Ask Charla: Which Tarot Deck Is Right for You
Welcome to another edition of ‘Ask Charla.’ You know, here at Astrology Answers I get a lot of questions from all corners of the globe; things to do with love and romance, chakras, tarot, astrology, numerology; if it’s metaphysical, then someone at some time has asked it!
I love talking one-on-one with all of you through this medium and taking a look at some of your more pressing questions. Let’s see what’s on your mind this week!
Which tarot deck is right for me?
This is a wonderful question, thanks for asking it! It is confusing to know what deck to choose, especially since the ‘age of the internet’ when there are so many decks to choose from, and new ones being published all the time!
Some decks have a pretty standard meaning from one to the next, while others are pretty far out there with the images and the interpretations assigned to them. There are however some tips to get a deck that talks to you, one that you can really work with. You have to resonate with the cards or your readings will be unfulfilling. Let’s take a closer look!
Where to Start?
The first thing you have to realize is not all divination decks are tarot. There are some oracles that are called tarot, but they don’t fit the criteria of a true tarot deck. A proper tarot has 22 trump cards called the major arcana.
There are also four different suits—wands, pentacles, swords, and cups, although in some tarot decks they’re called different things; rods, coins, blades, and chalices, for example. These four suits each have ten number cards and four court cards.
The court cards are usually called page, knight, queen and king; but again, some decks change that a bit, even though the meaning is the same. A true tarot deck will have 78 cards; 22 major arcana and 56 minor arcana in 4 suits.
In my opinion—and I stress, this is just what I’ve experienced in my decades as a tarot card reader, it’s not carved in stone—there are four very specific types of decks. There are the novelty decks that are themed and usually pretty far removed from anything to do with actual tarot readings.
While these cards are fun, they’re not usually cards people choose for deep meaningful readings! There are also some very fanciful decks, and even though they fit the criteria for being a tarot deck, they don’t seem to follow any particular tradition or format. These also may be challenging for a beginner to master.
The second category is the traditional decks, the cards that have pips on them for the minor arcana similar to playing cards, rather than images on each card in the deck.
These are good cards and easily read once you’ve learned what the cards mean, but it’s hard to understand what they mean if all you have are pips to tell you what the card is! Way back when, as I was learning the tarot, I actually had a deck like this, and I wrote on the cards what they meant!
Fortunately, someone soon introduced me to the Rider Waite deck, and that was my breakthrough moment!
Have you looked at Astrology Answers very own Master Tarot cards? They’re based on the Rider Waite cards, which were illustrated for A. E. Waite by Pamela Coleman Smith and published by Rider Books just over a century ago.
The Rider Waite deck was the first readily available deck to have an image to describe the meaning of the cards on both the major arcana and the minor arcana. Today, those images have become a standard, and have been repeated through dozens if not hundreds of decks, just like our own Master Tarot Deck.
Rider Waite clones and decks inspired by Pamela Coleman Smith’s artwork are popular because they are easy to read. Just look at the images, and say what you see. Reading the tarot is as easy or as complicated as you wish to make it—and I’m all about keeping things simple!
Yes, there are all kinds of astrological and numerology correlations in the cards. If you want to really dive in deep, you’ll find stones, angels, and more attributed to each of the 78 images. It’s all up to what you want to put into it as to what you get out of it.
Ancient or Modern?
The first step, armed with this information, is to decide whether you want a traditional deck, a modern one, or a blend of the two. The Rider clones are often a good choice; you can choose a theme that appeals to you such as Greek mythology, but still find a deck that has the established symbolism in the illustrations.
Some of the new decks are amazing, with a wonderful blend of contemporary themes in the archetypal images. These clones are often whimsical, fanciful, and some may even be quite comical at times. They may be themed to a particular geographical location, or culture, or era in time. Because they follow the Rider standards, they work.
If a really far out deck calls to you, take time to work out why. The reason I don’t recommend starting with an unconventional deck is, once you’ve learned the interpretations to those cards, you’re usually limited to reading that deck. The more traditional decks with the pips and the Rider deck imitations are fairly consistent in their meanings.
The newer and more stylized decks aren’t, and many even swap the cards into different places or completely change the suits! When learning the tarot, consistency is the key. Once the cards start talking to you, then you can start to experiment with the more unique imagery.
For What Purpose?
People use tarot cards for all kinds of different reasons. Some make a living out of providing readings for clients. Some charge for their service and treat their cards like a business. Others give readings out of the goodness of their hearts.
If you are seeking to become a professional reader, you won’t want to choose cards that have controversial images or illustrations that are particularly dark in their themes. There’s no point scaring off your clientele!
In this instance, something more traditional and familiar, something that people might have seen portrayed on TV or in movies and magazines is probably the best way to go.
Maybe you don’t want to use your cards professionally. If you are just seeing something to use as a meditation tool, something for your own inspiration and guidance, then you’ve got a few more options from which to choose. If you like spooky things or anime then go with that.
Even among the more unusual decks, it’s still possible to find Rider influenced cards. They might be easier to work with then something that’s really unique.
If you do resonate with something completely unique and unconventional, then by all means go for it, particularly if you’re using the cards for your own purposes. In this situation, pay close attention to any accompanying guidebook that comes with the deck.
The author may have attributed different meanings to the cards than the standard interpretations. At least read the information for ideas, even if you do find that the cards are speaking to you in a completely different way.
How Do I Begin?
Conversing with the tarot isn’t difficult, but it does take some practice. I remember when I started reading the cards all those years ago, I was told by my teacher that I was doing it wrong. My cards were telling me different things than they had told her. I wasn’t seeing what the classwork said I was supposed to see.
It was really off-putting! What I found later was I wasn’t wrong—the teacher was! There’s no one hard and fast rule when it comes to what the cards mean. Go with what they say to you. The most important thing is that you get that two-way dialogue going.
One way to start reading the cards is to treat them as if they were anime frames. Treat each card as a scene. What are the characters saying? What are they doing? Be as objective as you can for a start. It’s easy to try to read things into the meanings to color the reading the way that you want it to go—but that rather defeats the purpose of the exercise!
Another idea for removing some of the confusion about what deck to use is to write down the interpretations objectively, and then include how you felt in your notes. Did the information come easily from the cards or did you feel like you were pulling teeth? Every reader goes through phases when the cards just don’t seem to be talking.
Record your thoughts anyway; hindsight might just bring you clarity. This will also let you track whether one deck is consistently more challenging than another. Perhaps that deck just isn’t for you. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean you failed.
Even today I’ll obtain a deck that catches my eye, use it a few times, and then decide it’s not for me and pass it on to someone else.
My advice for a beginner is to go to the Rider Waite type decks like our own Master Tarot, and then choose one where the images resonate with you. Maybe you prefer cards without a border.
Someone else might be drawn to one that looks more like fairy tale pictures, or one that has an uncomplicated style easy to interpret, or perhaps Celtic mythology is your thing. There’s a deck out there for everyone, so don’t hesitate to try a few. Think of the tarot like ice cream, where every deck is a different flavor and you’ll like some better than others, and you won’t go wrong!
Related Article: How to do Your Own Daily Tarot Reading