The Tarot – how to choose a deck

I provide intuitive-guidance with the Tarot cards chiefly because the symbolism holds deep and natural meaning for me unlike any other divination method. I consider it a gift to be able to have this flow of thoughts and words that create clarity and insight for my clients. Add counselling to the session, and it becomes a very powerful and healing experience indeed.

The Tarot - begin by choosing a deck

In this article, I will attempt to answer a question I am often asked by clients. How does one choose a deck. As many of you have already experienced, it’s baffling trying to decide, standing in a bookstore in the New Age section and being confronted by a whole selection of Tarot cards and wondering which is the right one for you. It’d be good if the store allowed browsing copies but that isn’t always possible like our bookstores here. Same thing if you bought online. So how then do you choose a deck?

How to choose a deck

Let’s begin by looking at what makes each deck unique and what should stay the same. Imho, the decks can differ in the drawing styles and thus pictorial representation but essentially the meanings, for example, for each of the Major Arcana ought to remain universal. The Hero is still the hero. With that in mind, your choice will then be largely determined by how you react to each deck. Standing there in front of the shelf in the store, you could go online on your smart phone to see what you can find out more about each deck and tune in to your reactions as you look at the cards. Can you see yourself working with the deck? Do the pictures appeal to you? How do they make you feel? It also depends on whether you’d be using the deck for your own spiritual growth or for readings with clients. You many want to separate the two.

Back at the shelf, hold the deck or box (if opening it is not allowed) in your hands and tune in to your feelings again. Visualise a scene where you see yourself using the deck. If the feeling is warm and good as if you are with a close friend then that’s a deck that’s right for you. Similarly, if the scene comes back to you strong and vivid and the meanings of the cards come easy to you, then that’s another good reason to get it. Alternatively, ask the deck if it’s the right one for you. If you don’t get a straight answer, you could walk round the store a couple of times and come back to the cards again. Finally, how many decks is too many? That’s really for you to decide. I stopped at 5 because that gives me something to suit anyone’s preference from medieval to contemporary. Within these 5 decks are 3 that are based on the Rider-Waite, something that is familiar to my clients.

What’s in the deck – The Major and Minor Arcana

The Tarot consists of 2 sections with 78 cards in total. 22 of these cards are known as the Trumph cards and they belong to the Major Arcana. These are said to have their origins in ancient Eygpt and the Kabbalah. The symbolism speak of our life’s journey, which I have coined as the Soul Path. The rest of the 58 cards are divided into 4 suits of 14 cards each, with the suits  represented by Coins/Pentacles, Wands, Swords, and Cups. These 4 suits comprise the Minor Arcana and were added much later sometime in the 15th century thus making the Tarot more of a deck of playing cards at the time. These 4 suits are similar with an ace, king, queen, knave, page, and 1 to 10 like the spade, diamond, club and heart. Some of the oldest decks with the Minor Arcana can be found in museums around the world.

Decks differ but the meanings remain the same

No matter which decks you use, the Major Arcana ought to remain the same (using the Rider Waite deck as a reference) maybe with some variation in the style of drawing. But essentially the same symbols and their meanings should remain. From Card 0, The Fool to Card 21, The World, the Major Arcana will always be the story of our life’s journey and the Soul Path. It is a path that is influenced by the divine and points the way to help us live with meaning and purpose. This is the bigger picture which provides you with True North from which you find your direction by aligning yourself once more to your true direction. From medieval to contemporary, the soul path is clearly depicted in the Major Arcana. That said, there are some avant garde decks that are quite far out on a limb with visuals that are surreal like the Salvador Dali deck.

Tarot of Marseille

On the other hand, the suits can differ in that some decks prefer to keep them simple with just numbers and no pictures. For example, Ten of Coins is just 10 coins on the card in the Marseille deck whereas in the Rider-Waite deck you will find a picture of a happy family surrounded by wealth and the fruits of their labour. With 56 cards in total, the 4 suits can be a challenge to learn although there is a way to go about it which I intend to cover in the second part of a workshop. But then nothing is too difficult if you put your mind to it. Plus, the suits do give us the micro picture of our daily life so it’s really worth the effort understanding them and adding them to a reading. They concern the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis.

Patterns that emerge from the symbolism

My suggestion is that you could look at each suit in its totality by lining up the cards in the same suit into a row. Do that for all 4 suits then put the rows one on top of the other and compare them. Is there a pattern that repeats itself no matter which suit it is? Do the numbers determine a stage in the process with the King as culmination and the Ace a new beginning? Next, take the same number card from each suit and place them side by side. What patterns emerge? Does the number and its symbolism lend clarity to your understanding? Do you need to look deeper into the numerology meaning of each number?

It would be the same process for the Major Arcana. You could start by laying them out like I have in the images you see in the picture gallery. Next, tune in to what each card symbolises with regards to the stages in your own spiritual growth. Yes, begin with your own story because you know yourself best. At this point, you are not using a book, not just yet. Instead, you are using your intuition completely to hear what the cards are saying to you. As you delve deeper into the cards, you will soon find that the cards speak to you and it’s not about memorising and regurgitating from a book or such. It’s about developing a deeper understanding into its symbolism and then letting your responses surface. Still, that is not set in stone. You will learn sooner or later that context matters a good deal and how it will influence a reading. Well, let me not get ahead of myself here. I will save that for another article.

Meanwhile, pick out a deck and start to relate to the cards essentially on an intuitive level. Record your feelings, insights and observations in a journal that you reserve for your Tarot learning. It’s all about growing your intuition at the moment. I wish you all the fun and if you are here in Singapore, I will be running a workshop soon on how to use the Tarot. In the meantime, you can contact me for a private session. You will find several options in the Booking Form.

Related reading: My mission – empower you to live your soul path.

Related reading: 3Qs – a roadmap for your soul path.

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