The Rider-Waite tarot deck, originally published 1910, is one of the most popular tarot decks in use for divination in the English-speaking world. Other names for this deck include the Smith-Waite, Waite-Smith, Rider-Waite-Smith, or simply the Rider tarot deck. The cards were drawn by illustrator Pamela Colman Smith from the instructions of academic and mystic A. E. Waite and were published by the Rider Company.
The US born Arthur Edward Waite was a British mystic who contributed nearly 50 books with an open fondness for specialising in occult texts even though his reputation for works on the Holy Grail and the Rider-Waite tarot deck remains unparalleled. His other hailed offerings include The Book of Ceremonial Magic (1911), The Holy Kabbalah (1929) and A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry (1921).
While the images are simple, the details and backgrounds feature abundant symbolism. Some imagery remains similar to that found in earlier decks, but overall the Waite-Smith card designs represent a substantial departure from their predecessors. The Christian imagery of previous decks cards was toned down; for instance the “Pope” card became the “Hierophant” and the “Papess” became the “High Priestess”. The Minor Arcana are illustrated with images by Smith, where earlier decks had simpler designs for the Minor Arcana but aligning this deck with, for example, the Sola Busca tarot. The symbols used were influenced by the 19th century magician and occultist Eliphas Levi.