Sources of the Waite/Smith Tarot Symbols by Robert V. O'Neill The Sun

The Sun

Sun CentralWirthT de MarseilleVisconti-Sforza
Face on SunWirthT de MarseilleVisconti-Sforza
S/C raysWirthT de MarseilleRothschild
WallWirthT de MarseilleRothschild
Stone BlocksWirthT de MarseilleRothschild
WhiteHorseVievilleT d Mantegna
Child NakedFelkinVievilleVisconti-Sforza
Child BlondeVieville
Feet/Hands FlyingVieville
Red BannerVieville
Facing ViewerT de MarseilleCharles VI


  1. Sunflowers and Daisy Chain on Forehead - In the Golden Dawn system, this card is assigned to the Sun. The flowers seem a simple and straightforward reference.

  2. Red Feather - this is is the same feather that appears on the Fool and Death cards. Waite may be hinting that the Fool has been transformed through the mystical Death and now appears as an innocent small child.

  3. Single Child - Waite seems to suggest that, at this late stage in the journey, the mystic must be transformed into a small child. The source may be the New Testament: “Suffer the little children to come unto me”. See Mark 10:15 (and Luke 18:17): “...anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

    The representation as a single child is a deviation from the usual Tarot de Marseilles which shows two children in the garden. In the system of the French occultist Papus this card is assigned to Gemini. Perhaps Waite wished to avoid confusion by eliminating the two children that might refer to Gemini. Interestingly, although Levi usually follows the Tarot de Marseilles in his decriptions of the Tarot, he mentions this version (child on white horse) as one of the known variations.

  4. The card is assigned to Hebrew letter Resh which means face, seen on the Sun. Also, the Hebrew Resh = English R = Enochian Don. Don looks like a reverse number 3 and may explain the extra unpaired curved Sun ray right next to the number XIX. The Enochian alphabet can be found on page 652 of Regardie: The Golden Dawn. However, see The Fool, footnote 6 for a caveat about assuming that the Hebrew letters can be found in the Waite-Smith designs.

  5. Mary Greer pointed out that the shading lines beneath Smith’s signature spell LOVE in some editions of the deck. Holly Voley clarified that LOVE appears on Pamela A and D but not on Pamela B and C. [Note: For more on Pamela A, B, C, and D, see Holly's Rider-Waite Site.] The designations Pamela A-D come from Frank Jensen ’s categorization of the various editions published in his newsletter, Manteia. [Note: Manteia was primarily a hard copy Tarot magazine. This link is one issue of it in an Adobe Acrobat version.]

  6. Ariane pointed out that Pictorial Key to the Tarot describes the scene on the older Tarot de Marseille image as occuring within a walled garden (“a walled garden--within are two children”) in the chapter on "The Veil and its Symbols") whereas the Waite-Smith deck shows a child “coming out from the walled garden” in the chapter on "The Doctrine behind the Veil."

Based on original research by (in alphabetical order) Ariane, M. Greer, R. O’Neill, and H. Voley. To add to this collection of information, please email Robert V. O'Neill.

The Fool
The Magician
The High Priestess
The Empress
The Emperor
The Hierophant
The Lovers
The Chariot
The Hermit
Wheel of Fortune
The Hanged Man
The Devil
The Tower
The Star
The Moon
The Sun
The World
Introduction to Sources of the Waite/Smith Tarot Symbols

Additional Tarot History Resources Related to
Sources of the Waite/Smith Tarot Symbols

Holly's Rider-Waite Site A. E. Waite
The Hermitage: A Tarot History Site Villa Revak