Category Archives: Tarot History

Tarot Blog Hop: Commune, Communicate, Commemorate

Welcome to our stop on the Samhain blog hop. The subject our wrangler, Arwen, gave us is to “Commune, Communicate, Commemorate with those who have gone on before us.”

We can’t think of a better person to commemorate than artist Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith. Her art work has become the iconic representation of the Tarot for the world. When you think of the Fool, the first image that comes to most of us is her Fool.

Side by side comparison of two versions of the Rider Waite Smith Fool

Commemorative (l), Regular (r)

Pixie’s story is a sad one as she died in relative obscurity. But her life was filled with amazing people. She was mentored by Alfred Stieglitz (he was the husband of Georgia O’Keefe). He featured her work in his New York gallery.

From Stieglitz's collection

From Stieglitz’s collection

She knew actresses, actors, poets, artists and more. Her life was filled with eccentric, interesting people. Pixie did many sketches. Here’s a sketch of poet William Butler Yates that she did in 1901.

William Butler Yeats by Pamela Colman Smith, 1901

William Butler Yeats by Pamela Colman Smith, 1901

In 1898, she had an illustration published for Yeats’ poem “The Land of Hearts Desire” which was part of _The Illustrated Verses of William Butler Yeats_.

The Land of Hearts Desire by Pamela Colman Smith

The Land of Hearts Desire by Pamela Colman Smith

And her legacy continues with the new Pixie’s Astounding Lenormand. Lovingly created with artwork from the Smith-Waite® Tarot deck and “The Golden Vanity”, this charming 36-card petit Lenormand deck pays tribute to Pamela Colman Smith. It includes a 132-page booklet.

Pixie Astounding Lenormand 29 Lady Pixie Astounding Lenormand 1 Rider
Pixie Astounding Lenormand 28 Gentleman Pixie Astounding Lenormand Tin

How has Pixie’s work influenced your life? Leave a comment answering that question to be entered into a drawing to win your own Pixie’s Astounding Lenormand tin. Get extra entries when you share this post on any Social Media using the tag #astoundingpixie . Just leave a comment letting us know where you shared it.

Happy Halloween! May you get more treats than tricks. Now hop off to the next in our Tarot Blog Hop. Don’t forget to share this post to win the deck.


#Tarot Blog Hop: Beltaine 2013

Welcome to the U.S. Games Systems Inc's stop on the May 2013 Tarot Blog Hop. The blog before us was Chloe's Inner Whispers and the blog after us is Alison's Game of Thrones. You can find the Master List at Arwen's blog. The subject was "What traditions are important to you in how you read Tarot?"

In our participation in this Blog Hop, we've developed a tradition of sharing images of one card from many decks. Who better to represent the tradition of tradition than the Hierophant or Pope?

This card traditionally shows a spiritual advisor with figures below him. He is the voice of God and/or the intercessor of the faithful. He represents traditions and spiritual authority.

Here are some images from some our decks. Which is your favorite?


Ancestral Path


Rider Waite Smith by Rider, Waite and Smith


Ghosts and Spirits


Ukiyoe Tarot


Gummi Bear Tarot


Chinese Tarot


Thoth Tarot

So what do you think when you see the Hierophant? And what are some of the non-traditional meanings for you? Do you have a favorite U.S. Games deck Hierophant who didn't show up today? Tell us about it.

<— Chloe's Inner Whispers | Alison's Game of Thrones –>

Master List

What Inspired Me to Learn Tarot by Elizabeth Hazel


Elizabeth Hazel wears many hats including astrologer, author, deck creator and columnist. She is the editor of the American Tarot Association's members-only Quarterly. Her book, Tarot Decoded (Weiser Books, 2004) is the first handbook of tarot dignities, and gives a wide range of techniques for expanding tarot readings using numbers and astrology. She is available for consultations. You can reach her at

When Lynn of U.S. Games asked who or what inspired them to study Tarot, Elizabeth responded with such an intriguing answer, that we asked her to expand upon it.  Enjoy her very interesting response.

