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Pamela Colman Smith (also known as Pixie), artist of the Rider-Waite (Smith) Tarot deck, wrote nothing about the deck she created except in a letter to her mentor, Alfred Stieglitz, “I just finished a big job for very little cash!” She did tell us, however, in an article called “Should the Art Student Think?,” what must have been her own approach to reading the cards. This is the core of my own reading style.

“Note the dress, the type of face; see if you can trace the character in the face; note the pose. . . . First watch the simple forms of joy, of fear, of sorrow; look at the position taken by the whole body. . . . After you have found how to tell a simple story, put in more details. . . . Learn from everything, see everything, and above all feel everything! . . . Find eyes within, look for the door into the unknown country.”*

Essentially, she’s suggesting the following steps:

  • Describe the card literally.
  • Describe what seem to be the emotions, style and attitudes of the people on the card.
  • Physically embody the card—act it out.
  • Make up a story about what’s happening and turn it into a first person account (so you are feeling everything yourself).
  • In your mind’s eye, step over the border of the card (through the door).
  • Enter into that world, seeing beyond the borders to things you never knew were there.

In my opinion, this is the best way to discover what these cards mean for you in any situation.

*“Should the Art Student Think?” by Pamela Colman Smith in The Craftsman 14:4 (July 1908), pp. 417-19. Read the article here. See also my post on the Art of Pamela Colman Smith.

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Mary K. Greer has made tarot her life work. Check here for reports of goings-on in the world of tarot and cartomancy, articles on the history and practice of tarot, and materials on other cartomancy decks. Sorry, I no longer write reviews. Contact me HERE.

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