Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Ten Best Tarot Decks for Beginners

Selecting a pack of Tarot cards is a very personal matter....

especially these days, when there are so many different decks to choose from, ranging from standard, traditional Tarot decks to various kinds of newer "oracle cards", it can become confusing for anyone searching for a pack of divinatory Tarot cards that will suit them. 

Every card reader, or "Cartomancer", has a preferred deck or two which they usually choose when reading for themselves or for others. I have around fifty different Tarot packs and oracle decks I've collected ever since I was a teenager in the 1980's. Many I like just for their art; but there are half a dozen or so which get the most use when I do divinatory readings for other people.  

First, allow me to give a bit of advice on choosing a standard Tarot deck of 78 cards. 

There are many types of Oracle cards, Angel cards, Fairy cards, Psychic Dolphin cards and etc... to choose from; but - if you want to learn and practice Tarotmancy - the reading of the Tarot - you will need a pack of 78 cards - the 56 Minor Arcana along with the 22 Major Arcana - for a complete set if you want to be able to do any kind of successful reading.

1. First, personal taste should definitely be considered over any other criteria.

Look for a pack with artwork that you like. The images should speak to you. The style and coloration should be pleasing and attractive to the eye. As for card quality you can be assured that companies like Grimaud, U.S. Games Systems, Lo Scarabeo, Fournier, and France Cartes use high grade card stock.

You might like a themed deck. This is fine if it suits you. 
Perhaps you like a pack with a strong Celtic or Pagan flavor like The Robin Wood Tarot or The Druid Craft Tarot. If you are a cat person you may like the Tarot of the Pagan Cats deck, or the Medieval Cat Tarot, or The Tarot of the Cat People. Some packs are very feministic like The Motherpeace Round Tarot or The Goddess Tarot. There is even a Halloween Tarot deck. Choose one that resonates with your spirit.

2. Second, beginners would do well to choose a deck with a fully illustrated Minor Arcana. 

Most of the older, traditional Tarots - like The Marseilles Tarot, The Visconti-Sforza Tarot, The Oswald Wirth Tarot - are beautiful and classical BUT they do not have fully illustrated Minor, or "pip" cards. The Court cards: Kings , Queens, Knights and Pages are always illustrated, but the pip cards - Ace through Ten - are not. Rather they show only three swords, or seven cups, or two coins without any accompanying illustration as in modern decks (whereas an illustrated pip may show the Three of Swords piercing a heart on a stormy background, or, a person having to choose from what Seven very different Cups have to offer, or a juggler juggling Two Coins or Pentacles) to give a clue to the card's meaning. 

A Marseilles style deck without illustrated pips.

This makes it very difficult for people who are new to the Tarot and just beginning to learn the meanings of the cards. Just be aware that not all Tarot decks have fully illustrated Minor Arcana, so doing a little research online before spending your money is a very wise thing to do.

So, here are my personal pick of the 10 best Tarot decks for beginners. 
All of which have illustrated Minor Arcana or "pips". 

1. The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, a.k.a. RWS, a.k.a. The Smith-Waite, a.k.a The Waite-Smith etc...

This is the standard Tarot deck in modern use and for very good reason. designed in 1909 by Pamela Coleman Smith under the direction of occultist Arthur Edward Waite and originally printed in London by Rider & Co. it is the first modern deck to have all 78 cards completely illustrated according to the occult system established by the occult Order of the Golden Dawn. 

Smith's designs have become the template for almost every Tarot pack created since. A best-selling favorite available in various sizes, color schemes and later renditions.

2. The Morgan-Greer Tarot, a.k.a. MG

Both of these decks (RWS & MG) are ideal for beginners. The symbolism is nearly identical.

The Morgan-Greer Tarot was created by Bill Greer & Lloyd Morgan circa 1978 or 1979. and was designed as a fusion between the traditional Smith-Waite deck of 1910 and the B.O.T.A. deck of Dr. Paul Foster Case.

The colors of the Morgan-Greer are more lush and the borderless images resemble slightly "zoomed-in" portrayals of the Smith-Waite. The backs carry a blue field with stars. 

I personally favor this deck when reading for others, while I sometimes choose the RSW (my first and oldest deck in my possession) for reading for myself.

