The Rider-Waite Tarot deck was published in 1909 and named for its mystical co-creator, Arthur Edward Waite. Waite was a British poet who was very involved in all things esoteric and occult, including Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, Kabbalism, and alchemy. Waite was especially drawn to divination and ceremonial magic and his deck, with illustrations by American artist Pamela Colman Smith, a member of the Golden Dawn herself, was the first Tarot deck to fully illustrate all of the cards, adding detailed pictorials to the minor arcana cards. This deck features a lot of strong primary colors -- yellow, red, and blue, along with black and white.
Waite published a companion book to articulate the symbolism in his deck: “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot.” While the book goes into great detail about each of the 78 cards and provides suggestions for throwing spreads, in the introduction to his chapter on “The Art of Tarot Divination,” when addressing how one should consult the oracular Tarot cards, Waite writes:
“The modes of operation are rather numerous, and some of them are exceedingly involved. I set aside those last mentioned, because persons who are versed in such questions believe that the way of simplicity is the way of truth.”
Waite follows that admonition with an outline of the classic Celtic Cross Tarot spread and reminds us that, “The value of intuitive and clairvoyant faculties is of course assumed in divination.” He maintains that for a gifted and intuitive Tarot card reader, an accurate and empowering interpretation of the spread will be simple.
Arthur Edward Waite’s deck has become the most popular, widely circulated, and widely recognized Tarot deck in the world and is a favorite tool for many Tarot card readers.