Pagan Who’s who 13: Arthur Edward Waite

The Pagan Who’s who series contains information about current and recent notaries which have contributed to, or influenced the modern pagan scene.  Some names you may know already, some you may not, but all these people are dedicated and hard-working in their own particular specialised fields.  For pagan, spiritual, occult or faith matters who from the last generation influences and inspires you?

Most of you out there will have a set of tarot cards about the house somewhere, and chances are, if it’s not a copy of this deck:

you’re probably already well familiar with the distinctive mnemonic imagery.  To give it’s full name, it’s the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck (sometimes known as the Rider Waite Smith deck, or simply the Rider Deck), and this short post is going be about Arthur Waite, one of the people after whom the deck is named. (the other being the name of the publishing company – The Rider Publising Co)

Arthur Waite (1857-1942), aside from helping write a guide to probably the most recognisable tarot deck, also wrote extensively on subjects such as the occult, divination, mystics, freemasonry, lore and alchemy.  He spend most of his life in or near London, editing a magazine called The Unknown World and later became a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and a Freemason.  The deck itself was published firstly in 1909 (again in 1910 and many reprints ever since), with Waite writing a guide to use a year later, it was notable as one of the first tarot decks which illustrated all 78 cards fully (it’s sometimes known as the first modern tarot deck).  The Christian overtones of previous decks were toned down, the Pope became the Hierophant and the Papess, the High Priestess.  The imagery was full of symbolism, and, such is it’s popularity, has spawned several close copies, decks which use the same symbolism and imagery as this one from 1909.

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