Choosing a Beginner Tarot Deck

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:

  1. Your first deck should have plenty of imagery – preferably of people doing things on the cards
  2. 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?

PictureIf 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:

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. 

Tarot Blessings

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Ask a Volva: Clients with Bad Vibes

Without fail, when I teach classes on tarot I get at least 1 person who asks what to do if they get a client that doesn’t resonate with them or, worse, is someone they get a really bad vibe from.

One student asked if I had ever read for someone that I felt was “evil” (her words) and what I would do if I did.
While I don’t tend to classify people as good or evil, I did see where she was coming from. In movies and media we’ve seen stories of psychics and readers who are caught up in murder cases and crime because of their connection with either a victim or the person committing the crime. These stories are rampant and good for those nights on the couch with a bag of popcorn and a glass of wine. However, it is a really rare case when something like this happens and is usually much less dramatic.

I do make it a point for every single one of my friends, clients, and anyone else who is wondering about this topic to know – You are NOT Required to Read for Every Client.
That’s it. If someone comes in your booth for a reading or orders a reading over your website or other media and you are uncomfortable in ANY way, you can say no.

I, of course, recommend being polite about it but you can simply state that you are sorry but you cannot read their cards at this time, give them their money back if they have paid, and that is that. If they insist or try and pressure you into reading their cards, then feel free to be abrupt and, if you have to, take measures to have them blocked or removed from you (most events if you are reading in public will have security or you can call the police if necessary).

Consent culture applies to more than just relationships and social encounters. Every person has the right to remove themselves from a situation they are uncomfortable in.

There have been some instances where I felt uncomfortable with clients and each one was in an event setting (a fair or festival) where alcohol was usually consumed by the client. This isn’t usually a problem, I find that clients that have had a drink tend to tip well. However, there could be a case made that these events do bring out the weirdos and my sort of services attract a fair share of them.
I’ve gotten every sort of client from alien conspiracy theorists, men who have hit on me in somewhat vulgar ways, people who claim to be immortal vampires from the 1400’s (and believe it), tarot experts who ironically pay me so they can scold me on how I read the cards, religious fundamentalists of all sorts who believe I’m in the wrong, and more. Each one I handle on a case by case basis and rely heavily on my years of customer service training and experience in most instances. I’m also blessed to have a husband who can look pretty intimidating when he chooses to and is often with me when reading face-to-face with others (its nice to have personal security).

That being said, I love a good, spooky novel with a psychic or tarot reader in it so if you’ve got a murder mystery or horror or whatever sort of novel in mind with this story please feel free to comment or share with me! My nightstand has a couple of free spaces for a good book, haha!
Tarot Blessings,