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From the Nelson Evening Mail (New Zealand) for 4 May 1907, in a column called “Weekly Whispers” we find this rare account of Pamela Colman Smith (thanks to LoRee):
“Miss Pamela Colman Smith, who made such a success in London a year or two ago as a storyteller, is now enchanting America with her quaint art. She recently entertained Mark Twain, and he was so delighted that he laughed like a child the whole time. In the weird dialect of the Jamaican negroes—a sort of cockney English with Spanish colouring, a rhythmic rising inflection at the end of each sentence, and barbaric words and idioms sprinkled through it that must have come directly from the voodoo worshippers of the African jungle—she tells fairy folk-tales of “de long ago before time, when Queen Victoria didn’t yet rule over we.”
“This is her story of “De Six Poach Eggs,” which tickled the author of “The Jumping Frog.”
“‘A man stop at a cookshop fe someting to eat, an’ dey bring him six poach eggs an’ he eat dem, an’ he say him don’t got any money to pay fe dem; but would come back an’ pay when he find him fortune. So after twelve years him stop an’ pay six-pence fe de eggs he had eat twelve years before. But de keeper of de cookshop say it was not enough, dat if de man had not eaten de eggs dey would have grown up to chickens, an’ de chickens would grow up to hens, an’ de hens would lay more eggs, an’ dey would grow to chickens, an’ dat de six eggs would be worth more dan sixty pounds, not six pennies! De man say he would not pay any more dan six-pence. An’ de cookshop-keeper say he mus’! An’ so he take de man to de judge, an’ de judge didn’t know what to say. While he was t’inkin’ a little boy came in de courthouse. An’ him hab a bag under him arm, an de judge say, ‘What you got?’ An’ de boy say, ‘Parch peas, sah.’ ‘What you goin’ to do wid it? An’ de boy say, ‘Plant it, sah.’ An’ de judge say, ‘But parch peas won’t grow.’ An’ de boy say, ‘An’ poach eggs won’t hatch!’ De man didn’t have to pay. De boy got him reward, though, an’ was rich before him go away with Death. Dis story prove that ‘No catchee, no habie.’” Miss Smith was born in London of American parents, and was brought up as a young girl in Kingston, Jamaica.”
See my collection of links to material by and about PCS – here.
We have tarot author and deck creator Corinne Kenner to thank for the first book edition of an illustrated story by Pamela Corinne Colman Smith called Susan and the Mermaid. It appeared in the Christmas 1912 edition of a U.S. fashion magazine, The Delineator, published by Butterick Publishing company (of sewing pattern fame) and has been redesigned as a children’s book. Corrine describes it as “the rediscovered tale of a magic ring, an underwater kingdom, and a wise old woman who knew how to make her granddaughter’s dreams come true.” It also contains one of the most lovely biographies of Smith that I’ve read. If you are a PCS fan, this small book is a “must have.” There’s more information at Shuffle: Corrine Kenner’s Tarot Blog. Order your copy here.
Here’s Corinne’s video preview. Enjoy.
Here’s a newly discovered photo of Pamela Colman Smith with her signature from 1903, published in The Lamp (vol. 26), in which her publication “The Green Sheaf” is reviewed. (Thanks to Cerulean). Click on photo to see it larger.
Kim Arnold arranged an outing for the UK Tarot Conference to Smallhythe Place, the country home of Ellen Terry, where Pamela Colman Smith visited often. When Kim and I went there last December we thought the surrounding landscape looked very much like that found in several of the Minor Arcana cards. Kim, who lives only about about an hour away, commented that the trees were unusual and totally unlike those found near her home, so we came up with the theory that Pixie had retreated to Smallhythe when she had to complete “a big job for very little cash” in very little time, and that she used some of the local views in her cards. Here’s a detail from one of her drawings left at Smallhythe.
Kim asked the archivists if they could find all the Pamela Colman Smith works that were in storage and have them on display for the tarot group. It turned out that there were several pictures that had had not been documented previously. Kim has thoughtfully arranged these for everyone to see on this youtube video.
You can find a list of the documented PCS material kept at Smallhythe here. Katharine Cockin sent word that you can find more references to PCS at the Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database (just search on her name).
See more pictures and commentary from this outing at the Students of Tarot website.
