(Poem) Honouring Artist Pamela Colman-Smith by Andrea Nicki

Wikimedia Commons

She illustrated the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck,

the world’s most popular tarot deck.

Rider was the company that produced it,

Waite was her collaborator. She received no money

from the sales and died penniless while Waite became

rich and famous. I wonder about the tarot readings

she did for herself. Did she pull the Three of Pentacles,

the card about money from teamwork and shared ventures,

and hope for a fair portion for her labour?

Did she pick the Fool, the card with a dreamy-looking artist

standing near the edge of a cliff, and worry about

being taken advantage of? And what about the Ten of Swords,

about someone waking from a bad dream?

Her romantic partnerships are unclear and she never married.

Perhaps her fingers steered away from the Ten of Cups,

the card of marriage and children, knowing that these

could leave little room for art. She probably picked

the High Priestess, seeking spiritual enlightenment,

and the Moon, howling at convention. She made a

poster in support of women’s suffrage, and must have felt

at home with the Empress and the Three of Cups–

women toasting each other in mutual appreciation.


Meet Mago Contributor Andrea Nicki


Note: I learned about Pamela-Colman-Smith from reading a blog article by Beth Maiden which celebrates her life and amazing mystical art: https://www.autostraddle.com/fools-journey-the-fascinating-life-of-pamela-colman-smith-267673/.


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4 Comments on "(Poem) Honouring Artist Pamela Colman-Smith by Andrea Nicki"

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Wow, I had no idea that the tarot deck was create by a woman and yet this doesn’t surprise me a bit! Reading cards, leaves, wires (Peru), the stars, animals signs is such a woman’s thing.
Thanks for this instructive essay.

Andrea L Nicki

Thanks for your comment. Yes and she was such a wonderful artist.

Susan Hawthorne
Susan Hawthorne

I can’t remember the artist’s name, but the woman who did the wonderful artwork on Alistair Crowley’s pack was probably equally cheated. Neither of these packs could ever have become popular without these women’s insights.

Andrea L Nicki

Thanks for your comment. I’ll have to look at that pack you mention. Yes women being cheated…