Elizabeth's Answer:

My hometown library was split into two sections. The kids’ books were shelved on one side of the central walkway, and the adult books were on the other side. By the time I was nine I'd read all the books in the kids’ section. The librarians wouldn't let me read the books in the adult section. All that was left was the encyclopedias. These were shelved along the central walkway for easy access.

So I read the encyclopedias. In order. When I got to "C" in the Encyclopedia Britannica, there was an article on "Cards." Most of it was about playing cards, but at the end there were some pictures of tarot cards. They seemed awfully familiar. I had to have them!

A ten-year-old kid is pretty much at the mercy of parents when it comes to shopping. Whenever we went to a store or to the new mall, I searched and searched for a deck of tarot cards. Finally I came across a magic shop. I was thrilled when I discovered tarot decks in the big glass case under the cash register. I had saved up the allowance I got for doing chores, so I could afford them. I bought the Aquarian Tarot because the drawings and bright colors reminded me of Peter Max. Yes, I was an art snob at ten.

There was a LWB included with the deck, but it was very basic. I went back to the magic shop a month later and looked at the other tarot decks. The one that really attracted me was the Thoth Tarot. The shopkeeper didn't want to sell it to me, and tried to discourage me. I haggled with him until he sold it to me. I was about eleven years old at the time. I still have both of those decks…and hundreds more.

Looking back, both the Aquarian and Thoth tarots were very recent releases in the early 1970s. Without knowing it, I got them hot off the press. I used these decks for years while learning. The Aquarian Tarot spoke to me in a more personal and mundane way. The LWB included in the Thoth Tarot was invaluable from the standpoint of learning how to actually use the tarot and the deeper meanings and attributions behind the card images. The Thoth Tarot did a better job at helping me develop a “magical mind,” delving into esoteric mysteries, dreams, and omens. It took both decks to learn different lessons.

Thoth_0FoolThere weren’t any tarot books available in the Midwest at that time. I had to learn through trial and error and be my own guinea pig. I kept a tarot journal before anyone had ever written about keeping one – or before I ever read a recommendation to keep one. It seemed sensible. I learned to read the future by looking backwards at spreads to see what happened to me. I created a loose-leaf notebook with pages for every card, and wrote down things I discovered about what the cards could mean, which was a lot more than either LWB suggested.

A few friends found out I could read tarot cards when I was about sixteen or seventeen. I did a few readings for them, but it was all pretty hush-hush and reluctant. I did a ton of readings in college, and there were more resources and books available there. I read Crowley’s Book of Thoth when I was around eighteen. It fueled my tank to keep going, to keep studying the tarot. I found an astrology teacher when I got out of college, and was able to fuse tarot and astrology with ease. There was no one around to suggest doing otherwise. I thought they belonged together – it seemed such a natural combination.

I had no clue that fusing tarot and astrology was unusual until I attended the first International Tarot Conference in Chicago. Janet Berres told me it was rare for people to use them together! It was baffling.

People now have nearly universal access to hundreds of tarot decks and books, websites with information, internet tarot groups and organizations. None of that was around when I got started, or at least I didn’t have any access to it. None of the scholarly books were even a twinkling in the writers’ eyes yet. I had to learn and develop tarot-reading skills in secret, because the tarot was considered a shady, black magic thing. It got a lot of disapproval. It was taboo. It wasn’t something a nice girl did (although it wasn’t as bad as having sex, it was right up there). There wasn’t any positive encouragement for studying the tarot – quite the reverse. There were penalties and warnings. Maybe this wasn’t the case in more sophisticated cities on the east or west coasts, but it certainly was in the white, uptight Midwest.

Aquarian_3WandsSo at least for me, my early years of learning tarot weren’t just about learning card meanings and spreads. It was about weighing and balancing social approval or disapproval, of knuckling under to adult and parental disapproval, or of taking the risk of violating that particular taboo. I had to decide what was more important on my own terms. Did I have to believe everything adults told me, or should I push the limits and face censure because I disagreed with them? That’s a hard question for a teenager to answer. The pressure wasn’t coming from my peers – it was coming from adults. Did I love the tarot enough to take risks? I did, but I was canny enough to keep it very quiet, very secret. It took many years before I was able to do tarot readings openly for friends or clients.

