Don't even get me started on the, literally, hundereds of articles and websites that I have read that the first statement I read is "okay, so go and get your rider-waite deck." I've actually read a fair few that skipped that step, they just assume that you already possess a Rider-Waite deck. Guys, I understand the historical and cultural influence that the Rider-Waite (also knows as the Waite-Smith, from now on I'll refer to it as just the RWS) has had on tarot, especially its use as a spiritual guide and not just a card game to past the time. If you take just one thing away from this article, take away that the RWS was historically important, and that it's NOT required as your first deck. (I know, I said one thing, but I had to add both of them, plus you wouldn't walk out on this post this early on me now, right?)
Let me start on the historical significance. This book brought the study of tarot back out into the light, after quite a long time in the dark. Hell, it did better, it actually added innumerable amounts of information to the community at large.
Don't stop me, I'm on my soap box! What, you want to know what some beautiful artwork and a little white book (or LWB, for future reference) did to add to the wealth of information to the study of the tarot? Let me answer your question with a question (which is naturally my favorite thing to do); how many books on the tarot have you read before major study of the RWS began? Probably very few, and that's okay, there aren't many, but these books trained their focus almost 100% on the major arcana (the trumps, the first set of 22 cards) and the court cards (these would be the aces, the kings, the queens, the knights and the pages, as well as sometimes the aces). The pips (every card I haven't mentioned yet, things like the three of swords, or the seven of pentacles)? They were largely thought of as cards that just explained the major arcana in some way, the pips were seen as secondary and therefor, less important.
Look at any deck before the RWS (the "de Marseilles" being the easiest to find). Now look at all the major decks, post-RWS. Did you notice something different about the pips? The de Marseilles ("Mar-say" not "mar-sells." I know, it's a dirty foreign word, you can't expect it to make any sense) decks, and other decks of that era left the pips alone. They just drew three swords, and called it the three of swords, no biggie. When the RWS came along, they actually created an illustration on the pips. These illustrations now brought the pips, and ultimately the rest of the minor arcana, up to the same status and position of major arcana.
Alright, now I've looked at what I've written, and realized that I'm muuuch too wordy for a simple deck review. I think I'm going to cut our conversation about the pips off at this point, before your head totally explodes. At some later date, I plan to do a post getting more into detail of the historical significance.
Now on to my next point, that the RWS is NOT where you have to start. I'm not contradicting myself, I promise! Just because this deck changed the face of the Tarot as we know it, does not mean that you need to use it as a training wheel to get into another deck. When you were learning to drive, did you start off learning how to ride a horse? For some people, learning horse riding as a prerequisite to learning to drive a car is a huge asset. For some it may not, maybe they just want to get behind the wheel of their Lexus and go.
There have been lengthy tomes of information about how to choose your first deck. I understand, I was a beginner not too long ago, the world of the Tarot is really intimidating! The most important factor in choosing a deck (similar to choosing a mode of transportation) is making sure that the deck works for you I cannot stress that enough. Find something that works for you. Something that makes you happy. You will understand what I'm talking about as soon as you pick "the one" up. It'll fit just right in your hands, and as you flick through the cards, particular ones will jump out and you'll just know that everytime you touch this work of art, that you'll feel complete.
So, to basically wrap up on this post, find what works for you and you know will make YOU a better Tarot reader. If that's the RWS, wonderful, if not, that's wonderful too.
Now for a little "this and that." I've been trying to set aside time for myself to work on posts, which means that it's very important for me to get feedback from you all. If you have something to say, you're curious about something, or you just want some help in this big world of the tarot, drop me a line at my email address, okay?
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