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Two Kinds of Tarot Decks: Part 1, Art Decks

I usually tell new tarot students that there are two kinds of tarot decks: art decks and reading decks. I always advise people to learn the tarot initially from the Rider-Waite deck. More on that another time.

Art Decks

Some decks are so clearly designed for looks, strictly on a theme that has nothing to do with tarot, that they simply are not good for reading. Some are extremely beautiful and well worth collecting, but not to read from. There was a very beautiful Chinese tarot that came out about 20 years ago that, to me, fit into that category.

Art decks often have very little imagery, being completely focused on a theme. That is, they are beautiful but low on the symbolism that allows true reading decks to help you get information from your subconscious mind. They have lovely but completely irrelevant images that do not form a complete system or are incompatible to tarot.

Just because there are 78 cards, and the publisher calls it “tarot” doesn’t mean it is tarot. In some cases there are not even 78 cards, and there’s no relevance, the publisher still calls it “a tarot” in order to sell it.

I know there are those who will disagree. As one artist said, “It’s the reader, not the cards. I could read sugar bags.” And she could. But then, there are readers who do not use cards at all. So that proves nothing.

There is nothing wrong with creating tarot cards as art. But if you are starting out, trying to learn the tarot, you need to know that some decks you find attractive will not work for reading.

Perhaps later, when you are very skilled and experienced, you will be able to use such a deck, so buy it if you love it, but learn on the Rider-Waite.

Reading Decks

I’ll talk about reading decks in Two Kinds of Tarot Decks: Part 2. It is scheduled to be published on November 9.

Tags: Tarot Art, tarot imagery, Symbolism, art decks, Decks, Rider-Waite deck

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