12 October 2013

Choosing Your First Tarot Deck: A Beginner’s Guide

Choosing your first tarot deckChoosing your first tarot deck is exciting but can be a somewhat daunting prospect for newcomers to the tarot.  Just the sheer number of tarot card decks available can be overwhelming.  So here are some pointers to help you in the very important task of choosing your first tarot deck.

Generally speaking, I have found that it is wise to select a deck that has all the standard features associated with the tarot when going for your first one.  This means choosing a 78 card tarot deck, consisting of 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana.  Once you are comfortable with the basics of tarot, then you can move on and experiment with some other types of cards; for now stick to a standard tarot deck.

Rider-Waite: The Benefits of a Popular Deck

It is important to consider how you will be working with the tarot cards. For example, will you be using a book for guidance? Will you be consulting online meanings of the tarot cards and how to read them such as the Card Meanings on Aquarian Insight? This is an important consideration because even the most cursory look at tarot sites or books will show you that the vast majority use imagery from the Rider-Waite tarot deck as examples.  While some readers of the tarot prefer to connect directly with the cards they are working with and derive their own meanings and insights, just as many prefer some guidance, especially at the beginning.  The Rider-Waite is the most popular deck in the world, so if you plan to consult sites and books for guidance on deciphering the meanings and imagery of your deck, then it is a good idea to start with the Rider-Waite.  Luckily, because of its popularity, the Rider-Waite even with its original imagery, has been cloned in different forms, with different colouring and hues and just a couple of examples of these are the the Radiant Rider-Waite or Universal Waite, which you can view via the links and then compare with the images of the original deck that we use on Aquarian Insight.

The Rider-Waite may well be the most popular tarot deck in the world, but that does not mean that it is necessarily the tarot deck that is right for you. You may not connect with the classic images and instead want to use something else that more closely fits your own personality.  So, how do you use the resources that are out there, which are all seemingly connected to the Rider-Waite, without having to use a Rider-Waite deck yourself?  The answer is simple as you will see next.

Alternatives to the Rider-Waite

The popularity of the Rider-Waite means that not only has it been cloned, but that the basic themes and imagery of the deck have been incorporated in a vast array of other styles and visions.  The Golden Tarot, for example, is based on the Rider-Waite in its imagery and meanings, but the actual images are entirely different and based on Renaissance artwork.  This is not the only deck that does this; whether you like fairy tales, Gothic themes or even cats and everything in between, there is a tarot deck that follows the Rider-Waite meanings, but carries its own individual artwork.

The benefits of using one of these Rider-Waite based decks is that you can have a set of tarot cards that appeals to you whether it be aesthetically or mood wise, but you can still use the abundance of literature and online guides for the Rider-Waite when taking those first furtive steps in the world of reading the tarot and learning to decipher your cards.

As mentioned earlier, there are a vast number of tarot decks that follow the Rider-Waite meanings and this is something that I will look at more in depth at a later date as there is no way to do the subject any justice in a couple of paragraphs here.

The Rider-Waite meanings are seen by many as the standard by which all tarot cards meanings are to be interpreted.  But not everyone feels this way and there are options if you do not want to go down the Rider-Waite route.

Tarot Decks Designed For Beginners

There are a number of tarot decks on the market that have been created especially for the first time user.  While most decks come with some sort of guide, be it in the form of a short guide (‘Little White Book‘) or a handbook, a deck which has been designed with the beginner in mind is usually accompanied by a book which more commonly goes into the full range of practices employed by readers.  The deck shown here, the Easy Tarot, is a good example of such a deck.  The handbook here focuses not just on the deck or the meanings of the card but on all aspects of reading the tarot; for example, how to store your cards, how to develop as a reader and so on.  It gives detailed information on the specific practices used by a reader who has been reading for over three decades.

Many new readers love the structure and step by step approach offered by these cards.  In fact, there are tarot decks for beginners that incorporate keywords of the meanings of each card on the images, which can help with learning the meanings of the cards. The downside is that some readers feel this inhibits their use of the cards; they would rather have a less structured set of rules, as it were, and have room to develop their own meanings and practices.  It comes down to your own wishes and how you want to use the cards, as with everything associated with the tarot, what works for one reader, may not work for another.

Be True to Yourself When Choosing Your First Tarot Deck

There is no right or wrong tarot deck so you may find yourself choosing a tarot deck which is totally different and not at all connected to the Rider-Waite; the imagery of different cards will appeal to different people. Some readers and teachers of the tarot do, unfortunately, have a rather snobbish attitude about some decks, but the key thing to remember is that it is you that will be working with the tarot deck that you choose, so it is essential that you have an attraction to it. Consider carefully the theme or imagery of the cards. You may find some cards too spooky or dark, while others may seem too bright and fluffy; choose one that appeals to you.

There are tarot decks that have beautiful images for the Major Arcana but the Minor Arcana may just be simple numerical renderings (similar to a normal deck of playing cards), also known as pip cards. It is a good idea to avoid choosing one of these simpler decks as your first because making connections between the images and meanings is essential to learning to read the tarot.  However, having said that, I myself used one of these decks, with simple pip cards as my first tarot deck and I made it work.

When choosing your first deck remember to go with something that speaks to you and inspires you, as this will stop you from getting bored and will encourage you to spend more time with your cards and perfect your craft, which is after all what it all comes down to in the end.

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