Seeking Tarot cards? – Read our beginner’s guide to buy your first Tarot
Tarot cards are a wonderful tool for self-discovery and improvement. Tarot reading gives you the opportunity for useful reflection. The only question you have to answer is what deck to use. That's a daunting question, because there are a lot of decks out there.
That’s why I’ve written this article. While there is no one "best Tarot deck for beginners," the three decks in this article are all excellent choices for your first deck.
Oh...and there's a surprise for you at the end of the article!
About the Tarot
Tarot cards have been used for divination since the 18th century. They are based on 15th century European playing cards. They are not Egyptian in origin, although this is a common misconception.
A deck has 78 cards. There are 22 cards in the Major Arcana. The Major Arcana are very powerful cards that reveal “greater secrets” to a user. These cards are always numbered with Roman numerals and do not have a suit. They represent complex concepts. If they appear in a reading, you should pay special attention.
The remaining cards are called the Minor Arcana. They are divided into four suits, with ten numbered cards and four court cards, almost like modern playing cards. All the cards of the Minor Arcana have rich meaning, but they are not as powerful as the Major Arcana.
Choosing a Deck
Because the Tarot is such a personal tool, there is no one best deck for everyone. You will need to familiarize yourself with each deck’s imagery. Once you do this, you will find that some decks speak to you and others do not. If a particular deck speaks to you, you need to follow your heart.
All the decks in this Tarot deck review for beginners correspond to one of the recognized Tarot systems, so you can be confident that they will provide you with complete and helpful readings.
Tarot Deck Options
You have to make one major choice: do you want a traditional or modern deck? You can find some of the best Tarot cards for beginners in both categories.
The advantage of the traditional decks is that they are based on very thorough systems. While almost all modern decks base themselves on a traditional system, some people believe that the process of modernizing a deck disrupts the effectiveness of the traditional systems. If you are comfortable with the older symbolism and want something tried-and-tested, consider a traditional deck.
On the other hand, many modern decks take their inspiration from popular culture or contemporary spiritual practices. Many of them “correct” the traditional decks’ reliance on rigid gender roles and highly deterministic meanings. If you find traditional gender imagery troubling, or are seeking a deck that is more inclusive of practices beyond traditional Western occultism, a modern deck may be the best option for you.
How to Use the Tarot
Learning the Tarot is a lifelong process, but it is also easy to start. All you need is your deck and a quiet space. Most people like to have a special piece of cloth for laying out their cards, but this is not required. If rituals are part of your spiritual practice, you can use them with your deck and/or cloth, but again, this is not required.
You can light a few candles and incenses to create the perfectly spiritual atmosphere.
The basic procedure is very straightforward
- Clear your head and focus on your question. Most Tarot experts advise against “yes or no” questions. You can ask questions like, “Why am I engaging in X type of behavior?” or “What is the meaning of my relationship with X?” or “What are some steps I can take to achieve Goal X?”
- Once you have clarified your question, pick your Tarot card spread. Introductory books will have some good spreads for beginners. The Celtic Cross is the most popular utility spread.
- Set your deck in front of you, focus on your question again, and cut your cards. Tradition says you should use your left hand, since it is connected to your heart.
- Fan the cards out in front of you. Run your hand over the cards, selecting as many as you need for your spread.
- Lay out your cards in the spread pattern and begin interpreting.
This guide goes into more detail.
Popular candidates for Best Tarot Deck for Beginners
While this is a Tarot deck review for beginners, it may also be a good refresher for advanced readers who are considering a new or secondary deck.
#1 - The Rider-Waite Tarot
This is the most popular and accessible of the traditional decks. Developed by the occultist A.E. Waite and illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith, not only is it in wide use, but it is the inspiration for countless other decks.
This deck uses the suits of Wands, Pentacles, Cups, and Swords. Its court cards are Page, Knight, Queen, and King. Major Arcana VIII is called Strength. Major Arcana XI is called Justice. Major Arcana XIV is called Temperance. Major Arcana XX is called Judgement, and Major Arcana XXI is called The World.
- Because it is so popular, there are lots of guides available to help you as you begin your Tarot journey.
