When searching for a tarot deck, it is best to look at a sample of the full deck. Looking at three or four cards will not always give you an accurate representation of a specific deck. You can see general colors and artistic style, but some decks have a very different Major Arcana than Minor Arcana. If you are in the Los Angeles area and you wish to hand pick your tarot deck, here are a few great places to go:
1. The Bodhi Tree Bookstore- 8585 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles (310) 659-1733
The Bodhi Tree Bookstore is my number one place for buying a tarot deck in person. They have samples of every deck in the store. With over two book cases full of tarot decks and meditation cards, The Bodhi Tree has the largest selection of tarot decks I have seen in a single store. The main area for tarot decks is just to the left of the check out register, in front of the information desk. The case is usually open and contains over 50 decks inside. Everything from Vampire Tarot to Thoth Tarot to Tarot of the Renaissance is available here. And, the staff is friendly, so if there is a particular deck that you need, which you do not see available, ask them. Chances are, they might have it at the info desk (if it is too large to fit into the case), or they can order it for you. If you are looking for books on tarot interpretation, you have hit the jackpot at The Bodhi Tree. They have a large section of tarot books (compared to other bookstores) and they also have a used bookstore annex behind the main building. It’s a great one-stop-shop. You can find books on astrology, numerology, shamanism, reiki, alternative health, and channeling as well. The Bodhi Tree also offers live tarot readings every day, 7 days a week. And, if you need to do other kinds of shopping on the same day, you are close to the Melrose Avenue shopping area, which offers small, trendy boutiques with affordable pricing.
2. Shiva 1335 3rd Street Promenade Santa Monica (310) 394-1191
Shiva also offers a large case full of tarot decks. Do not expect as many as The Bodhi Tree, but there is still a good selection here. Again, there is a sample for every deck available so that you can flip through the cards. This has saved me many times. I saw a tarot deck online that I was always curious about, which looked beautiful, but when I went to Shiva and looked at the full deck, it did not suit me at all. Most of the decks Shiva carries are also available at The Bodhi Tree, though I think they offer one or two that I hadn’t seen in stock at The Bodhi Tree. Besides tarot decks, you can find a terrific selection of crystal jewelry and polished meditation crystals. They do carry a small selection of spiritual books as well. Their main emphasis is on Indian imports, so you can also find clothing, statues, essential oils, and incense from India. Shiva is located in the heart of the 3rd Street Promenade, so there are plenty of restaurants, department stores, and movie theaters close by.
3. Panpipes Magickal Marketplace 1641 N Cahuenga Boulevard Los Angeles (323) 462-7078
Panpipes, which is close to Hollywood and Highland, caters to the occult shopper. The atmosphere is not as light as that of Shiva or The Bodhi Tree. If you are comfortable with pagan ritual, then you will fit in fine here. Customers practice light and dark magic, so you will find an eclectic group of people visiting the store. The selection of tarot cards is smaller than what you would find at other stores, but again, they carry full samples of all of their decks and they have connections with many of the major new age book and tarot deck publishers, so they are happy to order anything you want to find. One plus about Panpipes is that you can get very personal attention here. If the store is not very busy, the staff is very eager to help you with anything you require. The owners can recite the history of tarot cards for you or tell you which books are best for tarot study. A limited selection of books is available here. If you are a pagan practitioner or just interested in occult paraphanalia, you can find most tools you need here: mortar and pestle, herbs, ritual cups, swords, blades, cauldrons. Sometimes, if you come on a solstice or pagan holiday, they will have a discount or special treat for you.
There is another popular occult bookstore chain in Los Angeles called The Psychic Eye, but I don’t really recommend them for a beginner who is searching for tarot cards. They don’t have as large of a selection and I have not seen open samples for customers (though I admit that I have not been to every store location to check). Like Panpipes, the energy here is more suited to pagan practitioners rather than the general consumer. They do offer professional psychic readings and usually have several readers on hand at any given time, so you have the option of which reader to see. It is still a cool store to check out, just for fun, and they do have a moderate selection of spiritual books, so you might find a tarot or meditation book here that is worth your while. They also offer used books as well.
And, of course, there are the traditional bookstores, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders. Personally, I recommend trying Borders first as I have generally seen a better tarot selection at Borders. The only problem is that you cannot open the tarot card decks. Borders carries a large book which shows pictures of four tarot cards from each deck, but the cards shown don’t always give you an accurate reflection of a deck. For example, the book includes an Ace for each tarot deck, but Aces rarely have any detail, so you don’t really know what the other cards look like based on seeing one. Barnes and Noble, however, does have card samples of a few decks where you can actually look at the cards themselves (rather than a picture), but they only do this for about four or five popular decks and the samples shown are not of the entire deck. Again, you cannot view cards from a deck that is packaged. I recommend going to Borders or Barnes & Noble when you already know which deck you are going to buy. The chain stores can be a good place to go when you need to buy tarot interpretation books or tarot history books as well as a specific deck of cards. Only The Bodhi Tree Bookstore really compares to the big chain stores as far as having a good selection of tarot books as well as tarot decks.
When shopping for a tarot deck, make sure to look at the entire deck of cards, if you can. Keep in mind that tarot decks run from $15-$45 depending on whether or not a book is included with the cards. If you are new to the tarot, it helps to have a book for interpretation, so if the specific deck you like does not have a book, consider buying a general tarot interpretation book at the same time or signing up for a tarot reading class.