Updated: Apr 17, 2020
There are so many different Tarot and Oracle decks out there, it sure can be confusing as to know where to start.
This article you will highlight some general tips on which deck to choose, as well as some details about the different decks available to help get you started on your journey.
Choosing a Tarot deck
Firstly, its a myth that you can’t buy your own Tarot deck.
At the end of the day, Tarot cards are just printed paper, they are a tool that helps us access our deep intuition. Having the correct tools, and looking after them is important, but the important thing when selecting a Tarot deck is that the deck connects with your intuition. If you look at a deck that makes you feel good when you are holding the cards in your hands, and you feel inspired when you look at the imagery, then you should go with your inner feeling when choosing your deck.
It can be hard to know if the cards are right for you until you begin to use them. Its possible that when you start the cards just don’t speak to you in the way that you might expect. It means that you just need more practice, There is always some trial and error involved.
The Different Decks
Tarot of Marseille deck. In the early 20th century the Marseille deck was heavily revised by occultist A.E. Waite and published by William Rider, and was thus called the Rider-Waite deck. First published in 1909, it has not been out of print since, despite the fact that the original plates and artwork were lost during World War II.
Thoth Deck. In the late 1930s Crowley worked with artist Lady Frieda Harris to include more occult themes in his Tarot deck. What started out as a six-month project took on a life of its own, and his deck was only published in 1969, after both Crowley and Harris had died.
This style of deck contains the standard 78 cards, 56 Minor Arcana and 22 Major Arcana. The 56 Minor Arcana come in four suits, Batons (Bâtons), Swords (Épées), Cups (Coupes) and Coins (Deniers). Each run from Ace to 10 and have four face cards Page (Valet), Knight (Cavalier), Queen (Dame) and King (Roi). These Minor Arcana look much like regular playing cards, with simple art work, and the number cards don’t have art work beyond their count. For example, the Three of Cups will simply have three cups depicted on the card.
While we say that there are 22 cards in the Major Arcana, in the Tarot of Marseille The Fool card is actually not numbered and is considered separate from the other 21 cards in the Major Arcana, which are numbered. In the other style deck, the Fool is numbered as 0. The artwork on the Major Arcana cards is much simpler than seen in the other deck families. The cards also contain a significant amount of Christian imagery and themes. For example, it has Pope and Papess cards, which are known as the Hierophant and the High Priestess in the other deck families.
These cards were originally playing cards, that French occultists adapted for use in Tarot. This means that it is much more down to the reader to intuit the meaning of the cards, without the assistance of visual stimuli, especially in the case of the Minor Arcana.
A Tarot of Tarot of Marseille may appeal if you have an affinity for very old traditions, if the simplicity appeals to your senses or you are drawn to the strong Christian symbolism.
Designed specifically for use in Tarot, this is the most popular style deck in the English-speaking world.
Rider Waite cards are generally considered the easiest for those who are just starting out. This is because the imagery is generally easy to understand, and because as such a popular deck there is a huge amount of information available to help the new user figure out how to use and interpret the cards.
The Thoth Deck uses more surreal and symbolic imagery and incorporates more esoteric and occult themes. They are designed for true students of the occult that want to dive deep into these such as Kabbalah
Another key difference between Thoth cards and other Tarot decks is that Thoth cards do not have an upright and a reverse state. With the Rider-Waite. and Marseilles decks, you determine whether the reading of a card is positive or negative based on whether it is drawn upright or reversed. In the Thoth Deck, card reversals are not used, but rather the reader must determine whether the card is positive or negative based on where it sits in relation to the other cards on the table. If there are cards of the opposite element or suit adjacent to the card, it can be read as negative, while aligned suits suggest positivity.
The Thoth Deck may appeal if you are a deep interest in the occult, and want to link your Tarot practice into other occult practices, or if you are the type of person who likes to constantly discover new layers of meaning as you get to know the cards better.
As you browse the web you will see many modern Tarot decks such as the Golden Thread or Bifrost Tarot decks, that appear to bear little resemblance to the three archetypal decks described here. But, while the imagery used on these cards is unique, they are based on the Rider-Waite and Thoth Tarot systems respectively.
Whether you start by choosing a Tarot family, or start by exploring the artwork of different cards and then trace back to the family, is up to you.
A Final Thought
So, as well as investing in the right deck, if you want to get the most out of your Tarot readings, make sure you take the time to invest in yourself as well.