How To Choose A Tarot Deck

featured, Spirituality

Choosing Your First Tarot Deck should be a fun and indulgent experience. Not an overwhelming one. The deck you choose should resonate with you on a deep soulful level, it should give you a buzz, and a chill when you think about the deck, it’s captivating images, and messages that await you. Otherwise what would have been an intentional tarot practice, will fail because you won’t reach for your tarot deck due to lack of connection and interest.

Before I bought my first tarot deck, I was fascinated by the ritual, symbolism, and mysticism that surrounded the cards. But the idea that the cards could tell me my future just didn’t sit well with me, it just didn’t feel right. And to be honest, it still doesn’t feel right to me. Which meant that I just didn’t know where to start and kept asking myself over and over again “what tarot cards should I buy?”

The most important thing when it comes to choosing your own tarot deck is to select the tarot deck that you feel drawn to and that you understand the most. Don’t choose a deck just because it’s popular, or just because you think you need to have it in your collection. Or because someone said to start with a particular deck. Don’t do that. 

Why I Love Tarot Cards

Tarot cards can help us achieve a great many things. Tarot decks are learning tools, meditation tools, journaling tools, and show us the beauty of the shared human experience through the stories they tell in the themes embedded into each card’s imagery.

I love tarot cards and decks because I’m an artist. I love looking at the beautiful miniature works of art. Honestly, if I could fill my home with art set up like an art gallery that rotates artwork all the time, I would do it! This is a major reason why I love tarot cards so much, it’s all the beautiful imagery in these little teeny tiny miniature works of art. Another selling point for me on having multiple tarot decks in my collection is that they let me have many many works of art in my home on a much smaller scale.

Can You Buy Your Own Tarot Deck?

First I’d love to dispel the myth that you cannot purchase your own tarot cards… You should definitely go buy your own tarot deck, it is not bad luck to buy your own, and you won’t be cursed. Like many things in the world, tarot cards have no meaning unless you give them meaning. It’s you that gives an object, any object, its importance through the meaning that you attach to it. 

When it comes to reading tarot cards, the most important thing is your connection to the cards, your interpretation, and the meaning you attach to the symbols and imagery of each card. 

Quite frankly, the idea that you can’t buy your own tarot deck makes no logical sense. I think this cursed myth has been shared throughout the years to try and keep the mysticism around tarot cards, keeping them veiled. And to keep the purchases low so that not many people had them, therefore perpetuating that veiled mystic mythos surrounding tarot cards and tarot readings. 

Take your first tarot deck into your own hands and make sure you buy one that you are drawn to and that resonates with you. Choosing a tarot deck should be a deeply personal experience that reflects it’s owner’s tastes, goals, dreams, and intentions. Which is why you should buy your own deck instead of waiting years on end for someone to gift you a deck, that you might end up not liking anyway, that is hard to use, or that you had to wait half a lifetime, or longer to receive.

When you choose your own tarot deck deliberately, you are selecting a deck that suits your personal tastes and cultural affinities. This creates an instantaneous & automatic connection that causes you to lean further in and explore why you have those tastes and affinities. This will help you forge a deeper bond with your identity, values, and what makes you, you.

Buy A Tarot Deck On Purpose

When buying your first tarot deck, consider your goals, intentions, the purpose of the deck, and how you’ll be using the deck. Not only should you consider the purpose of the deck, but you should also buy a tarot deck ON purpose. You can accomplish this by finishing the following statement: 

“Primarily, I want a deck that will help me _______.”

By understanding, and more importantly defining, the reason why you are buying a given tarot deck and its purpose for you, well in advance of buying it will ensure that you have a goal in mind when shopping. 

Level this up by turning this reason into a mantra while you are shopping for a new tarot deck. This mantra will enable you to weed out the tarot decks that don’t meet your criteria faster and with confidence. 

“My Tarot Deck Helps Me _______.”

What do you need to think about when choosing a tarot deck?  

