Guide for choosing and finding a new deck.
I get emails from customers asking for help in choosing the right tarot deck. They are looking for a trusted friend who can understand them. It’s so personal! It’s a personal thing! What resonates strongly for one person might not resonate with someone else. Images that grab your heartstrings and jump out at you may not be relevant to someone else. Perhaps you enjoy thick cards or large decks of cards, black-and-white or animals.
It’s personal, I promise! It is difficult to give solid recommendations for decks. For those who are looking for a new deck, I have a list of questions you can ask when looking at the tarot shelves.
Does the artwork speak for me?
This is what most people consider when choosing a deck. Tarot is a visual tool for most people (though not all – some can read the cards without seeing them, and some are blind or visually impaired). The stories, symbols and clues for interpretation are found in the images of the cards.
It is important to feel that the artwork and images resonate with you. Personally, I love vivid colours and abstract imagery. Pictures are symbolic, not figurative. Perhaps you prefer watercolours or sparse line drawings.
You should look at as many cards as possible to get a feel for the style of the deck.
Is theme important?
There’s a deck of tarot cards for almost every ‘theme’, as you have no doubt noticed. Unicorn tarot and Star Wars tarot are all available. There are many cat tarot decks. I also have urban-themed decks. They include decks that focus on steampunk, mermaids and social justice.
It may take some research to determine the philosophy of a deck. Or, it might be obvious. Some decks, such as the Brady Tarot with a strong ecological message, display their philosophy clearly and proudly. Other decks reveal their driving ideas in a guidebook, pamphlet or manual (such as the Wanderer’s Tarot), which is deeply rooted in feminine/goddess spirituality.
Themes can help us to connect with our cards more deeply. For example, a herbal card tarot combines wisdom from plants with the message of a specific card. This may prove to be useful to herbalists who have the ability to draw upon existing knowledge about plants to help them learn the meanings of the cards. Cristy Road’s Next World Tarot envisions a post-revolutionary society. The archetypes she suggests may be familiar to people working in social justice circles.
Is representation important?
Recent articles have focused on the heteronormative, white-cisgendered, homonormative nature of mainstream tarot and the insufficient body diversity displayed in card images. Traditional decks such as the Rider Waite Smith Tarot don’t allow for people of colour (POC), people with queer bodies, and people with different bodies to be represented. It doesn’t matter if this matters to you, but it is okay! However, I urge you to be aware of the visual representations in your tarot cards. First, you can choose a deck that represents you personally. Second, you will be able to determine which deck you should reach for if you are reading for others (or have already done so). It’s also useful to view different types of people in a personal growth tool.
Although there are more diverse decks available (the Numinous Tarot and Thea’s Tarot are both favorites of mine), it is still rare to see many people in our cards. This is why some readers prefer decks that are ‘people-free’ (e.g. decks where animals or other creatures are the characters’).
Asali’s Tarot is the best source for decks that have decent POC and/or queer/genderqueer representation. You can find collections of diverse tarot cards at the Little Red Tarot Shop.
What can I learn about the creator/s of this website?
Personally, I enjoy learning about the creator of my tarot card decks and why. It is important to me to feel a little connection with the people or persons who created these cards. I enjoy working with decks that were created by queer women and those who speak about feminist issues, decolonization, and other important political topics.
Cultural appropriation and other issues can arise from this. It is not unusual to see decks based on culturally-specific themes, but they are often created by people not from those cultures (often people of color). It is important for me to believe that the deck creator feels a personal and spiritual connection with the symbols and ideas they are presenting (and profiting).