My best tarot cards
A tarot enthusiast opens her drawers.....
I've read tarot professionally for a number of years and, like any other self-respecting reader, I am addicted to collecting tarot decks. Also like most other readers I only use one or two favourite decks but the others.... ah well... they called to me. The tarot card siren song is a hard one to ignore.
So here are my decks together with a brief review of each. I have over 50 so will be adding them bit by bit. Come back and check for updates.
If you'd like to read more of my tarot articles, please visit Tarot Journal.
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A good working deck
These cards have a slightly 80s look, and for this reason can be a teeny bit irritating, but put that to one side because this deck is hardworking and very accurate. My favourite workhorse deck, this is the one I pick up when I need clarification. I carry the images in my head so that when using another deck I can 'check-in' to make sure my intuition is on track. Sometimes my clients wonder why I am seeing things that aren't there and I have to explain that I am also reading with a second lot of cards. Nuts? Yep, for sure.
The Robin Wood was the first deck I bought and I am now, after nearly 15 years, on my second pack. The cards wear pretty well. They are easy to shuffle and they feel 'easy' in the hands. This one is a 'must have'.
Songs for the Journey Home
Stunning, complex but worth the effort
Songs for the Journey Home - wonderful, glorious and full of stories. Created in New Zealand by two women - one who had the original inspiration and wrote the accompanying book, and the other who brought forth this gorgeous artwork.
The most attractive deck in my collection. Reads like a dream. The creators' website is here:
I have the most fantastic insights when reading with these cards. If you manage to get hold of a copy, then don't be afraid of speaking exactly what you see on the card. They can be very literal.
The Arcus Arcanum
Romantic but there is more to this one than you might think
This is another early purchase of mine and, at the time, it was difficult to find. I managed to get mine eventually on eBay. It is still somewhat elusive but can be found if you are willing to look.
At first this one can seem a little sugary. The art is lovely; very easy on the eye, but a closer examination will reveal lots of detail which can be invaluable during a reading. Gorgeous sunsets.
I used to read a lot for the Free Tarot Networks run by the American Tarot Association. I would do half a dozen one-card readings and perhaps a couple of three-carders most evenings. That's where I cut my tarot teeth. Great practice. Many of the questions were of a romantic nature and this deck proved its worth.
A collector's item.
Crystal Tarots (E. Trevisan)
Worth having just for the Majors
Beautiful Majors and Courts, photocopied them and decoupaged to my dining table. Delicious. However, minors are boring pips. They are lovely if you like reading with pips instead of picture cards, and many people do because the artist's interpretation does not influence their intuition.
I coveted the deck for months before buying it. I'm glad I did for the sake of my table but they remain, little used, as part of my collection.
Sexy and slightly dark
A gift from a friend. I use The Gilded Tarot by Ciro Marchetti quite a lot. The images are gorgeous and readings are clear and unambiguous. Based heavily on the Rider Waite Smith deck, it will work for beginner and more experienced reader alike.
Example: an extract from one of my email readings, using this deck:
Advice/Other considerations - Ten of Cups
Lovely card. Feel yourself surrounded by love, happiness and the cosiest security blanket in the world. What set of circumstances could make you feel like this? Let your imagination play with this one. You can have those things. But what you mustn't do is feel the lack of them. Pretend as if you can have them by clicking your fingers, or Know, with a capital K that they are just around the corner and waiting for you to arrive.
Slightly dark and very compelling.
The Glastonbury Tarot
Vibrant and clear
A good one for beginners, though I find there is little depth in the images. I prefer decks where I can keep noticing new things even after years of use. The Glastonbury Tarot by Lisa Tenzin-Dolma uses Arthurian legend to add layers of meaning to the cards. The accompanying book is comprehensive and divinatory interpretations are based on the familiar RWS system.
Looks like this is another deck that is hard to find in the US. Again, if you can get an original one, then hang onto it and treat it well.
Magical and seductive
One of my very first decks. I yearned for it. I used it a lot, really without understanding it. It isn't a deck for beginners, as several of the Major Arcana have been reinterpreted in such a way that their meanings become blurred together. For someone trying to get the basics into their head, this can be difficult. I loved it lots but now when I look at it, I wonder why... I suppose it was different and somewhat magical. The Majors and Courts feature photo-images of people placed onto a separately imaged background. Compared with today's digital decks, this one seems a little clumsy now. Still, I'm glad I bought it.
The Revelations Tarot
The best one of all!
This is my absolutlely favourite deck of all time. And vastly under-rated it is too. It is the perfect size, with the perfect amount of gloss. Some decks, like the Glastonbury are so glossy that they feel sticky and hard to shuffle. Not this one. I have small hands and find large cards awkward to handle and this one suits me brilliantly.
The images are complex and simple at the same time. Zach Wong has managed to convey the meaning of the card in the very expressions of the figure portrayed on them. They are full of energy and vibrancy.
Additionally, the artist has, very skillfully, integrated reversals into the deck. I have deliberately scanned the Queen of Wands upside down so you can see for yourself.
The cards come in a boxed set with a really good book - I found some interesting aspects mentioned that I hadn't considered before. The cards have their own kinky black net bag to nestle into.
