Tarot enthusiasts often find themselves accumulating all kinds of Tarot decks and Oracle cards. As my collection grew I realized I was taking on a daunting goal of archiving Tarot. After much consideration I’ve realized I will only hold onto decks that resonate with me in a significant way. Over the years I’ve exchanged Tarot decks with friends and gifted some of my collection away when the pairing with the new owner felt right. I enjoyed the idea of getting some one else involved with Tarot rather than letting a Tarot deck collect dust on a shelf.
The first deck I acquired which also remains in my possession is the Rider-Waite Smith Tarot published in 1910 by author Arthur Edward Waite and artist Pamala Coleman Smith. The Rider Waite was my first Tarot deck that I’ve ever owned. I chose it out of familiarity since it’s so iconic in pop-culture. I would recommend any beginner pick up this deck since the illustrations provide a clear interpretation of story narrative. I still use this deck to read for people and it always comes through.
The Thoth Tarot was published in 1969 by author Aleister Crowley and artist Lady Frieda Harris. I was at the end of my study of each individual Rider-Waite card when I learned about the Kabbalah and Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot deck. Once I started to understand the depth and complexity of Kabbalah I knew that I had much more to learn about Tarot. Study of those subjects keep me busy even up until today as I read work by Dion Fortune and Israel Regardie to develop a body of knowledge that I can draw from in my practice. The deck is calculated in every detail: composition, and layout, color schemes, choice subject matter, and symbolism is intentionally intertwined. This deck is dense but holds a lot of layers of arcane knowledge that I would recommend any Tarot or Occult student dive into at some point.
The Tarot de Marseilles is assumed to be published in the 15th century, but the author is unknown. I believe it is one of the oldest Tarot decks we know of, or at least that’s the case with its wood-block-print style and literary structure. The subjects are distinctly Medieval and the artwork is very flat. Since the minor cards are not illustrated it’s difficult to absorb meanings from the designs since they offer very little in way of variety between number cards within a one suit. I liked this deck because of these qualities which made it obscure. When reading with this deck I rely almost entirely on my own mental wealth of knowledge and hardly on visual interpretation.
The Hermetic Tarot was published in 1980 by Godfrey Dowson. The Hermetic Tarot came into my collection because I was drawn to the black and white artwork. Though it’s rather crude artwork, the quantity of symbolism packed into each card is impressive. I find all the pentacle cards hypnotizing as the disks appear to be rotating. This deck is also very alchemical as every other card has a title referencing the elements. It’s important to understand, as with any Tarot deck, the personal interpretations of the original author to best explain some uses of symbolism to utilize when reading with the cards.
The Amano Tarot Deck: Finding Happiness with Tarot Fortune-Telling was published in 1991 by Yoshitaka Amano. Once I learned about the Amano Tarot I purchased it immediately. I’m familiar with Amano’s concept art for Final Fantasy and was already a huge fan to begin with. Combining this factor with a Tarot deck made the purchase definite. It was costly and had to be shipped from Japan, but as a collector it’s worth the investment. As a huge fan of Amano fantasy, it resonates deeply when I get to look at his work and connect the images directly with Tarot. The companion guide is entirely in Japanese, which I cannot read, but if I could it seems like it’d have some great information including some Tarot spreads. There are narratives that do throw me off entirely that I wish I could learn more about and does make me take a step back when reading with this deck.
Last year I was gifted the Egipcios Kier Tarot, published in 1984 by Iglesias Janeiro. The deck is unusual—the cards are numbered 1 through 78 with a unique name on each. Each pictures a scene from Egyptian mythology. Each card features hieroglyphs, Hebrew letters, alchemical symbols, and a unique keyword for each card (specifically the pips). Anyone who is interested in Egyptology should definitely have a look at this deck.
This brings me to my most recent Tarot deck purchase: The Aquarian Tarot published in 1970 by David Palladini. I’ve been wanting a new deck to work with and I’ve decided on this one due to it’s background. I was introduced to the deck while doing a research paper on esoteric references in countercultural artwork. After compiling information on the uprising of mysticism in the late 1960s I became really interested in the idea of how counterculture was in many ways a spiritual revolution. The generation of that time worked to educated themselves on forgotten, discriminated, and otherwise distant spiritual concepts—everything from the eastern hemisphere to the western hemisphere.
Previously Owned Tarot Decks
I’ve also owned the Shadowscapes Tarot and the Legacy of the Divine Tarot. Both decks are absolutely gorgeous and I enjoyed having them. After I used the decks and started determining my core interpretations of the cards I began to find it difficult to work with some of the images. I enjoyed letting my friends have the decks because of how excited they were about them. Knowing that made me happy to make the exchange or gift, knowing they’d be appreciated.
As I continue to study and work with Tarot, I expect my collection will change as well. It’s so wonderful to be able to compare images side by side that embody the same archetypes, but portray very different images. All of them will be influential when I am ready to pursue creating my own designs for a complete Tarot deck.