There are a lot of really pretty tarot decks out there, but not every tarot deck is good for beginners. If you’re new to tarot, I thought it might be helpful to share a few things I recommend looking for in a tarot deck and some of the best tarot decks to start with.
5 Things to Look For in a Tarot Deck for Beginners
1. Classic Symbols
When it comes to modern tarot decks, there are two primary well-known styles: Rider-Waite and Thoth. Both decks are great, but they are very different when it comes to their imagery. The Rider-Waite is a little easier for beginner tarot readers. The images are crisp and clear and you don’t need to know a lot about esoteric symbolism to read them.
The Book of Thoth deck is gorgeous and filled with Art Deco imagery. But there is a learning curve for this deck. The mood of each tarot card is not necessarily easy to comprehend on first glance. Cards that look foreboding may not be, and vice versa.
If you’re a beginner, I recommend picking a deck that uses the imagery from either the Rider-Waite or the Thoth. Decks based on these styles will have similar images for the major arcana and use the same four suits: wands, cups, swords, and pentacles. Once you learn the meanings of one of these decks, that’s a good time to start branching out to those with more unique imagery.
2. A Deck With 78 Cards
Some decks only contain the major arcana. Other decks only contain cheerful cards. To really start tarot reading you’ll need all 78 cards. The 22 in the major arcana, the 16 court cards and the 40 minor arcana cards.
2. Cards That Fit Your Hands
Some tarot decks are very small. As a result, they can be hard to read. Some are huge and almost impossible to hold in your hands and shuffle. You want a deck that comfortably fits in your hands.
3. Good Card Stock
Some tarot decks are cheaply made and have very thin card stock that makes them difficult to shuffle. Or they have details that flake off or corner that bend.
On the other hand, some decks have card stock that is too thick. These are good decks for educational purposes but not great for an everyday deck because they’re also hard to shuffle. You want a deck that shuffles about as easy as a deck of playing cards.
4. A Deck That Feels Right
This one comes down to your intuition. If you are gifted a deck or you buy one and it doesn’t feel right, return it if you can or gift it to someone else. I have three decks. I bought one because it was pretty but it felt terrible to use, so I don’t read with it. A lot of true tarot reading comes down to how connected you are to your intuition, so this is a good time to begin using it.
Can I Buy My Own Tarot Deck?
A lot of people wonder if you can buy your own tarot deck or if it’s bad luck. I like the idea of being gifted your first deck, but if you are eager to start learning or reading tarot, you can buy your own deck. If you’re feeling superstitious about it, ask a friend to buy one for you and pay them back by taking them to dinner as a thank you.
The Best Tarot Decks for Beginners
The was directed by Arthur Waite and illustrated Pamela Coleman-Smith in 1909. It’s the most popular tarot deck, probably because the imagery is very easy to read even if you don’t know all the esoteric meanings hidden within each card.
The Thoth tarot deck was directed by Aleister Crowley and illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris. At first glance, the symbology is denser than that of the Rider-Waite, but if you study it, the intuitive meanings should start to come through for you just as well. You’ll also notice that the names of some of the major arcana in the Thoth deck differ from the Rider-Waite and Crowley gave names to many of the cards of the minor arcana.
I love the borderless version of the Rider-Waite. When you’re putting cards next to one another, it’s easy to see how they might combine to create a scene.
This tarot deck illustrated by Lisa Sterle is an all-female take on the RWS deck. It features similar imagery and it retains many (though not all) of the hidden symbols. If you’re looking for a feminist, modern, diverse deck to start with as a beginner, this is the best one I’ve seen.
Zach Wong’s Revelations tarot deck splits the difference between the Rider-Waite and Thoth approaches. You’ll lose the esoteric symbology for the most part, but he’s captued the essence that each card is meant to convey. It’s probably best as a second deck, but if you’re drawn to it, go for it.
This romantic deck by Llewllen features watercolor imagery and follows the classic RWS style. Anna-Marie Ferguson illustrated this deck that celebrate Celtic myths, so if you are looking to dive deeper into that mythology, this could be a great beginner tarot deck for you.
Ready to take a trip back to the 1970s? This borderless Age of Aquarius-style deck fits the bill. With illustrations that look like they should be adorning the inside of rock albums, this is a groovy way to start to learn the tarot.