If you are going to buy one new deck this year, then this has to be the one. I reckon I use this deck for 70% of all my readings.
The Tapestry Tarot
One of the strangest....
I think this one arrived in a batch sent to me from a friend. It is extremely... well... odd. The creator, Yvonne G Jensen has put so much work into this deck. Each card was originally a woven cloth wall hanging.
Ms Jensen refers to the tarot as 'tahroh' as an anagram of the goddess, Hathor, but the cards are loosely based on the RWS . I find her interpretations a little way out though; one example given is where the Tower is deemed to mean a sudden decision. Hmm... maybe.
The cards have keywords on them, which I don't like much because one word cannot possibly encompass the whole meaning of the card and also because keywords don't always work when you are reading the cards in conjunction with others. For example, the Ten of Pentacles is designated 'wealth' - but sometimes this card can mean something completely different, such as family structure.
The cards are quite large and almost square, making them difficult to hold and shuffle.
I wouldn't use them in a reading but they are certainly a novel addition to my collection. I believe they are not so difficult to find, either. You may pick up a used deck on eBay or Amazon for quite a reasonable sum.
And look at that scan - it's Michael Jackson for sure!
The Medieval Scapini
Gorgeous deck by Luigi Scapini. I love its creaminess. I also love the fact that there is so much to see in it and plenty of sly humour too. The minors are really pip cards with a difference. They are not illustrated with scenes a la RWS, but they are full of detail and relevant symbolism. A lovely deck to work with.
What I would like, is a decent book to accompany it - sometimes it is useful to have things pointed out or explained... it's also good to know why the artist interprets the card the way he does. There is a book by Ronald Decker, which was published after the deck but it wasn't what I was looking for.
The Medieval Scapini would definitely be in my top 5 tarot decks. In fact, if you had this one, you wouldn't need another. It might slightly overwhelm beginners... but persevere; it's worth it.
Disturbing, surreal and strangely attractive
Based on the concept of human duality, Patrick Valenza has created a unique deck of cards, which adds substantially to the 'tarot pool'. I was sent this out of the blue, by the same friend who gifted me the Gilded and who also recommended the Revelations.
RWS based, the cards are almost like grotesque illustrations of fairy tales; the sort of thing nightmares are made of. There is a lot to learn from this deck, particularly if you are drawn to exploring the darker side of human nature.
It has received some fabulous reviews elsewhere and I would recommend it. Use it for readings where you feel that getting a more psychological twist would be helpful.
Explore tarot further
When I first became drawn to the cards, I found that these websites became my first port of call every time I surfed.
- Tarot Study
Curated collection of tarot articles, thoughts and general ramblings... you can get a one-card free reading too.
- Joan Bunning's "Learning The Tarot"
Joan has very generously, shared her renowned book, "Learning The Tarot" online for free for years and years. She allowed us to use it as the basis for the TABI Beginners' course.
- Aeclectic Tarot
Hundreds of reviews, images and discussions. A great resource which has grown to be a tarot mecca.
- Tarot Passages
Reviews (lots), articles, example readings. It's all here.
- How to Read Tarot Cards
Confused about where to start learning the tarot? This article will set you on an amazing spiritual journey,
- Tarot for Relationships
How to read tarot with romance in mind.
- How to Read Tarot with Playing Cards
A simple, yet elegant, method of applying tarot card meanings to ordinary playing cards.
The Fairy Tarot
Fun for grown-ups and may suit a young reader too
A humourous and colourful deck... and surprisingly easy to read with. I don't use it regularly but my children like to look through it occasionally. These cards are not so whimsical as they might first appear and there are insights to be gained by giving them a close examination.
The Fairy Tarot hails from the Lo Scarabeo stable and has the usual excellent quality and neat-sized cards.
Pentacles = Bells
Wands = Acorns
Swords = Leaves.
Mature but still fresh
The Celtic Wisdom Tarot is not for the faint-hearted. It really is worth making the effort to get to know this deck. Although based on Celtic mythology, there is still plenty of RWS influence there for an intermediate reader to get a good grasp on it. Caitlin Matthews and Olivia Rayner have created a beautiful, chunky and very workable tarot.
The suits are renamed and, in fact, all the cards have been renamed to reflect the Celtic tradition. The divinatory meanings are based on appropriate legends, tales and folklore. If you are into Celtic mythology, you will love this deck and if you aren't you'll still love this deck.
Love it or hate it, this is one of the most influential decks ever
Many readers will not consider using anything else; others won't touch it with a bargepole. The Thoth Tarot was created by the occultist, Aleister Crowley and painted by Lady Frieda Harris. Whatever your opinion, this is a beautiful deck and worth the extra effort it takes to understand them (not that anyone can ever understand them fully). You will be able to use them if you are used to the RWS system but there are differences within the structure. I would definitely recommend a period of study before using them to read for other people.
Lovely when reading for children (and grown-ups too)
This deck proved its worth once when I received a request that made my heart flip over. A grandmother was asking for insights after her dear grandbaby had passed away. She wanted comfort for herself and for her daughter. I almost turned the reading down because I was pregnant with my daughter and the questions were too difficult to contemplate. I decided to go ahead, using this deck.
