Learning to read the Tarot can be an arduous task, so choosing a deck that you “click” with is imperative to the learning process. This deck will assist you in understanding the Tarot, connecting to its imagery and learning to trust yourself. If you are not quite sure how to find said deck, then below are a few things to take into consideration when deciding which deck to choose.
Many Decks to Choose From
The Tarot has evolved tremendously since its rustic birth of the 15th Century Italian Renaissance period. Though the Tarot has endured much iteration by different artists over the years, by far the most influential of those Tarot decks (and the deck most Tarot students learn from) is the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) Tarot deck produced by U.S. Games. This deck traces its roots back to 1909 when Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, two members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, modernized the Tarot to 1909 sensibilities (they updated the deck’s imagery and fully illustrated all 78 Tarot cards). This deck soon became the Tarot industry gold standard and acted as the model for subsequent Tarot decks. Modern decks re-interpret the RWS artwork through their own unique spin or theme but still keep enough of the RWS markers so the Tarot reader can identify the message of the card. Many students choose to learn from the RWS deck first as the imagery and meanings make it possible to read nearly any Tarot deck (or any deck that uses the RWS as its base. Most of them do).
When I began learning the Tarot, I too began with the RWS deck, but had a difficult time connecting to its imagery. I was overwhelmed by the amount of symbology, different meanings and layers within the cards. I didn’t feel like I truly connected to the cards and struggled to read spreads without constantly consulting my book for guidance or self-assurance. I was then gifted the Mythic Tarot deck. It was the deck that “clicked” for me. The imagery was clean, beautiful and easier to connect to then the RWS. It also helped that the Mythic Tarot is a story-based deck (which I will discuss below). It made learning the Tarot much easier for me and soon I was providing accurate readings for others with no need to consult a book for back up.
Based off of my experience learning the Tarot, my suggestion is to look for a deck that “clicks” with you. It doesn’t have to be the RWS deck. In fact I use the RWS deck now all the time but I needed the Mythic Tarot to help me build a foundational understanding in the Tarot before the RWS deck could make more sense for me. Therefore finding the right deck is imperative.
Of course the first thing that most people connect to is the artwork. If you like the art in a Tarot deck then it’s easier to connect to it and work with it. When evaluating the art it is important to ask yourself the following questions:
What style of art do you connect to the best? Art deco? Simplistic? Abstract? Cartoonish?
How does the art make you feel?
Do you like cards with heavy detail or simple and clean?
Do you like lighter, pastel colors? Or dark and vibrant?
Do the images tell a story? Do you like the story they tell?
Do the cards speak to you intuitively?
What is the theme of the deck? Do you like (vampires, witches, fairies, etc.)?or do you prefer no theme at all?
What’s your favorite card? And why?
What’s your least favorite card? And why?
What are the facial expressions on the court cards? How do you feel about these personalities?
By asking yourself these questions you can get a feel for how you connect to a deck of cards. Eventually you will find one that mesmerizes you and you can’t put it down. Sometimes this will be your learning deck, but other times it will just be a cool deck you want to have on hand. The key is to find a deck that puts you at ease, does not intimidate you and it helps if you genuinely like it! Once you have evaluated a Tarot deck’s imagery, go to the next stop – card stock.
I would suggest holding the deck in your hand (hopefully the store will have a sample deck on hand to play with). This is important because as you learn the Tarot you will be shuffling these cards a lot! And with shuffling comes wear and tear and bending of the cards. You want a deck to be flexible enough to shuffle easily, but not so flimsy that it tears. Avoid cards made of extra thick card stock, as they can clump together and resist the flow of the shuffle. Another thing to take into account is the size of the cards. If the cards are too large or small they can be also be difficult to shuffle. The Rider Waite Smith does have a great size and perfect card stock for adequate flexibility and frequent shuffling. The Mythic Tarot, though a great deck with beautiful imagery, is a bit large in size and can be challenging to shuffle.
Try shuffling the cards to see how they feel in your hands. Are they easy to shuffle or awkward? If they are awkward you may find that your clients/querents find them awkward too. Play around until you find a deck that feels easy to shuffle, is flexible but sturdy, with no tearing and the perfect size for your hand.
I noted above that something that truly helped me learn the Tarot was the “story-based” nature of the Mythic Tarot. What I meant by that is that the Mythic Tarot deck was correlated with the stories of the Greek Myths. Each suit in the minor arcana used the imagery to tell one Greek myth through the entire suit, which happened to correlate perfectly to what each Tarot card means. For example the suit of Cups tells the story of Eros and Psyche. The imagery in the Mythic Tarot’s Ace of Cups introduces us to Psyche, a beautiful young girl holding a large cup standing in the ocean. This card represents Psyche just before she is to meet her future husband Eros. She is full of hope and excitement for the future and knows she is worth a wonderful husband, just as the Tarot’s Ace of Cups would suggest (the Ace of Cups indicates self love, happiness, ready for romance). The next card shows Psyche tied up on an island, with the young God Eros (Eros is the Greek name for Cupid) fluttering his wings behind her. In the Greek myth Aphrodite has sent her son Eros to kill Psyche so that Aphrodite’s beauty is no longer overshadowed by that of Psyche’s. However, Eros upon seeing Psyche pricks himself with one of his own arrows and falls deeply in love with her. In the Tarot, the Two of Cups indicates the beginning of a new romance. Thus this card shows us Eros and Psyche meeting for the first time. The rest of the suit flows easily with the love story of Eros and Psyche, which happens to correlate perfectly to the meanings of each card.
Each individual card in the major arcana also tells a story from Greek mythology or focuses on one particular Greek character. So when you learned the story (or character), you could easily identify what the card meant.
When choosing a Tarot deck look at it from a “story” point of view. Does the deck tell a story of its own, like the Mythic Tarot? Can you easily attach your own stories or personalities to each card? Do any of the court cards look like people you know? Anything you can do to help you remember the essence of each card’s meanings and create a greater emotional attachment to the deck is an excellent resource for learning to read the cards. By reviewing the imagery, card stock and “story” element to each deck, you can find the deck that truly “clicks” with you which will help expedite your learning process dramatically.
What about you? How do you choose your Tarot decks? For those new to the Tarot what deck(s) are you drawn to? For those of you who are already reading what deck did you learn from or “click” with? Do you like to collect them and if so are there certain types, companies, or authors/illustrators that you prefer? Leave me your comments below.