Let’s dive deeper into how to choose the right tarot deck for you. There are so many different types of tarot cards out there in today’s modern internet age. Including new age tarot decks that you may not have heard of like, angel card readings, mystic moon tarot, lotus tarot cards, etc.

There is an immense amount of free online tarot reading tools and tarot decks that act more like instant tarot readings. You’ll also find free oracle card readings, free lotus tarot, llewellyn free tarot readings and tools online. There are free tarot readings for the popular spreads like the Celtic Cross tarot spread online too. But more on the different tarot card spreads another day.

The search for the perfect tarot deck can be a bit daunting. So let me help you narrow down your choices through getting intentional about the tarot deck you purchase.

When you’re choosing your first tarot deck or a new tarot deck to add to your collection, there are a few things you’ll want to consider and take time to mull over in your search: Inspiration, Emotion, & Physical Feeling. 

Is the deck in question visually appealing and inspiring? 

Do you have a strong emotional reaction to the tarot deck’s imagery and messaging? 

Does the tarot deck feel good in your hands? 

But it’s not as simple as that. Let’s dive deeper into understanding why you are being called to practice tarot, why you want a tarot deck in the first place, and how to make this an intentional purchase that will keep you engaged in its mysteries well into your later years.

jump to any of these sections below:

Inspiring Qualities of Tarot Decks

Emotional Qualities of Practicing Tarot

Physical Tactile Qualities of Tarot Cards

Inspiring Qualities of Tarot Decks

The tarot deck that you choose should have an abundance of inspiring qualities within its imagery, messaging, and tone of voice. When you find a tarot deck that is visually appealing and visually inspiring you will find yourself reaching for it more and developing your practice in an engaged, deeper, and more meaningful way. You won’t be able to stop thinking about the tarot cards and might find yourself daydreaming about them constantly.

How To Find a Tarot Deck That Speaks to You

Well that’s the most loftiest advice I’ve ever heard…Don’t you agree? 

Let me explain what it means to find a tarot deck that “speaks” to you. Have you ever had a song stuck in your head for days on end? This happens to me all of the time, and it happens with tarot card decks. Sometimes I will dream about a tarot deck or have themes and images from the cards stuck in my head for days on end. 

Honestly, it can be a little distracting sometimes. But I take this as a sign that my subconscious is trying to turn things over and bring them up to the surface of my conscious mind so that I can tackle them. 

But how does this help you find the perfect tarot deck? The answer is to find a tarot deck that speaks to you, which means choosing a tarot deck that you’re drawn to or that you can’t get out of your head.

Choose A Tarot Deck That You Can’t Get Out Of Your Head

When this happens, I always go straight to that deck in question if it’s in my collection. However if it’s not on my shelf, and it’s been stuck in my head drawing me closer and closer to it for over a month, then I purchase the deck (if monies allow) or do a thorough google image search of all of the cards in the deck to see if it’s really a tarot deck that I need in my collection. 

Allow yourself to dive into the rabbit hole and preview all of the cards in the deck if you can find them! Explore online reviews, apps and artist websites to find previews of all the cards. You’d be surprised at what a quick google search can do… you’ll almost certainly be able to instantly determine whether or not you’ve got a connection with the cards. If you do, you’ll feel it immediately in your bones and soul.

After some googling, this is sometimes the point when I discover that I already have a deck in my collection that serves the purpose of the deck in question. Other times I discover that the deck isn’t right for me after looking at the imagery of each card in the deck.

It’s really important to go with your gut and trust your instincts when you’re looking at the tarot card imagery. When a tarot deck speaks to you, the artistic style of the cards will guide you deeper into a place within yourself, where the answers to your questions lie. 

You will intuitively understand the symbolism embedded in the imagery, and the themes will resonate with you. Look for this personal intuitive connection with the cards, if it’s not there, then it’s not the right deck for you.

If you are feeling that immediate pull to a particular deck pay attention to the visual aesthetics! Go deeper beyond the surface and ask yourself the following questions…

Ask Yourself: What Inspiring Qualities Do The Tarot Cards Have?

