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Is Golden Tarot a Rider-Waite Clone Deck?

The first time you looked through Golden Tarot, you probably noticed that most of the cards look very familiar.

Yes, it's based on the Rider-Waite (aka Rider-Waite-Smith or RWS) deck painted in 1909 by Pamela Colman Smith, the most popular tarot deck in the world. It's popular because it's so easy to read, and because it's so popular it's spawned a multitude of "clones". I guess you could call Golden one of them.

I read a comment somewhere that "you can tell a newbie when they swear by the Rider-Waite deck" - which to me sounds a bit snobbish. Personally, I've kept going back to it for over 20 years and from the feedback I've got, I think there's a lot of people who think the same way. Perhaps they're often too scared to admit it in public because of the anti-RWS bias among 'serious' tarotists? Who cares, I say. I'm proud to say I think RWS is a wonderful deck that has worked well for me for a long time.

My aim in making Golden Tarot was always to make a deck that looked genuinely Renaissance, but read like a modern deck - so it was always intended to be based on the Rider-Waite deck.

I used Smith's designs as a starting point and deviated only when I couldn't source appropriate elements in the period from which my source material was drawn (European art 1200-1500), or when my personal interpretation of a card varied strongly from the Rider-Waite original - which wasn't a common event.

I did, however, add a lot of other symbols that aren't in the Rider-Waite. Some of those symbols are based on archetypes and legends relevant to the Renaissance heritage of the tarot. This includes Christian traditions such as the Nativity (Wheel of Fortune), St Ursula (the World), God Creating the Animals (the Magician), Pope Joan (the High Priestess), St Francis of Assisi (the Hermit). There are also older traditions included, such as The Green Man/ Attis (the Hanged Man) and more general symbols such a black dog to represent depression (Nine and Ten of Swords). I don't think there's a single card in the deck where I haven't added new symbols based on my own personal interpretation of each card's meanings.

Golden Tarot is NOT just meant to be a pretty RWS clone. I don't want her to be a Show Pony - she's meant to be a working deck, despite her gilded appearance. I hope that the extra symbolism I've worked into the cards helps you to use your own intuition when using the deck.

Addendum, April 2004: I've received a few emails from professional Tarot readers who are using Golden in their practice. They say that querents really respond well to it as they can look at the cards and even if they've had no experience in tarot, they can see obvious symbols (eg rabbits for fertility in the Empress etc). I love this style of reading, as it's what I do myself on the rare occasions I read for others. I always tell my querents I'm really just facilitating them doing their own reading :)

rider waite smith - four of wands

golden tarot - four of wands

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