colman Smith Deck

Generally speaking I'm not a big Rider-Waite-Smith fan, but history is important, and any serious Tarot student should be familiar with the classic decks, and perhaps own a copy or version of each. I never cared for the offensive shade of yellow (or even really the artistic style) predominant in this deck. Early on I ordered the Radiant Rider Waite version - the colors are bright and soft, the sickly, lemon yellow transformed to a far richer, deeper hue that is more pleasant to the eye.

Alas I ended up giving my Radiant Rider Waite away (I never read with it and didn't care much for it), and when the Commemorative Pamela Colman Smith deck was released by U.S. Games, I knew that was the only RWS deck I really wanted to have. Some dislike the artificial aging (where they slightly brown the shading on the cards) but I prefer it, aesthetically. The muted colors make for a deck that I might actually use for readings!  It's been quite a while, but I finally made the move to purchase it - and I'm pretty excited.

I found an amazing deal on the kit from an online discount book seller, and the package arrived yesterday. It came in a lovely, sturdy box that unfolds from the center. Each half contains special treasures - the right holds the deck itself along with an organza bag (does anyone ever actually use those??) and to the left lies the Pictorial Key to the Tarot, by Arthur E. Waite, a booklet about the art of Pamela Colman, along with several pictures and postcards. I did have the sense that I had uncovered a wonderful divination jackpot! And I really enjoy reading Waite's own words, seeing how he organized the Majors (with the Fool falling between Judgment and the World - not at the beginning). I laughed out loud when I read his lines, under "Strength - Fortitude:" "For reasons which satisfy myself, this card has been interchanged with that of justice, which is usually numbered eight. As the variation carries nothing with it which will signify to the reader, there is no cause for explanation." I realize that the Golden Dawn was an occult society, but this still struck me as rather pompous.

The cards themselves are made of sturdy stock, quite similar to that of the Halloween Tarot (also by U.S. Games). It makes for easy handling - thick, but not too rigid for a decent round of shuffling. My only complaint about the images are the pixelation of the illustrations and coloring. If I look carefully at the cards I can see the fine dots that make up the art, and I don't love that. But all in all, I'm really pleased with it, and it's an excellent addition to my collection.

(And I do get some pleasure in seeing a spread made up of these classic cards.)


  1. Hi Olivia. Who knows you will fall for this deck and be totally enamored by it :)
    it sure does look like a great set.
    For me personally The Rider Waite is my first love and will always have a special place in my heart. It is kind of an safe haven for me to go back to after I have been reading with all kind of different decks.

    1. You just might be right, Ellen!! I do really like this deck, far more than I thought I would. It's sturdy, smooth, and obviously easy to read with ;-). This is a great set, I'm happy I have it!

  2. I have this kit, too. I hope you like it! I can't decide if it's my favourite RWS deck. I own several. As you say, the brownish colours put some people off. Some days I love them, some days I don't. And like you, I gave away my Radiant Rider and now wish I hadn't! :D

    1. Hey Carla! That's funny that you also gave your Radiant away! So I would say that so far this version (the Commemorative) is still my favorite. The thing is, I just don't read with the RWS often. But I really love having this in my collection, and I love how iconic the images are :)