The Tarot of the Magical Forest
Buying a new tarot deck is an exciting and joyous occasion, right?
It’s the beginning of a new relationship after all, but with so many decks out there to choose from, it can actually get a bit daunting. Even if you see a deck you absolutely must have, you can still have some concerns, and finding a deck that “speaks” to you can be trickier than it sounds.
There’s plenty of advice online about purchasing your first (or fiftieth) deck, and most tarot books offer advice on deck purchasing. Sage wisdom from long-time readers and authors can seem sacrosanct. That’s what I thought, about a decade ago, when I purchased my first decks.
Here’s some advice I followed that didn’t end up totally working out for me: buy a Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck because it’s the most common, is in most books on tarot, and is the easiest to learn from.
The ubiquitous Rider-Waite-Smith tarot
Try as I might, I just could never get into the deck.
I worked hard to memorize the images, names, and meanings, and that’s as far as it went. Because I wasn’t really into the RWS deck, I gladly purchased another deck, and then another.
Because I rigidly stuck to the advice I’d read, didn’t have experience, and doubted myself, I ended up with decks that weren’t right for me. Consequently, these decks and my tarot practice went on the shelf, where they remained for years.
The Dreaming Way Tarot
My interest in tarot would be reignited every now and then, and I spent years frustratedly working with it, thinking the problem was with me. I just had some kind of block. I didn’t trust my intuition with the deck I was working with.
Because I wasn’t getting anything intuitively from my readings, I ended up referring to the traditional meanings on websites, and in books. What I really wanted was to put away the books, everything I’d learned from them, and to read intuitively. I kept feeling like that was right below the surface, but just out of reach. I finally accepted that I just wasn’t clicking with the decks I had.
The Haindl Tarot
I had become very afraid of buying yet another deck that I wouldn’t connect with.
I had a ‘wish list’. But one deck I feared would just end up being another “novelty” deck that wouldn’t help me move my practice to a deeper level. Another deck I feared was too advanced, and I wouldn’t be able to get anything from it. Yet another, Shadowscapes, I was almost embarrassed of my interest in because of the pastel colors, fairies, and dragons. I feared these would just be pretty pictures and not something that would take me there.
All this, on top of the fear of not being able to find my own life experiences and values reflected in a deck because of the white-washed, heteronormative, cisnormative, patriarchal ideals built into many decks. This can get a bit discouraging.
Tarot of the Masters
I just gave it up for a bit, and hadn’t been doing anything with the tarot at all.
My indecision on the new decks went on for a long time, until I decided to do some readings with the decks I had and look up those cards online from the decks I was considering. This turned out to be tremendously helpful. It only took a few readings before I was almost convinced that the Shadowscapes Tarot was the right deck for this moment in my life.
Relieved to finally have some idea of the right deck, I went for it, and I wasn’t wrong!
With this deck, my feeling of frustration with not being able to connect is gone. I feel the Shadowscapes Tarot was created out of a space of love and acceptance for the whole spectrum of human existence – the good and the not-so-good. There is no feeling of judgement, or any hard edges here. In fact, in my interview with this deck, Judgement came up as a limit of the deck. It was telling me “I can’t make decisions for you, I can only show you how things are”. But it was also a reassurance, “I’m not here to judge you”.
While there are only a few people of color in the deck, and I believe the artists vision ran closer to cis and heteronormative than I would ideally prefer, I find it wonderfully open to my own queer interpretation. I instantly found trans women, non-binary and androgynous people, and lesbian lovers in its images (these are purely my own projections of course). I immediately felt in tune with this deck.
Just a few of the androgynous, trans, and otherwise queer people I see in the Shadowscapes deck
The take-away is that some of the common advice about deck buying may be right for you.
But if your gut, or intuition tells you otherwise, listen to it. Trusting yourself and that you have inherent wisdom is a part of the tarot journey. Finding your way through the cacophony of internalized negative chatter to that inherent wisdom, true self, whatever you call it, or however you think of it, is part of the tarot journey. Beginning to trust myself was my first step in truly reading the tarot, opening up my creative and intuitive flow, and not just reciting traditional book meanings (the next step was the Alternative Tarot Course, which believe me, is a game changer). Read the advice, read the reviews, look at the pictures (there’s a lot of invaluable and unique deck info on this very website), but in the end, trust yourself.
Join the Bits & Bobs List!
Friendly, weekly-ish emails from Beth with tarot tips and ideas, news, and other good stuff. (Including cat pictures.)