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Which tarot deck is right for me?

This is a wonderful question, thanks for asking it! It is confusing to know what deck to
choose, especially since the ‘age of the internet’ when there are so many decks to
choose from, and new ones being published all the time!

Some decks have a pretty standard meaning from one to the next, while others are
pretty far out there with the images and the interpretations assigned to them. There are
however some tips to get a deck that talks to you, one that you can really work with.
You have to resonate with the cards or your readings will be unfulfilling. Let’s take a
closer look!

Where to Start?
The first thing you have to realize is not all divination decks are tarot. There are some
oracles that are called tarot, but they don’t fit the criteria of a true tarot deck. A proper
tarot has 22 trump cards called the major arcana.

There are also four different suits—wands, pentacles, swords, and cups, although in
some tarot decks they’re called different things; rods, coins, blades, and chalices, for
example. These four suits each have ten number cards and four court cards.

The court cards are usually called page, knight, queen and king; but again, some decks
change that a bit, even though the meaning is the same. A true tarot deck will have 78
cards; 22 major arcana and 56 minor arcana in 4 suits.

In my opinion—and I stress, this is just what I’ve experienced in my decades as a tarot


card reader, it’s not carved in stone—there are four very specific types of decks. There
are the novelty decks that are themed and usually pretty far removed from anything to
do with actual tarot readings.

While these cards are fun, they’re not usually cards people choose for deep meaningful
readings! There are also some very fanciful decks, and even though they fit the criteria
for being a tarot deck, they don’t seem to follow any particular tradition or format. These
also may be challenging for a beginner to master.

The second category is the traditional decks, the cards that have pips on them for the
minor arcana similar to playing cards, rather than images on each card in the deck.

These are good cards and easily read once you’ve learned what the cards mean, but
it’s hard to understand what they mean if all you have are pips to tell you what the card
is! Way back when, as I was learning the tarot, I actually had a deck like this, and I
wrote on the cards what they meant!

Fortunately, someone soon introduced me to the Rider Waite deck, and that was my
breakthrough moment!

Have you looked at Astrology Answers very own Master Tarot cards? They’re based on
the Rider Waite cards, which were illustrated for A. E. Waite by Pamela Coleman Smith
and published by Rider Books just over a century ago.
The Rider Waite deck was the first readily available deck to have an image to describe
the meaning of the cards on both the major arcana and the minor arcana. Today, those
images have become a standard, and have been repeated through dozens if not
hundreds of decks, just like our own Master Tarot Deck.

Rider Waite clones and decks inspired by Pamela Coleman Smith’s artwork are popular
because they are easy to read. Just look at the images, and say what you see. Reading
the tarot is as easy or as complicated as you wish to make it—and I’m all about keeping
things simple!

Yes, there are all kinds of astrological and numerology correlations in the cards. If you
want to really dive in deep, you’ll find stones, angels, and more attributed to each of the
78 images. It’s all up to what you want to put into it as to what you get out of it.

Ancient or Modern?
The first step, armed with this information, is to decide whether you want a traditional
deck, a modern one, or a blend of the two. The Rider clones are often a good choice;
you can choose a theme that appeals to you such as Greek mythology, but still find a
deck that has the established symbolism in the illustrations.

Some of the new decks are amazing, with a wonderful blend of contemporary themes in
the archetypal images. These clones are often whimsical, fanciful, and some may even
be quite comical at times. They may be themed to a particular geographical location, or
culture, or era in time. Because they follow the Rider standards, they work.

If a really far out deck calls to you, take time to work out why. The reason I don’t
recommend starting with an unconventional deck is, once you’ve learned the
interpretations to those cards, you’re usually limited to reading that deck. The more
traditional decks with the pips and the Rider deck imitations are fairly consistent in their
meanings.

The newer and more stylized decks aren’t, and many even swap the cards into different
places or completely change the suits! When learning the tarot, consistency is the key.
Once the cards start talking to you, then you can start to experiment with the more
unique imagery.

For What Purpose?


People use tarot cards for all kinds of different reasons. Some make a living out of
providing readings for clients. Some charge for their service and treat their cards like a
business. Others give readings out of the goodness of their hearts.

