How-To: Choose a Tarot Deck
This post first appeared at siobhansmirror.com
Last week, one of my subscribers asked “How do you choose a new tarot deck?” I was reminded of my struggle when my decks stopped talking to me and I needed to buy a new one. (Ethony talks here about what to do when your deck breaks up with you.) Since then my collection has duodecupled and like with anything else, the practice has afforded me some insight. In this post I’ll talk about why/how I chose one of the decks I own, what questions to consider as you decide, and tarot deck resources.
how i chose My first tarot deck
The Morgan-Greer (circa 1979) has traditional images. I bought it because I craved stability and tradition and possibly in part because it was the first tarot deck I’d ever seen. I almost bought the Rider Waite instead but I liked how the Greer colors went all the way to the edge of the card. At the time, this deck was a no-brainer because I was intimidated by wild art or anything much to do with intuition. I intended to memorize traditional interpretations and I needed a predictable deck to help me do that. My how things change…
- No confusing art or symbols
- Wildly available at various stores
- Rich colors
- Images are literal, not as much room for intuitive reads
- Lack of a border highlights wear over time
There are so many decks that it can get overwhelming pretty quickly and regardless of your financial situation, it can be tempting to feel like the first deck is the last deck and needs to be THE ONE and you better decide well OR ELSE.
Let that go.
Some decks cost. Some decks find you and are free! Repeat after me: “I can always find another deck.” and “I find decks that I LOVE.” Feel free to explore without pressure.
Rule #1: trust that exciting and relevant decks will come your way. Because they will. Possibly in sextuplets.
Questions to ask yourself
You may not know all the decks in the world but you DO know yourself. [Tweet “You are the expert in your own preferences. #radicaltarot”]
How will you use the deck?
- Will you memorize traditional interpretations?
- Will you make up your own intuitive interpretations?
If you want memorization tools, stick with traditional decks. If you will create your own intuitive interpretations, then go with the art that speaks the loudest. Pretend you’re at a cocktail party, which deck spins you around and shouts, all bug-eyed and inappropriate: “I have something to tell you!!!” If none of them grab you, don’t be afraid to not buy a deck just yet. See Rule #1.
Who will you read for?
- If you will read for yourself what kinds of art do you like?
- If you will read other people? What kind of person? What kind of art do they like?
- If both, which popular deck do you like?
I love using the Osho Zen deck for myself. Most people find it too preachy. I have different decks for different purposes.
Who are you?
- What images make you feel comfortable?
- Do you like cards with figures that resemble you?
- Do you like romantic themes?
- Do you have religious or spiritual beliefs?
- Are you partial to numbers and numerology?
- Do you like images that honor your non normative sexuality or gender?
You might be surprised how many options are available for tarot decks. Pick the deck that speaks your language: multiculturalism, astrology, comics, cats, whatever. If your perfect deck doesn’t exist yet, wait a week and keep your eyes peeled. I bet someone will create it.
Here’s an elemental breakdown
of how you might decide on a deck.
Fire: The Adventurer
Buy the first deck you see. Don’t even investigate, close your eyes, spin in a circle and buy where you land. Or buy the deck with the strangest theme or the wildest art! Or grab a GoFundMe and create your own!
Water: The Intuitive
Buy the deck that inspires an emotional reaction within you. Don’t shy away from negative reactions. Do shy away from decks where you feel NO reaction at all. How will you feel sleeping with this deck under your pillow?
Air: The Scientist
Research! Look at as many tarot images as you can. Pick the most compelling images from the standard Rider Waite and then compare those images with other decks. Focus on the challenging cards such as The Tower, 7 of Swords, tarot images you easily recognize like The lovers, 3 of Cups, or your favorite images.
Earth: The Traditionalist
Learn about the traditional decks such as the Morgan Greer, Rider Waite ,or one of its variations. Check out Tarot of Marseilles. Learn about the origins of Tarot. Find the perfect vintage deck.
Rule #2 Notice your reactions to tarot images, notice your body, breath, thoughts and emotions when you handle a potential deck.
Your ability to use a deck will be determined by your relationship to the cards and their art. No one knows your reaction to art better than you.
You have all the info you need to select the perfect deck for you!
- Aeclectic Tarot: One of the most comprehensive resources for deck information and reviews. Look at images of the cards and read the reviews of people who own the decks
- Used bookstores: These are great because you can take the cards out and look at the images before you buy. Also worth keeping in mind for when you want to pass a deck on to someone else.
- Etsy: People create the most amazing and unique tarot decks and they sell them at this site among other places. Own a deck like no other.
- Kickstarter: Get a deck before it goes to print! Often these decks come with exclusive bonuses.
- YouTube: Look for videos of deck reviews and unboxings.
- Publisher’s websites: Such as USGames, Llewellyn, and Schiffer
- Tarot Interest groups, such as The Tarot Association, sometimes have recommendations for tarot decks.
- Ebay: I’ve not tried this route yet myself but what CAN’T you get on ebay? (Other than tarot readings.)
- Tumblr: I’ve heard tell that people store images of decks in progress here. I’m not sure about pining over a deck that I can’t purchase. I’m almost afraid to look…
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