25 October 2010

What Tarot deck is best? Starter decks, just like magic the gathering… but with less trading.

Okay this is one I get asked a lot during readings, workshops and trainings. What is the best tarot deck? Well it’s almost too obvious but there is not one “best” deck. There are however several decks suitable for certain situations, people or questions.

Today I will focus on which decks are best suited to start out with. Some people stick to one deck for most of their tarot reading life, many however start with one deck but continue searching for the deck best matched with their personal preferences. Some wish to have several different decks for different types of readings, I for instance have several decks well suited for Halloween readings… or readings to scare the crap out of people any day beside Halloween. Fact remains, there has to be a “first” deck for every tarot reader. Often how this deck works out is key to what type, if any, of reader you will become. Some decks are especially difficult to work with and have been known to make people leave tarot altogether.

Rider Waite Smith In many cases considered “the” traditional tarot deck. Mister Waite and artist Pamela Coleman Smith designed this deck to be used and have a certain degree of graphic information that makes the meaning self explanatory. A big bonus in comparison with many other decks is that the pip cards, that is any other then the majors and court cards are illustrated as well. Due to it being probably the most well known deck there is also plenty reading material about it as well as way too many “tarot for beginner” books and box sets. A colorful user friendly experience that’s not too confronting.

Crowly Haris Thoth Aleister Crowley, the self proclaimed “great beast” is the name many a conservative Christian considers equal to the Anti-Christ. Though the spiritual equivalent of Marylyn Manson in his time, this man was all about shock. Not without point however, he bitch-slapped people awake in a literary fashion and made them consider the cosmos in a whole new way. This modus operandi is what his Thoth tarot is all about as well. Sure you can do readings on a completely uncomplex and reader friendly level but when you take effort to immerse yourself the Thoth gives you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me… God, Goddess, gods well let’s keep that one open to debate ;-). But the truth is what you get, whether you like it or not. Due to it’s build up and naming of the cards however, but in no less important way due to the brilliant artwork, this deck is suitable for newcomers still getting to know the cards. You can start out with the Crowley and never need another deck again because it invites you to explore. Even when you have used the Crowley for years it still manages to take you deeper. It is however a deck that seems to be a tad unforgiving and confronting. A big difference with the RWS (RIder Waite Smith) is that when you are looking for a second deck it’s a harder transmission coming from the Thoth.

Haindl The Haindl is a complex and rich deck and each spread invites you to spend hours pondering all possible connections. So why is it suitable for newcomers? Well in truth it’s not, not really. I put it up here because it is suitable for people who have some knowledge concerning the spiritual and mythological. I tjing, Kabala, Runes are all present on the Haindl cards together with prominent deities and astrological symbols they flavor the cards to such an extend that even with little knowledge of traditional Tarot these cards can be used without difficulty when you’re advanced in other area’s of spiritualism.

There are more decks suitable for beginners, like the Gilded or the Legacy tarot but often they are basically visually re-designed Rider decks. What’s important when starting out is; get a deck that feels good, has at least more then one reference book available and has illustrated pip-cards. This way you will get the best beginners experience.

For extended reviews of all kinds of decks check out: Aeclectic Tarot

Happy reading!!!


  1. Is there a book you would recommend for newcomers?

  2. Tarot for Dummies is okay for one... other then that it is important to get a book that feels good. Where one will benefit from a dry analytic approach the other will gain the most form a somewhat more "dramatic" approach.

    However be weary of books telling you how you need to do certain things, laying down rules that are not directly related to interpreting the cards, like "only draw with your left hand", suggestions are okay, but there are no tarot "rules".