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Lee  Lee is offline
Join Date: 18 Oct 2001
Location: USA
Posts: 4,815

Hi, Vincent --

First, I just want to say that I am not one of those who seeks to belittle Waite's contribution to his deck. I am not a fan of his writing style (he comes across as a pompous ass), but this doesn't change the fact that he was the guiding force behind the most important deck of the 20th century and the one which, in my opinion, is single-handedly responsible for the explosion in popularity of the tarot. I very much doubt we would be discussing tarot on a forum if not for the RWS deck.

Also, my speculations are just that, speculations. Although I've drawn my own conclusions, I'm not championing any particular viewpoint, and if anyone wants to try to convince me that another viewpoint is more true, I'd be delighted to listen.

That said, regarding examples of Waite's writing on the Minors which suggests to me that he didn't dictate what images Smith should use, here's one I found:

Seven of Swords: "Divinatory Meanings: Design, attempt, wish, hope, confidence; also quarrelling, a plan that may fail, annoyance. The design is uncertain in its import, because the significations are widely at variance with each other."

Vincent says "Sometimes people can see things that aren't there," and indeed, I had thought there were more examples but now I can't find any, so perhaps my argument is weaker than I first supposed. However, there are several examples where Waite offers opposite or unreconcilable meanings for the cards, or says that the card illustrates one set of meanings and then presents other meanings which the illustration obviously won't fit, which leads me to wonder why he directed Smith to illustrate the card one way (if indeed he did direct her that specifically) and then presented meanings in the book which the illustration doesn't relate to.

Vincent says, "There is also the question of whether Smith had the level of occult knowledge required, for this to be anything other than Waite's creation." I think this is definitely true with regard to the Majors. However, I don't think Smith would necessarily have had to have occult knowledge in order to come up with a series of images illustrating divinatory meanings handed to her for the Minors, if that is indeed how the process went.

Waite seems to me to be somewhat ambivalent about the Minors in general. On the one hand, he takes great pains to emphasize that the Minors have no significance beyond a use for fortune-telling. On the other hand, he writes the following sentence, which I think is the best sentence in the entire book:

"The mere numerical powers and bare words of the meanings are insufficient by themselves; but the pictures are like doors which open into unexpected chambers, or like a turn in the open road with a wide prospect beyond."

-- Lee
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