How to choose your tarot cards
Choosing your cards
My interest for tarot as a divination tool started years ago, after a good friend of mine gave me a strikingly accurate reading. I got so excited that I asked her to “initiate” me. She then took me to the near-by spiritual-metaphysical bookstore. Following her and the seller’s advice, I ended up buying the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck. I got excellent results from the very beginning and was very happy with it. However, after months of studies, I started feeling the need to include the tarot in my spell-work and wanted a separated deck to avoid mixing energies. I was by then more aware of the symbolism represented in the Rider-Smith-Waite and of the large variety of decks available, so I decided to get a pagan deck and then bought the Witches Tarot. It worked well for a while, but the need for another deck began to itch my mind. In the meantime, a good friend had offered me The Egypcios Kier Tarot deck. She knew I was looking for a new, less classical deck and thought it would be a fine deck for me. Unfortunately, I am not a big fan of Egyptian stuff, and both the deck and the booklet had too much hermetic, Hebraic and astrological blah blah for my taste. What I wanted was a deck that would reflect my religious believes and practices as well as show some real black faces. I then decided, after nights of netsurfing and reviews browsing, to go for the Tarot of the Orishas. Unfortunately, for a serie of reasons, this deck didn’t satisfy me at all, and I went to back deck-hunting until I fell in love with the Tarot of the Ages.
The experts in the field (and there are many) will have recognised the first symptoms of what I call compulsive deck-acoholism, this sad tarot pathology that manifests itself under the form of irrepressible need for constantly buying and trying new tarot decks.
It can be due to genuine interest for the tarot itself. However, in most of the cases, it comes from deception with previous deck acquisitions. You bought a deck thinking that this one would be The Deck just to end up realizing that some of the cards really piss you off, are too ugly, that you don’t agree with certain aspects of the ideology defended in it, or you simply don’t connect with them.
People usually get very excited at the beginning of their tarot experience and rush out to buy everything they can get their hands on. Again, this is unfortunate as, even if there is good material about tarot out there, there is also a lot of crap.
Here is some advice to quickly get settled in the best fashion possible.
To Buy or not to Buy
There is a lot of discussion going on in the Tarot community concerning this issue. Some people, usually those on the more conservative side, argue that you shouldn’t buy your first deck and it should be given to you.
Well, this was true when tarot books and decks were not so easily available, and one had to get “initiated” sort of, into tarot. Today, in North America, this doesn’t apply anymore and one is free to choose and buy one’s tarot equipment.
However, in other parts of the world where tarot as a divination system is part of the culture, some people still hold these views. This is especially true in the Hispanic and Francophone world.
The right choice
Now, the question arises: given the wide variety of decks available, which one should I buy?
Many are tempted to make their deck choice based on the imagery, theme or beauty of the art. Unless you want to use it exclusively for meditative, spellcraft or collection purposes, don’t make this error. Most of the times, they are not of easy use for beginners as their symbolism and meanings are often very different from the traditional ones.
If your purpose is to develop intuition and have an easy divination tool, any system (not only tarot) is fine too.
If your point is to study the tarot as a system, it is far better to start with a classical one: Rider-Waite-Smith, Tarot de Marseilles or Toth tarot.
However, I have a preference for the Rider-Waite-Smith, because it has illustrated minor Arcana. The other two decks might be too dry for the non-experienced.
Work with it for at least one year, study the meaning, meditate on it, do exercises, by one or too good books on the subject, until you feel comfortable with it.
The reason for this is that modern tarots are only derivatives of original ones like those listed above. Having a good grasp of the traditional imagery and meanings of tarot cards can only help you.
This goes for everything:
In order to understand modern painting, drawing, sculpting…you need to have a good basis in classical arts, in basic techniques, in traditional views and perspectives; this is the essence of the Ecoles des Beaux-Arts. Obviously, you don’t need such training to become a good painter or sculptor, but it does help you by providing sound and solid theoretical background.
Well, the same applies to tarot.
Now, after one year of serious study, if you feel the need to, you can graduate to another deck. Choose it according to your tastes, specific interests or any other reason.
I personally think that one deck is not sufficient: any tarot reader should have two to three decks. You want to have one private deck for your own readings, and one for the general public. One for formal studies, one for meditation, one for spellwork and one just for the sake of its beauty!
Whatever be the reason, one almost always ends up with more than one deck!