Here I will explain one of the most enjoyable steps (in my opinion) of the tarot reading process: choosing a deck to work with! I will take you through the different decks I use, why I use them, and how I know which deck to use for a particular reading (I find that some decks are more fitting for certain situations than others). This will be particularly useful if you are interested in acquiring a tarot deck but aren’t sure where to start, or if you’d like to know more about the deck I have chosen for your reading.
First of all, there is no right tarot deck (you probably already knew this, but just in case). There is, however, a right deck (or decks!) for you. For instance, the right decks for me tend to be colorful, complex, and abstract, but you might enjoy working with a deck that is black-and-white, minimalist, and clear.
I don’t think anybody knows exactly how many tarot decks there are in existence, and new ones are being released all the time. Your best bet for finding the right deck is simply to browse and have fun. I would only advise that you don’t jump into buying the first one you see — unless, of course, it makes your heart pound with recognition (you know, the feeling that you’ve just found something you didn’t even know you were looking for?). That definitely means it’s the right deck for you.
First off, let’s look at the most well-known deck: the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (sometimes abbreviated RWS).
I would at least recommend that you become familiar with this deck, but even better to have one yourself. This is not because it’s the best deck (far from it, in my opinion) but because it’s the deck that a significant number of modern decks are based on. It’s also a good introductory deck simply for the sheer plethora of information available on it (books, courses, lectures, studies, you name it). Get to know this deck. Know it very well, and then move on.
When you’re ready, a great follow-up deck (in my opinion) is the Cosmic Tarot.
This deck is, in my experience, reliably precise. I never find myself staring at a Cosmic tarot card at a loss for its meaning (which does happen to me with other decks, and we’ll get to that). I have clients who love this deck so much that, no matter how many swish new decks I acquire, this is the only one they want to work with. The images are a bit dated in terms of fashion and hairstyle, which might get in the way for some, but for me I absolutely adore its rad 1980s aesthetic.
When do I pull out this deck? When I want really clear answers. If the question asked of the cards is precise, then this deck can offer precision in terms of direction and advice.
Which brings me to what I consider a less precise deck, but one of the most beautiful ones I work with: the Enchanted Tarot.
Honestly, every time I use this deck my spirit lifts a little. I find its artwork utterly gorgeous, and even if it struggles to offer concrete advice for practical concerns I find it immensely useful for inquiries of the heart. If you’re sitting down with your tarot cards to get to know yourself a little better, discover what you truly want from life, or communicate with your soul, this deck is perfect.
And then, if you want something a little more rigorous and intellectual, the Haindl Tarot is a great one to explore.
I always use this deck with several books on my lap for cross-referencing. The Minor Arcana utilize corresponding symbols from the I-Ching while the court cards offer images of important gods, goddesses, and archetypes from across the globe. The Major Arcana also feature runes, Hebrew letters, and astrological signs. If you’re looking for a rewarding challenge, this is a great deck to sink your teeth into. With that said, it’s still possible to read from this deck intuitively (the cards have a number of sub-headings to coax you along).
When do I pull out this deck? When I have an inquiry or objective that I want to take my time with and receive multiple perspectives on.
More decks coming up in How to Choose a Tarot Deck: Part 2!