Choosing a Tarot Deck that is Right for You

    This article was published in the 2007 Tarot Reader, which is not published anymore.  It was a basic article about reading non-professionally and the types of people you would encounter while reading and some good reference material.  


    Divination is a talent.  Some of us may be born with it while others have to develop it.  Tarot Cards are tools we use for the purpose of divination.  How well we develop this talent will depend on the tools we choose.  We practice with our tools, we learn to expand on the basics and some of us become very good at what we do with our tools.  Others find that the tool does not work for them, and then look for other tools.

    Reading tarot cards is not for everyone.  I know people who hate the cards, but they are very good at Runes or dream readings.  The choice is dependent on your talent and what you are drawn to.  I also believe the experience makes a big difference in what we choose as our tools.  Working with a difficult deck to read will frustrate even the experienced reader, and will cause the novice to walk away from this particular style of divination.

    The choice of deck is a very personal preference and is critical to the learning process.  When I was learning there really was only one deck readily available to work and learn from, The Rider-Waite deck and today many people still start with this deck.  While not remarkable in its design, it is what many other decks are based on, and if you get the book  you are on your way to learning the basics.

    A tarot deck is usually, but not always, comprised of 78 cards, containing 22 Trump or Major Arcana cards, and 4 suites of 14 cards each, numbered one through 10 and four Court Cards, these being called the Minor Arcana.  The Court Cards are usually comprised of Page, Knight, Queen and King cards.

    This is the basic deck outline.  It varies from deck to deck, in the Trump or Major Arcana cards, and in the Court Cards.  Sometimes a Princess or Prince is substituted for the Page or Knight, sometimes you will see God and Goddess substituted for the King and Queen cards.

    The Major Arcana cards can vary widely.   The basic 22 cards originally told of the tale of the Fool progressing through life, and as he goes along, he meets the various other members of the Major Arcana and learns life lessons based on the meaning of the cards representation.  There are many books out there that go into this ‘Mystery’ and one of the better books for reading on this is the Waite book I mentioned.

    The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals, by Mary K. Greer is one of the best books I’ve read about reading reversed tarot cards.

    Each deck is unique in its design, its meanings and what the artist and/or author were looking to uncover on their own magical journey in life.  I would recommend that you do not purchase a deck unless you also purchase the book to go along with the deck.  Each deck is like seeing through another's eyes, and you really do need a guide to understand what the designers were looking at.

    Each deck will appeal to a very specific audience.  Some decks are very general, like Ellen Cannon Reed’s The Witches Tarot while some decks offer content or graphics that are themed or aimed at a specific topic such as The Fairy Ring by Anna Franklin and Paul Mason.

    Decks are a personal choice.  I suggest that you do not choose a deck quickly, but rather look at many decks first before deciding.  There is actually a website on line that lists over 1300 decks, with select illustrations from each and a short review, and it is a good place to start.  Check into aeclectic.net and spend some time looking over all the decks available.  Note that this site also shows Out of Print (OOP) decks and unpublished decks, so not all may be available.  But it is still interesting to look at all the different decks that have been available over the years.

    Tarot cards are also used for magic.  If you are looking into using these decks for personal magic and enhancement or meditations I would recommend Everyday Tarot Magic: Meditation & Spells by Dorothy Morrison as a good starting place.

    Finally, some of us collect decks, as some deck itself may appeal to us on a personal level but are not necessarily the deck we work with on a daily basis.  We do bring them out for special occasions to show them off.  I have a couple of decks myself and would like to recommend a few of my favorites besides the ones I have already mentioned.

    Cosmic Tarot by Jean Huets and Norbert Losche – This deck is for all you old movie buffs out there.  Silent film stars and old movie giants have their portraits grace these cards.  You will see Danny Kaye, Bogard and Bacall, Douglas Fairbanks, Valentino, Mary Pickford, and so many others as you turn these cards.  The artwork is first class.

    Shapeshifter Tarot and The Celtic Dragon Tarot feature the artwork of Lisa Hunt and she does a beautiful job bringing these decks to life with her talent.  The Whimsical Tarot by Dorothy Morrison and Mary Hanson-Roberts is very easy to read, very delightful in its content and the artwork is just too precious.  A good beginners deck as well.

    The Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley, while not for everyone, is a classic deck and from its origins is an essential deck for the collector.  The Wild Spirit Tarot by Poppy Palin is a very upbeat, joyous deck that will appeal to a wide audience while invoking natural images.  Another good beginner deck.

    My current favorites are The Gilded Tarot by Ciro Marchetti and Barbara Moore and the Tarot of Dreams by Ciro Marchetti.  Beautiful visions and symbolism, easy to read and impressed many of the people I’ve done reading for with this deck.  The Gilded Tarot deck is a good deck to consider for your first deck.

    The Haindl Tarot by Hermann Haindl, was intended to be universal in its appeal to many spiritual paths.  Very surrealistic in its artistic medium, it is a deck that leads easily to contemplation of the journey of life.  The book that goes with this deck, by Rachel Pollack, is a great guide to using this deck.

    There are just too many decks to cover here completely.  Decks are themed from Lord of the Rings, to unicorns, ferrets, Goddess decks, glow in the dark decks, children’s decks and Zen decks.  My advice is for you to find something appealing to you, that you can work with for a while to learn the basics.  Once you have the ground work done, then expand to other decks.  And have fun with them.  Divination can be fun with the right tool.

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Boudica Foster is the pen name for Margaret Foster. All website material written, drawn or photographed is the work of Margaret Foster.