Among the hundreds of Tarot decks out there, which are the best for beginners? Embarking on a new Tarot journey is an exciting but sometimes daunting endeavor. There are *too* many decks to choose from and so many traditions to learn about.
For beginners, I usually recommend staying away from decks that don’t feature figures or full scenes for the Minor Arcana (like the Marseille Tarot or the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot — these are more suitable for intermediate to advanced readers). These types of decks are most useful once we’ve already mastered the 78 Tarot cards and learned how to read them intuitively.
What makes a Tarot deck ideal for a beginner student/reader? Here’s my 3-point criteria for this list:
- A deck based on Rider-Waite-Smith symbology and imagery. Why? Because the RWS is the most influential Tarot deck of all time, and most decks that came after it are based on it in some way. Mastering the RWS empowers you to read pretty much any other deck.
- A deck that features full images/scenes for the Minor Arcana cards (or the “pips”).
- A deck rich with imagery and interesting artwork that invite intuitive reading and stimulate your interpretive skills.
So, without further ado, here’s my list of top 5 Tarot decks for beginners. Choose well & happy shuffling!
*Disclaimer: the idea that your first Tarot deck must be a gift is totally bogus. You can purchase your first (and second, and third…) Tarot deck yourself. I did!
Rider Waite Smith (RWS) Tarot
Absolutely the most classic, traditional, influential deck of all time. If you learn the traditional RWS meanings, symbols, and interpretations, you will have a solid foundation on which to expand your Tarot knowledge. It takes time and work to learn the entire deck, but it’s worth it!
#1 choice for: beginners with no prior knowledge of the Tarot; traditionalists; students who are serious about learning the “traditional” (i.e., book) interpretations of the cards; students who are interested in long-term Tarot study.
Radiant Rider Waite Tarot
Pretty much the same deck as the traditional Rider Waite Smith Tarot, but with a sunshine-y glow to the cards. If you feel intimidated by the Tarot or scared of the “bad” cards (i.e., Death, The Tower, The Devil — which are not really bad, I promise!), this deck is ideal for you. It will help you learn all of the traditional, rich imagery of the RWS but it will also uplift you as you do it. There’s just something vibrant and warm about this deck — as its name implies.
#1 choice for: beginners who are a bit intimidated by the Tarot; traditionalists who want to master the RWS but who also prefer a bit of a modern twist.
Witches’ Tarot (by Ellen Dugan & Mark Evans)
I have a soft spot for this deck because it’s one of the first I learned with (and my husband bought it for me in Salem, Massachusetts during our honeymoon!). This is a wonderful deck for beginners because it’s based on the RWS system and symbology, but it also encourages you to bring out your witchy side. If you already have other spiritual practices, rituals, or magick practices, this deck can be a powerful addition to your toolbox.
#1 choice for: witches (duh!) and witchy spiritual seekers; students who are already somewhat confident in their intuitive reading skills.
Lo Scarabeo Tarot
Lo Scarabeo is a well-known publisher of quality Tarot decks and books. The Lo Scarabeo Tarot is their most classic deck, also based on RWS symbology and imagery. A few of the cards are a bit challenging to interpret at first, but the rich and interesting details on this deck make it worthwhile. This deck is another great beginner alternative to the RWS. The artwork is beautiful and inspiring — it sometimes reminds me of watercolor paintings.
#1 choice for: beginners looking for a solid RWS alternative (or a second deck to complement the RWS).
Druid Craft Tarot (by Philip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm and Will Worthington)
As all decks on this list, the Druid Craft Tarot is based on the RWS, but it also combines the Western pagan traditions of Wicca and Druidry. This deck features gorgeous nature imagery and helps reconnect the reader to the natural world of trees, stones, fire, water, and earth. I find this deck a little bit softer than the traditional RWS. The artwork feels totally organic and wild, and many of the cards offer fascinating variations on RWS imagery (see, for instance, this deck’s Wheel of Fortune).
#1 choice for: pagans; green witches; readers who want to reconnect with nature (or who feel a strong affinity for nature).
Any of these 5 decks can help you get acquainted with the Tarot and start mastering the art and skill of Tarot reading. Just make sure to accompany your deck with a really solid Tarot book to deepen your study and get the most out of the cards. (Here’s my list of the 13 most important and useful Tarot books you could ever find.)
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