The Queen of Cards

By Laurel Dammann

The Rider-Waite tarot deck is the most famous and widely used of its kind in the western world. It’s treasured by many for its illustrations, abundant with detail and symbolism. Published in 1910, it has been called the “Rider-Waite Tarot” for over a century in deference to its most successful publisher, the Rider Company, and A.E. Waite, mystic and co-creator. There was, in fact, another visionary behind the Rider-Waite Tarot: Pamela Colman Smith, the artist responsible for the tarot’s rich imagery. Despite her phenomenal influence of both the occult’s most famous deck and of tarot as it is seen today, Smith remained unacknowledged and died obscure. However, within the last decade, efforts have been made to rename the tarot deck to “Waite-Smith” or “Rider-Waite-Smith” to recognize the artist behind its lauded illustrations.


Calm, deep, and mastered—
Great women are of men’s breath,
Or so they told her.
Quietly burning, she thought
Better women are made from flame.


They built a garden
And within their pompous walls
She planted forests.
Inside her fortress of trees she stayed,
Tilling magic, growing secrets.


She was a lion
Before they decided she was
Wild enough to tame.
She learned to keep still, knew that
Cages are just battlegrounds.


For vast girls like her
Stood prisons like palaces,
Homes to disappear in.
There is a window overlooking
The garden where she goes mad.


How unnerving!
To see herself summarized
Within their mirrors.
She is bottomless water,
Her reflection a ripple.


There are old secrets,
Passed from Mother to Daughter
And hung from our necks.
We learn that earthquakes are strong,
But that women are the Earth.

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