The new Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot is the latest offering in a long line of historically accurate decks from Stuart R. Kaplan based upon the illustrations of Pamela Colman Smith. For this very pretty new deck, the artist Virginijus Poshkus was selected to re-colour the drawings. Earlier work by Poshkus includes his brilliant depictions of flora and fauna for the 16-deck Natural World Playing Card Collection, also from U.S.Games.
To describe the colouring of these cards as radiant is not an overstatement, as they are indeed shining and glowing, brilliant and luminous, and truly beaming with happiness. The cards have a clean, white border all around the images, with the numbers on the top in Roman numerals for the Major Arcana and spelled out in capital letters on the Minors. The titles and suits are in capital letters, in the same very pleasant typeface, also centred on the bottom of the cards.
The cards themselves have a nice feel, as they are printed on good cardstock, and are plastic-coated and durable. They are easy to handle and shuffle, being sized at 2 3/4" by 4 3/4" overall. The packaging is in a standard size box, printed in complimentary hues of orange and blue to highlight the radiant colour values of the cards within, and featuring the Fool and Magician cards from inside. At first glance one can recognize the distinctive, new style of the deck, and learns that the box contains 78 cards and instruction booklet. The instructions are familiar, featuring an introduction by Stuart R. Kaplan, and follow the standard format used for all decks from U.S.Games in the Rider-Waite tradition, which is both helpful and convenient for every purchaser of these cards.
My personal collection of decks by or based upon the artistry of Pamela Colman Smith include a very authentic Rider of London "Tarot Cards" deck printed in England, the Rider Tarot Deck circa 1971 with typeset titles, the beautiful and timeless Universal Waite with colouring by Mary Hanson-Roberts, the Original Rider Waite Tarot Pack facsimile edition, the Giant Rider-Waite, and the amazingly useful and handy Miniature Rider Waite Tarot Deck. So I was very pleased to be able to add the new Radiant Rider-Waite to my personal collection.
Virginijus Poshkus has done an excellent job of radiantly re-colouring the images, which will make them easy to read and use for beginners and the advanced student, and they should soon prove to be a favourite of collectors worldwide. The only thing it will take now to make my collection complete, is a 2009 Anniversary Issue of the true original deck of 1909, alike in every way to the box of 78 cards that sold in London for fifty pence.
Some people may feel that an "update" to a deck is unnecessary, that too many versions of the same thing amounts to overkill. I often find that new versions do have something to offer, and that this is the case with the Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot.
In the original version of this deck, there is an emphasis on the black outlining of the art, which to me takes away the ability to connect with the cards. The standard Rider-Waite was my first deck, and was almost immediately supplanted by the Morgan-Greer deck, a Rider-Waite clone that I could connect with much more easily.
The Radiant Rider-Waite, had it been my first deck, would have been the deck that I stayed with for professional readings. I like the fact that the intense black lines have been discarded, and the crisp white border with the card number at the top and the title at the bottom. The back of the cards, carrying the image of a starry sky, is also far preferable to the diamond pattern of the standard Rider-Waite deck.
The coloring is much more intense, with more of an orange overtone to the yellows. In some instances (the Fool, for example) there appears to be an aura of light around the figure(s) in the card. You really have to look for this, and I do not feel that it takes away from the ability to use this deck at all.
The Empress ends up with more of an orange sky behind her, but the plant life is distinctly green, rather than the yellowish tone carried by the standard deck. The deletion of the black lines does seem to have affected the facial expressions on the figures in the cards - bringing them out, making them more evident.
The rather gray background of the Hermit becomes an intense blue, which I feel adds rather than detracts from the card. The same holds for the intensifying of the color for the veil behind the figure of Justice. The sun over the mountain behind the figure of Temperance now holds the image of triple crown, which does seem to belong there. The Moon is another card that distinctly benefits from the increased intensity of the coloring of the sky.
The stained glass window behind the figure in the Four of Swords becomes much more of a point of focus, and the little salamander in front of the seated King of Wands has his fifteen seconds of fame.
I find the Radiant Tarot to be a deck well worth adding to my collection, as well as one to offer as a choice of decks for my clients.
© Bonnie Cehovet