If you’re at the beginning of your tarot journey, choosing a tarot deck that is right for you may be an overwhelming task. So many choices–so little time! But not to worry. Here are a few things for you to consider to help you make that decision.
1. The Basics
- Do your research and check out what your tarot peers are saying. There are plenty of resources, reviews, and deck previews via various social media platforms such as Youtube, Instagram, and WordPress. Of course, visit Aeclectic Tarot for all the technical information that you may need!
- Bug your deck collector friend. Chances are they will be more than happy enough to take you on a grand tour of their previous collections. You can use this opportunity to browse and “feel” the deck in your hand to feel its vibes.
- Visit bookstores that provide open-box samples. If you don’t have a deck collector friend, many bookstores out there will have an open-box on display for customers to browse through the cards–for free!
- Search up images on Google. If you are too busy or too much of a couch potato to venture outside of your house to visit a bookstore, the internet is your best friend!
- Read with the deck of your choice. Bigger bookstores usually have pretty generous refund policies. Take advantage of the privileges of consumerism! This is also a good idea if you are more of a doer than a thinker/reflector and wants more hands-on experimenting. So of course the quickest way to know if you can jam with a tarot deck’s vibe is to actually work with it and evaluate your reading experience. Do the images allow your intuition to flow? Do you like the way you feel when you engage with the tarot deck? Are you able to interact with the images fairly easily? Are you able to come up with insightful messages using this deck?
2. Purchase a Rider-Waite deck
Regardless of how much this deck actually appeals to you, Rider-Waite Tarot is always a good place to start if you are are the beginning of your journey. A lot of the contemporary decks out there are based on the Rider-Waite system and draws on its symbolic representations and landscapes, so starting with the Rider-Waite will give you a good foundation when it comes to the common symbols and metaphors of tarot. This isn’t to say that you have to begin with the Rider-Waite deck in order to learn tarot properly, but it does give you an edge and a great degree of flexibility when you are trying to work with multiple decks. The tarot language of Rider-Waite can be easily adaptable and transferable when you want to expand and and star to work with new decks.
3. Pick a deck that is visually pleasing and appealing to you
Because a tarot deck consists of visual representations of symbols and archetypes, it is important to ask yourself what kinds of images you are usually attracted to. You can start by reflecting on the types of art styles that you enjoy looking at and look for tarot decks that reflect that particular art style. The quickest way to figure out, really, is to browse! Go to your local bookstore or new age bookstore and look over the selections there. Don’t think too much and just allow yourself to perceive. It’s a pretty straightforward process–you should be able to distinguish the decks that have artworks that appeal to your taste immediately just by looking at them. The reason for this is very simple: your intuition will flow better if you like and enjoy what you see. If you can’t even sit with what you’re looking at, how can you really work with them to generate insight?
4. Examine your favourite genres and themes in various forms of media
What are your favourite genre of movies or books? This can give you clues about the tropes and types of symbols and metaphors that you are familiar and resonate with. This can also drastically narrow down the scope of your search. For example, if you are someone who is into the genre of fantasy (like me!), you will probably be drawn to the tarot decks that portray their symbolic worlds with elements of the fantastical. If you are into animal narratives, you may be drawn to decks that feature a variety of animals or a specific kind of animal.
5. Choose tarot decks that contain symbols you are familiar with
Another thing you can consider when choosing a tarot deck is the types of symbols and metaphors that are being used in a specific tarot deck. What are some of the symbols that you have already unpacked to some degree and already exist in your symbolic lexicon? To answer this question, refer back to the previous genre question to help you uncover some valuable insight. For example, if you are a big fan of fairy tales or fairy tale retellings, consider the types of plots, characters and story tropes that you tend to see and recognize: furry or gentle forest animals usually represent friendship or loyalty, faeries represent magic and powerful opportunities for transformations, and random strangers may represent a fated test of character that will contribute to the hero’s success or failure. Having knowledge of these fairy tale tropes will help you interpret the message of tarot should these tropes ever occur.
6. Choose tarot decks that reflect your attitude towards life
How do you describe your experiences in life, negative or positive? In other words, what is your core attitude or core philosophy as a human being? Once you have an understanding of how you live your life, you can choose a tarot deck that resonates with how you process your experiences. You are essentially choosing a system of language that is an extension of yours, which will help you translate your insights from future tarot readings. Do you describe it as a fight or battle overcome? If that’s the case, you can choose a deck that has a raw, warrior energy; maybe a deck that is more masculine than feminine. Or do you describe it as an ongoing journey where you encounter interesting characters and landscapes? If so, you should choose a deck that emphasizes the designs of its characters and environment. Do you describe it as a congregation of emotions, ideas and insights? Then you can pick up a deck that features patterns, abstractions and fractals to capture your mind that is in constant sporadic motion.
Putting everything together
Once you have considered all (or some! no pressure *wink wink*) of these things, you will likely have a pretty good criteria that you can refer to when you are looking for a deck that you can bond with. Chances are there are more than one deck that is out there waiting for you to discover and connect to, so don’t feel like you can only limit yourself to one deck. Here’s is my personal experience of discovering one of my favourite decks of all time, Universal Fantasy Tarot, and how I can be sure that this truly is a deck that speaks to me:
- I am attracted to lush colours, bright contrast and detail-oriented landscapes
- I am in love with the genre of fantasy and its various tropes
- I like to portray and personify my life experiences into characters or fantastical creatures with my imagination
- I like to view my life as a journey and a never-ending story
Looking at this list of criterias, Universal Fantasy Tarot is perfect for me as a tarot deck. Not only does it appeal to me on a visual level, it also contains various tropes and symbols from the epic fantasy genre that I can easily tap into when I do intuitive readings. In the epic fantasy genre, life is often represented by the “epic journey”, in which the hero must traverse across dynamic landscapes, confront and slay mythical beasts, and harness different kinds of powers such as magic, swords, and the ability to communicate with magical species to develop as an individual. It’s like the Universal Fantasy Tarot and I are born for each other.
To close: resources and websites to check out
Hopefully this post has helped you identify some of the key things that you look for in a tarot deck. Some of these questions may seem slightly daunting (since they are asking you to do some serious self-reflections!), so don’t feel like you have to answer all of them in order to find that one dream deck of yours. It’s not like if you purchase one wrong deck and your whole tarot career is over. The most important thing, of course, is to enjoy the process of discovery and have fun.