Lots of people ask me what is a good Tarot deck to start with if they want to start learning the tarot, or if they simply want to get a new pack. So I’ve compiled a list of my Top 10 Tarot Decks. I have given a variety of styles, age suitability and different structures.
The most popular deck in the English-speaking world, and with good reason. Originally published in 1910, illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith from the instructions of academic and mystic A. E. Waite, both of who were members of the occult group The Golden Dawn. Published by the Rider company (hence the name). One of the main reasons that this is such a successful deck is that the imagery and symbology are both so dense but entirely accessible. The Waite-Smith card designs represent a substantial departure from their predecessors as it was one the first to bring pictorial scenes to each of the cards, not only the Major Arcana.
2. The Transparent Tarot: by Emily Carding.
A highly creative and original deck that has achieved a remarkable feat: Unlike other packs, where the cards are positioned next to one another, each of the cards is printed on transparent plastic so the cards can be placed ON TOP of one another. And the artwork is designed in such a way that the images intertwine and build new meaning. Ingenious. Looks particularly impressive on a lightbox!
3. Golden Tarot by Kat Black:
A personal favourite. Using the artwork of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance and gold gilt edges, this is one of the most beautiful decks I know. The collage of both religious and monarchical motifs makes this a richly decorative collection of Tarot cards.
4. Ancient Italian Deck:
A variation of the Tarot de Marseille (a pattern from which many subsequent tarot decks derive). The Tarot was originally a deck of playing cards, and the Ancient Italian Deck is a pure representation of this. The pack contains fifty-six cards in the four standard suits: Bâtons (Batons), Épées (Swords), Coupes (Cups), and Deniers (Coins), counting from Ace to 10 and the court cards. The pictorial scenes are not present here – only the ‘pips’ are shown, e.g. the 3 of Swords card is simply the image of three curved blades. For this reason, it can be one of the more difficult decks to read, especially for a beginner, as there are not so many visual cues. But the simplicity of the images can be appealing to many
5. Tarot of Dreams:
Not one of my favourite decks stylistically, but where this set of Tarot really excels in is the reference points it offers: There are zodiacal, elemental and Hebrew symbols given with each card. So this is particularly useful for those wanting to learn the astrological and Kabbalistic associations with the Tarot. Indeed, Dion Fortune, the British Oculist and novelist, says that you can only fully understand the Tarot when you have mastered all three disciplines.
6. After Tarot Deck / Tarot of the New Vision:
These are great additions to the Rider-Waite Tarot cards (see number 1). The scenes are the same as those that appear in the original, but from a new perspective – what happens just moments after and the reverse viewpoint, respectively. These new images give greater insight into the messages of the native deck.
7. The Wild Unknown Tarot Animal Spirit Deck:
A rather different version of Tarot as it does not follow the numerology and suit system, but rather relies on the four elements and the archetypes of the various animals it depicts. Nicely rendered pen & ink illustrations. A must for those that are interested in Spirit/Totem/Animals.
8. Tarot of the Holy Light:
This hard-to-find deck (mainly available only in the USA) has to be seen to be believed – it’s mad! In the best possible sense. The images are both antiquated and modern, with rather psychedelic and trippy montages. To give you a taste: The Queen of Cups is a winged serpent-mermaid with two tails, squirting streams of water from her nipples…
9. Sun and Moon Tarot:
A deck that would likely appeal to a younger audience, but that by no means it’s childish! The illustrations are charmingly quirky and naïve.
10. Ostara Tarot:
This tarot deck draws from so many cultural sources – Indian woman is saris, Chinese Huns, and Pagan Druids. Beautiful artworks rendered in both pencil and digital overlay. It is both stylish and modern.
What’s your favourite deck? Be sure to write it in the comments section down below.
Want to know more about the Tarot? Check out my Events page here, to see one of my many workshops.