What does the Tarot have to do with the study of the paranormal in the Victorian age?

Another way of asking this question is:
Why devote one out of every five posts on a blog about the paranormal of the Victorians to the tarot?

The simple answer is that the tarot as we know it today was developed in the Victorian age. I have said it before and will say it again, if you have an interest in the occult or in the paranormal much of what you believe or think you know about these subjects is traceable to the Victorian period.

Before the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot the minor arcana were not illustrated.
Some “purists” even today prefer tarot decks the way they were before Rider-Waite-Smith but I personally gaze into the images and let the images speak to me about my sitter – that is my technique and it would not be possible without the Victorian innovation of Rider-Waite-Smith.

The flowing quotes are from Wikipedia accessed Wednesday, April 02, 2014.

‘The cards were drawn by illustrator Pamela Colman Smith from the instructions of academic and mystic A. E. Waite, and published by the Rider Company.”


Pamela Colman Smith

Many tarot historians believe that Pamela Colman Smith contributed more to the deck than she is given credit for. In any case, it is her art that has inspired tarot interpretations for the last 104 years.

“While the images are deceptively simple, almost childlike, the details and backgrounds hold a wealth of symbolism. Some imagery remains close to that found in earlier decks, but overall the Waite-Smith card designs represent a substantial departure from their predecessors. Among other changes, Waite had the Christian imagery of most older tarot decks’ cards toned down—the “Pope” card became the “Hierophant”, the “Papess” became the “High Priestess”.

“The Minor Arcana are illustrated with detailed scenes and images by Smith, again a departure from many earlier decks with much simpler designs for the Minor Arcana but aligning this deck with, for example, the Sola Busca Tarot. The symbols used were influenced by the 19th century magician and occultist Eliphas Levi.

“The cards were originally published in 1910 by the publisher William Rider & Son of London. The following year, a small guide by A.E. Waite entitled The Key to the Tarot was bundled with the cards, providing an overview of the traditions and history behind the cards, criticism of various interpretations, and extensive descriptions of their symbols. The year after that, a revised version, Pictorial Key to the Tarot, was issued that featured black-and-white plates of all seventy-eight of Smith’s cards.”

The deck went into the public domain in 2012 which is why I use the images of the Rider-Waite-Smith on this blog. My favorite deck and the one I most use in the Hanson-Roberts. The Hanson-Roberts remains faithful to the Rider-Waite-Smith but the colors and art appeals to me more than any other deck I have used or seen.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot was a major turning point in the history if the tarot and of the occult. The deck was born in the Victorian age and it continues to influence the way the cards are read and interpreted to this day.

I hope this short piece explains why I felt the tarot should be included in the subject matter or Vintage Paranormal.

Much love,

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 at 12:42 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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