I’ve been thinking lately about how it’s impossible to really know how much you will like (or not like) a deck until you hold it in your hands and start reading with it.
In the Tarot course I’m taking (mentioned originally in this post) we’re focusing on “going into” the cards (i.e. letting our intuitions loose, and trusting what we feel regardless of what the card is "supposed" to mean). Last week the instructor didn’t want us using decks we were comfortable with so she brought some decks with her and had us read with them. I used her Gilded Tarot by Ciro Marchetti, which is a deck I’d been pondering, and has been on my wish list for a while. I was teetering toward not purchasing it because the artwork really isn’t my style, and doesn’t vibe with me. But there I was using it to read for a partner, and I have to say, it was a great experience. No, I don’t love the machine on the Moon card, and all those little “jewels” on the edges seem silly. But you know what? The reading flowed, the colors came alive, there was a lot of forward movement, and it was a very easy, intuitive read. So despite not adoring the art, I felt it read well for me.
Now the Wildwood is “my” deck – the one that resonates with me most deeply on a fundamental level. But I was hesitant to buy it for quite a while. I’d heard about how challenging the animal Court Cards were, and how different many of the cards were from traditional meanings. The artwork I saw on the internet intrigued me, but it took me a while to jump in. And then, when it arrived at my doorstep, I wondered what had taken me so long. The accompanying book just made sense to me, and I felt an immediate connection to the cards. Why did I ever worry about the Court Cards? The first deck I ever worked with was the Medicine Card oracle, which is all animals. I have always felt an innate connection to wild creatures. So the animal Court Cards in the Wildwood deck were not a struggle for me. In fact I feel it’s sometimes easier to understand them than the typical human Courts. And in readings I feel so tuned in, the imagery speaks to me very deeply, and it works well for me intuitively.
Mark Ryan, John Matthews, Will Worthington
Sterling Ethos, 2011
I recently acquired the Llewellyn Tarot because decks centered on the early Earth-based spiritual systems of the world (and of Europe) resonate with me. I also loved the incorporation of so many women in the deck. The artwork is very pretty. But the cardstock is so thin that I have to be very delicate with using the deck for readings because one false move and I’ll have a pile of bent cards. It’s really sad and unfortunate! In addition, while I love how the Major Arcana explore Welsh myths, the Minors are almost identical to the Rider Waite, which makes me ask: why? Couldn’t there have been some more creativity put forth for the cards that compose the majority of the deck? While I do like the Rider-Waite, I found this slightly disappointing - I expected the mythology to be wound through the deck, not only the Majors. Now it does read well for me, and in fact the first reading I did with it flowed really beautifully and was very clear, but despite that, I probably won’t read with it as much as I might have liked.
Yesterday the Halloween Tarot arrived at my door, and I won’t lie, I was both intrigued and slightly wary about it. I love Halloween, both the fun and scary side as well as the deep and mystical side, so I liked the idea of having a deck with this theme. But it’s slightly cartoony and doesn’t feel as “serious” and contemplative as I like my decks to be. But I gave it a go, and I’m so glad I did. I’m honestly kind of surprised at how much I love it! I cleansed and charged it and did an initial reading to “break it in.” And it was great! The illustrations have a lot going on, so my intuition naturally picked through the cards, zoning in on various elements that felt important. It was a serious reading, and the process felt profound and sincere, which I was not at all expecting. To top it all off, because of its theme and the loads of symbolism in each card, I thought it would be fun to use with my kids. My 6 year old wanted me to show her the cards, and we did a little mini-reading about her experience at school so far this year. I let her tell me what the cards meant, and she did a fantastic job. She saw the 9 of Ghosts (Cups) and told me: “Those ghosts are all my classmates, and the person in front is me. I’m sitting on a chest full of crafts that I made to share with them, and they’re waiting for me to pass them out. That one there with the hand out is my friend. I’m deciding whether I want to pass them out now or wait until later.” So it will be a great deck to use with the kids because it’s fun, Halloweeny but not scary, and there is a ton of material in each card to help them tell the story.
Karin Lee, Kipling West
U.S. Games, 2003
So what’s my point.
My point is that decks can be surprising. The ones you might think will be amazing may not turn out to be quite as amazing as you’d thought, and the decks you’re suspicious of may just surprise you with how much they pull you in and engage your intuition.
So now I’m in the danger zone – no holds barred! My wish list is about to get a lot longer!