"Which deck is the best for beginners?" "Should I start with Oracle Cards? I heard it's easier than Tarot." "Is Rider Waite the best Tarot deck?"... if this sounds familiar, then read on. I hope this post will make finding your very special first deck slightly less confusing and slightly easier.
Disclaimer: This post and all my blog posts contain my opinion. If it helps you, great. If you don't agree, no worries. Just take what you need from it. :)
Which is the most beginner friendly Tarot?
I remember asking this questions once upon a time. I spent a lot of time Googling this questions and reading all sorts of answers on different forums only to see Rider Waite mentioned many times (fair since it's very popular common, but read on) amongst many different other decks. Well, that didn't help... especially not since I was looking for a pretty deck, and Rider Waite did not cut it for me aesthetic-wise.
After a using various decks, I have come to a conclusion - there's no one deck that's superior to others because it is comes down to art, and art can be subjective. Imagine someone asking who's the best artist, it's going to be quite a debate. They are all so different, and each have their own fans!
I'm going to continue with this artist analogy for tarot. Sure, we all have different tastes in art, but in terms of easy to understand, there are certainly art that's easier to get than others. I, for one, would probably struggle with understanding abstract art... but that does not mean someone else would not be able to look at it and see all kinds of information, emotions and ideas conveyed by the artist. For Tarot, I suggest beginners to get a deck where the Minor Arcana depict a scene, rather than just the number of objects in the suit (known as Pip, kind of like how poker cards are). This is because having a scene (especially a very obvious one) allows you to connect it to the meaning easier so when you see it again, it will jog your memory. For example, 5 of Wands has the meaning of conflict and competition. Rider Waite decks show 5 men fighting each other with 5 sticks. While in other decks, it could be illustrated as a dog fight or something else. Once you connect the image with the meaning, it would be easier to remember when you see it again. Now imagine if the card shows just 5 wands, and 4 of Wands shows just 4 wands. Wouldn't it be so much harder to remember the difference?
Is Rider Waite Tarot the best deck?
As mentioned above, I don't believe there's a best deck. Then why is Rider Waite so popular? Is it the original tarot deck? Nope. Rider Waite is not the first version of Tarot, but it's a big deal because it popularized illustrating Minor Arcana, and a lot of modern decks have since followed their lead. It is also a big deal because the creators of that deck were in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret occult society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
For this reason, I understand why a lot of people may be interested in using Rider Waite Tarot and try to discover the symbolisms and knowledge passed down from Golden Dawn. But you don't need to know all the Golden Dawn stuff to use tarot. Kind of like you don't need to be an art historian to buy/appreciate art, nor do you need to be a linguist to read. There's a lot to learn and discover if you wish, but if you have no interest in doing historical researches and trying to uncover secrets like Indiana Jones would, then you don't really NEED a Rider Waite Tarot deck. And in any case, you can still research about Golden Dawn and Rider Waite even if you use other decks anyway. The internet is lovely like that.
Rider Waite is a great, the illustrations helped me remember card meanings when I first used it. However, I have sometimes found that the illustrations can be a bit outdated and sometimes prefer more modern decks. For example, 3 of Pentacles refer to collaboration/team work. Rider Waite shows 3 people standing in front of a church. At first glance, I had no clue what the people were doing. It took some reading to realize that one person is giving instructions and two people are listening. Their clothing were from the old times, so it was not immediately obvious to me if they were working or just random people talking. In other deck, team work and collaboration might be more obviously illustrated. Perhaps it would be 3 people obviously working on a project or building something together. I would think that such decks might be even easier to use than Rider Waite Tarot for many people.
In any case, there are also A TON of Rider Waite clones. These are decks that follow Rider Waite scenes, but with other artists' designs. My first Rider Waite deck is actually a Rider Waite clone with unicorns and pastel colors instead of the original art. It was cute, I loved it, and it made me want to use it all the time, which is really what's most important. You want a deck you love and want to use, not just a deck that's supposed to be good and never want to touch because it doesn't excite you. Bottom line, the more you use the deck and practice, the better you will get at reading Tarot.
Should I start with Oracle decks? I heard it's easier and less negative/dark.
This is going to be a personal choice. I love both Oracle decks and Tarot decks, and I use them both to "ask questions". If you don't know the difference between Oracle and Tarot, you can read my other blog post Oracle Cards 101.
In general, I would say yes... Oracle Cards are probably slightly easier because there's no expectation that you need to know meanings of obscure card names like "3 of Swords"and "8 of Cups". Since Oracle Cards do not have standardized meanings, the card names and keywords (if any) on the cards would usually be quite straight forward. If not, a guidebook will probably be provided to explain the card meanings. The stress of remembering all the card meanings is probably what makes tarot feel more difficult. Other than that, you use both the same way. When you ask a question, you are asking that the answer shows itself via the cards drawn. You will then use your intuition to work out the "story" that the cards are telling you. For me, I see the cards as prompts that bring out what you already know deep inside.
