I had a question today via email: “How do I choose a tarot deck for myself?” The easy answer is that ideally, you don’t–the cards choose you. That was certainly the case with the Shadowscapes deck I bought, which I loved…until my cousin Sydney picked them up, and we were both immediately struck with the sensation that this was her deck, and that I had just been holding onto it for her. They ended up going home with her, of course–I already have the deck that chose me, the Tattooed deck that the Tall Dude gave me the holiday season before last. Not everyone is lucky enough to fall in love at first sight with a deck, though, so here’s a guide to getting started.
It’s not difficult, these days, to find a visually appealing deck. There are so many on the market that there really is a deck for every style and taste. The best places to start your search would be websites such as Aeclectic, where you can view selected cards from hundreds of different decks, along with reviews and links to retail sites, or Taroteca, which doesn’t have the reviews or as wide a selection of decks, but allows you to see every card in the deck. This is important if you’re like me and tend to judge a deck by one or two particular cards (in my case, the Fool and the Queen of Wands) which may not be shown on Aeclectic’s summary page.
Also, I’m a firm believer that there’s nothing wrong with having multiple decks, if you’re so inclined–I have 6 at the moment (Tattooed, Universal Fantasy, Celtic, Tarot of the Druids, Art Nouveau, and a Hanson-Roberts), because I gave my Shadowscapes deck to Sydney, a Rider-Waite-Smith to Alejandra, and a Tiny Universal Waite to Steven, and sold my Gilded deck to Aunt Kim. There are people who take the position that one should cultivate a relationship with one deck, and that’s fine. Where I disagree is on the idea that the relationship has to be exclusive; to me, a tarot deck is a tool, an associate rather than a life partner.
One thing that often influences me in the purchase of a deck is the size of the cards. I’d have a Druidcraft deck in a heartbeat, except that they’re printed on oversized cards, and I can’t get my hands around it. On the other hand, I gave away my Tiny Universal Waite because it’s really too small to read, except by dumping all the cards into a bag and drawing out at random. This is why it’s so important to handle the cards before buying, or at the very least, to pay close attention to the physical dimensions of the deck before ordering. If you’re buying in store, it’s usually better to buy from a metaphysical/witchy supply shop, because a lot of them have decks out of the packaging for you to hold and look through to help you make your decision. On the other hand, the prices are usually better through Amazon, if you’re buying a new deck.
That brings me to my next point: used decks. I know plenty of people who shy away from used decks because of the residual energy they may contain. I don’t. If a deck’s energy doesn’t feel right, I’ll cleanse it, but usually after I handle it for a while, it attunes to my energy rather than that of the previous owner. If not, leaving it in a moonlit window overnight usually takes care of the remnants of old energy. If the energy that a used deck gives off when I first get it feels OK, though, I just treat it as the wisdom of prior experience, and don’t try to remove it.