If you are seeking to become a professional reader, you won’t want to choose cards that
have controversial images or illustrations that are particularly dark in their themes.
There’s no point scaring off your clientele!

In this instance, something more traditional and familiar, something that people might
have seen portrayed on TV or in movies and magazines is probably the best way to go.
Maybe you don’t want to use your cards professionally. If you are just seeing something
to use as a meditation tool, something for your own inspiration and guidance, then
you’ve got a few more options from which to choose. If you like spooky things or anime
then go with that.

Even among the more unusual decks, it’s still possible to find Rider influenced cards.
They might be easier to work with then something that’s really unique.

If you do resonate with something completely unique and unconventional, then by all
means go for it, particularly if you’re using the cards for your own purposes. In this
situation, pay close attention to any accompanying guidebook that comes with the deck.

The author may have attributed different meanings to the cards than the standard
interpretations. At least read the information for ideas, even if you do find that the cards
are speaking to you in a completely different way.

How Do I Begin?
Conversing with the tarot isn’t difficult, but it does take some practice. I remember when
I started reading the cards all those years ago, I was told by my teacher that I was doing
it wrong. My cards were telling me different things than they had told her. I wasn’t
seeing what the classwork said I was supposed to see.

It was really off-putting! What I found later was I wasn’t wrong—the teacher was!
There’s no one hard and fast rule when it comes to what the cards mean. Go with what
they say to you. The most important thing is that you get that two-way dialogue going.

One way to start reading the cards is to treat them as if they were anime frames. Treat
each card as a scene. What are the characters saying? What are they doing? Be as
objective as you can for a start. It’s easy to try to read things into the meanings to color
the reading the way that you want it to go—but that rather defeats the purpose of the
exercise!

Another idea for removing some of the confusion about what deck to use is to write
down the interpretations objectively, and then include how you felt in your notes. Did the
information come easily from the cards or did you feel like you were pulling teeth? Every
reader goes through phases when the cards just don’t seem to be talking.

Record your thoughts anyway; hindsight might just bring you clarity. This will also let
you track whether one deck is consistently more challenging than another. Perhaps that
deck just isn’t for you. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean you failed.

Even today I’ll obtain a deck that catches my eye, use it a few times, and then decide
it’s not for me and pass it on to someone else.

Conclusion
My advice for a beginner is to go to the Rider Waite type decks like our own Master
Tarot, and then choose one where the images resonate with you. Maybe you prefer
cards without a border.
Someone else might be drawn to one that looks more like fairy tale pictures, or one that
has an uncomplicated style easy to interpret, or perhaps Celtic mythology is your thing.
There’s a deck out there for everyone, so don’t hesitate to try a few. Think of the tarot
like ice cream, where every deck is a different flavor and you’ll like some better than
others, and you won’t go wrong! Picking the right Tarot deck is very important. Your deck
will become your portal to the energies of the universe and a valuable tool in most of the
decisions you make. So, it’s important that you really connect with your deck.
At first glance you need to like what the deck looks like, and be able to interpret the meaning
of the cards easily from the images on them. For a beginner it might be difficult to tell what
some decks are trying to portray with images and symbolism, so picking a deck that you can
associate the image to the meaning is important.
Each person is different and you will associate different things with different symbols and
illustrations. That is why there are so many different decks available. While most of the
decks are based on the Rider-Waite deck, you will see that each deck has a different feel to
it. Some of them even incorporate ideologies and philosophies to cater to the needs of
different types of people and the Spiritual elements that are important to that specific
person.

Which tarot deck is right for


me?
That depends on what you like. To find out what tarot deck is right for you to need to be sure
of who you are. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to make picking the right
deck a little easier:

What types of pictures do you like?


Are you someone who likes realistic images, cartoon illustrations or whimsical fairies? Do
you like bold colors or softer pastels?
Choosing a deck with illustrations that you resonate with will help you connect to the deck
more easily.

What Spiritual path calls you?


Are you more connected to nature and animals or fairies and elves? Are you Pagan, and you
like witchcraft and spells? Or do you have a more Catholic background? Or are you
interested in Eastern Philosophy like Buddhism?
There are decks that focus on each of these different Spiritualities (and many more). Finding
a deck that compliments your Spirituality will help you to connect to it and get readings that
mean a lot more to you.

