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Pamela Colman Smith never became well-known as an artist and, without the Tarot deck she illustrated, she may have fallen into total obscurity. Stuart Kaplan, president of U.S. Games, Inc. says he could have made her a millionaire.

The only comment from Pixie Smith about the creation of the tarot deck was in a letter to her mentor Alfred Stieglitz (click on the letter to see a larger version).

You can see much of the artwork of Pamela Colman Smith at these sites (thanks especially to Roppo and Holly Voley for their efforts to make Pixie’s work available to the rest of us):

• All the card images from Holly Voley’s first edition deck (“Pamela A”) and from The Pictorial Key to the Tarot at the Sacred Texts site

• Roppo’s The Works of Pamela Colman Smith – page 1

• Roppo’s The Works of Pamela Colman Smith – page 2

A Portrait of William Butler Yeats by PCS

A Broad Sheet

The Shakespeare’s Heroines Poster

A Variety of Works by Pamela Colman Smith from Holly Voley’s site

Including my own copy of her book Chim-Chim: Folk Stories from Jamaica

• Susan and the Mermaid, an illustrated children’s story by PCS, republished by Corinne Kenner

Tales for Philip and Peter, illustrated by PCS

The Pamela Colman Smith Collection at Bryn Mawr

Paintings at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library – search on Pamela+Smith, and while you are there, see their collection of 15th century Tarot cards by searching on Tarot.

• K. Frank Jensen’s Waite-Smith Tarot Research

• Here’s an outstanding website by Phil Norfleet devoted to PCS with a lot of biographical information not found anywhere else.

“‘We Disgruntled Devils Don’t Please Anybody’: Pamela Colman Smith, The Green Sheaf, and Female Literary Networks” article by Elizabeth Foley O’Connor in the South Carolina Review.

• See Pixie’s artwork archived at Ellen Terry’s home, Smallhythe – here.

Articles by and about PCS can be found by searching The Craftsmanhere (search on her name).

• Pamela Colman Smith & “De Six Poach Eggs” (story)

• Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot by Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin.

Video by the Japanese collector of the works of Pamela Colman Smith, Roppo (see links above):

Correction to video: I don’t know of any evidence that suggests that PCS was adopted by her parents. However, she did become the foster daughter of the great actress, Ellen Terry.

See my post on Pixie’s instructions for reading the cards here. Let me know if I’ve missed anything and I’ll add it to the above list.


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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