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The Thomson-Leng Tarot Deck, 4

April 9, 2014

The Suit of Swords

As already established, the designs of the Eudes Picard tarot were the inspiration for the Thomson-Leng court cards. M. Picard believed that the suit of Swords corresponded to the Element of Water. This leads to some curious features appearing on the Thomson-Leng court cards of Swords, which correspond to Air, following in the footsteps of the Waite-Smith deck . The King sits with his back to a meandering stream; the Queen has an ornamental lily-pool behind her; the Knight rides his horse along a river, exactly as M. Picard’s Knight of Swords does.The Page strides across a checker-board set on the sea shore; he is looking out to sea. Once more this replicates Eudes Picard’s design for the card.

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The Thomspon-Leng rendition of the 10 of Swords has ten long blades pierce the earth; a great black bat hangs in the air above, its wings spread across the entire width of the card. The 9 eschews the Waite-Smith design of a person sitting up in bed, head in hands for the picture of prisoner incarcerated in a cell, the nine swords either floating behind him or fixed to the dungeon wall. The 8 of Swords is basically a redrawing of the Waite-Smith image, but with traces of rivulets of water at the feet of the bound figure. Water appears in some form or other on the remaining cards, 7 to 2, excepting only the 4.

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Instead of stealing weapons from a military encampment, the thief on the 7 of Swords is filching them from a beach, the three swords he is forced to leave behind are lapped by the sea. The picture on the Thomson-Leng 6 of Swords is of a traveller crossing a river by means of stepping stones while the swords of his enemies fall harmlessly around him. It owes nothing to the Waite-Smith design. The 5 of Swords, like the 8, is the Waite-Smith card re-drawn. There appears to be a lake in the background.

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Four men, each armed with a sword, fight on open ground on the 4 of Swords. On the next card, three men stand on sea-girt rock. They hold up their swords so that the points touch high above their heads. Neither card has anything in common with the Waite-Smith illustrations. At first glance, the Thomson-Leng 2 of Swords seems to replicate the Waite-Smith image, but there are significant differences. The sea, that forms a placid background on the Waite-Smith card, is now encroaching in a threatening manner on the seat whereon the lady sits. She herself no longer holds the swords in balanced formation, but raises one, upright, and with the other appears to strike a turbulent wave. Gone is the Waite-Smith blindfold, and the sky lowers.

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Even when the Sword pip cards seem to mirror the Waite-Smith designs, as they do for the 10, 7, 5, and 2, they are not clones or slavish copies of the Waite-Smith cards. There are always differences that mark them as unique. Other pip cards – the 9, 6, 4, and 3 – carry designs that bear no relation to their equivalents in the Waite-Smith pack. It is not clear where the alternative pictures came from; whether the artist invented them or took inspiration from some other source.

The Ace of Swords has been dealt with previously.

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