  • What is your first reaction to the tarot cards in this deck? 
  • What captures your attention about this tarot deck? 
  • Is It visually inspiring?
  • What is bringing you back to this tarot deck over and over again?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a tarot deck must be worth a million.

For me, imagery is the most important aspect of a tarot deck. As an artist I’m such a visual person, and tarot is firstly, a visual tool, so if I can’t connect with the pictures on the cards, I won’t use the deck because it’s too difficult to interpret their meanings. 

The best tarot artwork is balanced, easy to scan, understand, and identify with immediately. If the user doesn’t understand the imagery in a card then they won’t use the tarot deck.

Pay attention to the Media & Colors of the deck. 

Are you drawn to simple modern lines, striking gilded imagery, holographic elements, colorful or dark and brooding shades? Are you inspired by detailed drawings, contemporary or vintage designs? Do patterns appeal to you? 

Consider the Style of the tarot deck. 

Classical, Antique, Traditional, Contemporary, Modern.

After you’ve found a deck with imagery that calls to you consider this: 

  • Can you look at the imagery of the tarot card and begin to understand its potential meaning? 
  • Does this card mean something to you specifically?

Make sure that you look at all of the cards in a tarot deck, this includes the backs of the cards since you will see those while you shuffle the tarot deck.

Have you seen a tarot deck with images that resonate with your personality? This might be the deck for you.

Emotional Qualities of Practicing Tarot

As much as I love only looking at the artwork on each tarot card in my collection, I’m here to tell you that they’re more than just pretty pictures. Artwork moves us in various ways through the emotional reactions we experience when deciphering it’s imagery. 

This is where the Art Historian in me comes out in full regalia ready to spend hours exploring a painting and every brush stroke, but instead I most frequently find myself with the 78 little miniature works of art found in a tarot deck.

As an Art Historian, when I am exploring a painting, I am looking for certain qualities to better understand the story behind the artwork and what the artist is trying to convey to me, and with tarot cards and tarot decks this exploration is no different. This search for connection to the creator of a piece is what gets me to fall in love with an artwork and feel pulled to visit it time and time again, every chance I get. With tarot cards, I don’t have to wait until I am in the city where it resides to visit the artwork (see my favorite piece of art here!). 

When choosing your first tarot deck it’s important to ask yourself: Do I have an emotional reaction to this tarot deck? If you do then look deeper into yourself and reflect on the emotional qualities that are important to you when you’re looking at any type of artwork. The messages, advice, and tone of the artwork will evoke very specific visceral reactions from you. 

If the tarot cards in a given deck move you to have an emotional reaction to the artwork, then the artist and creator of the deck has done their job. This might be the deck for you to keep you pouring over it’s artwork into the long hours of the night.  

What kind of advice do you want the cards to give you? 

With so many decks out there, there are different decks that are good for different things. Once you know the type of voice you’re looking for and understand the voice of a given tarot deck, you can zero in on how to pick a tarot deck that’s right for you.

When choosing a “voice” that you want your tarot cards to have, consider the tone of voice and tone of the messaging written in the guide book (more on guidebooks in a bit!).

I reach for a spirit animal deck when I am looking to embody the characteristics of an animal, learn from them, and try to embed some of their wisdom into my life. I like to reach for oracle decks when I want to feel inspired and uplifted. More on the difference between oracle decks and tarot decks another day. I love pulling out traditional tarot decks to view their imagery. 

But most of all, I love modern decks because they tend to blend all of these things together. They have a little bit of oracle decks, a little bit of traditional tarot decks, and they usually have animal imagery in them as well. All of these themes and types of decks rolled up into one works really nicely for my tarot journaling practice.

What Tone of Voice Should My Tarot Cards Have?