Are you a beginner or experienced Tarot


reader?
Your experience level will determine how much guidance you need with a new Tarot deck.
Some Tarot decks have a very in depth guide book that explains each card in detail, while
some only give short meanings, others don’t even have a guide book!
If you haven’t practiced your Tarot reading skills with a deck that provides a lot of guidance
you may find it difficult to interpret the cards in a deck that only gives minimal guidance.

What don’t you like?


This is a question not many people focus on when they’re looking for a deck. For some
reason we seem to think that over time a deck will grow on us and we can ignore some key
aspects that we dislike about a certain deck in favor of all the things we like about it, but out
of personal experience I can tell you, don’t get a deck that you don’t like in any way, doesn’t
matter how inconsequential your distaste may seem at first.
The Deck I should have left behind…
When I first got interested in the art of reading cards I didn’t know much. I went to my local
Esoteric store and stood looking at the decks. From the very first time a specific deck caught
my eye. The picture on the box spoke to me. The name of the deck sounded so intriguing…
Because it was a small local store and I was young and naive I didn’t bother to ask if I could
open the packaging, I didn’t do an online search either. Big Mistake.
After months of deliberation I finally bought the deck.
My hopes were shattered.
It wasn’t a Tarot deck and all the meanings of the cards were basically the same…
I ended up using the deck because I spent so much on it and I thought I had a connection
with it… But, with every reading the resentment inside grew.
I started looking at the illustrations and seeing how basic and uninspired they were, which
bothered me. The image on the front of the packaging ended up being the one I liked the
most out of the whole deck and the other cards made me feel uneasy.
I ended up shoving the cards into the back of my cupboard and forgetting about them.
Let this be a lesson to you.

When you’re looking for a Tarot deck:


1- Make SURE it’s a Tarot deck…
And not some other type of deck. There are wisdom cards, Angel cards, all kinds of cards…
Which all have their purpose and are very helpful if that’s what you’re looking for, but if you
don’t want them, getting them may be a big disappointment.
2- Do your research!
The image on the front of the packaging may be nice, but to really know if you like the deck
you’ll have to look at most of the cards to get a real feel for them.
While you’re doing research on a deck you like also keep your Spiritual path in mind and if
you can find out more information about the guidebook, or even find an online copy of it,
take a look through it and see if you understand and like the way it’s written.
3- Take your time and be sure.
I may have taken my time with my first deck of cards, but in all honesty, the reason I finally
took the plunge was because I started doubting whether I wanted that deck in the first
place.
4- If in doubt look some more.
If you do find a deck you like, but there is something not quite right about it, do take the time
to look some more. There are numerous decks out there and settling for the first one that’s
appealing to you is like buying a chocolate you kind of like because you saw it first, but your
favorite one is on the next shelf.
5- Use the web.
The internet is a wonderful place to find the right Tarot deck for you. When you’ve found a
deck you kind of like do another search using similar words that describe the deck you
already like. You can also look for reviews and videos that explain and show the deck in
more detail.
Just going to the creator’s page will give you insight into the person that made the deck, but
remember, this is a page made to sell, so it’s a bit biased.
For a real idea of the deck you need the opinion of people that have used the deck (and
guide book).

How many cards in a Tarot


deck?
It’s important to know how many cards there are in a standard Tarot deck to know that the
deck you’re buying is actually a Tarot deck.
There are 78 cards in a full Tarot deck, but some decks only use the 22 Major Arcana cards.
Other decks add an extra card or two to the Major Arcana, which increases the number of
cards in the deck.
The rest of the deck is known as the Minor Arcana, and consists of four suits, like a normal
deck of playing cards, except that each suit has 14 instead of 13 cards, for a total of 56
Minor Arcana cards. Some decks omit certain Minor Arcana cards for various reasons, but in
most cases each of the suits has an Ace, number cards from 2-10 (marked in Roman
Numerals) and 4 court cards (Page, Knight, Queen and King).
The names of the suits can vary, but the most common is based on the Rider-Waite deck,
Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles.
Some decks add an extra “Arcana”, like the Pagans Otherworld Tarot Deck that not only
added an extra Major Arcana card, but also added five extra Luna cards for a total of 84
cards.
As you can see the number of cards in a Tarot deck can vary, but anything less that 78 is
not a full deck and I would advise you to do more research about why some cards were left
out and also whether it is a true Tarot deck…

