4 Steps to Choosing your First Tarot Deck: Best Tarot Cards for Beginners
Lisa

Lisa

Apr 15, 2023

4 Steps to Choosing your First Tarot Deck: Best Tarot Cards for Beginners

Table of Contents

Tarot has become a popular tool for divination in modern times. Did you know that tarot was originally intended to be a card game for entertainment? The true origins of tarot go back much deeper. 

The first tarot deck was invented in the late 14th century to 15th centuries. Originally, tarot operated similarly to a deck of playing cards. These decks of tarot cards were divided into two sections, pip (suits such as wands, cups, swords, pentacles) and trump cards (major arcana cards). 

The cards often held images of noble families or royalty, and having a picture of yourself on these cards was believed to be a sign of status and wealth.

There is a belief that tarot originated in ancient Egypt, and European decks were based on the Egyptian Mamluk deck from the 13th century.

Over the next few centuries, tarot lost its momentum until being rediscovered in the 19th century by occultists who were inspired to create their own decks using occult symbolism and esoteric knowledge. 

Purpose of Tarot Cards

Tarot is a powerful tool that can help you to tap into the undercurrent of energy that exists within you and the universe. Tarot cards are not magical tools that only special people can use.

In fact, anyone that invests time and effort into learning the cards can read tarot with extreme accuracy. 

While tarot can predict the future, its true purpose is to drive your intuition towards uncovering the answers you seek about your life and the universe/cosmos.

You can ask tarot cards for about any question you have, as long as you're willing to learn how to properly interpret the cards and accept the answers you receive. 

Each tarot card holds an energetic blueprint of one of the many lessons of life. We all experience similar life themes no matter our background or area of the world we live in.

These themes are illustrated throughout the cards in a tarot deck and understanding the symbolism in tarot is crucial to interpreting a tarot spread.

Questions to Ask Tarot

The questions you ask tarot are individual in nature. You can ask any question you would like when using tarot cards. However, when consulting the Tarot, it's important to ask open-ended questions that encourage introspection, personal growth, and self-awareness (Nichols, 1984).

Here are some thought-provoking questions to ask tarot cards:

How can I tap into my inner wisdom to enhance personal growth at this time? (Moore & Greer, 2002)

In which ways can I improve my communication skills to foster healthier connections? (Arrien, 1997)

What are my unique strengths that can help me navigate through this situation? (Goddard & Marcontell, 2010)

Which past experiences hold valuable lessons for my current path? (Pollack, 1986)

How can I cultivate compassion and understanding to nurture my relationships? (Zerner & Farber, 2002)

What can I do to create a harmonious balance between my work and personal life? (Hollander & Kipper, 2014)

How can I attract more positive energy and abundance into my life? (Goddard & Marcontell, 2010)

Which fears or limiting beliefs do I need to confront and overcome? (Arrien, 1997)

What steps can I take to deepen my spiritual practice and forge a stronger inner connection? (Moore & Greer, 2002)

How can I prioritize self-care and self-love to enhance my overall well-being? (Pollack, 1986)

Keep an open mind and be receptive to the insights and guidance the Tarot can offer. By asking these questions, you can engage more deeply with the tarot and benefit from its wisdom.

Answers from Tarot Cards

The answers from tarot will be based on your present/current energy and life path. Answers given through tarot, do not mean the future is set in stone.

When you ask tarot cards questions about the future, it's important to remember that the future can change by changing your own thoughts, beliefs, and habits. By changing your thoughts, beliefs, and habits you will put yourself on a different life path with a new energetic makeup.

For instance, The Fool signifies the start of a new journey and invites you to trust your instincts and take a leap of faith. With enthusiasm, the card encourages you to be open to the unknown, embrace new experiences, and follow your heart.

Similarly, The Magician reminds you of your inner power and creativity, urging you to tap into your skills and manifest your desires with confidence and determination.

Tarot cards are meant to help you know the best way to navigate a situation or how to change your life path and reach your goals. Tarot is wonderful for tapping into energies of the past and since those energies reflect where you are today. 

Tarot Decks.jpg

About Tarot Card Decks

A traditional tarot deck contains 78 cards, while other decks may only include only the Major Arcana. If you're a beginner, you'll want to choose a standard deck that contains all 78 cards, since this will help you learn thoroughly about the tarot. 

The 78 tarot cards, are divided into two main groups: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana (Nichols, 1984).

Major Arcana: The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, numbered 0 to 21. These cards represent significant life events, spiritual lessons, and deep psychological archetypes (Pollack, 1986).

The Major Arcana cards include The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Strength, The Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Justice, The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, The Sun, Judgment, and The World.

These cards often have a more profound impact when they appear in a reading, indicating critical turning points or life lessons (Moore & Greer, 2002).

