A Guide to Buying a Tarot Deck

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.

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One Card Weekends: The Hanged Man

Rider-Waite-Smith Hanged Man

This week’s card is the Hanged Man, a card that has been hotly debated as to meaning. Above is the image from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck; below is the Universal Fantasy card, and finally the card from the Tattooed Tarot. (If you’re wondering, the variation in decks I use is due to the comings and goings of the decks in my collection. The only one I’ll probably never let go is my Tattooed deck.)

Universal Fantasy Hanged Man

Tattooed Hanged Man

While it’s common to see the card interpreted as one of loss and of sorrow, I don’t always see it that way. A.E. Waite, creator of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, described this card as one of loss, defeat, and sacrifice, and the image on the Universal Fantasy card seems to bear that out. However, in talking in general terms about the meaning of this card, I also look at the face of the man who’s upside-down in the Tattooed deck. He doesn’t look broken or desperate; rather, he looks relaxed, as if he’s aware of the fact that his upside-down condition is temporary. This is an area where the Crowley-Harris and Waite-Smith schools of thought conflict, as in the Thoth deck and Crowley’s writings, the Hanged Man symbolizes the need for patience and a new perspective on things, and may signal a period of waiting. The number 12, in numerology, is considered the number of wholeness, of completion, and of the entirety of the universe, so there’s a basis for seeing it as a signal of losing everything, especially since the card is astrologically connected to the planets of Uranus (inversion and solitude) and Neptune (sacrifice), but it’s also a call to action. When this card comes up, it often means that a person is unwilling to make the changes s/he knows are necessary in order to move forward in life, and that the situation is stalled as a result.

While in its upright position, this card indicates the individual, and the effect that the individual’s fear of change may have on the situation. When reversed, it tends to point more towards groups of people and the querent’s position within the crowd. Seeing this card in a reading, I generally advise a person not to be content with the situation as it is, and not to allow hir life to become stagnant while waiting for something to happen. Patience is vital, but not so much so that one can afford to ignore the opportunity to act. Lying in wait only works for those who are willing to pounce when the time is right. The question the card asks is this: Is the loss one faces by refusing to make the necessary changes in a situation worse than the potential loss involved in the change?


Catching up, and a personal rant

It’s been months since I’ve posted here, and so much has happened. I’m back in the States, have had time to cool off, and have realized that I made a huge mistake by leaving the VI. So when my next financial aid check comes (gods willing, that’s going to be in the next six weeks or so) I’m transferring back to the store where I worked before, and flying back.

I’ve also stopped eating meat, (mostly) stopped smoking, and learned that the Celtic side of my heritage isn’t enough for my spirituality. It connects me to my gods, but something has to connect me to the earth itself. So I’m learning to incorporate my Cherokee roots into my spirituality as well, and I’ve found that for me, the two mesh rather well. I take too much of a holistic approach to my faith to compartmentalize it the way many people do, so that rules out the traditional Druid groups for me–I’m not sometimes-Druid and sometimes-Native-American-inspired-neoshaman. (I use the term “neoshaman” to differentiate between the term “shaman,” which incorrectly equates Native American practice with shamanism proper, a practice specific to certain nomadic groups in Siberia, and the concept that popular culture tends to incorrectly label as shamanic, which involves a connection with the spirit world and with the spirits of the earth, which is what is involved in my practice. That way my teeth won’t itch from the anthropological inaccuracy.) I’m always me, rolling my own. And that’s the way (uh-huh, uh-huh) I like it.

Also, I’m transferring in the spring to an online fine art program. Despite my grandmother’s insistence that art is a “god-given talent” that I don’t have, it’s something I’ve loved all my life, and if I never get a job in my field, that’s fine. If I’m going to waste years of my life on a degree I’ll never use, though, I want it to be in something that makes me happy.

So now for the rant. My coworkers are on my last damn nerve today. I’m the only woman in the store, and if the fact that they stick me with all the cleaning on a regular basis (and the new store manager informed me the other day that it’s BECAUSE I’m a woman–discrimination much?) weren’t bad enough, the boys’-club mentality has me ready to scream. With the exception of the guy who pulled 60 hours last week, I’m outselling all of them, and yet there are snide comments being made about the men having to “babysit” me. There have been remarks made about how I’d better watch out, since if I get written up, I won’t get my transfer. That puzzles me, because if they dislike me and want me gone, should they really be trying to get themselves stuck with me for an extra six months? I’m about ready to take a ruler to work with me–if the boys are that concerned about whose is bigger, maybe they can take a quick measurement and settle the question, and then we can all get back to doing our jobs like adults.

One Card Weekends will be back this week, but I probably won’t get it posted before midnight. So don’t be mad at me if the timestamp says Monday.