The reading was one of the best I'd ever done and have ever done since. I was astounded by the thoughts and feelings that the cards engendered and was completely happy to pass these on to the lovely lady who had asked for the reading. I was overwhelmed by her response and her gratitude. A little later she emailed to say that her daughter, the baby's mother, had decided to take the recurring element - butterflies - and have one inscribed on to the baby girl's memorial stone.
It was a life-changing reading for me and I will never forget the warmth of this lady and her family.
The Inner Child is illustrated by familiar and not-so-familiar fairytales. It is certainly not a 'fluffy' deck, as it is full of very useful insights. Keep an open mind and you will learn lots. Great for introducing children to tarot and, photocopied, they'd make a lovely frieze for a child's bedroom, where they would inspire you to tell all manner of bedtime stories.
The cards are huge and impossible to shuffle in any normal manner. I get round this by dealing them into random piles, face down (the cards, not me).
If you read at tarot parties and like your clients to handle the cards, then this deck is perfect for engaging them. So big and lush... and completely non-threatening.
Middle Age and Renaissance art collage
Another gift.... people know exactly how to make me happy! I'd heard a lot about the Golden Tarot but hadn't seen any of the cards until they arrived quite unexpectedly. They are very Rider Waite Smith based, almost a clone, I'd say, except the images are very cleverly collaged from artwork from the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance period. The creator, Kat Black, has done a really good job. If you are familiar with RWS then you will be able to read with these straight out of the box... well, after a good shuffle at least. However, if you are a beginner the set comes with a useful 194 page booklet to help you along.
A bonus is hidden at the back of the book: the Appendices contain all the sources of the artwork used for each card - fascinating.
The box is a delight too; being chunky and compact but perfect for the cards and book. I have to mention the gorgeous gilded card edges... my daughter loves shiny things, and says that this is her favourite deck.
My only gripe, and it is a wee one, is that not many of the faces are smiling, but I suppose it wasn't the done thing to smile for your portrait in 'those' days. So ignore me... go ahead, you'll love this deck.
Tarot of the Old Path
Lots of Pagan symbolism
Why don't I use this deck? There's no reason why I should have ignored it all this time. I inherited it from a friend who had decided that the 'craft' wasn't for her... and this is a very witchy deck. However, these cards are not dark in any way. In fact they are light and airy and quited detailed. The nature, and in particular the flower symbolism is prominent throughout.
Some of the Majors have been renamed; for example Death is The Close and Justice is Karma. Not a bad thing, given the heavy Pagan influence. The cards are easily read by anyone with a grounding in the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition. They'd be quite good for beginners too, especially those who are drawn to witchcraft, Druidism and/or Paganism.
As an extra bonus check out the cheeky little bottom peeping out from under the Six of Sword's tunic!
I think I am definitely going to pay more attention to this one and use it in my next reading.
The Witches Tarot
Staying with the Pagan theme
The Witches Tarot is one that I have used a lot. Not always an easy read, the cards are, nevertheless, strong and direct in their message. The creators, Ellen Cannon Reed and Martin Cannon, have devised a strange system with the Court Cards whereby a second card is drawn alongside. The Court then modifies the second card. For example say you draw the Queen of Pentacles and then draw oh... the Two of Wands. The Two of Wands, which means following a call to action, making plans and possible delays to those plans, would be modified by the Queen of Pentacles, who is ruler of all things domestic (among other attributes). So one could assume that the plans being set forth are of a down-to-earth and perhaps connected to the home and hearth. Maybe not, but you get the idea.
Frankly, I tend to ignore all that and simply go with what I know about the Courts and the surrounding cards.
The cards are a nice size, easy to shuffle and borderless, which makes the artwork even stronger.
My one moan is that one of my favourite cards, the Six of Swords, looks like it has been snaffled from a different deck altogether. It simply does not make any sense to me at all.
Okay, I have another one. The LWB (Little White Book) gives a pretty decent interpretation of each card but, for some reason, the creators have reversed the attributes of Swords and Wands. It is fairly common for Swords to represent Fire and Wands to represent Air... but this is different; Swords still represent Air but the attribute given is action, which is obviously a Fire/Wand ...er... thing. Well, it is to me. YMMV. It is possibly due to the deck incorporating Qabala, about which I know as much as a gnat - not for the lack of reading about it though - it simply doesn't float my boat. I do know that many people are continually attempting to fit the tarot to the Qabala and the general consensus is that it doesn't really work.
Right, my very last gripe (it's my page; I can have as many as I like) is that the Court Cards are the same people dressed in different colour clothes and set against backgrounds of different seasons. It's not really a downside but I see it as a wasted opportunity to include varying personalities.
It's a good deck, well worth a try. Ignore my moans - you may not feel as picky as I do right now. It might be a moon cycle thing happening :-)
The Tarot of Gemstones and Crystals
Now for something completely different
This is a visually stunning deck but limited in its usefulness unless you are into crystals in a big way or have a good reference book. I should imagine if you have then this deck could add a great deal of depth to your readings.