Minor Arcana: The Minor Arcana is comprised of 56 cards, divided into four suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles (Nichols, 1984). Each suit corresponds to a specific element and aspect of life: Cups (water) symbolize emotions and relationships; Wands (fire) represent creativity, passion, and action; Swords (air) signify intellect, communication, and conflict; and Pentacles (earth) embody material matters, work, and finances (Waite, 1971).

Each suit contains 10 numbered cards (from Ace to Ten) and four court cards (Page, Knight, Queen, and King), reflecting various situations and experiences in daily life (Pollack, 1986).

There are many tarot card decks to choose from. There are hundreds if not thousands of tarot card decks in existence. The review of tarot decks below are based on the Rider Waite Smith deck which was one of the first and substantial tarot deck to be created for modern occult practices.

The Rider Waite Smith deck is best for beginners since it is straight forward and provides the symbolism and hidden knowledge which tarot is supposed to reveal to readers. 

There are many beautiful tarot decks based on popular artwork, movies, and designs, when learning tarot, it is important to have a deck that provides actual occult symbolism to properly learn the teachings of the universe.

Side note: I collect tarot cards for fun, but do not use them on a day-to-day basis. For day-to-day readings I use either the Rider Waite Smith deck or the Golden Dawn Magical Tarot.

What is beneficial for you and your practice is choosing a deck that you are naturally drawn to and find appealing while also offering correct inside

Many people will say you should have your first tarot deck gifted it to you, but that's just superstition. Nevertheless, subscribe to our newsletter and you will receive a FREE tarot deck!

4 Steps to Choosing Your First Tarot Deck

While choosing the right tarot deck has a lot to do with how the cards make you feel and where your intuition guides you, it's also important to pay attention to the art style, symbolism, intended use, and quality. 

1. Art Style: The art style is by far one of the most important reasons for choosing a deck. Art is a creative, emotional practice, and it's important to find cards that speak to your soul. 

If you want to use tarot for empowerment, happiness, and joy, you'll want to find a deck that incorporates pictures with which you can associate those feelings.

But, if your tarot practice revolves around shadow work, you may want to find a darker deck to help you tap into those energies. 

2. Symbolism: Every tarot deck is going to contain different symbolism. Usually, this is fine, but if you're someone that has a specific religious affiliation, you may want to find a deck that supports those beliefs. 

You also want to find a deck that holds symbolism that interests you; otherwise, you'll have a hard time learning the basics of the tarot of your specific deck.  

3. Intended Use: There are many types of tarot decks out there, some intended for general readings while others are intended for more specific uses. For example, there are decks geared toward love, as this is a very popular topic in tarot. Find a deck that works for your intended purposes.

4. Quality: Every tarot deck is going to have its own quality. Some cards are thin and flimsy and don't last very long with frequent use. Other cards are very thick and may be difficult to shuffle, especially if you're new to tarot. 

Luckily, most cards on the market are made with a mid-range of quality and are long-lasting with proper care. 

Choosing a Tarot Deck Based on Modern Magick

Donald Michael Kraig, is the author of "Modern Magick: Eleven Lessons in the High Magickal Arts". Kraig does not explicitly recommend a specific Tarot deck.

Instead, he emphasizes the importance of using a Tarot deck that follows the traditional symbolism found in the Rider Waite Smith decks.

Below is a review of tarot decks that are variations of the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck since it is the most recommended for beginners.

Review of Beginner Tarot Decks

There are three common types of tarot decks such as the Rider Waite Smith deck, The Marseilles Tarot Deck, and the Thoth Tarot.

The Rider Waite Smith deck was one of the first tarot decks created based on modern occult practices and is a foundation of most tarot teachings.

Variations of Rider Waite Smith decks have been created and they are close enough to the Rider Waite Smith deck that they provide an easy way to learn tarot. There are so many tarot decks that are variations of the Rider Waite Smith deck but below are the most common.

The decks listed are recommended for beginners based on the Rider Waite Smith Tarot Deck and one deck based on the Marseilles tarot.

In future posts, I will be writing about other decks such as the Thoth Tarot deck, The Jungian Tarot, the Hermetic Tarot, The Golden Dawn Magical Tarot, The Wild Unknown Tarot deck, The Marseilles Tarot, and more.

Rider Waite Smith Tarot Deck

There are many prominent decks of tarot, but by far, the Rider Waite Smith deck is the most influential.

This deck was first published in 1910 and was created bythe artist Pamela Coleman Smith and Arthur Edward Waite. 

Since then, most of the decks and tarot literature that you find have been directly influenced by the Rider Waite Smith deck.

The reason this deck is so influential is that it is one of the first if not the first deck to create its own unique full image for every card in the tarot deck, including the major arcana and minor arcana. 

