I began reading tarot professionally in 2009 and have taught classes on the subject off and on ever since as well as participated in community tarot groups both online and off. I often meet people interested in tarot but who hesitate to begin learning or reading because they have questions and insecurities about the cards. By far the question I am asked the most by people interested in tarot is “What tarot deck should I start with?” Before answering this question, I would like to acknowledge a myth that is very common in the tarot community.
MYTH: In order to truly be able to read the tarot, your first deck must be given to you. I heard this myth when I first began my tarot studies as a teenager and I hear it continuously as the years go by. I don’t know who first began this shenanigans but I would love to clarify that it is not true at all.
Yes, my first deck was given to me and I could not read it anymore that I could read Sanskrit (I can’t, by the way). It was a square, blocky deck that I had problems shuffling and it had minimal images and symbols on it that I couldn’t interpret. This caused me to put off my tarot studies until college when I finally bought a tarot deck that I could read.
Your first tarot deck can be given to you or you can purchase it, barter for it, borrow it, etc. The way you obtain your deck will not establish whether or not tarot will come easy to you or whether it is something that you will be able to do for years to come; those things are up to you. (BTW, I do not recommend stealing a deck or obtaining one by illegal means. That carries with it its own problems.) When clients, customers, and students ask me which deck they should purchase first I have two answers for them:
- Your first deck should have plenty of imagery – preferably of people doing things on the cards
- A deck that is aesthetically pleasing to you
The first recommendation sometimes leads to confused looks and questions so I’ll elaborate. Tarot decks have three sections:
- The Major Arcana or Trumps
- The Court Cards
- The Pips (the number cards)
The Pips are what I am concerned about when it comes to the imagery of a beginner deck. In some decks, the pip cards look like playing cards that someone would play rummy or poker with – rows of coins, wands, swords, and cups but no real imagery to read off of. When a deck is like this, the meaning of those number cards relies entirely on the reader’s memory.
I recommend cards with a lot of imagery and people doing things on the cards, especially the number cards because within that imagery the reader will pick up symbols and hints as to the card’s meaning. This makes them easier to read no matter what level the reader is at.
The aesthetics of the deck is important for the simple reason that if you like the look and feel of the deck you’re using, you will use it more frequently. Besides, who doesn’t like to have pretty things?
|If asked specifically or pushed for an answer as to which deck I recommend above others for those readers starting out, I say the simple Rider-Waite deck. This is a deck that many refer to as the oldest deck in circulation and the most common/easiest to get a hold of. Book stores, occult shops, new age stores, and head shops carry this deck. I can point out four locations to buy it in my area without hesitation so there is no worry as to ease of purchase for a newbie.|
I recommend this deck in particular because it definitely fits the first of the two previous requirements (the second requirement of aesthetics vary from person to person, of course). There is a ton of imagery in these cards and some tarot readers refuse to use any other deck because they feel this is the only one that contains the “true” esoteric symbols. I don’t know about that last part but I will say that there are a lot of books about this deck and its images and most beginner books will reference this deck unless they were written for another deck in particular.
I will also say that I use this deck frequently. It is probably in the top three of my most used decks of my collection. I did ask people in the tarot circles I move in to help me answer this question of recommendation. I asked them what do they look for in a deck and what decks they recommended or favored.
The decks recommend include:
- Druid Craft
- Housewife (50’s retro)
- Celtic Dragon
- The Witch’s Tarot
- Osho Zen Tarot
Teresa Mills of the Facebook group Tarot Daily Journal said, “What are your interests, does a themed deck appeal to you, what theme? What purpose do you want to use your deck, general readings or something else? Go to the aeclectic tarot website, they have over 1200 decks in their database. You can search by a specific theme, alphabetically, or search. You will find some card samples and the reviews can be helpful. If you find a deck you are interested in, you can then how to google and search for the deck, then click images and hopefully you can see more cards in the deck. I read a number of reviews before purchasing, which an give me an idea of the general structure and style of the deck.” The Aeclectic Tarot is an excellent resource for all tarot enthusiasts and her recommendation is an excellent point! I really don’t know that I could have said it better.
Never had a Tarot Reading? Want to get an idea before investing in the cards? Schedule your In-depth Tarot Reading today for insight on any area of your life you would like advice on.