A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing Your First Tarot Deck

by | Feb 22, 2022 | Soul | 0 comments

If you’re completely new to tarot, welcome! This is such a wonderful practice to get in touch with your intuition. The beautiful thing about tarot reading is that it doesn’t really predict the future. Tarot just provides insight into what you already know inside.

Tarot is a tool for connecting to your intuition. Your intuition may guide you onto a specific path for yourself and it might help you assist others on theirs.

You might be wondering how a tarot practise can benefit you. Well! There are so many ways.

Increased self-awareness: Tarot gives you space to focus on yourself.

Enhanced creativity: A tarot reading can offer a different perspective on a problem and innovative ways forward.

Better-honed intuition and psychic ability: Tarot helps you see probable future events and influences.

Plus, the ability to empower others to find their path, spiritual or otherwise, and guide them through where they need to focus their energy.

The Basics

A standard tarot deck is broken into two parts: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana.

For the purposes of this introduction to tarot, I’ll be explaining using the Rider-Waite deck. 

When you’re picking your first tarot deck, I’d always encourage you to look for one after the more traditional Rider-Waite style. The reason is that this format is the most commonly used and known amongst tarot decks and what most guides base their analysis on.

Major Arcana (22 Cards)

Cards 0 (The Fool) to XXI (The World). These cards indicate major life shifts or events.

Minor Arcana (56 Cards)

There are 4 suits of the Minor Arcana: Cups, Pentacles, Swords, and Wands. Each suit has 13 cards from Ace to King, like a standard playing deck. The Minor Arcana cards detail more day-to-day events or provide more information to the Major Arcana cards.

I will write another post with a much more detailed description of the Arcanas and what each suit relates to.

There are other deck styles and layouts out there that are all roughly based around the Rider-Waite deck. As mentioned, I’d always encourage your first deck to have this standard layout, but please don’t let that discourage you if you’ve found a deck you connect with outside this format.

A Small Caveat About Rider-Waite

While I advocate you to choose a deck based on the Rider-Waite system, I’d recommend staying away from the traditional deck itself. The modern practice of tarot is rooted in cultural appropriation and misogyny, with Misters Rider and Waite being at the helm. (*Yes, these original cards were illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith and she is severely underrepresented in the tarot community – but that’s another post for another day!)

The original Rider-Waite tarot deck was created around 1910 and we all know how social justice stood then. Please note that I am speaking here about the illustrations on the cards themselves, not the meaning behind them.

The familiar yellow deck is steeped in binaries, non-inclusive of gender, racist, sexist, and steeped in cultural traditions that are often irrelevant to modern readers.

When we remove these illustrations and cultural ties from the cards, we can allow the energetic meaning of the card to truly shine through. This is one of the reasons there are so many variances of tarot cards out there. People reimagine the tarot and put their own interpretation into the cards – part of what this practice is all about!

So please, when you do choose your deck, please try for one that’s outside this traditional, outdated deck. There are so many incredible creators out there!

Choosing a Deck

Let’s be honest, friends. There are so many beautiful, stunning, creative, hilarious, awesome, standard, WHATEVER decks out there, it’s hard to pick just one. I regularly have this very same problem when it comes to picking a deck.

From supporting an artist who created a deck that’s a feast for your eyes to wanting something very traditional to looking to support someone from a marginalised community, honestly, it is hard to pick.

I want to state first and foremost that you absolutely CAN buy your own deck. It’s been said that you shouldn’t buy yourself a deck of tarot cards (and, for a personal story, my friend and I bought each other our first two decks with a simple exchange of cash while standing in line!) but this is utter baloney told by superstitious witches with too much time on their hands. Please, please do not fear that you won’t have a true connection to your deck if you buy it yourself. This financial energy exchange will have no bearing on the way you read your cards, I promise!

If you’re lucky enough to have a local spiritual shop, make that your first port of call. Here you have two options: ask for advice from the helpful shopkeep or trust your intuition.

First, I want you to pick a deck that you find beautiful. A deck that is perfectly aesthetically pleasing to YOU. It doesn’t matter if your friends think it’s cute (though chances are they will) – all this comes down to is if YOU like the look of your deck.

When I’m picking a deck, I like to hold them in my hands one at a time to feel their energy and how I’m connecting to it. I know right away if a deck’s energy is compatible with mine as I get almost a tingly feeling in the palms of my hands. If you don’t, that’s perfectly okay – don’t worry at all!! 

Whatever deck feels most comfortable to you in your hands that you find beautiful is the deck for you. If you have no idea what I’m talking about “decks feeling comfortable, hands tingling, okayyy Amanda” that’s totally fine. 

When you’re looking at the tarot decks available, do you find yourself going back to one more than others? Is there one that you find particularly beautiful that captivates your attention? I bet you there is. THAT’S the one you should get. 

Buying Tarot Decks Online

If you don’t have a local spiritual shop, there are so many places on the marvellous internet that have decks to pick from. Please don’t worry if you buy your deck online, it’s still a personal decision that you make from your heart and intuition.

Use the same principles listed above to choose a deck. You can ask your friends for recommendations of decks they’ve loved and are good for beginners. Or shop through some of the sites listed here and pause with the deck designs you find beautiful. Read through the description, flip through the images, and hold space in your heart for this deck.

Whatever deck feels the most comfortable to you in your heart is the one you should buy.

What to do when you’ve chosen your deck

Finally, my friends, you’ve got your first, brand-new tarot deck home and in your hands. What a fabulous time!!

Before you should use it, you should energetically cleanse it and start to connect with it. I’m speaking about the practices that I, personally, use. If these don’t feel comfortable to you, I’ve mentioned a few other ways, though I’m not personally familiar with them.

Some ways to cleanse and connect with your cards are straightforward and simple, others with a bit more time and materials needed. This is my method:

  1. Sit with your cards in your hands and feel into the energy. You might fall into a full meditation or maybe it suits you to just sit quietly with them.
  2. Knock three times on the deck with your left hand, holding them in your right. The significance here is that you’re “knocking” the existing energy out them, clearing them, if you will.
  3. Start shuffling through the cards intentionally. I take a good bit of time here, separating the order purposefully to ensure the order is definitely out of order. While I’m doing this, I’m examing some of the cards and learning what they look like, feel like, and see what they make me think of. This process can be repeated as often as you like and it doesn’t need to be completed in one sitting – though it can be.
  4. Shuffle the cards and pick one. Truly look at the card and meditate on it. Decide for yourself what this card means to you based on the imagery on it and how it intuitively makes you feel. You can absolutely look up the “official” card meaning, but only after you’ve decided what it means for you.
  5. Sleep with your cards under your pillow. You might have very vivid dreams on the nights you do this. I’d recommend you sleep with them at least once, but you are welcome to repeat this practice.
  6. Now you’re ready to read!

Other ways to cleanse your card include smudging, crystal intentions, blessing them in the light of the full moon, using sound bowls, drawing the art yourself, and so, so many more ways.

This is your practice. Whatever feels like the right thing to do and the right way to connect with your cards is the right thing. This is part of learning to trust your intuition.

I am really excited for you to start exploring your new tarot deck!! If you have any questions about anything I’ve said here, please let me know, I’m happy to answer them!

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I’m Amanda…

Writer of tarot, divination, Reiki, geek culture, food, feminism, holistic health, and wellness.
Lover of cats, tacos, 90s music, and forests.

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