This wasn't common in the decks previously, and having intricate images for each card of a deck offers a deeper sense of understanding and a more fulfilling practice.

If you're a beginner to tarot, you'll want to start with this deck as it will be easier to learn each of the card meanings and their images. 

If you don't want to start with the Rider Waite Smith deck, you can find one that resonates with you that has different imagery but still contains the same themes as the original. 

The Fool Tarot Card.jpg

Universal Waite Tarot Deck

The Universal Tarot Deck, a captivating creation by Italian artist Roberto De Angelis in 2001, reinvigorates the classic Rider Waite Smith imagery with contemporary design and vibrant colors.

This deck remains faithful to the original archetypes and symbols while offering a fresh perspective that appeals to modern tarot enthusiasts.

Notable differences from the Rider-Waite deck lie in De Angelis' updated artistic style. The Universal Tarot illustrations feature clean lines, dynamic colors, and a subtle infusion of modern elements.

In addition, core archetypes like the Fool's journey, the Magician's power, and the High Priestess's mystery are expertly reimagined without losing their essence.

One example of the deck's unique reinterpretation is the Star card, which retains the traditional symbolism of hope and inspiration. Still, it features a more celestial and ethereal depiction of the guiding star. This change enhances the card's spiritual resonance and emphasizes the connection between the cosmos and the individual.

The deck's accompanying guidebook provides comprehensive explanations of each card's meaning and symbolism and instructions for performing various spreads. This invaluable resource enables both novices and experienced readers to unlock the full potential of the Universal Tarot Deck.

Aquarian Tarot Deck

The Aquarian Tarot Deck, a masterpiece of esoteric artistry, provides an immersive and transformative journey into the mystical realm. This deck, created by David Palladini, distinguishes itself from the traditional Rider-Waite deck through its unique visual style and symbolism. 

With its Art Deco-inspired illustrations and muted color palette, the Aquarian Tarot offers a fresh perspective on the ancient wisdom of the tarot. The characters and scenes are masterfully rendered, capturing the essence of the tarot's archetypes while infusing them with an air of sophistication and modernity. 

This deck's captivating imagery encourages introspection, allowing for a more profound and insightful reading experience.

A notable difference between the Aquarian Tarot and the Rider-Waite is the departure from medieval inspired imagery. Instead, the Aquarian Tarot explores a more abstract, artful representation of the tarot's themes, making it a visually striking alternative for contemporary readers.

The Aquarian Tarot Deck also reinterprets some traditional symbols, presenting a fresh approach to understanding the tarot's messages.

For example, the Lovers card features a celestial scene, emphasizing the divine connection between partners. This subtle shift in symbolism highlights the deck's focus on spiritual and emotional connections rather than solely physical ones.

Morgan-Greer Tarot Deck

The Morgan-Greer Tarot Deck, a striking and evocative creation by artist Bill Greer and writer Lloyd Morgan in 1979, is a captivating reinterpretation of the classic Rider Waite Smith imagery.

This deck stays true to the archetypes and symbols while adding a unique, bold visual style that sets it apart.

The deck's most notable characteristic is the close-up, borderless illustrations that bring the characters and symbols to the forefront, allowing for a more intimate and immersive reading experience.

In addition, rich, vivid colors and expressive faces enhance the emotional impact of the cards, inviting deeper introspection and interpretation.

Morgan-Greer's reinterpretation of the traditional Rider-Waite symbols ensures that the deck remains accessible to both novices and experienced readers.

Core archetypes like the Fool's journey, the Magician's power, and the High Priestess's mystery remain, but the distinct artistic style lends a fresh perspective to these time-honored themes.

One example of the subtle changes in symbolism is the Magician card, where the figure's traditional lemniscate (infinity symbol) is replaced by a red halo, highlighting the Magician's connection to the divine and the infinite possibilities of manifestation.

Royal Fez Moroccan Tarot

The Royal Fez Moroccan Tarot Deck, a rare and mystical creation by Roland Berrill in 1957, offers an exotic and enigmatic interpretation of the classic Rider-Waite imagery. Inspired by the rich cultural heritage and symbolism of Morocco, this deck weaves a mesmerizing tapestry of mysticism and self-discovery.

The deck is distinguished by its intricate, hand-drawn illustrations and warm, earthy color palette, which evoke the spirit and aesthetic of traditional Moroccan art. The Royal Fez Moroccan Tarot maintains the core archetypes and symbols of the Rider-Waite deck while infusing them with its own unique cultural perspective and artistic style.

Some differences from the Rider-Waite imagery can be observed in the Major Arcana, where the Royal Fez Moroccan Tarot adds an exotic flair to the traditional tarot themes.

