Better Together: 360 degrees of the RWS with The After Tarot + the Tarot of New Vision
It took me intense study of the Rider Waite Smith system to really appreciate it. I bought my first deck, an original RWS (the kind with the blue floral backings), back when I was first dipping my toes into the tarot because all my "teachers" on YouTube talked about how so many of today's decks are based on it. As far as my small tarot collection was concerned, this was the encyclopedia or the reference.
I resisted the deck because I didn't particularly like the drawings—something I hear from a lot of people. It just seemed dated, impossible to relate to, and it also had the "scary" depictions (The Devil, Judgement, etc). But then, I got to know the deck and as with anyone whose surface you're able to break through, I developed a particular fondness for it. When I found the Centennial edition, my fuzzy feelings for the RWS grew even more because of its subtle coloration, its hardy card stock, and its dainty blue card backs.
After doing my RWS studies, I thought I could "graduate" over to other decks and basically just keep my Smith-Waite knowledge on the back burner. It would be relegated to stock knowledge, basically, and be the foundation for my understanding of other decks. But then, I found these two tarot decks which take the RWS we know and love and put a delightful twist on it.
Both by Pietro Alligo and by publisher Lo Scarabeo, these two decks expand what we know about the Rider Waite Smith to help us derive even more meaning from the archetypes we've become super familiar with.
Tarot of the New Vision takes every image of the Rider Waite Smith and flips it around—you're given the exact same tableau with a different perspective. Instead of looking straight on, you, as the viewer, are placed behind the scenes. So instead of seeing the Fool from up front, you're seeing what's going on behind him, and in turn see what's in front of him too. The deck allows you to take one step further into path working because you're able to put yourself in the shoes of the character you're studying. As in the photo above (card on the far right), you don't just see what's behind The Fool, you actually find that he's looking at a volcano erupting!
On the other hand, the After Tarot reimagines what happens seconds after the scene in the RWS takes place. Instead of just having a freeze frame of The Fool standing on a precipice, you actually see him slip off the edge. He's still not in a panic (it's the top card on the photo above)—in fact, he's unperturbed enough to still be smelling the flower that he was previously holding in his extended arm.
So much insight can be gained when we get this almost 360-degree view of what the Rider Waite Smith deck presents to us.
Take for example the 2 of Wands, which I like to call the "should I stay or should I go?" card. We see at the top that the man's holding on to one rod for support, but has let go of the other to hold the world in his hands. He's looking quite dreamily out into the distance, which is this expansive open sea—a world a lot different from the cushy comforts his home has to offer.
On the left, the Tarot of New Vision gives us a sky filled with birds, a jester looking figure right behind him, and a very forlorn look on his face. You see there's a vast landscape behind him too. While the RWS puts a lot of focus on what's "out there," this card shows us what he could possibly be leaving behind if he does risk it all and leave.
On the right, the After Tarot shows us that he's not alone in his home. He's sharing his life with a woman, and quite possibly sharing the "world" with her too.
This is the kind of study that these three decks together encourages—and all of these are my personal musings… I haven't dipped into the little white books of either deck so I can leap fully into my own imagination.
I like how these three decks together embody the 7 of cups. They can totally help you think of all the possibilities out there. We use the RWS as a springboard for our own thoughts, which we can expand as far away as we want to. I don't particularly geek out over these cards everyday and make my study an academic adventure… but I do like to take cards that I'm having difficulties with and see them through these three lenses so I can gain a better understanding of them.
I recommend these two decks not to newbies (learning the 78 cards on their own can be trouble enough!), but to people who've already secured a pretty good understanding of the Rider Waite Smith and want to see how much further these archetypes can go. You can never go wrong with a classic! :)