- The symbolism is rich and consistent, but not so overwhelming that it is hard to learn.
- Because this is a traditional deck, some people may find the symbolism and standard card meanings outdated or restrictive.
- For some people, the early 20th century art style of the cards is not appealing or forceful enough.
#2 -The Thoth Tarot
This is the other widely available traditional deck. It was created by notorious occultist Aleister Crowley in response to what he believed were weaknesses in the Rider-Waite. If you want a traditional deck but find that the Rider-Waite is not powerful enough, you should examine the Thoth. Lady Frieda Harris’s illustrations are justly revered by Tarot aficionados.
Unlike the Rider-Waite deck, the Thoth uses the suites of Wands, Disks, Cups, and Swords. Its court cards are Princesses, Princes, Queens, and Knights. It also reverses VIII and XI in the Major Arcana and changes the names of some of the Major Arcana. Major Arcana VIII is Adjustment. Major Arcana XI is Lust. Major Arcana XIV is Art. Major Arcana XX is The Aeon, and Major Arcana XXI is The Universe.
- Complex symbolism and broad references to Christian, Hindu, Egyptian, and Jewish traditions mean that, although the Thoth may seem overwhelming at first, it is unlikely you will ever outgrow it.
- This is not a touchy-feely “everything is always great!” deck. These cards help you confront any real challenges that lie ahead of you.
- For some users, the aggressive and sexual nature of the Thoth’s imagery is too disturbing.
- If you are an intuitive, imagistic person, you may not be interested in learning Crowley’s complex theories. This will reduce your enjoyment of the deck.
The following decks use the Rider-Waite system, but with updated concepts. They are among the very best Tarot cards for beginners.
#3 - The Druidcraft Tarot
This is one of the most popular of the many decks that combine Pagan spirituality and the Tarot. Deck designers Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm designed a deck that incorporates symbolism from the Wicca and Druid traditions. Will Worthington’s illustrations are detailed, steeped in nature, and very human.
*Read more to understand the 's' in parenthesis
This deck uses the Rider-Waite suits and court cards. It also keeps the Major Arcana in the Rider-Waite order, but changes some of the names to keep with its Celtic/Pagan theme. Major Arcana III is The Lady instead of the Empress, and Major Arcana IV is The Lord instead of The Emperor. Major Arcana XIV is The Fferyllt, and Major Arcana XV is Cemunnos instead of The Devil.
- Users who identify with Celtic imagery or Celtic-influenced Pagan spirituality will love how this deck incorporates their traditions.
- Like many of the decks that are inspired by Celtic imagery and Pagan traditions, the Druidcraft Tarot is a particularly gentle and encouraging deck. People who are using the Tarot to work through trauma may find this deck comforting.
- The illustrations are more literal than in some other decks, so users who need abstract imagery will probably prefer another deck.
- This deck may have limited appeal to users who are not familiar with Wicca or Druidism.
Follow your instinct
All of these decks have wonderful imagery and rich symbolism. Also, they will allow you to understand yourself better. You can use them all to undercover the deep patterns of your thoughts and behavior. You can also use them to determine productive goals and the steps needed to achieve them.
Which deck should you choose? Well, if the imagery of any of the decks I have described calls out to you and says, “Choose me,” then that’s the deck you should choose.
However, if none of the decks immediately speaks to you, I recommend you start with the traditional Rider-Waite deck. It is easy to find, its imagery and symbolism are an accessible middle ground between the other recommended decks, and there are more books available to help guide you through your first readings for the Rider-Waite than for any other deck.
If, after some time, you find that you want a more challenging deck, you can always reconsider the Thoth or the Deviant Moon decks. Or, if you find that you like the forcefulness of the Rider-Waite, but wish that it had a more modern sensibility, you can look at the Druidcraft or Steampunk decks again.
Welcome to the satisfying world of the Tarot, no matter what deck you choose!
And here comes the surprise: we have two more decks for you. Drop your email address and get the full article for free in PDF. So, are you ready to learn more about the mysterious Deviant Moor Tarot and the Steampunk Tarot?