For example, the High Priestess card features a veiled woman, symbolizing this archetype's hidden knowledge and mystery while also representing the cultural practice of veiling in Morocco.

Marseille Tarot versus Rider Waite Smith

The Marseille Tarot deck and Rider-Waite Tarot are different types of tarot decks with distinct origins, artwork, and symbolism. Here are the main differences between these two decks:

Origin: The Marseille Tarot is one of the oldest and most traditional Tarot decks, dating back to the early 16th century in France (Kaplan, 1990). In contrast, the Rider-Waite Tarot is a more recent creation, developed by Arthur Edward Waite and illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith, first published in 1909 (Waite, 1971).

Artwork: The Marseille Tarot features a more straightforward and abstract art style, with bold colors and geometric patterns (Kaplan, 1990). The Rider-Waite Tarot, on the other hand, presents more detailed and narrative illustrations, with scenes that often tell a story or convey a specific message (Waite, 1971). The Rider-Waite deck has become one of the most recognizable and widely used Tarot decks in the world, in part because of its accessible imagery.

Symbolism: While both decks share similarities in their Major Arcana, their approaches to the Minor Arcana differ significantly. In the Marseille Tarot, the Minor Arcana cards, particularly the pip cards (Ace through Ten), are more abstract, featuring the suit symbols in repetitive patterns, without any additional scenes or characters (Kaplan, 1990).

This can make the Marseille Tarot more challenging to interpret for beginners, as it requires a deeper understanding of numerology and suit associations.

In contrast, the Rider-Waite Tarot's Minor Arcana cards are rich in symbolism and narrative scenes, making their meanings more apparent and accessible, even to those new to Tarot (Waite, 1971). This deck was the first to introduce fully illustrated scenes for all 78 cards, which has since become a standard feature in many modern Tarot decks.

Ultimately, the choice between the Marseille Tarot and Rider-Waite Tarot comes down to personal preference and the style of artwork and symbolism that resonates with the individual reader.

IJJ Swiss Tarot Deck

The IJJ Swiss Tarot Deck, is captivating and historically significant deck. The deck originated in Switzerland in the early 20th century, with the first edition published around 1920. 

This deck, also known as the Swiss 1JJ Tarot or the Swiss Tarot, is not based on the Rider Waite Smith deck but on the ancient Marseilles Tarot tradition.

The deck offers a unique and traditional approach to tarot readings.

Although the IJJ Swiss Tarot Deck features distinct archetypes and symbols that differ from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. The Major Arcana remains largely faithful to the Marseilles tradition, with some notable differences, such as the replacement of the Pope and the Popess with Jupiter and Juno, reflecting the cultural and religious context of Switzerland during the deck's creation.

In the Minor Arcana, the pip cards are unillustrated, displaying the number of suit symbols (cups, swords, batons, and coins) rather than the scenic representations found in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.

This approach requires a deeper understanding of the traditional tarot symbolism, making the IJJ Swiss Tarot Deck more suitable for experienced readers or those interested in exploring the historical aspects of tarot.

The artistic style of the IJJ Swiss Tarot is characterized by bold, primary colors and a somewhat simplistic, yet evocative, illustration style. The deck's imagery is steeped in the symbolism and mysticism of the Marseilles tradition, providing an alternative perspective for those seeking a more classic tarot experience.

Conclusion

While there are hundreds if not thousands of tarot decks in existence, the tarot decks listed above will provide a good foundation for learning tarot and starting your journey to become a tarot reader.

I personally think starting with the Rider-Waite-Smith deck is helpful since it provides the foundation to learn the original symbolism of the tarot. Then, once fully equipped with it’s knowledge you can easily start to interpret the archetypal differences and themes of other decks.

Namaste and good luck on your path to enlightenment and actualization!

References:

Nichols, S. (1984). Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser.

Moore, M., & Greer, R. (2002). The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

Arrien, A. (1997). The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols. Sonoma, CA: Arcus Publishing Company.

Pollack, R. (1986). Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom. San Francisco, CA: Thorsons.

Zerner, A., & Farber, M. (2002). The Enchanted Tarot. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press.

Goddard, L., & Marcontell, T. (2010). Tarot Life Planner: Change Your Destiny and Enrich Your Life. London, UK: CICO Books.

Hollander, S., & Kipper, S. (2014). The Akashic Tarot: A 62-Card Deck and Guidebook. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.

Kaplan, S. R. (1990). The Encyclopedia of Tarot, Volume II. Stamford, CT: U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Waite, A. E. (1971). The Pictorial Key to the Tarot. New York, NY: Dover Publications.

Lisa

Lisa

Lisa is a Reiki Master, Certified Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner, and trained in the Bengston Energy Healing Method. Lisa is also a Certified Life coach and currently in her second year of graduate school for a Master of Social Work to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

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