About Pamela Colman Smith

An amazing artist

3 of swords card from Colman Smith tarot deck

I was inspired to do something different based on a prompt today. Instead of writing a poem as I usually do, since the prompt was thelemite, I thought I’d write a little about an artist I love whose work sometimes gets associated with the thelemites.

I don’t take an interest in the occult as defined by Alistair Crowley & company, including, by the way, several well-known British writers & poets of the time. These interests were very popular in England in those days, as were the spread of associated thelemite philosophies.

The interest in mysticism & ‘the occult,’ of the period, had to do with a number of things; including how Europeans were extracting ideas from the colonies. These included spiritual & mystical ones; as well as philosophies of cultural resistance & revolution within art movements of that turn of the century era.

Within this context, Pamela Colman Smith, a Black Jamaican & British artist, created her wonderful Smith tarot deck; the first ever to be printed in the English language. Pamela Colman Smith was an amazing, writer, designer, folklorist, publisher, mystic, & illustrator. You can read more about her here.

Today we call it the Colman Smith deck instead of the Rider-Waite deck for rightful attribution to its creator.

Of course, & unfortunately, she was neither adequately paid nor properly credited for this absolute chef d’oeuvre, cherished to this day by mystics, book & art lovers alike. Today we call it the Colman Smith deck, instead of the Rider-Waite deck, for rightful attribution to its creator.

The Colman Smith tarot deck is an incredible card set of 78 illustrations. The artwork is stunning.

I like tarot cards. But honestly, I’m just such a fan of her artwork, sometimes I can’t tell if that’s more it with me & tarot.

The depth of field in the cards’ illustrations is so well rendered, with these gorgeous fantastical landscapes. The characters, equally beautiful & compelling. Such design excellence.

There are so many beautiful tarot decks out there, & there are many I adore, but I still love the Smith deck so so much.

Ace of Wands card from the Smith tarot deck
Page of Wands card from the Smith tarot deck

Illustration is probably my very favourite two-dimensional art form, & she is such an original designer of concepts.

The Moon card from the Smith tarot deck

The depth of field in the cards’ illustrations is so well rendered, with these gorgeous fantastical landscapes. The characters, equally beautiful & compelling. Such design excellence.

I love the colour schemes & the artist’s line work. Lines in drawing & illustration, in the expressive style she uses, is an aesthetic I just love. & Pamela Colman Smith’s approach to it is completley unique & psychically sensitive.

These cards take me away every time I look at them.

© Niliema Karkhanis


For the Word of the Day Challenge prompt ‘thelemite’


Pamela Colman Smith wikipedia


Featured artworks by Pamela Colman Smith


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