Types of Tarot cards


As I mentioned before, not all cards that you can use for divination are Tarot cards. The art
of reading cards is called cartomancy and Tarot is only one form of this art. Here are some
types of cartomancy cards that are also popular:

Oracle Cards
These can be anything, and I mean anything. They can have any theme, any number of
cards and any number of spreads and meanings. It all depends on who created them. Lots of
Tarot readers use these in conjunction with their tarot cards to get a more in depth reading,
but very few who have tried Tarot progress to Oracle readings, because the meanings of the
cards are quite similar and the message is usually based on the ideologies of the author.

Angel Cards
Angel cards are a way for people who are scared that Tarot dabbles in the dark arts to still
use cards for cartomancy. They are a great alternative to Tarot cards if you’re religious, or
you don’t want any gloomy readings, but they can be a bit too sweet for people who like a bit
more spice with their readings. That being said, they offer great guidance to living a good
life.

Lenormand Cards
Named after Mary Anne Lenormand, who reportedly read cards for Napoleon during the late
18th and early 19th century, these card are making a comeback. They are simple enough on
their own, but each card HAS to be read in conjunction with another to get the real meaning
of the reading. A traditional Lenormand deck has 36 cards, comprising of four suits,
numbered 5-10, jack, queen and king, but more modern decks usually have more cards.

Playing Cards
Yes, normal playing cards can be used for cartomancy. The meaning of playing cards is
loosely based on the Minor Arcana from traditional Tarot decks such as the Rider-Waite
deck, with each of the suits corresponding to those found in the Minor Arcana.
Then you also get…

…Tarot decks that have become an art


unto themselves!
Once in a blue moon a Tarot deck gets such a big following that they create a whole new
subdivision of Tarot. While they are still considered “Tarot” decks, they are seen as special
and those that use them tend to talk about them as if they belong to their own subdivision of
Tarot. Most of these decks are based on:
The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck
When you think of Tarot cards the imagery from this deck is probably what springs to mind
first. The Rider-Waite-Smith deck was the first “modern” Tarot deck. It was first published in
1909. The illustrations, drawn by Pamela Colman Smith, were simple, yet rich in symbolism
used by the 19th century magician and occultist Eliphas Levi. The deck was also the first to
steer away from the Christian model used before, which was based on Christian religious
leaders.
The “Pope” card became the “Hierophant”, the “Papess” became the “High Priestess” and
the “House of God” became the “Tower”. It was a huge leap in the art of Tarot reading for
Divination. The deck has since become the basis of most modern Tarot decks. The 22 Major
Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards from the Rider-Waite deck are used in many new
decks today, but some of them have renamed or added a few cards.
It has become the symbol for Tarot and is widely used. It is a great deck for beginners
because there is so much information available on the meanings of the cards. The deck is
also widely available, but if you want one make sure to pick the right size and color
according to your personal preferences. There have been numerous editions, each one
altering a certain aspect of the original deck.
Llewellyn Tarot Deck

The Llewellyn Tarot deck is strongly based on Celtic mythology. The creator, Anne-Marie
Ferguson, wanted to create a deck that captured the mystery of Wales and honoured
Llewellyn George, founder of the Llewellyn Publishing House that commissioned the Tarot
Deck. The result, a deck that follows the Story of Welsh mythology, the Mabinogion,
throughout the Major Arcana. The Minor Arcana is much simpler and based entirely on the
Rider-Waite deck.
The Llewellyn deck comes with a comprehensive guide book that explains each card in
detail and how it relates to Celtic mythology. It is a great deck for beginners and holds
elements of mystic realism, an old Celtic notion that living within the reach of the
supernatural is the natural way to live.
This deck has become very popular and serves as a way to unite the mystical with the real.
The imagery is very romantic and captures the essence of the Welsh culture and
countryside. It is much softer than the Rider-Waite deck, adding a more mysterious and
ethereal feel to Tarot readings.
Thoth Tarot Deck

