Buying your first tarot deck is a wonderful experience. There is the excitement of exploring the unknown, of having answers to your burning questions, and of learning a new discipline. And today, there is the benefit of having a large variety of tarot decks to choose from (e.g., Celtic, Wiccan, fairy, Zen, Native American, goddess-centered, mythological, and traditional). For a beginner, it can be quite overwhelming to choose from such a variety of options. Here is a list of tips to help you find the best deck for you.
1. Whenever possible, go to a store that allows you to look at the entire deck of tarot cards before purchase. Some stores, such as Borders, will have a book giving you a sampling of 4 cards, but this is not enough to reflect the energy of an entire deck! Trust me. If you are going to do readings, you want a deck that speaks to you and which is in tune with your energy. Otherwise, you will be uncomfortable and some clients can sense this, which will interfere with the session.
2. If you cannot find an occult store in your area, you can see samples online. Try a free practice reading on tarot.com or façade.com. Both sites allow you to choose which deck you want to use for the reading. You will get to see good samples of what the cards are like in that deck. Just be aware that tarot.com does charge for some of their readings so make sure to choose a free introductory reading! Another method you can try is to go to Google, click “images”, and type in the name of the deck you wish to see. Some practitioners and online stores will scan images from a deck and put it on their website.
3. Buy a tarot deck with pictures on the Minor Arcana cards. This is important if you do not want to conduct dry, textbook style tarot readings. You need to feel and see what you are talking about. The client does too. When the cards have pictures on them, you can easily explain a particular card in a way that the client can understand. Deep within our psyche, everyone carries the memory of major archetypes. Even if the client does not know what a certain tarot card means, their subconscious mind understands the pictures on the card.
4. Take your time picking out a deck. If nothing speaks to you right away, come back later. Buying a tarot deck is like picking out a lover or a spouse. You do not want to take the first one that comes along. You want to choose lovingly and with care. If you really take the time to get to know your deck and love it, you will find that it becomes easy to read it. You know it and trust it, and it performs miracles for you. Though most of us go through phases with tarot decks as with anything else, oftentimes, there will be a deck that stays with you throughout the years. You may buy new copy to replace a tattered one, but in essence, you keep the same deck. That is why it is important to pick a deck that you love rather than one that is just there to “get you by”. It is worth the investment.
5. If possible, buy a brand new tarot deck. Unless your deck is from someone who you know well and whose energy is highly compatible with yours, you want a NEW deck. Each deck has a particular energy and it is easily affected by the reader and by the energy of the clients that this reader sees. So if you don’t know where and with whom your deck has spent its time, then don’t get it. You want to start a new relationship with your deck so that you can grow and evolve together. The energy of a new tarot deck is fabulous. New decks are so clear and positive and carry a charge to them that makes it easy to read them. It’s best to start out fresh.
6. Decide if you want a book to come with your tarot cards or if you are fine without one. Some decks will come with only a tiny pamphlet which gives a very cursory overview of the cards. For a beginner, this can be frustrating because the descriptions are dry and lack details. Having a larger book is great because it gives you a feel for what the illustrator intended when creating the card and helps you to harmonize with the energies of your deck. Some decks have a particular symbolism and mythology that is more easily explained when the deck is studied with the accompanying book. If you find the perfect deck but it doesn’t seem to have a book, you can still buy general tarot interpretation books, but the explanations will not refer to the specific pictures on your cards. For an experienced reader, the book may be unnecessary because you have your own relationship with the tarot and you are confident in your understanding and interpretation of the cards. It’s a personal choice and either way is fine. **NOTE: If you’ve never bought a deck before and you are purchasing online, you can generally tell if the deck comes with a full book or not by the price. A tarot deck with a full book will be between $22 and $40. A tarot deck with a pamphlet will generally cost about $15.
7. Decide if you want a traditional deck or a non-traditional deck. Traditional decks come with 78 cards and have a Major and Minor Arcana. There are some decks which are essentially tarot decks but which have been based on a particular mythology, so some cards from the traditional deck may be missing or altered. Some fairy decks and Celtic decks I have seen are like this. They have their own system of order which is slightly different from the tarot. Know this when you are buying a deck. Usually, these decks are obviously different because they will depict different names for the cards than those used in a traditional deck directly on the packaging. Non-traditional decks always come with a book to explain the mythology and symbolism behind each card. **NOTE: If you are buying books on tarot interpretation, remember that these books only cover traditional tarot decks. In this case, you would need to decide if you want to have a deck that matches with these books or not. This does not mean you should avoid a non-traditional tarot deck; it just involves more work on your part to understand how your deck fits into established themes and interpretations of the tarot. Some readers like to use more than one deck in a reading. I have seen readers use tarot cards in conjunction with non-traditional cards like angel cards or animal/medicine cards. This can work very well to give a well-rounded reading.
The last and best piece of advice is this: Enjoy your deck. Have fun with it! Practice with it often so that you get used to its energy.