How to Choose a Tarot Deck

Before I launch into a post about choosing a tarot deck I have to make a small confession. I’m not super choosy about buying tarot decks.  I have a small collection of them and I love to get new ones if one catches my eye.   That said, despite owning a bundle of them, I always circle back to a small handful that I love working with.

But that’s absolutely okay.  I don’t see anything wrong with collecting tarot decks; they’re beautiful art pieces, powerful tools, and great meditation aids.  Like any kind of collection, as long as your bills are paid and it’s not causing you harm, you should feel free to indulge yourself.  I used to feel guilty when I bought a deck that I didn’t use, but I realized that was a waste of energy.  Your favorite deck may change over time and one that you used to use all the time might take a backseat as your life changes, your reading style changes, or your reading audience changes.  I used to rely heavily on a Robin Wood Tarot deck, but as I’ve grown and changed I find that it’s too white and heteronormative to resonate with me anymore.  I’m not saying it’s not a good deck, just that my needs in a tarot deck are different now.

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Some of my collection, sadly unorganized at the moment because my studio is a mess.

So, how do you choose the tarot deck that’s right for you?  In my experience it’s a bit of a trial and error process until you find a deck that really resonates with you.  I want to tackle one stubbornly popular myth first.

Myth: You have to be given your first tarot deck.

This little story really annoys me.  Firstly, it takes your agency away from you.  You’re just

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Universal Fantasy Tarot

supposed to wait patiently for someone to magically guess that you need a tarot deck and then give it to you?  So many people would never get a deck!  This isn’t even considering people who might be living in situations where tarot is misunderstood and feared.  Also, I think that choosing and buying your very own tarot deck gives you a leg up in working with your chosen deck.  For me, tarot is about empowerment, and what could be more empowering than taking your own initiative and choosing your spiritual tools yourself?  Of course, this isn’t a slight against people who did have someone else give them a deck.  If someone gave you your first deck and you loved it and it’s perfect, that’s fantastic.  I guess what I’m saying here is that there is no wrong way to get a deck.  Except maybe stealing one.  The energy of theft is probably not the best energy you want to introduce into your tarot.

Okay, so you’ve decided that you want to get a deck, awesome!  But where do you even start?  There are hundreds and hundreds of possibilities out there.  You can find themed tarot decks on almost any subject you can imagine: CatsDragonsAliens, or even Baseball.  That almost makes it harder because there are so many options!

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Universal Goddess Tarot

So here’s my advice: you need to find a deck that you’re charmed by.  If you can, start by looking into Rider Waite Smith styled decks.  A lot of the intro to tarot websites and books are focused around that style of tarot.  That makes it easier to learn the meanings of the cards and you’ll have plenty of bloggers who use a deck similar to yours and lots of decks to learn from.  I also echo the suggestion of lots of others who suggested that you get a deck of “dudes doing shit”.  To be clear here, I don’t mean that you need a deck of men, but a deck with humanoid figures interacting with each other and the environment often makes it easier if you’re just getting started.

For me it’s really important that the deck be in an art style that I can connect with.  The more you look at decks, the more you’ll get to realize things you like and things you don’t like.  Personally, I’ve found that I don’t care for photo manipulated decks; I like drawings better on my cards.  I also like decks that have some traditional RWS symbolism but aren’t re-drawings of the exact same images.

You should also consider what you’re going to be using your deck for.  Do you want something to read spreads?  Then you might want something that is clear and easy to

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Witchlings Oracle Deck

understand, something like the Happy Tarot, the Robin Wood, or something like it.  Do you want something to help you connect with spirit?  Something like the Universal Goddess Tarot might be perfect.  I use my Universal Goddess deck both in divination and in goddess meditations.

