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What is the best tarot deck for a beginner?

Alice_by_John_TennielI’m often asked “Which tarot pack should I buy?”.  So I thought I’d set my ideas down for others to draw from. Choosing your first deck is not always simple- there is a daunting array of tarot packs out there and none of them may necessarily ‘speak to you’ at first.

To help you decide what attracts you to Tarot in general, and which decks might suit you specifically- which of these statement fits you the most? Yes I know, many people feel a combination of all these factors, but if you had to pick one…



1. I want to learn to read tarot for myself and friends for guidance and spiritual insight



2. I love the beauty and history of tarot decks, I’d like to start collecting rare or artist’s decks



3.I want to use tarot to trigger my own creativity, for storytelling, artwork- maybe even create a deck myself. I’m not too fussed about reading the future.



4. I want to use the tarot for magical purposes, or meditation within a particular spiritual tradition.



5. I already have shamanic, psychic or visionary training and experience and I’m hoping that tarot cards will help inspire and guide my existing abilities.


 The Short Answer

If you answered 1 or 4, you are likely to need to study some books about Tarot card meanings, even if you’re being taught in a group or by an individual. You should choose a Rider Waite Smith (RWS) style deck, or a Marseilles style tarot deck, simply because these are the decks that most books are referring to.

If you answered 2, 3 or 5, then you don’t need to read many books to explain the meanings in  your tarot cards. Choose a deck that fascinates you, and learn about its history and creator if you wish.

Click here for the long answer

Thoth / Marseilles Fool

marseiilesfoolI was actually researching  some iconography of The World when The Fool came up 😉

I was chasing the origin of the donkey that plays the harp (he turns up in Romanesque frames of the Heavens/ City of God)  and ran into this character:

I was struck by how much he seems to be referenced in the Thoth deck- sharply contrasting Waite’s very Apollonian Fool.  I went digging back in Uncle Al. No direct mentions (though asses abound) but I feel sure he’s there. The image does look kind of flayed- no eyelids. Full of wind and wine. A variant of Pan/Bacchus associated with freedom of speech. A very Thelemite hero.

And of course the Marseilles fool in his Phrygian cap is depicted with something tearing off his layers- the ambiguity of clothing and skin persists across the early variants. Of course that could just be the stripping of a sacrificial cereal deity, but maybe that cap has asses ears underneath?

Jungians- note the connection with Wise Old Guide.

Does anyone know if Marsyas has any political significance in modern Italy? I’m also thinking of the Visconti Hanged Man as political rebel/Fool inverted.

Tarot quiz


I came out right between Fool and Magician…


You Scored as 0 – The Fool The Fool is the most complex and most contradictory of all the Tarot cards. “I am not a number, I am a free man”. The Fool represents naivety and childlike innocence – yet the Fool is wise. He carries only what possessions he really needs He journeys through life, tasting everything it has to offer then letting it go and moving on. The Fool is a risk taker, often shown with one foot over a cliff showing us every new beginning has a risk. Whether the Fool represents opportunity or danger one thing is clear: this world needs more fools.

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