Choosing a Tarot deck can be a daunting process. There are so many different designs, artists, and themes.
You may “Google” various sites that will show you pictures of the individual cards in various decks; you may observe the various decks various Tarot readers use at Metaphysical Fairs and ask those practitioners why they chose a particular deck; but ultimately you should select the deck that most appeals to you. You should also be prepared to try a different deck if your choice doesn’t work for you as you hoped it would.
P.D. Ouspensky’s The Symbolism of the Tarot says that Tarot can interface with other metaphysical systems such as astrology, numerology, alchemy, and Kabballah. Some decks include symbols for other metaphysical systems on each card, some do not. This is another factor to consider when you select a deck.
The Rider-Waite deck, drawn and painted by Pamela Colman Smith in 1910, is very popular. It was the first Tarot deck readily available with pictures on all 78 cards. If the deck you choose has pictures on all 78 cards, it is safe to assume that it derives to some degree from Ms. Smith’s designs.
There is also the matter of the size of the cards. Some decks are available in a variety of sizes but a typical Tarot deck is bigger than the modern deck. If you are new to Tarot, it will take time to stretch the ligaments in the fingers to be able to easily shuffle Tarot cards. Shuffling your deck and laying out the cards every day will be an easy exercise both for loosening the fingers and becoming readily acquainted with the individual cards and the patterns found in the layout.
Other types of decks useful for metaphysical purposes are also readily available and may be confused with Tarot. If the deck you are drawn to does not have 78 cards in it, it is not a Tarot deck. It could be Oracle or Angel or other cards, and would be used differently from Tarot cards. The main difference is that Tarot can give guidance, answer questions, indicate the better choice among options, suggest an appropriate action; Oracle cards may be used to indicate a meditation for the day, illuminate inner truths, reflect more immediate concerns.
It is important to read widely about Tarot, both card interpretations and layouts. The deck you choose will have a booklet included with it that will provide basic meanings for each card and probably the Celtic Cross layout. This booklet is a good place to start, but the more you read, the better your interpretations are likely to be. You may find a different layout pattern more meaningful. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to lay out the cards or determine their meaning; if the response to your interpretation is “that’s right,” you are doing a good job. Similarly, you may choose to incorporate reversed meanings (when the card is laid down upside-down) of the cards or not. It is not a matter of “right” or “wrong,” just a matter of personal preference. Use what works best for you.
Rachel Pollack has written several excellent books about the Rider-Waite deck. Arthur Edward Waite also wrote about the deck Ms. Smith drew and painted, albeit in rather abstruse language. The important thing is to read widely and to take from your reading whatever information is useful to you, which need not be the entire article or book.
From this framework, you’ll be well on your way as you navigate your path with the Tarot.
Article by Kate Braun
Tarot by Kate