Another thought I wanted to mention was that you can also consider oracle decks if they suit your wants.  I know this post is about how to choose a tarot deck, but most of it can also apply to oracle decks.  Obviously, with an oracle deck, the RWS advice about finding one with people doesn’t apply, but aside from that, look for something that you feel a pull towards and that you really like.  Oracle decks are not the same as Tarot decks, but don’t let anyone tell you that they’re inferior.  They’re just a different way of card reading.  In case you’re not familiar with the difference between oracle and tarot decks, it’s that tarot decks contain 22 cards in the Major Arcana and 14 Minor Arcana (also known as pip cards) in four suits that make up the 78 cards in a deck.  Oracle cards come in every flavor of the rainbow, and come in any number of cards, sometimes with a booklet for reading them and sometimes without so that you must rely on your intuition to decipher a spread of them.  I enjoy both types of decks and I own an assortment of both.  I do a lot more work with my tarot cards, but sometimes the simplicity of an oracle deck is too appealing to pass up.

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Happy Tarot

I also want to point out that sometimes the really great decks will surprise you.  I bought the Happy Tarot (see the Hermit card there?) because if was adorably sugar sweet and filled with cupcakes.  I didn’t really expect it to be a deck I did serious work with, but I’ve been so wrong about that.  The deck is great and I have found it to be wonderful to work with.  Don’t discount a ‘cute’ or themed deck as a novelty item right away.  Some of them are, but some will work just as well as a super traditional Rider Waite Smith.

The last piece of advice I have is that it’s okay to buy a deck and realize that it’s not the right deck for you.  If you hold out for The One True Deck you could get paralyzed and end up never trying any at all.  And here’s my second confession: part of the reason that I have so many decks is that it took me a long time to understand that I didn’t have to find the Perfect Deck.  You might use one deck for a while and then ‘outgrow’ it and start working with another.  And that’s okay.

So there you go?  Shop around, find something you love, and know that it’s okay to change

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Wild Unknown Tarot

your mind or pick more than one.  I’ve found that Aeclectic Tarot is a great place to find information about different decks.  They have reviews and purchase links for most decks.  Also check out the Tarot blogs, I post reviews here on The Wooly Witch from time to time and so do lots of other Tarot bloggers.

It’s also totally fine to throw all my suggestions out the window and do things your own different way.  That’s a big theme for me as I walk my spiritual path.  Learn all you can, take what makes sense, discard what doesn’t resonate with you.

Happy reading!  If you’re new I’d love to hear what your first deck was/is/will be.  If you’ve been reading for a while, I’d love to hear how you picked your first deck.  As you can tell, I love decks!

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Card of the Day: Eight of Pentacles

S W I M I N T H E S E A

Today’s card is the Eight of Pentacles from the Universal Fantasy deck

 This deck is fascinating. 8_of_pentacles Like the name says, this is a fantastical deck with an almost a little bit Sci-Fi feel to it.  It brings to mind alien planets far from our own with fantastic beasts and magical technology.  There are some cards that have a very Solarpunk feel to them.  I was flipping through my cards looking for which card called to me and this one just sang.  I love stars and trees and… well this one looks like a star tree!

This card raises a bit of a question.  The man, who reminds me a bit of the Lord of the Rings dwarves, is holding a hammer, and we can see what looks like a saw and some chisels near his feet.  Did he build this tree?  Is he repairing this tree?  Did he start building and the tree shot up around him, spiralling off into the stars?  He looks surprised, maybe even a little bit daunted.  Does he have to harvest the stars on the tree?  There’s a lot that could be happening in this card.

The Eight of Pentacles often has a practice makes perfect kind of message.  A craftsperson sitting on a bench hammering out pentacles is the classic illustration.  There are echoes of that here.  And the message is the same.  Whether or not he’s built the tree or is planning on harvesting the stars from it, the more often he works, the better he’ll be at it.  Also, the more he hones his craft the less concerned he’ll be about the outcome.

The Eight of Pentacles shows us that there is some hard work to be done, but that ultimately, if you put in the time and the practice, you can excel in your chosen pursuit.  Scaling the tree might not be easy, but when you can finally hold those stars in your hands it’ll all be worth it.