So many beautiful boxes of Cards, how does one choose a good first Tarot deck? It is the start of a new journey and you want to make sure to set out in the right direction so keep a few things in mind as you chose your new deck.
- Do they fit in your hand?
- How easy they are to shuffle?
- Do you want to dive in and study the Tarot system?
- Or just casually refer to them for inspiration?
- Will you be carrying them with you daily, or just have a set place to use them.?
- How will you care for them between sessions?
I love Tarot decks purely as an Art appreciation project. There are an amazing array of styles and choices.
Keep in mind, that there are some underlying psychological structures that are helpful to know about before you pick your first deck. Also, there are some pure practical considerations as to how you will use them.
But rather than standing in the store and feeling lost lets back up a bit
What do you plan to do with your new Tarot deck?
If you are looking to set your tarot cards by the door where you can just pull one occasionally as you walk out to face the day; an oracle deck with interpretations printed on them can be a fun way to learn to listen to your intuition, and set a positive tone for the day.
These oracle decks tend toward the angel oracles or the Quan Yin blessings oracle is a nice nod to the Asian origins of the game that eventually mutated into to Tarot.
If you love spooky stuff and want to dress up like a gypsy and do amazing readings for your friends — Yes of course you do! — then let’s talk about a Rider Waite deck.
Rider Waite is the classic deck designed in the late 1800s by the theosophical society. Before this time the cards were more like a deck of playing cards with little illustration. Then the Rider Waite deck came along and standardized the concepts and archetypes that so many modern decks jump off from.
A traditional Rider Waite deck will usually have 72 cards. If you find a beautiful deck with fewer cards it is probably an oracle deck.
A Rider Waite deck usually includes four suits and the major arcana. It is the major Arcana that Dr. Jung found so interesting and psychologically powerful.
Every human is unique but certain things in the human experience are universal.
It is these universal experiences that the art portrays that speak to our hearts so eloquently.
Once you understand those basic universal archetypes as defined in the Rider Waite deck you will be able to recognize them in all the other modern interpretations and it is like speaking the mother tongue.
The rest of the decks just become interesting local dialects.
When the Student is Ready, the Deck Appears
My first deck was given to me and I loved it all the more because it was a thoughtful gift.
I had just broken both legs and was in for a long recovery. It was a good time to devote myself to learning the imagery and meaning of the Tarot cards.
Well, I didn’t have much else to do.
Fortunately, that deck was the Shapeshifter Tarot deck and I really related to all the natural imagery as I sat on my back deck in Mississippi and looked off into the woods, I could imagine the forest creatures all around me transforming to communicate the wisdom that comes with a more visceral lifestyle.
Life and death happen pretty quick for most forest creatures and mine seemed to be just plodding along as I waited to recover.
Somehow that deck gave me an outlet to feel more hopeful and alive; more connected to nature, and certainly more in control than my broken legs would lead me to believe.
While I was recovering, I had the most visceral dream. I was going to meet my friends for coffee and when I got there I had these beautiful white wings with brown tips like a Snowy Owl; but human-sized, and in my dream, my friends said, “Oh, girl; I love your new wings!” and I replied, “Yeah, I broke my legs so I just grew these.” Ha! I wish it had been that easy, but in a way it was.
The Shapeshifter deck gave me a way to transform my thoughts and enjoy my imagination while my body recovered from my bad choices.
I learned to soar above the boredom and become a messenger of things in the tarot much like the messenger owl in the Harry Potter movies.
So by all means pick a deck that speaks to your heart.
If you love the imagery you will pour over it and investigate it and learn all the hidden meanings and maybe even glean meanings not spoken about in your companion book.
The best interpretations come when you are familiar with your cards and a bit of the history of the deck and why certain hidden symbols are so psychologically powerful.
Size counts in cards as in everything else. When choosing a deck it would be great if you could hold or shuffle them. Because how they feel in your hands is a very visceral part of the whole experience.
There are very tiny decks which may be great if you work in a cubicle or want to carry them in your purse all the time and have them on hand to study at odd moments of the day.
I tend to prefer decks that are slightly larger than standard playing cards.
Eventually shuffling them kind of kicks off a meditative state that I find very helpful when focusing on my cards and the messages they hold for me.
Many of the Oracle Decks are oversized.
I don’t love shuffling them so I tend to cut the deck and choose one from the middle.
My oracle decks don’t see as much use as my playing card-sized ones but if the card needs to be larger for the more elaborate art or interpretation I see the value.
Don’t worry if you are having trouble making the choice of your first deck in all likelihood it won’t be your last. Just pick one that appeals to you. This tends to become a bit of a collector’s hobby.
Learning Tarot becomes a lifelong journey. When you pick them up you are the fool; as you travel through the various stories the cards tell you, you gain the World. So go grab a deck from a local bookseller or check out our resources page and begin the adventure.
Other Things to Consider
Many people like to clear their cards with sage smoke between readings or once a week or so. If you like that idea you can pick up a sage stick as well.
Tarot Card Bag
Also, consider a Tarot bag. Many decks have silk or velvet bags that match the imagery of their cards.
I keep all my decks and books together in a drawer. However, the bags are helpful to keep the cards from flipping around if I open the drawer suddenly.
The edges of your cards are the most delicate part and will show wear first; a bag can help protect the edges, so they don’t fray so fast.
If you dig crystals you may want to pick up a pretty quartz point to leave with your cards when not in use. I find my stones and cards go very well together and the crystal helps clear the energy of previous readings if I let people from the public handle my cards during the reading.
Keep forgetting specific tarot card meanings?
Visit and bookmark our quick reference guide, made for both beginner and veteran tarot readers.