3. The Hanson-Roberts Tarot

For anyone who feels squeamish about certain cards like the Ten of Swords, or the Five of Pentacles, or Death, might be more comfortable with this lovely, softer toned, storybook looking, RWS style pack. The characters are well drawn and feel sweet to the eyes. Nice Art Nouveau design on the backs.

4. The Robin Wood Tarot

A very nice Smith-Waite style deck with some Pagan imagery substituting for the Christian, as in the (20) Judgement card. The backs of the cards carry a bold Celtic knot-work design. A very nice deck.

5. The Barbara Walker Tarot

Strong colors and scenes from world myth are featured in this pack. The Court Cards are Gods and Goddesses and characters from world myth. A Key word is printed in four languages (French, German, English and Italian) on each card to enable interpretation. 

A bold design in black, red and white of two triangles on the back which, if you stare at for a while and allow your eyes to un-focus, you will see the two triangles merge and "unite" into a six-pointed star. (Don't try this on your computer or smart phone screen).

6. The Crowley THOTH Tarot

Painted by Lady Frieda Harris between 1938 and 1943 according to the exacting demands of Aleister Crowley - the 20th Century's most famous occultist. Both died before it could finally be published in 1969 by the Ordo Templi Orientis. 

A key word is given for each of the pips (some of these may be limiting when it comes to interpretaion). The imagery is unlike Pamela Smith's and is steeped in occult symbolism and astrological (planetary, zodiac) and Hebrew letter correspondences according to Crowley's philosophy. The colors used in each card are Qabbalistically attributed and is considered by many to be the finest "Occult Tarot". It does seem to have something special about it. This magick could be due to the Qabbalistic and Astrological attention to detail throughout the pack.

However, some of the card names and attributions may be confusing for the novice. For example, Instead of the standard King, Queen, Knight, Page order of the Courts, Crowley gives them as Knight, Queen, Prince, Princess. 

Also, Strength is numbered XI and given the title LUST; Justice is numbered VIII and given the title ADJUSTMENT. Card XIV Temperance is called ART; XX Judgement is titled THE AEON; and XXI The World is titled THE UNIVERSE. 
If you are a student of Crowley's work or interested in deepening your understanding of the Astrological and the Qabalistic connections within the Tarot, then it may be the deck for you. 

7. The Druid Craft Tarot

Published by St. Martin's Press. The cards are a bit on the larger size and the card stock is not the best quality... BUT, the artwork is gorgeous, stimulating and evocative. The imagery is based on Celtic Pagan myth and tradition so the Christian imagery has been suitably altered ( V The Hierophant is remodeled as The High Priest, XV The Devil becomes Cernunnos). The pack comes with a book which is very useful for the student.

8. The Aquarian Tarot

First published in 1970, the deck was illustrated by David Palladini following Pamela Smith's (RWS) designs in a beautiful Art Deco style. What it may lack in overt occult symbolism is made up for in it's style.

9. The Tarot of The Ages

An interesting deck with nice vivid artwork. A unique rendering of civilizations and cultures from the past. The Major Arcana is represented by Ancient Egypt. 
The Four Suits are: Batons - African, Cups - Meso-American, Swords - Vikings, Disks - Indian. 

Each Major Trump shows the attributed Hebrew letter and Astrological correspondence. The elemental sign of each suit is represented on the Minor cards (Batons = Fire, Cups = Water, Swords = Air, Disks = Earth).

10. The Mythic Tarot

I have the older version of this deck originally drawn in the 1980's and I still like it. Now it has been enhanced by another artist and looks even better (though I have not yet added The New Mythic Tarot to my collection... yet). Greek myth is the theme so you will enjoy seeing your favorite Gods, Goddesses and Heroes of legend. 

The Mythic Tarot is unique in that the Minor Arcana portray Greek Myths - one for each suit - as they progress. (For example, the Suit of Wands portrays Jason and the Argonauts.) However, because of this story-weaving angle, sometimes the depictions on the pip cards do not match their actual meanings as it has to follow the progression of the myth. 

This deck is accessible for beginners who have an interest in mythology and would like to try their hand at Tarot.

If you live in Japan and are in the Kansai area Please join us as we study these topics in more detail and how to use this information to enrich your own life with the ARCANA TAROT STUDY GROUP in OSAKA, JAPAN.



Course Instructor : Sonny Gardner

Born in the U.S.A.. Over 30 years of experience with Tarot, Meditation and related subjects.

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