How to Select Your First (or 50th) Tarot Deck
If you are new to tarot and interested in getting starting, it may seem daunting to pick out that first deck. Even you have have been reading for years and have several already, the market is quite saturated with hundreds and hundreds of tarot and oracle decks out there. From well known publishers and established tarot creators to indie decks and self-published decks.
This quick guide may be helpful in sifting through and finding the right deck for you.
(Obviously, for the collector, any deck is perfect to add to your collection.)
As people with a good collection of tarot decks ourselves, we love tarot. Each deck's creator(s) puts just a little bit of their heart and soul into them and brings the decks alive on a new level. Tarot can be blunt and forceful with their messages or they can be puzzling and symbolic. The artwork can grab you and tell a story.
No two decks really read quite the same way. One deck may delve deeply into the areas of your shadow that need dug up and brought to the surface. Another deck may be great for giving love readings. You may find one deck is gentle in giving you messages, while another deck is perfect for kicking your ass into gear.
One person may totally resonate with a deck but when you read with it, you find that it just doesn't work for you. And sometimes that it how it is. I have decks just for the collector aspect rather than for actually reading with.
1. Don't Worry About the Should and Should Nots
What I mean here is that there are a sources out there, that will say that your first deck should be gifted to you. That you should always keep your deck wrapped in silk, preferably black and in a wood box. That you should not let other people handle your deck. Etc. Etc.
Now, some of these "rules" can be good to think about, but they are not necessary. Keeping your deck in a nice bag is just as good of a way to keep your deck safe as wrapped in a silk cloth.
I have found that some decks I have been gifted do not resonate at all for me, and thus I have just given them away myself. A friend may resonate with traditional Rider Waite imagery and gift you the same, but you may find the imagery antiquated and not your style. Although, you may have a friend that has a great feel for your energy and picks out a perfect deck for you.
So don't worry about sticking with that rule unless it feels right. If you would like to be gifted a deck, then just wait. However, if you find that waiting isn't for you, start looking for the deck that will work for you.
Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash
2. Look at the Individual Cards and Artwork
If you can, look at the cards individually. Some brick and mortar shops will have demo-decks that you can look at before purchasing. I always recommend going ahead and looking through each card in these cases.
Do you like the imagery? Does it say something to you? Is it aesthetically pleasing? Or does it just not do anything for you? Does the author change cards to be less scary, like getting rid of The Devil card or The Tower? Does the artwork offend you?
These are things to consider when looking at a deck to purchase. Some decks may have amazing artwork throughout but one card just ruins it for you. Sometimes you can ignore that one card or even toss it out. Other times it can ruin the whole vibe.
Also try shuffling the cards a bit and seeing how they feel in your hands. Sometimes a deck is just too big for your hands to feel comfortable. Some cardstock is flimsy and other is very thick. Some demo-decks are worn in though from others trying them out, so remember that when you buy the new deck, the cardstock may be tough to break in initially.
Pull a card or two for a message. Read through the provided guidebook to see what it says. If it resonates and makes sense for you, then you may find its a good deck to try. If it doesn't, try another deck.
If you can't get a hold of a physical demo-deck, you can usually look up the card images online through a Google search or from the artist's social media or website. This gives you the chance to actually see the cards before purchasing online or if a shop doesn't do demo-decks.
3. Start with the Tried and True
If its tough to decide what deck works for you, take a moment to look at some of the tried and true decks. The frequently recommended ones. For a first deck, starting with a traditional deck may be a good idea to get a general feel for the language of tarot.
Rider-Waite decks are some of the most frequently recommended starter decks. Most all decks, even more artsy ones, are often based off of imagery of the original Rider-Waite deck. Many sources you look at to define the meanings will go based off of this traditional deck and its imagery too. Making Rider-Waite decks a good place to start.
There are several variations of the color and artwork of the Rider-Waite deck over the years. You will find Universal Waite, Rider Tarot, Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, and Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot out there among others. Each has some variation on the color and drawing scheme and you may find one more pleasing on the eye than another.
Others may find the Tarot de Marseilles more their speed as far as a traditional tarot deck goes. The Minor Arcana is more of a pip deck (meaning that a five of cups is literally an image of just five cups on the card like a traditional deck of playing cards), but some find that easy enough to learn from and perhaps less distracting.
Some of Our Favorites
Here is a list of some of our favorite tarot decks to maybe get started with.
Dark Wood Tarot
Dare to enter the dark wood and discover your shadow self with this enthralling Rider-Waite-Smith-style deck. As you take on the role of a witch entering the wood, each magnificent card becomes a vision of deep wisdom that guides you to a richer understanding of yourself. Examine secret desires and shadowy dreams. Explore the unknown recesses of your psyche. This captivating deck and full-color companion book lead you through the darkness and into the light that reflects your hidden talents and personal power.
Wild Unknown Tarot
Kim Krans is not only a vanguard of the new Tarot movement, but the person who is redefining it for the twenty-first century. For a legion of contemporary seekers, The Wild Unknown is more than a Tarot deck; it’s become a resonant guide for people all over the world, inspiring them to share countless images of their readings, tattoos, and art prints from the deck.
Each of the seventy-eight cards in Krans’s Wild Unknown deck is a work of art that explores the mysteries of the natural world and the animal kingdom. Hand drawn in her spare, minimalistic style, the striking images invite deep contemplation. Her Wild Unknown guidebook is also an extraordinary cult art object—a hand-lettered and fully illustrated primer that leads readers through shuffling and cutting the Tarot, creating spreads, and interpretations of all seventy-eight individual cards.
Now, for the first time, Kim’s Wild Unknown Tarot deck and guidebook are available together in one beautiful, high-quality keepsake box set. Newly designed by Kim herself, and including never-before-published material, this boxed set retains the mystery, glamour, and allure that made her original deck a cult sensation, while introducing a whole new audience to its magic.
Radiant Rider Waite Tarot
Modern Witch Tarot
If you're looking for the most popular Tarot deck right now - this one is it!
Tarot has never looked more sophisticated and contemporary. Acclaimed illustrator Lisa Sterle marries the symbolism of the traditional Rider Waite Smith deck with youthful, stylish characters and items from our modern lives. With its diversity and all-female celebration of womanhood, this vibrant, fashion-forward, and colorful deck brings fun and fresh air to the Tarot!
Everyday Witch Tarot
Black cats, pointed hats, and magic brooms, too!
A fun, practical, easy-to-use tarot kit for every witch. Charming images pair with simple explanations to make this the go-to deck for anyone seeking to learn or practice the tarot. Based on the classic Rider-Waite deck but updated for the busy modern witch, this tarot has a whimsical air while still being dedicated to the serious job of providing answers to life's tough questions. Author Deborah Blake brings her friendly, approachable style to a tarot experience that's focused on the positive.
This deck has been shop owner Cassie's go-to deck for quite some time!
Includes a deck with brilliant art and a full-color guidebook.