If you search online, you will find many different Tarot Decks. But, are all Tarot Decks the same? With this article we will dive into the fantastic world of Tarot Decks, learning more about the most iconic decks, my personal favorites, and what the differences are that we can encounter when exploring decks.
- 1 Are all Tarot Decks the same?
- 2 The most famous and used Tarot Decks
- 3 How some decks are different from each other?
- 4 My Tarot Decks
- 5 How to work with different Tarot Decks?
Are all Tarot Decks the same?
Definitely not. There are at least three different deck categories – tarot, oracle, and functional. Traditional decks are often similar, but there are differences.
Tarot Cards are about Minor and Major Arcana cards, Courts and Suits. They have numbers and scenes representing the cards meaning.
Oracle cards are special cards with a specific message for the reader. They usually are affirmations, and don’t follow the same pattern as Tarot Cards. You would use an Oracle Deck if you wanted to dive into a specific topic and you need a free-flowing experience from the cards. There are different kinds of oracle card decks, some represent fairies, planets, flowers and even cats.
Functional decks are a deck designed to focus on specific topics, for example, some decks might be divination tools set to show you lunar phases, or to explore your chakra. Basically, you would choose this deck if you were interested in working on a certain area of your life.
A Tarot Deck for each one of us
The amazing thing about Tarot Decks, is that you can choose the kind of deck you like the most. They might be slightly different from each other, however, you should be aware of these differences when it comes to choosing your deck.
The most famous and used Tarot Decks
The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck
The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, also known as Waite-Smith Tarot Deck, is the most widespread Tarot Deck in the world today. The 78 Arcana cards were conceived by the American mystic and esotericist Arthur Edward Waite and designed by his disciple, Pamela Colman Smith between 1908 and 1909. Inspired in part by the Sola-Busca Tarot Deck (1491), which until the early 1900’s remained the only Tarot Deck with illustrated characters on all 78 cards.
The first version of the Waite-Smith Tarot Deck was published in London in 1909 by Rider & Co. Publishing and immediately had numerous imitations that triggered many legal battles over copyright.
Even today the Rider-Waite Tarot Cards are the point of reference not only for fortune tellers, but also for the inventors of new decks, which are inspired by their images, making it easier to memorize their divinatory meanings.
Tarot of Marseille
Definitely one of the most known and used Tarot Decks. We do not have references for the dating of the Tarot de Marseille, so called for the city in France which has enjoyed a monopoly in the production of this type of card, although it had not been invented there. The first known decks date back to the eighteenth century.
The style of the Italian Tarot Cards favors the Latin origin of this type of deck and probably spread from the Lombardy area to French territory. One of the most known models of the Tarot of Marseille deck was engraved on wood by Frenchman Claude Burdel in 1751.
Crowley Tarot Deck
Crowley’s Tarot Deck consists of 78 Arcana cards, divided into 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards. They are different from the traditional Marseille Tarot Cards we know and are one of the most important decks of the modern esoteric tradition. The Tarot Cards were created by Crowley around 1940. Aleister Crowley was a well-known English magician, a great scholar of the occult sciences and considered as the founder of modern occultism.
The magician was a very eccentric and bizarre character, he decided to create a Tarot Deck based on his magical conceptions and assigned the task of drawing them to the painter Frieda Harris, his faithful pupil.
Only in 1969 was “The Book of Thot” printed for the first time, the Tarot Deck with the name Crowley gave it as soon as it was finished, and it was immediately a great success among young people from that time.
The Mantegna Tarot Cards are two distinct series of 50 engravings dating back to the fifteenth century, they were called series “E” and series “S”, the work of two distinguished artists of the Ferrara school who remained anonymous.
For centuries, the decks have been credited to Andrea Mantegna. The two series portray the same subjects, grouped thematically into five groups and it is argued, that both do not actually constitute a Tarot Deck, since there are no suit cards and the subjects, although in some cases they present similarities to traditional Tarot Cards, they are different.
The Egyptian Tarot Deck
Egyptian Tarot Cards are born from the combination of different divination techniques using astrology, numerology and visions. The richness of the blades of the Egyptian Tarot Cards is even more interesting since the esoteric dimension is strengthened by the presence of hieroglyphics.
The Egyptian Tarot Cards are composed of 22 blades, consisting of 7 positive blades (Nil, Mammisi, Harpocrates, Anouket, Nout, Constellation, Bennou), 7 negative blades (Sekhmet, Sobek, Armée, Akerou, Apopis) and 7 neutral blades (Mastaba, Nefertiti, Hatshepsout, Scribe, Akhenaten, Ba-Ka, Sycomore); 3 blades that evoke fate (Pyramide, Naos, Croix de vie).
How some decks are different from each other?
The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck is considered the foundation deck on which illustrators create new Tarot Decks from, however most artists differentiate cards in their own way.
The traditional deck is 78 cards with 22 Major Arcana Cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards, but some decks have additional bonus cards and more.
Also, some decks change some of the card’s names and the meaning as per the deck’s guidance and goal. For example, I own 4 decks (at least for now), 3 Tarot Decks and 1 Oracle Deck.
My Tarot Decks
- A traditional Raider Waite Tarot Deck
- The Wild Unknown by Kim Krans
- The Starchild Tarot Deck by Danielle Noel
My Oracle Deck:
The Starseed Oracle Deck by Rebecca Campbell and illustrated by Danielle Noel
In the Rider-Waite and the Wild Unknown decks, we find the infamous death card. In the Starchild Tarot Deck this card has a different name, Transformation. This is because the author wanted to give the reader the chance to approach the death card by distancing it from the common belief that the death card signifies death, but it is not. The death card is about change, transformation, or a make-over in your life.
Plus, as you might notice, each deck has a special vibe to me.
The traditional Rider-Waite deck is about the mundane aspect of life and represents people and humanity.
The Wild Unknown deck is about nature and animals, to help you connect with their energy and symbolism. It’s darker and more mysterious.
The Starchild deck is all about spirituality, chakras and a dreamlike look. It is more feminine and light-hearted.
How to work with different Tarot Decks?
I think that the fact that each deck is unique is a great plus and one of the main reasons why I love Tarot so much. I try to spend time with each deck every day.
Sometimes, I am more open to a practical approach, sometimes it’s all about raw things, the dark side of my soul and emotions, other times I need spiritual support for my soul.
So, for different situations I use a different deck so I can fully immerse myself into their beautiful world to unveil what kind of story each deck has to tell me. If you want to know how to do a tarot reading on yourself, check my article here.