  • Do you want your tarot deck to have an authoritative voice when you read the description of the cards and when you interpret them? 
  • Should the cards have a reassuring and comforting voice in its messaging? 
  • Are you looking for whimsy in the writing? 
  • The inspiring simplified messages of The Universe Has Your Back oracle deck? 
  • Silliness like in the Lisa Frank Tarot Deck? 
  • Messages of embodying power like Spirit Animal and Medicine Card Decks?

How should tarot cards make you feel?

Consider the type of feeling that you want the cards to give you. Think about what type of emotions and what type of imagery that you’d like to see from your tarot deck when you’re trying to decide which tarot deck to choose. 

Since there are so many different tarot decks to choose from, all equally steeped in mystery until we get to know the cards. Each tarot deck has their own artwork, symbolism, meanings, themes, stories, archetypes, and curiously enough, their own unique energy to the deck itself. I like to think of this as more of the vibe I get or feeling I get when using the cards. This energy and vibe heavily influences the feelings that are evoked and experiences I have when reading the tarot cards.

What Feeling Should My Tarot Cards Give Me? 

  • Do you want to experience a calming reading that is more zen like? 
  • Do you want to connect with your inner goddess? 
  • Are you looking for botanical decks to get to know the energy of different plants and flowers?
  • What vibe do I want my tarot deck to give me for each reading?

Once you have an idea on the type of feeling you want to obtain from a tarot card reading and your tarot deck you will be able to tap into the themes that you should be searching for when buying your first deck. More on themes and types of tarot decks below.

Physical Tactile Qualities of Tarot Cards

The perfect tarot deck for you will feel good in your hands. This is an instance where size is important, if your deck is too small then you won’t be able to read the imagery in each tarot card. If it’s too big or a weird shape then you might have a hard time shuffling the tarot deck. 

The physical qualities of a tarot deck are deal breakers for a lot of tarot practitioners. This is because of how personal, private, and unique, the practice of reading tarot cards is. No two card readers will have the same preferences when it comes to how the deck feels in their hands. 

What is the perfect sized tarot deck?

Don’t forgo thinking about shape, size, and practicality when choosing your first tarot deck. Most tarot decks are printed 2.75” (70mm) by 4.75” (120 mm), which is a smidge larger than a common pack of playing cards.

Mini cards can be hard to read and shuffle.

Be sure to take the size into consideration. Will you be able to read the cards and decipher the imagery on the cards? This happens to be the only type of tarot deck that I have regretted and passed on to someone else. The deck that I had was too hard for me to read because of how detailed and delicate the imagery was. It would have worked better as a regular sized deck. My current favorite mini cards are Celtic Totem Animals: Working With Shamanic Helpers

Round Tarot Decks and Oversized decks can be difficult to shuffle and hold in your hand.

But don’t let that stop you if you really love a deck and have a strong connection to it. I had a hard time shuffling these types of decks at first, but I was pretty quick to find alternative ways of shuffling that worked well for me, and I know you will too. My favorite round deck is The Wild Unknown Archetypes Deck & Guidebook.

Should Tarot Cards Feel Crisp & Stiff Or Worn In?

I have always preferred tarot cards and playing cards that are worn in. They have a used feel that is easier to shuffle, handle, and have a well loved vibe about them that I can’t get enough of. My favorite playing cards are my Dad’s from the 1990’s if not the mid to late 1980’s. My tarot decks haven’t reached this level of use yet, but after 10+ years, my first ever tarot deck is starting to shuffle easier and get that worn in feeling in my hands that I’m looking for. 

If you like the worn in feeling of cards

Then I suggest opting for a thinner card stock in your tarot deck selection. This also means to not be afraid of reviews that say the cards are too thin. My favorite thin card stock tarot deck right now is the The Antique Anatomy Tarot Kit: Deck & Guidebook for the Modern Reader.

If you like stiff feeling cards 

Then make SURE to read the reviews and watch as many demo or review videos as you can of the cards being shuffled. Thicker cardstock tarot cards will generally have a louder, harsher, snap sound when you shuffle the cards. Due to their stiff rigid nature of the card. A softer sounding shuffle usually is an indicator of a worn in deck. My favorite stiff feeling tarot deck is The Illuminated Tarot: 53 Cards for Divination & Gameplay.

