A Crash Course in Tarot for Newbies #2: All About Tarot Decks

If you would like to learn to read tarot cards, your first challenge is to choose a deck from the 8,000 or so published brands of fortune telling cards on the market. What works for one person often doesn’t for another. Some people are comfortable reading several decks and others just identify with one deck. In my experience you will find that over time, you will grow in and out of several decks. You may also find that the deck that you prefer to use to read yourself is not the deck that you prefer to use read others.

For instance, when I first began reading I started out with a deck that was too heavy for me – The Crowley Deck. The ultimate result of that was that I ended up selling them because I was spooked out the images of the deck. I was simply too young to handle the imagery on this dark deck and was giving myself nightmares. I then switched to the Rider Waite Deck for a few years, which is the ultimate easy, all -purpose deck. I then fell in love with the Renaissance Deck which is much more elaborate in terms of it’s imagery and a bit more pointed in its meanings when it came to describing relationships. Then I entered a period when I was yearning for more simplicity, I switched to the Palladini deck, which is very pure and has a “lighter feeling.” (Kind of like the Pollyanna of Tarot Decks.) Now that I am older, I am back to the Crowley Deck and the Order of the Golden Stair decks, which are a little heavier in feel.

There are also lots of specialty or eclectic decks on the market that might appeal to you more than the Rider Waite, but learning the Rider Waite is like going to high school. Psychic Realm reader Bacchus for instance, uses the Haindl deck for his readings, which has a Nordic feel and is a permutation of the classic Rider-Waite deck, but as wonderful as it is, I don’t think it is a beginner deck.

Here are some good decks I can recommend for beginners that are based on the Rider Waite System of meanings.

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The Rider Waite Deck

The Aquatic Tarot – the same as the Rider Waite but realized in watercolors

The Pamela Colman Tarot – the same imagery as the Rider Waite but done in brighter more psychedelic colors

The Golden Tarot – the same as Rider Waite but the imagery is more medieval

The Palladini Tarot – the same as Rider Waite but with very simple, cheerful drawings

The Renaissance Tarot – the same as Rider Waited but enhanced with images from the Renaissance age.

You can find a selection of Tarot Decks in the Psychic Realm store off the main page or browse the web and buy one that catches your eye online. I recommend doing a little online research first and finding places you can view different decks online because most storeowners won’t let you open and handle their deck because it means removing the plastic from their packaging. However, the best way to be sure is to go to a store, pick up the deck and see if you like the feel of the cards once you have done some research on the imagery in them. The feel, weight or look of the cards often “speaks” to you. If you a feel a connection with the images on the cards or even how they feel in your hands, then that is probably the deck that you will relate to best. I also recommend a deck that comes with a small book inside the package or box so you will have something to quickly reference if you should get lost while reading.

A tip for beginners! When I first began reading the Tarot, I typed myself up a one sheet that a resembled a chart so that all the meanings of each card right side up and upside down were apparent to me at a glance. Typing out the meanings like this really does help you learn the cards quickly.

Your next step would be to get acquainted with your cards. The best way to learn is to study the image on each card, one at a time, while memorizing the meaning. Be patient. There are usually 78 meanings to learn so this is not always a fast process. Some tarot teachers recommend that you put the deck of cards under your pillow at night so you can get better acquainted with them. The idea is that your subconscious will absorb the information the same way that a sponge soaks up water. You can also meditate or dream upon the individual cards in the same way by placing them under your pillow.

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Some people like to charge their cards after they first get them, either by praying or meditating over them, placing a crystal on them or passing them through the smoke of incense or placing them in the light of the full or new moon for a night.

Finicky readers believe the power of the cards is enhanced if they are placed inside a special box or wrapped in a silk pouch. I personally don’t think this makes much of a difference because I KNOW I am accurate and my cards have so much gunk and wear and tear on them it is laughable. Still they do say that pomp and circumstance is supposed to add to the power of all ritual and magic, so if storing your cards in a special way or in a special place helps you read them better than by all means do so.

Also many readers protect their cards by not letting anyone touch them. There is a belief that others can “infect” the cards with their beliefs, fears or anxieties. The cards do act as a portal through to the other side, so keeping them away from other people may be a good way of preventing people from accidentally “touching” you through the cards and passing along possibly toxic energy.

Once you get your cards own, spend some time just looking at them, playing with them and getting to know them. It is essential that you feel good about your cards because in the future, they will be your best allies when it comes to telling the future.

Stay Tuned for our Crash Course in Tarot #3: Card Spreads.


by Samantha Stevens