Choosing a Tarot deck

Choosing a Tarot deck – how to find cards that suit you personally

How do I choose a Tarot deck?

Choosing a tarot deck is a pretty big deal, regardless of whether it’s about getting the first deck for a beginner or making a replenishment of the collection of a professional fortuneteller. Below you can familiarize yourself with the different types of decks, as well as the principles of choosing between them.

Newbies often ask the question – “Which is the best Tarot deck?”. At the moment, there are several thousand decks in both classic and non-standard art versions (Tarot Manara, Tarot Gnomes). The best deck will be the one that suits you personally. It is impossible to define a single version that will be universal, suitable for everyone.

In the same way, you can answer the question of “Which tarot cards are real?”. All decks that are offered in thousands of stores are real. However, only the deck that suits you will work for you.

If you are just starting to work with Tarot and pick up the very first deck, remember to begin with how many cards should be in it. There are 78 of them, of which 22 are Major Arcana, and 56 are Minor Arcana. Be careful when buying, there should be only so many cards in the Tarot deck. The exception is the artistic versions, which are difficult to classify. It’s best to start with one of the classic options.

If you already have experience in fortune telling, most likely you already know what the Tarot schools are. If you need to change the deck or buy another one, it is better to give preference to the school in which you have already worked. It is not necessary to understand these nuances when choosing a deck – it is better for a beginner to be guided by other selection principles, which will be explained below. But after buying the first deck, you need to assign it to one of four types, or schools. The interpretation of cards from different schools sometimes has significant differences, although there are also enough similarities.

Types of Tarot cards – four schools

The varieties of Tarot cards are called schools. These are not just varieties, they are separate fortune-telling systems that have many differences and similarities. There are only four classical schools. These are the Tarot of Papus, Ryder-Waite, Crowley and the Marseilless Tarot. The main differences are in the images on the cards, the numbering of the arcana, as well as the letters of the Kabbalah. The latter are depicted on modern decks less and less.

Tarot school of Papus types of tarot cards

The Papus Tarot system has the following characteristics:

trength is located at number 11;
The Fool can be zero or be located at number 21, it corresponds to the letter Shin, which looks like a pitchfork;
The Magician corresponds to the first letter of the Kabbalistic alphabet – Aleph.
The World corresponds to the twenty-second letter – Tav.
The illustration on the card Lovers depicts a man who chooses a life partner between two women standing on either side of him.

The last sign is not considered to be sufficient for the deck to belong to the Papus system, if there are no other signs. The divination system of Doctor Papus is distinguished by the absence of specific rituals.

The Papus Tarot
The Papus Tarot

Cards can be taken with any hand, you can do fortune-telling at any time, questions can be of any type and in any number. Papus himself wrote that when fortune-telling, a person connects to the egregor of Isis – the patron goddess of Tarot. That is why the decks seem to come to life, acquire character and a kind of independence, becoming a reliable adviser in any matter.

Tarot Waite School

The Ryder-Waite Tarot system has the following differences:

Strength is at number 8;
Judgment is at number 11;
The Fool can only be zero, it corresponds to the first letter of the Kabbalah – Aleph;
The Magician corresponds to the second letter of the Kabbalah – Bets.
The Worldr, as in the Papus system, corresponds to the twenty-second letter of Tav.
The Lovers depict only a man and a woman, often they are in the Garden of Eden or at their own wedding.

As in the case of the Papus system, the latter feature is not considered significant enough to determine the school to which the deck belongs if there are no other features. Ryder-White School is the most popular at the moment when compared with all other types. There are also astrological aspects to Ryder-White decks.

The Ryder-Waite Tarot

Tarot School of Crowley

The cards of Aleister Crowley’s system are very easy to recognize. He created the Tarot Thoth deck. It is very easy to recognize it by the appearance and style of illustrations. There are no other versions of the deck, except for the classic one.

Unlike the Papus system, who considered absolutely any question asked of the cards important, Aleister Crowley recommended consulting the cards only on important issues. He wrote that the Tarot serve to extract information from the subconscious of the fortuneteller. Therefore, adherents of the Crowley system are engaged in fortune telling after immersion in a meditative trance, and the cards are laid out only on a green cloth.

Tarot School of Crowley

Crowley recommended pulling out of the card exclusively with the left hand.

Marseilles school

The Marseilles Tarot has a distinctive design so that the cards of this school couldn’t be confused with any others. The color scheme is somewhat poor. The illustrations have only red, blue, yellow and beige colors. The images are rough.

Other options

In addition to the classic decks and their many versions, there are also artistic versions of the Tarot that are difficult to classify. They are not recommended for beginners. It is quite difficult to interpret non-standard Tarot even for professionals. These include, for example, the Tarot of Angels, the Mystic Monday Tarot and the Tree of Life, which is practically unsuitable for divination. They can be attributed to the same kind of tarot cards – art decks, custom or artistic decks.

Tarot Cards – How to Choose a Tarot Deck

Now you are familiar with the general types of Tarot and everything is clear. Most likely your deck will belong to one of the schools. You will choose the methods of fortune-telling accordingly to the deck, as well as the literature in which the interpretation of the cards are slightly changed. Involuntarily, different authors slightly modify the meaning of the cards, taking into account their personal vision, but there were still no fundamental changes in the meaning of the Tarot.

How to choose Tarot cards if you already understand which school you are interested in or have decided to move on to this issue later? When choosing a tarot deck, you need to focus on your own feelings. Your deck should be calling you. Hold in your hand several selected sets, listen to yourself. It is better for a beginner to choose options with light or neutral energy. You need to get used to dark color shades, they require experience in fortune telling, and most of them are not suitable for ordinary fortune telling about love, work and life situations.

Most often, cards are packed when sold. If you do not look into store catalogs or galleries, you can get a wrong deck and be seriously disappointed. You should not buy into bright images on boxes, as well as beautiful names. Pay attention to how the cards look. Images, the back, and even the cards themselves should feel good to the touch.

Of course, it is advisable to choose cards printed on thick high-quality cardboard. This way they will last longer. It is undesirable to choose laminated cards, they slide when shuffled, and also do not hold energy well. Illustrations should also be clear and well-defined. It is good that the set fits comfortably in your hand, and the cards are not too small or too large.

Ryder-Waite cards are well suited as the first tarot deck, by analogy of which many other decks have been created. The Tarot of the Age of Aquarius, the Universal Key, and many other universal options are not too difficult to perceive. There are also more specific decks, for example, the Manara set is more suitable for solving love issues, and the Paracelsus cards are more suitable for fortune telling on health. Professional fortune-tellers often have several decks for spreads of various purposes, but many remain faithful to the first deck for a long time.

In general, there are few clear rules when choosing a tarot deck, and they relate to the quality of the cards. For the rest, you should rely on your intuition. Like any magic item, cards are chosen according to personal feelings. Keep in mind, however, that there are four schools, and your deck will belong to one of them if it’s not a rare custom version.

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