Tarot – where to start?


In the interest of sticking with the theme of tarot cards, I thought I’d share my thoughts on starting out with your first deck. I’d imagine that at least a few of you may have wondered how to select your first set of cards, or heard the traditional advice that the first one should be a gift. Some people also believe you shouldn’t ever buy tarot for yourself, but personally I don’t agree with that idea. 

The first deck and the second deck that I worked with while delving into Tarot reading and other aspects of spirituality were gifts. However, every other oracle deck, tarot deck, or book has been something that I’ve chosen and bought for myself. I have also taught a few friends the basics of tarot who have chosen the decks and this has had no bearing on their success.

Choices, so many choices

If you have looked in a bookstore that houses a spirituality section or looked online for a tarot deck, you’ll have come across a plethora of different styles. As such it can be difficult to know which to pick.

The important thing to remember is that you need to feel comfortable with the deck you want to use. In the same way that you wouldn’t seek advice from a person that you didn’t feel comfortable talking to, the cards are the same. 

My first tarot deck was a very generic one. It came in a set with a beginner’s book and it had very traditional imagery. It was useful and I learnt from it but I never really felt I bonded with it. I followed all the guidance on getting to know the cards, but I that spark just never came. Fast forward to my late teenage years and I was gifted my set of the Vampire tarot.

Unlike my beginner’s deck, which I passed on to a friend after receiving my new one, there was an instant connection. To this day I still have my Vampire deck, and it is one of my most, if not the most powerful deck I own. I say that because I base it upon the strength of the bond I have formed with those cards; it’s not related to the theme.

Making the choice

If you’ve been looking at tarot already, you may feel yourself more strongly drawn to some decks over others. Personally, I would strongly advise you to buy the deck from a shop instead of online, and I’d avoid using a second-hand deck while you’re learning. 

The advantage of going to a shop is that you can pick up the various decks, and you can get a feel for them. I like this approach, but I’ve always been sensitive to ‘feelings’ imprinted on objects. At least a few of my decks have been bought in purely whimsical moments of fancy; I’ll walk past the bookstore and feel a pull. This inevitably leads to my finding myself pouring over the current selection and leaving with another set of cards. Or as I prefer to think of it, another potential friend.

When selecting your deck, if you have a particular artist whose style you like, it doesn’t hurt to research if they’ve ever designed tarot. It’s not unheard of for fantasy artists to design decks. For example, there is an H R Giger tarot, and both Luis Royo and Victoria Francess have designed their own. Alternatively, you may love artwork depicting dragons, or fairies. There are decks out there with those themes and many many more to choose from. Perhaps you prefer a more traditional style, in which case I would wholeheartedly suggest looking for a deck based on the Rider-Waite tarot; it’s widely available and most books will show the art of this deck. Which can make buying an additional book to learn from easier with your new cards.

Getting to know them

Now, this may sound a little silly or even pretentious, but it’s a good next step after you’ve got your deck. One of the things which may stand out is that not only is the deck thicker, but it’s also taller than traditional cards. This can make shuffling them quite a challenge if you have small or slender hands. I found the best way around this was to teach myself to shuffle them vertically. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you’ve adjusted you’ll find that it can be more comfortable and works with normal cards too.

When I want to bond with my cards, I like to make time to shuffle and just look at them. Looking at them will allow you to pick up on the finer details of the imagery and style of your deck which may help when doing a reading. Another technique I am rather fond of is a Yes/No reading, or a single draw where you ask the cards a question you know the answer to.

Now, I can hear you saying, but Danchou, aren’t you supposed to ask about the future? Well yes, the Tarot are a useful tool for seeking advice about upcoming events, but you need to learn to communicate with your cards. Asking them questions that you know the answer to, allows you to cross-reference the meaning of the card with its image, and the answer. Doing this will allow you to build up a basic understanding of how to read your cards.

In the spirit of not imparting too much advice at once, I will stop here for today. If you’re torn between a couple of different decks or have recently started bonding with your new friend(s) I would love to hear about your experiences.  


Many thanks for joining me, Danchou.

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