Thursday, August 2, 2012


By Judy Jennings    © Copyright 2012

"The triumph of Love, not only over hate, but indifference as well."  -Paul Foster Case

“What is that, and why is it eating a dead fish?”  My friend’s question wasn’t something you’d ordinarily expect to hear said about the Strength card, but I could see her point.  The demonic figure in the Deviant Moon Tarot version of Strength is shown battling the beast within, a slithery thing with a fish-like head and a mouthful of wicked teeth.  In contrast to most other versions of the eighth triumph, Patrick Valenza’s Deviant Moon Strength is brooding and edgy.  Is that a bad thing?  Not necessarily.  Is it an image that works for everyone?  Of course not.  Does it have the same meaning in a reading as the Strength card from the Rider-Waite deck?  Most assuredly not.  Even though both of these cards share certain aspects as well as the qualities of the number eight, the illustrations add an additional layer of intuitive meaning.  The Steampunk Deck is another example of this genre, popular but dark.   

There are other extremes as well.  The modern-day student of the Tarot can find decks filled with herbs, astrology, Norse mythology, medieval European fantasy and Jungian archetypes, to name only a few.  The well-known Tarot de Marseilles is reminiscent of the earliest known decks (which are Italian in origin), and is the most popular deck among Latin countries.  The Rider-Waite pack, originally published in 1909, was created by Arthur Waite and artist Pamela Coleman Smith.  Dr. Waite was a member of the Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn, an occult society based in Great Britain that saw its heyday during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Members of that order are said to use the Tarot for contemplation rather than divination, and the Rider-Waite deck is Dr. Waite’s effort make the spiritual and metaphysical aspects of the Tarot understandable to the public.  Good grief!  If you’re just getting started, how do you know which deck to choose?      
Tarot de Marseilles

  People take a lot of different approaches to that question.  Many, like myself, experiment with several decks and eventually settle on the one that speaks the most clearly.  After more than three decades at my side, my weathered Rider-Waite deck feels like an old friend and trusted advisor.  On the other hand, some people surround themselves with a variety of decks and use different ones for different situations.  Do you know any collectors of Tarot decks?  If so, ask if you can see them!  Try doing a reading with a deck you haven’t seen before, if possible.  Ultimately, your choice of deck is a matter of rapport and intuition. It’s a little like learning about wine:  Reading about wine will increase your knowledge, but you can’t actually discover what you like best until you start tasting! 

The Rider-Waite deck is a good starting point for any student of the Tarot, regardless of what deck you ultimately choose as your favorite.  The symbolism is fairly obvious and is designed to present ideas that are consistent to all Tarot decks. 

The Tarot is a tool that can help keep a person in balance, both in mind and Spirit, so it’s important to select a deck that strengthens those feelings within yourself.  Anyone who reads Tarot for other people has a responsibility to interpret the most positive patterns shown in the cards, and the duty to not frighten anyone with anything that is said about the cards.  That consideration may influence your choice of deck, as well.  Whatever deck you choose, know that if you approach your cards with a quiet mind and an open heart, they will speak to you in a voice that is greater than just your own.

1 comment:

  1. So many wonderful decks to choose from. When I first began to study Tarot seriously, I was overwhelmed by the choices. Now I am one of those collectors you speak of, surrounded by a variety of decks. For my own personal use, though, I fall back on the Rider-Waite. I have spent more time with its images, and it is a familiar friend. I'm feeling the lure of the Ciro Marchetti decks, though. The images are so beautiful and evocative. Always room for another deck on my shelves.

    When making a choice, it helps to have a clear sense of how the deck will be used. One deck that is useful for divination might be very different from a deck used for meditation, and that deck different from the one used for appreciation of the beauty of the images.

    We are blessed to live in a time when so many decks are available, something for everybody.