The Unseen Mothers of the Occult: Pamela Colman Smith and Lady Frieda Harris

KEY TAKEAWAYS
Pamela Colman Smith, often overlooked in the history of the occult, was the artist responsible for creating the captivating imagery and symbolism of the Rider-Waite tarot deck. Her contributions are now being recognized by tarot enthusiasts, who refer to it as the "Smith-Waite" deck.
Lady Frieda Harris, known for her work on the Thoth Tarot deck, had a deep connection to the occult world and collaborated with Aleister Crowley to revise the symbolism of the traditional tarot deck. The Thoth Tarot deck, with its intricate symbolism, remains popular globally.
Both Smith and Harris played pivotal roles in shaping the world of the occult, challenging societal views on religion and spirituality. Their contributions highlight the importance of acknowledging and remembering the founding mothers of the occult.
The occult has experienced a shift from secrecy to mainstream acceptance, and tarot card reading is a testament to this change. Recognizing the role of women like Smith and Harris helps enrich the history of the occult and its influence on contemporary spirituality.

Pamela Colman Smith: The Mother of Tarot

The occult has moved from secrecy to mainstream acceptance, and tarot card reading stands as a testament to this shift.

The Rider-Waite deck, named after the mystic A.E. Waite and publisher William Rider and Son, is considered the definitive tarot deck.

However, the captivating imagery and symbolism that define this deck come from the artistic genius of Pamela Colman Smith, a woman often forgotten in the history of the occult.

Smith, an artist with possible Jamaican roots, led a bohemian lifestyle and was introduced to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn by the renowned poet William Butler Yeats.

She joined the secret society, which explored occult and paranormal aspects, as well as philosophy and magic.

There, she met A.E. Waite, who would later request her artistic talents in creating a new deck of divination cards.

Despite the immense popularity of the Rider-Waite deck, Smith’s role in its creation was largely forgotten.

However, many tarot enthusiasts today have started acknowledging her contributions by calling it the “Smith-Waite” deck or using decks that feature her name prominently.

Lady Frieda Harris, an enigmatic artist known for her work on the Thoth Tarot, had a deep connection to the occult world.

Lady Frieda Harris: The Artist Behind the Thoth Tarot

Lady Frieda Harris, an enigmatic artist known for her work on the Thoth Tarot, had a deep connection to the occult world.

She was closely associated with various esoteric societies and urged the controversial British occultist Aleister Crowley to revise the symbolism of the traditional tarot deck as a legacy to his life’s work.

Harris spent nearly five years painstakingly drawing and redrawing the designs for the Thoth Tarot deck, which became iconic in Tarot history and Thelemic imagery.

The deck has remained in print since its first publication and is considered one of the most popular Tarot decks globally.

Harris was also a student of Anthroposophy and Projective Geometry, which influenced the Thoth Tarot’s aesthetic and symbolism.

The deck incorporates Astrology, Kabbala, Gematria, Gnosticism, and Egyptian mythology, showcasing Harris’s skills in visually capturing the multidimensional symbology of Crowley’s universe.

Though neither Harris nor Crowley lived to see the published version of the tarot deck, their work left an indelible mark on the history of the occult.

Changing the Narrative: Acknowledging the Founding Mothers

These two remarkable women, Pamela Colman Smith and Lady Frieda Harris, played pivotal roles in shaping the world of the occult as we know it today.

They were at the forefront of a quiet revolution, changing how society views religion and spirituality.

It is crucial to acknowledge their contributions and ensure that their names and stories are remembered as part of the rich history of the occult.

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