So then why don't you just use Oracle Cards instead of Tarot, you may ask. Well, I don't think Oracle can completely replace Tarot for me because Tarot is a system that has been around for so long. It feels well thought out and complete. This is not to say that Oracle Cards are not as good. They can also give amazing readings and can be more gentle in terms of message as many don't have "the scary cards". I kind of go with what I feel like using at the time of my question. Sometimes, I even combine the two and use Oracle Cards as clarification or advice on top of my tarot reading. This practice of combining two systems might be frowned upon by some Tarot purists, but I don't really care. If my intention is to ask that the answer will show up, the answer will show up no matter what I use. They can even show up within tea leaves or coffee residue in my cup for all I know. But again, this is me. You are welcomed to believe in whatever feels right for you.
Speaking of "scary cards". I don't really think any Tarot cards are scary. I personally don't believe Tarot readings indicate fixed results. I believe that they read the current energy. It's like getting a mid year review at work. Of course it's nice to hear good things, but sometimes you need to hear something negative, so you can reflect and work on improving. Even rockstars at work need to know how they can be better, so don't be afraid of the the scary cards. Take it as advice to show you what you need to work on. You have the power to make changes! Of course, somethings are probably left to fate and you can't change even if you try (and you should always try). Using the mid year review example, even a rockstar might be out of a job if the company goes under. Things have always worked out the way they are supposed to for me though. I've never looked back at any of my previous relationship breakups or job changes and feel I'm worse off, even if they were not my choice. It's my personal belief that there are things that's supposed to happen. Perhaps it's certain lessons that need to be learned or perhaps there are reasons for somethings to happen... like maybe if I didn't get let go at a previous job, I wouldn't have found my way to a new career that might be more suitable for me. I'd like to think that sometimes the Universe kicks our butt a little to get us moving. You may agree or disagree, but that's how I see it. By embracing the cards whether it's positive or negative, you open yourself fully for introspection and from there, perhaps you can get more clarity. A positive reading can encourage you, while a negative reading can help you reflect. Life is a journey and there will always be ups and downs. Using Tarot and Oracle Cards is like having a pocket therapist. A therapist will never give you a firm yes or no answer. They ask you questions, make you think so you can answer the questions yourself. Very similarly, I'm also asking myself questions when I do readings in the process of seeking clarity. The cards serve as prompts that help me access my intuition and answer questions that I already know subconsciously.
All Tarot decks have the same standardized meanings, then why would anyone need more than 1 deck?
It's probably not so much a question of NEED as it is a question of WANT. My mother-in-law is a Tarot reader and she only has 1 old deck that's super beat up. But I'm not my MIL. If you look at how much makeup, skincare, random stuff I own, you can probably guess that I would not stop at 1 deck. I mean, there are soooooooo many pretty decks!!! I want them all!
While you can get by with just 1 tarot deck and you may not even be the hoarder that I am, there's also some merit to getting an extra deck or two (or three or four... hehehe). Some people like to read intuitively, meaning they will pick up whatever they notice in the illustration of the cards and expand from there, rather than use the traditional prescribed meanings. For example, perhaps in a relationship spread, if you get 2 court carts, you may interpret whether they face each other or face away from each other as additional information for your reading. Different art can inspire different ideas and feelings, so if you like to read into the illustrations, having multiple decks can give you a wider range of stimulation for your intuitive readings.
Tips for your shopping your decks
If you're beginner, try to find a deck with illustrated scenes for Minor Arcana
Watch YouTube unboxing or flip through videos to see if you feel attracted to the deck, if you like the art, and if you feel you can easily understand it.
Pay attention to guidebook pages in YouTube videos especially if the art may not be very obvious. Sometimes you need a bit more info to understand why the artists choose certain illustrations to depict their meanings. Other times, you might prefer a more detailed guidebook to help you learn.
Do you know if you prefer shuffling feel of matte laminated decks or glossy decks? Matte decks tend to be more slippery and glossy decks might stick in first uses (usually is fine after shuffling a few times). However, if you are an avid IG poster and plan to post photos of your cards, you will probably prefer matte as it doesn't reflect light.
Beware of decks that are very cheap (like under S$10), they are probably fakes. Most fake decks will be in tuck box and printed in cheaper card stock. They probably won't come with a printed guidebook and only PDF guidebook might be offered (though some legit decks also don't have guidebooks or might be in tuck boxes. They are just probably not going to be THAT cheap). I'm not gonna judge you even though I would prefer to support artists by purchasing authentic decks. At the very least, I just don't want you to be cheated by an unethical seller.
At Love.Magic.Sparkles, we specialize in indie decks (published by artists and not big publishers). For mass-produced decks, bookdepository.com is a good place to shop since the prices are good and no minimum spend for free shipping.
For mass decks, bookdepository only shows the box and doesn't show the cards or reviews. I would suggest for you to take the extra step and go to Amazon to see more photos and read reviews before purchasing.
I think I have rambled enough... hopefully you will find this helpful!