Choosing a tarot deck can be a little more complicated than you would expect. You will find that every tarot deck has a different energy, point of view, symbolism and history. Because of this you will find that your connection with every deck will be very unique. To choose a deck that is right for you it’s important to decide what the intention of the deck will be and be able to feel the deck on a physical and energetic level. After this, it’s important to understand the creator of the deck’s point of view along with how they’ve maintained the original structure of the tarot or how they’ve restructured it. Lastly, I think it’s important to research what information is available on the specific deck and to check out what other people who own the deck have to say about it.
Don’t feel you have to be committed to one deck. Many tarot readers switch between decks and use different decks for different purposes and occasions. You may also find that your connection with a deck either grows or weakens with time and it’s perfectly acceptable to set a deck aside and start using another one. In fact, I recommend using different decks for different purposes. This is why determining the intention of a deck is so important.
Determining the Intention of the Deck
The first thing that should be considered is what the intention of the deck will be. Will you be using it to give yourself readings, those close to you readings or complete strangers off the streets readings? If you are going to be giving readings to people off the street, it’s probably best to avoid tarot decks that are a bit more macabre or dark – as you don’t want to scare them away! Also, you probably shouldn’t be using a deck that contains an abundance of nudity or sexuality within it when reading for others – unless their question is directly related to these topics.
Perhaps you will be using this deck for spell casting and magick. Is it important to you that the deck reflect occult symbolism then or would you rather it reflect more realistic modern images that are better matched to your life? If the intention is to use it for mediumship or spirit communication, you may even want to think about using a deck that reflects the pantheon or cultures of the entities you wish to use the deck with or have it be themed after spirits or angels.
Physically Assessing the Cards
It’s important to take into account the visual portrayals of the cards. Make sure that the deck visually appeals to you. You might like decks with art that is more traditional, are photographic or are computer manipulated or digital. We’re all unique in our art tastes and you might not even have a specific preference in your appreciation of art. Check out the Major Arcana cards and see if you can relate to the images being portrayed. Do they speak to you? If you were to draw this card would you understand what it’s saying? Do they emotionally trigger a response from you? If the answer is yes then that’s a very good sign.
Next pay attention to the pip cards (the Minor Arcana). Sometimes a deck will have fantastic Major Arcana cards but the Pip cards lack in their art. Is this important to you? Perhaps not, you might be someone who reads mainly based on numerology – if so, this may not be a priority in a deck. Be sure to also check out the court cards. Some decks will even totally omit them. So determining the importance of court cards and viewing their symbolism is also another good thing to keep in mind. Other stylistic things to note are the text on the cards, borders, roman numerals and numbers or the complete absence of these.
Pay attention to the card stock. Some decks are printed on higher quality card stock than others. Do you prefer a glossy or a matte finish? Are the cards gilded with gold leaf on the sides? Depending on your shuffling style, this may make it harder, if not impossible to shuffle. Tarot decks can also range in size from standard to small to very large – so determining your preferred method of shuffling and the workspace you’ll have for your spreads should be factored in as well.
Energetically Assessing the Cards
Ensuring that you energetically connect with the cards is just as important. The first step is paying attention to your emotional response when physically viewing and handling the cards. But you also want to see if you connect to the cards on a deeper level. Even if you adore the art of a deck, if there’s no energetic connection it may not be the best deck for you. There are several ways to ensure that you connect with a deck.
A great tool for picking out a deck is a pendulum. First you want to establish a language with your pendulum.
Exercise – Establishing “Yes” & “No” With Your Pendulum
Take a deep breath and clear your mind. Extend your arm fully holding the pendulum by the end of the chain.
Mentally ask your Spirit Guides to channel through you so that you may get clear guidance. This is as simple as stating “I ask my Spirit Guides to assist me in receiving clear guidance through my pendulum.”
Ask to be shown what a “yes” looks like. When the pendulum begins moving take note of the direction the pendulum is swinging.
Ask to be shown what a “no” looks like. When the pendulum begins moving take note of the direction the pendulum is swinging.
Take a pendulum with you to the store or hold the thought of the deck in your mind. Hold out your arm and ask if this deck is the right deck for you. Ask if it will serve you for the highest good. Ask if it will serve others for the highest good. It seems so simple – and it is! Try different decks and pay attention to the responses. Does one give you a stronger “yes” than another by swinging further or faster? You may connect with several decks energetically, but you want to find the one that you connect with this strongest at this time.
Another method is to feel the actual energy of the cards psychically through your hands to determine which deck resonates the best with you. This method of psychic reading is called psychometry.
Exercise – Feeling A Deck’s Energy With Your Hands
To do this take a deep breath and relax yourself. Breathe deeply and visualize your breath pushing energy towards your hands.
Feel the energy build up for a moment and then take your hands and begin rubbing them together focusing on the intention to amplify your energy to feel.
Place the deck in your hands and close your eyes. Pay attention to how your hands feel as well as the space around your hands.
Signs of a strong deck will often portray qualities that you can energetically feel when handling such as temperature changes, sensations of tingling, pulsing or vibrating or changes in weight of the deck.
Some shops have demo decks that you can go through card by card. If so, take a card out and hold it in your hands with the same method. Close your eyes and pay attention to what thoughts, words, sounds, smells, colors, tastes, images, memories or emotional feelings that you receive from the card. Depending on how you are psychic strength pre-disposition as well as your training in the psychic arts, you will receive information from a deck you connect with strongly in different ways.
Understanding the Creator’s Point of View
Understanding the creator of the deck’s point of view is also a good thing to try to understand. A lot of deck creators have a religious or spiritual point of view that they are approaching the tarot with and sometimes they are part of a mystical order. Aleister Crowley who co-created the Thoth deck approached it from his point of view of Thelema while A.E. Waite the co-creator of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck created it from his point of view of the Golden Dawn. Some deck creators approach the deck from other spiritual traditions such as Paganism, Wicca, Druidry, Shamanism, Santeria, Voodoo or even Christianity.
Different spiritual points of view will change the symbolism, structure and feel of various decks. A lot of Pagan themed decks will replace the Devil Card with the Horned God or something related to Shadows. This is because in Pagan theologies there tends to not be an acknowledgement of – and sometimes a straight up rejection of – the idea of a Devil or Supreme Being of Evil. The Thoth deck renames the Strength card as Lust while also changing the names of the Court Cards. Some decks may even change the name of the suits themselves replacing the traditional pentacles, swords, wands and cups as earth, air, fire and water – or something altogether different. Likewise, different artists will interpret different symbols and concepts completely different based on their artistic set of symbolism.
This is why it’s helpful to also understand what information is out there in regards to your deck. If the deck is based on the Rider-Waite-Smith or Thoth symbolism or structure then there’s going to be tons of resources out there in the form of books, classes and Internet information. Some books come with companion books explaining the creator and artists’ point of view, symbolism, meanings and spreads recommended for the deck – while others come with just a small little white book of keywords or nothing at all. Being able to analytically understand the keys in the tarot is just as important as intuitively reading. In fact, when you understand the symbolism the cards work as stronger psychic triggers for intuitive readings.