Sometimes people ask me how I got into tarot (and one time, I got asked to talk about it on a Hilah's Happy Hour podcast!) so here is a rough bit of background on my personal history with Tarot, if you happen to be one of those people. I think I was probably 15 or 16 when my cousin brought his Rider-Waite Tarot deck over to my house, we had to be sneaky to look at it because it was a Catholic house and anything occult was considered to be 'Devil shit"! I remember pouring over the images on each card, transfixed by the artwork which depicted the Magician, The Knight of Swords, The Tower and The Star. I didn't understand what the cards meant then (my cousin didn't have a guide book and there was no internet, let a lone an actual computer in our household) but I loved the artwork and was lured into the illicit prospect of having a tarot deck of my own. I went to the only metaphysical bookshop in my town and purchased that very deck the next day. The Star is the card that I obsessed over most, I tried to replicate her image in my own drawings countless times and it's still one of my favorite cards.
I hid my tarot deck in my underwear drawer when I went to college and managed to forget about it for roughly 15 years, until I met my dear friend Amy (Sup Amy!), an artist who had been reading tarot cards since she was tiny. Amy did a reading for me that effected me in a profound way and I became interested in tarot all over again, only this time there were so many books and internet access to facilitate my understanding of tarot, not to mention an incredible selection of different decks to work with! I found a sweet little deck that called to me at that time and hit the ground running - researching, studying and doing readings for anyone who would let me (mostly for myself). I have found it to be an excellent tool for personal and spiritual growth and one of the single best ways to gain a some insight and perspective when I'm drowning in anxiety (or my own bullshit).
Over the last ten years I have been doing readings for friends, family and more recently for clients. I have amassed a collection of traditional and contemporary tarot and oracle decks, and of course I have my favorites to work with - all for different reasons. I thought it would be interesting to share my collection here on this blog, for anyone who is interested in tarot and who may be thinking of picking up a deck for themselves. You may have heard that you are only supposed to work with a tarot deck that has been gifted to you, and I don't believe this to be true at all! Working with tarot is a very personal experience and by that argument I think it is important for you to choose your own deck, and to select one that you are excited to work with and one which speaks to you.
(Gifted decks are wonderful too, though! Speaking of which, I want this Marcella Kroll Sacred Symbols Oracle deck real bad...)
Anyways, let's do this!
This is the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith and this is a reprint of the first deck I ever owned. I think this is a great deck for beginners to learn with, the imagery is very effective, Pamela Colman Smiths art conveys the meaning of the cards with so much clarity. I have a tremendous soft spot for this deck and use it frequently when I read for others.
The Tarot of the Animal Lords is the deck I worked with for years when I was first learning how to read cards for people. I still love the sweet illustrations, they take a page from traditional tarot imagery and are very clear and easy to decipher.
The Spirit Speak Tarot by Mary Elizabeth Evans is so lovely to work with. Ms. Evans illustrations are charming and also very direct! I've gotten the most supportive, chill readings from this deck. Spirit Speak is clear and easy to read, but is a powerful divination tool. I super love it.
I fell in love with Siolo Thompson's gorgeous illustrations for her Scrying Ink Lenormand Deck. I am pretty new to working with Lenormand tarot decks, so I don't do this type of reading often, but I absolutely loooove this deck because I am a sucker for good art. (Labyrinthos Academy has written about the difference between Tarot and Lenormand decks. Here is a handy link, if you are curious about learning more!)
The Art Oracle deck was a gift from a dear friend (Sup Hilah!) and is the only deck that I've ever been gifted! Oracle decks are similar to traditional Tarot in that they provide insight and perspective through imagery and symbols, but tend to be more free-form in their approach. They can be used to enhance your tarot reading, but my favorite is to pull a card a day and let the message set the tone for me.
I purchased this deck because I loved Lady Frieda Harris's art which illustrated it. Occultist and Golden Dawn member Aleister Crowley conceptualized the deck, drawing from Qabbalah, Astrology, Numerology and traditional tarot themes. While all of this is 100% relevant to my interests, I won't lie - it has been an intense deck to work with, so much though that I actually ended up gifting this deck to my husband. Keeping it in the family, like you do.
Okay. So I decided to work with this deck because of Alejandro Jodorowsky (a tarot purist who only works with this deck, and who with Phillipe Camoin was able to get this particular deck back in print) and let me tell you, this deck is not easy to interpret. If I am not mistaken, the art depicted on this deck goes a back to the 16th century and it is not shitting around. This deck refers to principles of numerology, astrology, tarot symbology and is illustrated in un-subtle, primary colors...the minor arcana is particularly puzzling to decipher as it is devoid of recognizably, relatable imagery (the Wands and Swords are so similar looking, I have confused them many times). I worked with this deck for a solid year before I spilled tea all over it and warped it, but I'll be damned if I don't still refer to the guide book, 'The Way of Tarot: Spiritual Teacher in the Cards' written by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Marianne Costa - it is such an excellent resource. .
The Road To Nowhere Oracle deck by Mary Elizabeth Evans is my second Oracle deck (and my second deck by this particular artist/creator), and it is fantastic. Mary Evans uses digital collage instead of hand drawn illustrations with this deck and she has imbued each card with a message to encourage personal growth and self-improvement. Her guide book is thoughtfully written and I really like working with this oracle deck when I just need to pull a card (or six) to gain some additional clarity.
Oh my. I love this beautiful deck so much. Created by Uusi, a design collective, The Pagan Otherworlds Tarot deck seems old - and I mean that in the best possible way - like a magical heirloom, something which could have been passed down to you by your great, great, great grandmother (particularly if your great, great, great grandmother also happened to be a fortune-telling Empress from a faraway land that specialized in gorgeous illustration). The images are as thoughtfully conceptualized and rendered as they are gorgeous and the interpretation of the deck is really good. As an added bonus, It contains an extra arcana card, The Seeker, and five lunar cycle cards. It's a genuine joy to work with this lovely deck.
The She Wolfe Tarot deck by Devany Amber Wolfe is my most recent addition and lately is my preferred deck to work with. She Wolfe is a beautiful tarot deck to look at and the symbolism rendered via surrealist, digital collage is drawn from Egyptian culture, numerology, astrology and Jungian theory about the Hero's Journey and shadow work. As lovely as it is, I find that Devany Wolfe's interpretation of the tarot is the real gem with this particular deck. There are layers of insight and perspective to facilitate personal and spiritual growth in ways that really leveled up my understanding of tarot. I highly recommend this deck if you are interested in Shadow Work and self-improvement - it's a pleasure to work with and it contains two secret Arcana cards that contain potent messages.
I am aware that there is a cliche surrounding tarot (and divination in general), and I don't subscribe to the idea that tarot is a (potentially sinister) fortune telling tool that holds an unchangeable future for you within it's gold-leafed cards. I take a more psychological, Jungian approach when I use tarot cards in a reading and I view it as opportunity to deep dive into some self-reflection and to gain some perspective on my issues. I have used readings to process difficult changes and shifts in my life - both external and internal. I have also found it helpful to get my cards read by other tarot readers, sometimes a particular situation is too close for me to read my own cards without projecting my pre-conceived agenda onto the cards - another person's interpretation helps me see the forest through the trees. Tarot can be used to help make your unconscious mind a conscious one, it has been an extraordinary tool for me in the last decade.