One of the silver linings of 2023 being such a garbage year for me emotionally was the fact that it encouraged me to start making better use of my many Tarot decks, not (necessarily) to divine the future — tho my weekly spreads do have the concerning habit of choosing to focus on Arsenal games instead of my actual personal life when the former arise: as of this time of writing, I’m 8.5/10 correct publicly posted predictions — but to work on my inner impulses when faced with daily challenges. And while I have mumblemumble number of decks, I realized that I don’t actually own a copy of the classic Waite-Smith which set the standard of symbolism for the many decks that came in its wake.
Given that this box set was going for pretty much the same price as a deck alone, I had to snag it. In all honesty, I really wanted a book that does a deep dive on the symbolism of Pamela Colman Smith’s art, created in collaboration with the academic and mystic A. E. Waite. I’ve seen really cool ads on social media for pdf downloads of that kind of exploration, but I’d much rather have a hard copy, so thought this would be a good place to start.
The presentation box this comes in is lovely: sturdy, with a satisfying flip-top lid closure, and with the most gorgeous metallic lettering on the front. Inside, there are slots for both the book and the deck, which keeps everything secure and tidy. That said, the box is so large, I’m not sure what to do with it now. I’m uninterested in carrying the whole kit and caboodle around: I’ll pack the deck into my purse for the month of January, then store it with my other decks when it’s not in active rotation. It seems weird to have the book stay in the box, tho perhaps once the month is over, it makes sense to store deck and book together in the original packaging. It’s just not very practical for the more advanced reader, tho I suppose that isn’t really the target audience for this set anyway.
The deck itself is great, featuring faithful reproductions of the original cards, and with a perfect size and hand feel. The symbolism is unmatched. I’ve definitely come a long way from the days when I thought the art was “boring”: the amount of thought put into each card is truly spectacular, and I come to it now as a fairly seasoned, if far from masterful, reader with a new appreciation for the amount of work put into choosing things like color and placement on each card. My only complaint about the deck is due to the deck box itself, which doesn’t have a cutout notch for ease of opening. I have to try to peel the top open from the sides every time, and worry I’m going to rip the dang thing — a far cry from the lovely setup of the presentation box. Update: Karin helped me clip out a notch which, while far from perfect, still makes it easier to open without fear of ripping.
The accompanying book is good, if aimed squarely at Waite-Smith novices. And that’s fine! I bought this set because I wanted to become more familiar with the classic imagery, and it’s always good to have a firm grounding in what I’m trying to better learn. There are also interesting exercises to help familiarize readers with the cards, as well as broad descriptions of the art on each. While I would disagree personally with the interpretation of the Celtic Cross spread that Stefanie Caponi uses — to the extent that I haven’t yet done a CC reading for myself with it, tho in fairness, some things I just don’t want to know right now — I did love the idea of the Release-Retain two-card spread, which I used in New Year’s readings for my friends to help break in the deck for me. I have been doing weekly spreads with it too, to varying degrees of success. Above is this week’s Majors-heavy spread, which has definitely provided excellent advice so far.
Most of Ms Caponi’s card interpretations tend towards the generous, an approach which I personally appreciate. None of her write-ups deviate too far from standard, but her interpretation of the Ten of Swords, for example, is much less ominous than I’m used to. Instead of the dire warning against treachery and disaster, she posits first that the presence of the Ten of Swords indicates the end of a bad cycle, at worst the very rock bottom of it, before reminding readers that this also heralds the beginning of a new one. It’s an optimistic, kind-hearted approach that resonates with me, especially since my aim with Tarot reading is to improve my ability to cope with big emotions, not (necessarily) to predict the future.
Overall, this is a pretty good starter set, especially if you don’t already have storage solutions for multiple decks.
Guided Tarot Box Set by Stefanie Caponi was published September 6 2022 by Zeitgeist and is available from all good booksellers, including