Many moons ago I studied A-level English literature, among the texts I studied were Chaucer, Waiting for Godot & Macbeth.
Recently I was asked to write about why my thoughts on the Rider-Waite deck compared to Marseilles & Thoth- and here are my thoughts.
The Marseilles tarot reminds me of Chaucer. Beautiful, clever, wonderful- it just doesn’t translate well into my experience. It feels out of step with my experiences, one step removed if you like.
If I am researching a Tarot card I ALWAYS compare it to the Marseille Tarot to help me understand the card, and this has been hugely helpful to me. Looking at the similarities & differences between a Rider-Waite card and Marseille card is a great learning
experience and has added new insights for me to many cards (especially The Lovers).
I can appreciate how great a deck it is, I do on occasion read with it for myself. But like Chaucer- It feels as if I am translating an older text. It takes me longer to read with Marseilles (which can be useful) but it just doesn’t resonate with me.
Thoth reminds me of Waiting for Godot. I can appreciate its brilliance, I just don’t particularly like it.
Again- for research purposes I always check in not only with Thoth, but with Crowley’s thoughts on the card. His brilliance is undeniable.
I just can’t lose myself in the deck, it isn’t to my taste, even though I can use it & recognise what a wonderful deck it is.
Personal taste is very important in books & tarot, finding a deck you LOVE.
I am quite able to appreciate what a wonderful deck it is, I have read with it at times and as expected it was pointedly accurate.
BUT if I was stranded on a desert island I would not choose Waiting for Godot, and if I am to spend hours each day looking at cards I do not choose Thoth.
(Curiously Waiting for Godot inspired one of my favourite comedy shows- “Bottom”. )
Now, Rider-Waite to me is like MacBeth. I don’t need to translate anything, it just makes sense. This deck’s images speaks my language. It reflects my cultural heritage. I understand it, I love it, I can read the images effortlessly, yet I always find something new.
It feels modern yet timeless, simple yet complicated, and I love the imagery- the colours, the way the cards seem like theatre stages frozen in the moment.
Each image seems to be a window to a new world, somewhere I can stare into and understand what happened before, what is happening now, what could happen.
The deck mirrors every experience possible to human-kind, as I’m sure the other two decks do, it’s just that with Rider-Waite I can read the story effortlessly.
I never tire of Rider-Waite, as I never tire of a much loved book, or indeed watching a great Shakespeare play.
Rider-Waite transports me without thinking to another way of being.
It is important to note I feel Rider-Waite reflects my identity & cultural heritage. I love the English countryside, Shakespeare, theatre & stories of mediaeval times.
I do think all three decks are the “heavy weights” of the Tarot world, though I’m sure you will choose to add your own to this list (I would add DruidCraft, Wildwood & Mary El)
What matters is finding a deck that you love, and you feel speaks to you. Reflecting who you are, speaking your language.
I do think all three decks are wonderful decks, it’s just that I am head over heels in love with Rider-Waite, and I if I am going to spend hours upon hours each week with a deck- it needs to be one I love. (worth noting- I read with the Smith-Waite Centenary deck)