The Thoth Tarot Deck was first published in 1969. By that time both the artist, Lady Frieda
Harris, and the creator, Aleister Crowley, had passed away. They worked on the deck
between 1938 and 1943, Harris painting under the instruction of Crowley. Crowley based the
deck not only on the traditional Rider-Waite deck, but also incorporated philosophies and
symbolism from various occult systems.
While it is based on the Rider-Waite deck, various cards in the Major Arcana have been
renamed, as well as the court cards of each suit. The suit of pentacles is also called the suit
of discs in this deck.
This is not a deck for the faint of heart. The infamous mister Crowley, who also authored the
Book of Thoth (the guide to using this deck) held nothing back and the deck has been
described as rich, intense and complex. While it is not a deck for beginners, some
experienced Tarot readers swear by it. Saying that they have clearer and more precise
readings with this deck than any other in their collection.
You can have a look at the most popular Tarot decks available in this post.

Vintage Tarot Cards


Tarot cards originated in the 15th century and there are still three partial decks remaining
from this time period.
Cary-Yale Visconti-Sforza Tarot
This is arguably the oldest Tarot deck in the world today, dating back to between 1442 and
1447. It is hypothesized that the original deck had 86 cards and was commissioned by Filipo
Maria Visconti, but of these only 67 cards remain at the Yale University Library.
The original deck presumably contained 6 ranks of face cards for each suit, adding the
“Damsel” and “Lady on Horse” to the common Page, Knight, Queen and King’s of the Tarot
decks we’re used to. The Major Arcana also included the three theological virtues. Another
unique aspect of this deck is that all the Major Arcana or Trump cards have a gilt
background, while the Minor Arcana numbered cards, or Pip cards, have a silver one. It is a
beautiful deck that was meticulously painted by hand, full of details and symbols of the time,
a detail which helped to date the origin of the deck.
While the original deck remains safely locked away, replicas of the deck are still available for
purchase today.
Pierpont-Morgan Bergamo Visconti-Sforza Tarot

This vintage deck was created in 1451 and of the 78 original cards only 74 remain. The
remaining cards are shared between the Pierpont-Morgan Library, Accademia Carrara and
the private collection of the Colleoni family in Bergamo.
Like the Carry-Yale deck the Major Arcana has a gilt background, along with the face cards
in each suit. But, the numbered or Pip cards have a cream background with a flower or vine
motif.
As with the Carry-Yale deck there are modern replicas of this deck, but since The Devil and
The Tower cards have been missing from the original deck the modern interpretations of
these two cards can vary considerably.
Brera-Brambilla Visconti-Sforza Tarot
This is one of the oldest decks, dating back to 1463, but unfortunately most of the gilt Major
Arcana and face cards have been lost. Currently the collection, which is kept at the Brera
Gallery in Milan, only has one almost complete set of pip cards (with a silver background)
left for the suit of denari, which is missing the four. In total only 48 cards from the original
deck remain.
Modern reproductions of this deck are hard to come by and usually only feature the 48
remaining cards from the original collection.

Classic and Traditional Tarot Cards


The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck

I’ve already spent some time discussing this deck earlier in the article. It is however one of
the favorite decks to use for modern interpretations and imaginings of the Tarot. Most new
decks are based on the images and design of the Rider Waite deck, making it one of the
most researched and well-known classical decks.
Thoth Tarot Deck
The Thoth deck has also been discussed earlier in the article. While it is not as popular as a
base for modern decks, the occultist views of this deck are a starting point for many that
want to create their own decks. The intricate details entwined in the illustrations and
meanings of this deck are in inspiration to many who create their own decks.
Tarot of Marseilles

The Latin Tarot or Tarot of Marseille was originally used to play card games rather than as a
tool for divination. But over time it fell out of fashion. However, in the 19th century Papus, a
French occultist brought these cards back into fashion.
Today the Latin Tarot is one of the favoured decks in Europe as the card meanings are
much closer to the original meanings of the first Tarot cards. The deck is much more
religious and less occult orientated and may be a good substitute for those who want to use
the Tarot while remaining within the realms of Christian belief.
For more information about the history of this deck deck take a look here. If you want to take
a look at the card meanings click here.