It was a Hanged Man situation. What was I willing to sacrifice? It was more than just the time and effort to learn – it was a potential sacrifice of social approval, of being marginalized, excluded, and even banned from the company of others. It was a big struggle to keep studying, even in secret, without a teacher or any source of guidance or direction. There was no external sources of approval – only my private delight in making new discoveries. My desire to master the tarot was stronger and more powerful than the fear of sacrifice or censure.

How many people who want to learn tarot have to face that risk? Maybe some, maybe none. I don’t know. The forbidden nature that the tarot had in the 1970s has faded a lot and they’re more or less mainstream now. But there are still some places and people who disapprove, or feel that they’re evil in some way.

Perhaps the more a person is willing to sacrifice for tarot wisdom, the more wisdom can be gained along the path. No pain, no gain.

February 2013

Images used: Aquarian Tarot Fool, Thoth Tarot Fool, Aquarian Tarot Three of Rods

Beltane Tarot Blog Hop

The blog before us was Amanda Donnelly's 78 Whispers.

We are very excited to be the kick-off blog for the Beltane Tarot Blog Hop. It was a lot of fun to share pictures from various decks last time so we thought we would do that again for you.

This round's topic is "Fire Tends To All". We thought we would turn to the Sun card to show you different ways this card has been interpreted.


One of the first deck U.S. Games published was the iconic IJJ Swiss in 1970. This deck represents an older style of Tarot. It is considered a Marseilles variant. With a woodcut design, these cards feature very basic colors of black, red, blue, green and yellow. 1JJ Swiss Tarot Deck, © 1970 U.S.Games Systems, Inc.


From the same year, the Aquarian Tarot's Sun has a very different look. Some might call it a bit creepy but others love the smiling sun. Aquarian Tarot Deck, © 1970 U.S. Games Systems, Inc.


From the Rider-Waite deck, one of the most well known Sun depictions. Here we see the child on the white horse with the sun overhead. Rider-Waite Tarot Deck ® © 1971 U.S. Games Systems, Inc.


The Tarot of the Witches sun even has a star beauty patch. Tarot of the Witches, © 1974 U.S. Games Systems, Inc.


The very old school Pierpont Morgan-Bergamo Visconti-Sforza Tarocchi Deck from 1975 (reprinted in 1984) offers an unusual sunless sun. This is said to be a card that was added later. It's very rich and lush with the gold.


One of the earliest black and white decks, the Hermetic Tarot Deck offers an almost ArtDeco type sun. © 1979 U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Here we have the Lord of the Fire of the World.


The Morgan Greer, also a 1979 publication, offers two people staring at each other, but includes the sunflower and the wall from the Rider Waite.


The first of the round decks, the 1983 Motherpeace went far afield in its interpretation of this card. A zebra and a giraffe romp in this bright yellow card while a lot of happy folk frolic.


Moving into the 90's, we see the 1995 Rohrig Tarot's Sun shows a blazing white hot sun. It looks a bit like a fried egg, doesn't it.


Kris Waldherr's 1998 Goddess Tarot moves to an old folk tale to depict the Sun.


Fradella Adventure Tarot by Frank Fradella, (c) 2003 shows an uncle playing with his niece and nephew in a nod to the family focus of the Sun.


From 2008, the Deviant Moon by Patrick Valenza remains a top pick year after year due to the unusual imagery. Here two moon people seem to be engaged in a fiery tango.


Arnell Ando's Transformational Tarot shares a masculine, confident Sun.


The 2011 Crystal Visions Tarot has the white horse but the figure is a young woman standing with the sunflowers.


Another 2011 deck is the award-winning Cat's Eye Tarot. Here we see the Sun as a bright orange sun-loving cat with daisies.


