tarot cards

Buying your first deck – Which deck should you chose?

One of the most glorious things about tarot, is the huge number of beautiful decks available and the wonderful artists that create them. If you’re not careful, you could spend an awful lot of money collecting all the ones you love best!

However, when you’ve just decided to learn tarot and your browsing for your first deck, the choice can seem truly overwhelming. It’s not unusual for people get analysis paralysis and put off buying a deck because they just don’t know which to choose. For some people, this means they never buy one at all.

Some people would say just chose whichever one you like best visually and to a point, there is some truth in that. Falling in love with your first deck will encourage you to use it and engage with it more often and if you’re an intuitive reader, that’s probably going to work out OK for you. For those who want to learn the traditional meanings of the cards and gain insight into the more esoteric aspects of tarot, this advice has some serious shortcomings for reasons which are listed below.

I always advise my students to buy a copy of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. There are four main reasons for this:

1. I would hazard a rough estimate that around 95% of the tarot information and learning resources available are based around the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. When you’re in the process of learning, it’s helpful if the images being discussed in your learning resources match the images on your deck.

2. The vast majority of tarot cards available are based on the Rider-Waite-Smith system so if you can read the Rider-Waite-Smith, you can read almost any deck available. You will also be able to read pip decks which have no pictorial information beyond the suit and a number on the card (like regular playing cards)

3. There is so much symbology in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck and none of it is there by accident. That imagery acts as a visual aid to help decode the cards and draw out further esoteric information. What tends to happen when artists re-imagine these cards to fit their own theme is that some of that symbology gets lost. Whether it’s the colours used, planetary symbols, the patterns in the fabric or major omissions like a completely different scene with no relevance to the original card, the outcome is that it’s unlikely that you will learn as much by studying a re-imagined set of cards as you will by studying the Rider-Waite-Smith.

4. It’s readily available and cheap. You can get a good Rider-Waite-Smith deck for around £10 in the UK. Some other decks are retailing for £20-40 or more! That’s a lot of money to spend on a deck. Especially when you might end up feeling confused or disheartened when the images don’t match up to the learning resources. Plus, if you do decide it’s not for you (which we hope you don’t! See the other learning resources on this blog if you’re stuck), you haven’t wasted a whole heap of money.

I hope this is useful and that you really enjoy learning about tarot and all its associations!

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