Selecting your first tarot deck(s) or expanding your tarot collection can be a bit overwhelming. You will quickly discover there are 100s (if not 1000s) to choose from, including various versions of traditional tarot decks, replicas of historic tarot decks, a wide variety of themed decks, as well as artistic, modern and unique tarot decks.
I began my tarot journey in the late 1970s when I was 19. There were only a few options back then – I chose the Rider-Waite Tarot (I liked the art and the minors (pips) are illustrated). Over the years I have added to my collection, and now have well over 350 tarot decks. My primary tarot deck for readings is still the Rider-Waite deck. I have several versions of it – with a border, without a border, in a tin, in a box, the Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Set centennial edition, and AGM Premium Tarot (A.E. Waite in orange box) a reprint of the original 1910 version with crackle backs.
(NOTE: Tarot deck consists of 78 cards, 22 majors and 56 minors in 4 suits – some modern decks have added a card or two, but this is the basic structure of a tarot deck. Oracle decks on the other hand have no structure – they can be any number of cards and based on any theme. There are also other types of cards used for fortune-telling: i.e. Lenormand, Kipper, regular playing cards.)
Step 1 – Clarify What Your Tarot Goals Are
(these can change over time and through the years – but it is a good starting point to have some clarity of what you long term goal is for now). Do you want to read for yourself? Do you want to read for family and friends? Do you want to one day set up a business as a professional tarot reader? Do you want to study the art and/or history of the tarot? Do you want to build a collection of tarot to enjoy and appreciate the vast variety of artistic creations? Do you want to use the tarot as a tool for personal and spiritual growth, for divination and cultivating your intuition, and/or creative inspiration?
Step 2 – Explore Your Options.
The internet is a rich source for tarot deck images and YouTube has a 100s of reviews of tarot decks. Have fun and explore. Aeclectic Tarot has reviews and images of 1000s of tarot decks, (the forum is no longer active but the database is available as a resource). Sources for purchase: Llewellyn (large selection), Amazon, Etsy (for unique creative decks).
Step 3 – Pick a Tarot Style For YOU
traditional or something more artistic or unique. For ease of getting started and learning the basics a traditional deck (Rider-Waite, Thoth or Marseilles) has the advantage of lots of information written about it and easily accessible.
Some themed, artistic, modern or unique decks the creator has also written book or had someone else write a book to accompany the deck. However, many do not provide a book or may only have a “little white book” or pdf file that can be downloaded with brief information about each card.
Rider-Waite (sometimes referred to as Waite-Smith to acknowledge the artist Pamela Colman Smith)
Rider-Waite clones – decks that use similar symbolism and archetypes as the original Rider-Waite deck but the art work has been updated and/or creatively altered.
Thoth Deck – Pips (minors) are not illustrated)
Tarot of Marseilles – Pips (minors) are not illustrated)
(NOTE: For those new to tarot and for my mentoring tarot classes I generally recommend the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot, but the decision is always up to the student.)
Some other things to consider:
Note the decks and style of images that “speak” to you, (i.e. excites your imagination, inspires your intuition, captures your attention)
Border or No Border (for beginners a border can be a useful spot to write in a few key words, if you decide to do this I suggest purchasing a 2nd deck that you do not write on to use later on).
Size – the standard tarot deck is the size of a regular deck of playing cards (2.25”x 3.5”), and a few decks a bit larger and some also offered in “mini” or pocket size (approx. 1.75” x 3”) versions.
Quality of Cardstock
Step 4 – Purchase a tarot deck.
Take some time to get familiar with the images and read the book that comes with the deck. Have fun, practice and keep a tarot journal.
Enjoy your tarot journey.
Cynthia Rose King: http://www.healerslight.com