My main list of Pamela Colman Smith resources is located here.
Come to the UK Tarot Conference in London, October 2010.
I’m so excited. My Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Tarot Set has arrived from U.S. Games. The book of Pixie’s art is delightful—full of colorful images and showing a full range of her work, including a couple of pieces from late in her life. Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot (included) is the same-old book in a new cover but with no pictures (huh?). The postcards are great to have—a very nice bonus. Read the rest of this entry »
Exciting News! U.S. Games has announced a new tarot deck set celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Rider-Waite Deck, and honoring the artistry of Pamela Colman Smith. Read my review here.
The deluxe set will include the Smith-Waite Centennial Tarot Deck (reproduced from the original 1909 deck – hey, it’s about time, thank you very much!) and two books:
- The Artwork and Times of Pamela Colman Smith, by Stuart R. Kaplan, with over one hundred examples of her non-tarot art.
- The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by Arthur Edward Waite, in a new format.
The set also includes two prints of Pamela Colman Smith, one photo and one self-portrait, both 5” X 7” suitable for framing; six color postcards of artwork by Pamela Colman Smith; and Spread Sheet Guide. Everything is attractively packaged in a deluxe keepsake case. Price: $35.00
I believe it is expected for May 2009 unless there are delays. See the U.S. Games promotional information here.
Pixie’s initials can be seen in the lower left corner and the similarity to several of her cards is apparent.
The poster is from 1915. Pixie was a friend of the Honorary Secretary of this Fund, Miss Laurence Alma Tadema (daughter of the artist).
The reproduction is 10.5″ x 16.5″ and printed on 100 lb. glossy stock—suitable for framing.
Thanks to Holly Voley for telling me about this at BATS.
Pamela Colman Smith never became well-known as an artist and, without the Tarot deck she illustrated, she may have fallen into total obscurity. Stuart Kaplan, president of U.S. Games, Inc. says he could have made her a millionaire.
You can see much of the artwork of Pamela Colman Smith at these sites (thanks especially to Roppo and Holly Voley for their efforts to make Pixie’s work available to the rest of us):
• Susan and the Mermaid, an illustrated children’s story by PCS, republished by Corinne Kenner
• Paintings at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library – search on Pamela+Smith, and while you are there, see their collection of 15th century Tarot cards by searching on Tarot.
• Here’s an outstanding website by Phil Norfleet devoted to PCS with a lot of biographical information not found anywhere else.
• See Pixie’s artwork archived at Ellen Terry’s home, Smallhythe – here.
• Pixie’s very own MySpace page where you can become her friend! Includes lots of her drawings and the music that inspired her.
You can order the illustrated The Story of the Waite-Smith Tarot by K. Frank Jensen – here.
Articles by and about PCS can be found by searching The Craftsman – here (search on her name).
Video by the Japanese collector of the works of Pamela Colman Smith, Roppo (see links above):
Correction to video: I don’t know of any evidence that suggests that PCS was adopted by her parents. However, she did become the foster daughter of the great actress, Ellen Terry.
See my post on Pixie’s instructions for reading the cards here. Let me know if I’ve missed anything and I’ll add it to the above list.
Pamela Colman Smith (also known as Pixie), artist of the Rider-Waite (Smith) Tarot deck, wrote nothing about the deck she created except in a letter to her mentor, Alfred Stieglitz, “I just finished a big job for very little cash!” She did tell us, however, in an article called “Should the Art Student Think?,” what must have been her own approach to reading the cards. This is the core of my own reading style.
“Note the dress, the type of face; see if you can trace the character in the face; note the pose. . . . First watch the simple forms of joy, of fear, of sorrow; look at the position taken by the whole body. . . . After you have found how to tell a simple story, put in more details. . . . Learn from everything, see everything, and above all feel everything! . . . Find eyes within, look for the door into the unknown country.”*
Essentially, she’s suggesting the following steps:
- Describe the card literally.
- Describe what seem to be the emotions, style and attitudes of the people on the card.
- Physically embody the card—act it out.
- Make up a story about what’s happening and turn it into a first person account (so you are feeling everything yourself).
- In your mind’s eye, step over the border of the card (through the door).
- Enter into that world, seeing beyond the borders to things you never knew were there.
In my opinion, this is the best way to discover what these cards mean for you in any situation.