Shop around and consider the size and quality of the card stock in your tarot deck. This is really important when you are choosing your very first deck. There are a lot of options too. 

What Physical Tactile Qualities Should My Tarot Cards Have?

  • Does the Tarot Deck Feel Good In Your Hands?
  • Do you want a small tiny travel deck that can fit in your bag? 
  • Playing card size? 
  • The classic size, a smidge bigger than playing cards? 
  • Oversized cards? 
  • Round Cards? 
  • Laminated cards? 
  • Digital tarot cards? 
  • Cards that come in a bag? 
  • Cards that come in a tin? 

The options are nearly endless.

Still feeling overwhelmed by all of the tarot deck choices out there? 

Don’t let the abundance of choice and all of the questions to consider when buying your first tarot deck discourage you. If you’re still not sure which tarot deck to buy check out my go to tarot deck for beginners below while you mull over the inspirational, emotional, and physical tactile qualities you want your first tarot deck to have.

My Go To Tarot Deck For Beginners

What is the best beginner tarot deck? Consider your experience level, if you’re a beginner, I highly recommend that you try out a spirit animal deck (which is not a tarot deck). Spirit Animal decks are really easy to get into and more relatable. 

This is because we can see the characteristics of the animals reflected back to us from the cards, through the personification that our cultures have put onto animals in our stories, folklore, fairy tales, and traditions. So it’s a very easy type of deck to identify with. 

Think about it, you probably already know what a dog or wolf, a horse, and bird means. Their personifications are pretty universal in the human experience.

What is the most common tarot deck?

Alternatively if you’re a beginner and you really want to start from, well, the beginning, try out a more traditional deck, like the well-known Rider Tarot Deck. The Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck is widely referenced in tarot books, which means there’s a lot of information on this deck out there. 

If you’re looking for something that has a wealth of information attached to it, try the Rider Tarot Deck. If you’re an intermediate tarot lover try the Marseille Tarot Deck. If you’re a more advanced or experienced tarot reader, you should try out a tarot deck that is more conceptual that has more complex meanings and symbolism like Thoth Tarot from the Golden Dawn.

Choose a tarot deck that comes with a guidebook.

When first starting out with tarot or when learning a new deck, it’s very helpful to have a companion book next to you for each reading if you don’t have a friend to guide you through the reading. The guidebooks are really nice to have to validate your interpretation of each card so you can learn each card in a meaningful way.

The Rider Deck has the same foundational structure that many other decks that came after it are built from. Learning to interpret these other decks comes faster since they are so similar to the Rider Deck, it’s almost like learning a new dialect instead of a whole new language, which is really helpful if you are a beginner.

The Rider Tarot Deck has many guidebooks and interpretation books that have different explanations on how to use this deck and what the card meanings are. This deck is also most commonly used in tarot reading instructional books across the board as image examples to convey the concepts of the different types of cards in the 78 tarot card structural system. 

Which Tarot Deck Should I Buy?

Click on a deck below and check out some of my favorites!

Remember to choose your first tarot deck or a new tarot deck to add to your collection in a meaningful and intentional way that fosters: Inspiration, Emotion, & Feels Good In Your Hands.

Reach for a tarot deck, oracle deck, or spirit animal deck that you are drawn to and that you feel a connection or a pull to. Reach for a tarot deck with beautiful imagery that is in your taste. Reach for a tarot deck that you feel an intuitive connection to. 

Reach for the tarot deck that you’re feeling on a given day. I have a collection of tarot decks and always reach for the ones that are calling to me that day. Sometimes there are specific reasons that lead me to choose a tarot deck, but largely I like to choose the one that calls to me. 

What matters most is your unique connection to the cards.

So go forth and choose the tarot deck that speaks to you.

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