FAQ – What’s the best deck for a beginner?

Something I’ve been thinking about lately, and formerly had a tough time making up my mind about, is deck recommendations för beginners. I used to be one of those saying it’s easier to start with the RWS, or perhaps one of its ”prettier” clones, because scenic minor arcana cards are simpler to understand than non-scenic ones. Then I went a bit more hippie and started saying ”Choose any deck YOU find beautiful and that you feel calls your name and draws your attention! It doesn’t matter what system it belongs to, if you want to learn it and it has something to tell you, it will work out”.

Where am I now? Well, I’m confused!

No, all jokes aside, I think I’m somewhere inbetween?

If someone came to me asking about ”newbie tarot decks” I would tell them to choose carefully. Because what I have realized now is that the first deck you choose could have a big impact on your continued tarot journey.

I would tell that person to first of all read up on what we call the three main systems of tarot: the Tarot de Marseille, the RWS, and the Thoth. Read about them, learn how they differ and how they’re similar, what is each systems’ unique touch, and look at images of them.

If I were to sit down today as a newbie, choosing my first deck, I’m pretty sure I’d fall for the RWS. I find it beautiful (!), I like the colors, and I think I’d be drawn to the fact that there are a lot of books written about it. Second on my list would be the TdM, because I’d feel drawn to its long history and the thought of how it’s been in use for hundreds of years. My last choice would be the Thoth, because I feel like Crowley was an a-hole, and the heavy dependance on astrological correspendences and Tree of Life doesn’t attract me at all.

The main positive aspect of choosing one of these three decks is how they open up doors to many other decks later on! If you start with the RWS you will recognize the symbols and scenes in hundreds of other decks. There are some Thoth clones out there also, and definitely some non-scenic minor arcana decks.

And I do think that if you start with the TdM it will be easier to learn the RWS later on if you want to. You will know numerology, the elemental correspondences, and the majors and courts, and that can be applied to the RWS (with a slight twist). A TdM-reader is already used to looking at ”movement” in the cards, like where are the figures looking? Where are the swords pointing? What cards show movement and what cards show blockage?

From what I’ve heard a lot of TdM-users find the RWS a little ”too clear”, to the point of almost being limiting, after working with the TdM for a long time, and they go back to non-scenic decks. Is that bad? No, that saves you from wanting to buy hundreds of pretty RWS-offsprings! And that saves money! Hehe.

But in the end, I must say it doesn’t have to matter what deck is your first one. It is in no way impossible to switch system or learn a new deck, it all comes down to your willpower, discipline, and devotion. If you want something, you work for it, right?

After 11 years with the RWS I’m now going on a TdM-jorney starting in January 2016 (not replacing the RWS, just adding another system!). Am I worried? Nah, not really, I mean, it’s a different system for a person who is already used to seeing art and life through the eyes of tarot. I’m sure it won’t be a piece of cake, but I’m also sure it’s in no way mission impossible if I just devote myself to learning this system that is new for me, and have a good teacher to turn to, which I do.

Anyone else who has converted to a different system? Or wants to try a different one?




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