Finally, releasing this month, Lisa Hunt's Ghosts and Spirits interprets the Sun as the spirit rising up.

So which of these decks are in your collection? We hope you have enjoyed this journey through just a few of the many Tarot decks published by U.S. Games. You can find us on Facebook where we post a Question Of The Day M-Sa.

The blog after us is Andrew McGregor's The Hermit's Lamp.

EXPRESS TAROTBLOGHOP TICKET: If you hit a missing link along your TarotBlogHop, you can get back on the bloghop from this master list. TarotBlogHop Master List, May 2012.

Italian Vacation Anyone?

Arnell Ando has created a marvelous slideshow of their grand tour of Italy. She shares this in the hopes that you can see a "bit of the magic & wonder so atmospheric in bella Itali."

Come take a mini vacation with Arnell and friends.

Tarot Art & History Tour ~Italy 2011

Want to go yourself? Check out the upcoming 2012 Italy tour:

Fancy A Game Of #Tarot, Anyone?

On Monday, James Wells shared his Tarot Circle games with us. It made me wonder about the actual card game of Tarot.

Frenchtarotlogo Did you know that the game of Tarot is still played? There is an entire group of games for the 78 card deck. Many people refer to them as Tarock games. Tarot or jeu de tarot is a game similar to other trump-style games where you take tricks.

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12 Day Tarot Art and History Tour of Northern Italy, Autumn 2011

I appreciate the wonderful Tarot decks U.S. Games is donating to the Tarot Museum in Italy, as well as this opportunity to share about how it came to be that I find myself bringing a suitcase laden with decks and a merry band of Tarot travelers to bella Italia this fall…

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On World Tarot Day (May 25th) You Will See one of the Rarest Tarot Images — Ever.

Before I talk in this guest blog post about World Tarot Day on May 25th, imagine the scene, if you will — it is a foggy evening in England, November 1921 … so foggy that travel is being disrupted across the country. Elsewhere in the world, the Japanese Prime Minister is assassinated, and Hitler and Mussolini are as we speak establishing groups which will soon plunge the world into yet another war. However, a spiritual seed is also being sown — by

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Wednesday’s Mystery Card Revealed



So did you guess correctly that Wednesday's mystery card was Temperance from the Rider-Waite Tarot? what do you know about this card? When you get it in a reading, how do you generally interpret it?

ViscontiSforzaTemperance Did you know that the Visconti-Sforza Temperance did not have wings? I think that her hair gives the idea of wings. Do you agree? Did you notice that she doesn't have anything flowing from her jugs? You are just left to imagine that she is transferring something. The colors are reflected in the Rider-Waite. Her red arms become the angel's red wings.  Her blonde hair is the same only shorter. Her feet don't touch water and earth like the Rider-Waite Temperance, but both have mountains in the background.

Another bit of trivia about this card is that  it is thought that this card was done by someone other than the artist who did the majority of this deck. Why it is a different artist seems to remain a mystery though.


Patrick Valenza takes a unique look at Temperance in his Deviant Moon Tarot pictured above. His moon-faced winged woman is a far cry from what I imagine Plato thought of when he offered up his virtues. Did you know that some people refer to Temperance as Restraint? How does that change your own opinion of this card? Do you already read that as part of the card's meanings?

The curious face of this Temperance draws me in. Is the hidden face of the moon peeking out the one we need to focus on? When you compare it to the sweet and simple angel of the Tell-Me Tarot, do you get different meanings or not? Something else to review is which hand is up and which is down?  Below are the Temperance card from the Tell-Me Tarot and from the Archeon Tarot. What are some things that you see in all of these cards? What is missing from the original Rider-Waite in these others (or re-interpreted) that you notice?



What is a Temperance card that you love? Is it one of these or does another one catch your fancy? Think about the colors as well as the vessels in use. What are they pouring? Is it tangible or not tangible? What does that mean to you?

 Looking forward to talking about Temperance…in moderation of course.



And, just for fun, here's Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He's Temperance in that unpublished Tarot deck from Rachel Pollack and Paul Lee.