Autumn is the time of gathering and it’s always a fruitful month to seek new knowledge and begin new projects, such as tarot. Major Arcana contains 22 cards representing symbolic life lessons, archetypal themes, and karmic influences.
Minor Arcana comprises of 56 suits cards – Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles – showing passing influences and energies that affect the querent’s life, and an extra layer of interpretation through reversed cards.
The tarot deck is a rich and powerful source of symbols and ideas for anyone dedicated to following a spiritual path. Nowadays, there are countless versions of the 78-card deck, and modern mystics are as drawn to using them in a variety of ways to enhance their spiritual practice.
Where did tarot come from?
From its origins in medieval Italy – when cards with allegorical illustrations were added to the usual pack with four suits – tarot cards were first used for divination in the mid-1780s, which is when the tarot of Marseilles deck, still used today, first appeared. If you’re wondering about how the tarot could work for you on your spiritual journey, consider what you want to use them for and how you’ll integrate them into your spiritual practice.
Perhaps you’ll be reading them for divination, or maybe using them for insight or clarity. Use a full spread for divination, or, if you prefer, a single card reading for creative inspiration. You might pull a card to interpret for daily focus. They may be on your altar, or by your bedside, or in your backpack. Your tarot deck and how you use it is individual to you. Just as importantly, the deck you choose should sync with who you are.
How to pick your tarot cards
Remember that not all cards are the same size. A standard deck will be approx 7x12cm, but you may prefer larger or smaller cards. Larger ones are harder to shuffle but create more visual impact. There are many types of divination cards, but if you specifically want a tarot deck, check it has 78 cards: 22 Major Arcana, 56 Minor Arcana. From there, there are hundreds of designs available, from traditional to kawaii. Trust your instinct and intuition and go with what feels right for you.
My first pack was the Art Nouveau-inspired Aquarian tarot designed by David Palladini, which first appeared in 1970, reflecting the hippie love and peace vibes of the Age of Aquarius. Still popular now, it felt positive when I picked it up and it drew me in with its fluid, lyrical designs. This much-loved deck delivered helpful insights and interpretations for many years. Still, later, when the life questions I was looking for clarity on became harder, I became drawn to the more traditional Rider Waite Smith deck given to me by an adept friend some years ago. Different life phases, different approaches.
What tarot deck is best?
If you’re drawn to ritual and tradition, the definitive decks are the Marseille, Rider Waite Smith and Thoth decks. The Marseille deck, which has numbered suits cards rather than pictorial imagery, may not be the easiest to read for beginners. The Thoth deck, painted by Lady Harris on instructions from Aleister Crowley, incorporates kabbalistic and astrological influences into its richly symbolic designs. The Rider Waite deck, which is the most popular of all decks because it makes its deep meanings straightforwardly accessible, combines clear imagery with detailed symbolism.
Moving away from these more traditional decks, you’ll find tarots as individual as you like. Into eco-magick? Check out the Green Witch tarot, with nature imagery connecting the reader with the Old Religion. Are you drawn to explore the Divine Feminine in your practice? Look at the Intuitive Night Goddess deck with its archetypal goddess imagery. Inspired to work with animal spirits? The Guardian of the Night tarot guides readers through the darkness and into the light.
If you want to break out of the gender binary, there’s a stunning new Rainbow Moon tarot designed by Samantha West. And if you want to keep it light and cute in the realms of intuition, there are decks such as Cat tarot, Kawaii tarot, and even a Spoopy (‘spooky and cute’) tarot. Just because a deck is pretty doesn’t mean it can’t deliver powerful and helpful insights! The main thing is that each seeker chooses the deck that most resonates with who they are.
The next stage is getting to know the cards. That is like being drawn to a new friend on a soul level. Once you’ve found the right one, you’ll need to put the time in to nurture the relationship, but every step of the process will deepen your connection. The main thing is that you do you. Trust your intuition and go with the flow. Your instinct will tell you which is the right pack for you at this point in your journey.
Tina Jackson is a writer, journalist and variety performer, and has read tarot since her teens. Her novel The Beloved Children is published by Fahrenheit Press.