Customers often email me to ask for help in choosing the right tarot deck. They are looking for the one deck that will become their “life partner”, a trusted friend who can understand them and help them to understand. 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 browsing the tarot shelves.
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, fey and social justice.
It may be difficult to determine the philosophy of a deck without doing some research. Some decks, such as the nature-themed Brady Tarot with a strong ecological message, display their philosophy clearly and proudly. Some decks reveal the driving principles behind their cards 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. A herbal tarot, for instance, combines the wisdom and message of particular cards with the wisdom of plants. This may prove to be useful to herbalists who have the ability to draw upon their existing knowledge to learn the meanings of the cards. The Next World Tarot by Cristy Road 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 abject 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 decide which deck you should reach for if you are reading for others (or have already done so). In a personal development tool, it’s good to be able to see all kinds of people.
There are a lot of different decks available (the Numinous Tarot and Thea’s Tarot are favorites of mine), but it is still rare to see a large variety of people in our cards. This is why some readers prefer decks that don’t have people in them (e.g. decks where animals or other creatures are the ‘characters’).
If you’re seeking decks with decent POC and/orqueer/genderqueer representation, Asalis Tarot of the QTPOC list is the best resource out there. You can find a variety of tarot decks in the Little Red Tarot Shop.
What can I learn about the creator/s of this website?
Personally, I enjoy learning about the creators of my tarot card decks and their motivations. It is important to me to feel a little connection with the people or persons who created my tarot 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, which is often white people. 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).
Are you looking for big or small cards?
Larger decks can be difficult to shuffle. Some people dislike smaller decks and prefer a larger format, either for aesthetic reasons or other reasons. There are many things I don’t like about card-stock, such as the thickness and texture of cards, lamination and gilded edges.
How about the price?
Some decks are simply too expensive for those with lower incomes. Self-published decks are often more affordable than traditional ones, but they also provide a source of income (hopefully) for the creators. There are many mass-market decks that are cheaper than indie decks. The Rider-Waite-Smith and Shadowscapes are just a few examples. (See below for a list of mainstream decks).
Instagram and other platforms can make it seem like we need to have a lot of decks to be able to read the tarot. Many readers only own one deck. There is no limit on how much money you can spend on ‘hobbies.’ Right now, there is a growing ‘wellness industry’ that will sell you everything you don’t want, with the promise of making you more spiritual or better at reading tarot cards.
I want to emphasize that tarot’s affordability and accessibility is one of its greatest assets. Anyone can learn to read the cards with a simple deck and an internet connection. It doesn’t have to be expensive.
Listen to your gut.
There is no right or wrong way to choose a tarot card deck. These questions are meant to help you decide if a deck is right for you. However, it’s just like selecting a partner – only you know deep down if it is. You can let all my questions go and focus on the one thing that matters most: whether or not you feel a positive feeling about the deck. You can’t go wrong if you do this.
Where can I buy decks?
If possible, I recommend purchasing directly from the artist. This will ensure they get the best price for their work and you can get a feel for their approach and work. You can search the artist’s name to see if the deck is available for purchase.
You can also look for independent retailers that care about the products they sell. You probably know that I own a tarot store. However, this is not a promotion for my business. I want to support small, intentional businesses all over the world. It matters where we spend our money!
Concerning mass-market decks, I understand that Amazon is convenient and cheap. But I have to remind them that they are a terrible company. It’s all unacceptable, especially when Jeff Bezos is the richest man on the planet. Please spend the extra money to buy from ethical sellers and creators if it is possible.
The Tarot Garden stocks the majority of mass-market decks that you can find on Amazon. It is an excellent alternative for US-based people.
Hive in the UK is also a great option.