Countless new tarot decks are being published yearly, their popularity and accessibility only growing with a new age of spirituality. Many of them are limited edition designs that tarot-readers rush to add to their collections, created by indies and funded on Kickstarter — like our very own augmented-reality empowered Fantôme Tarot Deck.
Something that confuses a lot of beginner tarot readers is that many artists take thematic twists with their visual designs on the card. For instance, the same Judgement card — a commonly confusing card on its own — can look drastically different across multiple decks.
Does it even matter, and can this affect your learning process? Yes, and yes! But let’s get into the why and how you can make your own investment decisions.
The Classical Rider Waite Tarot Deck
We’ve covered the timeless Rider Waite Deck before, but even though the imagery of Rider Waite actively inspires new design, it’s by no means the ‘original deck’. Their origins are said to go over 2000 years back, supposedly originating from scripts of Egyptian priests.
What makes Rider Waite’s deck so strong is its rich expansive symbolisms that encompasses so many nuanced possibilities for interpretations. At the end of the day, however, we can strip the cards down to plain numerology, the four elements, and astrological and planetary associations.
#Tarot cards are a language for communicating and translating between higher guidance and the reader. Like coding language is used to communicate between machine and human.— La Muci Design (@LaMuciDesign) June 30, 2021
So long as the basic ‘rules’ in all tarot cards are the same — for example, air representing communication, thoughts, intellect, and the number two representing duality, partnership, balance — the visual possibilities are infinite. For an office-themed tarot deck, a ‘two’ of ‘air’ could be represented by a clerk struggling to choose between using a blue pen or a black pen! When a deck abandons this template, that’s when we have an oracle deck.
How tarot card design choices affect interpretation.
Since tarot is a two-way language, anything on the cards themselves could be used as a means of delivering a message. Even something like a kind facial expression of a character on an otherwise grim card could be trying to communicate a more hopeful meaning. A more minimalist deck might focus on the raw energy of numbers and astrology, which is good for a general reading. A lot of intuition and imagination comes into play when deciphering what’s a sign and what’s not.
Comparing the 3 of Swords from the classical Rider Waite deck and the Fantôme deck side by side, a reader might feel urged to say how the swords are just projections — heartbreak created by the Seeker’s own expectations, justifications, and paranoia. The classical deck portrays heavy rain and despair, whereas in the Fantôme deck clouds are scattered, with sudden lightning — like sudden anxiety episodes or migraines. The Arthurian theme of sword-in-the-stone could prompt the advice of believing in one’s self-worth to pull these old heartaches out.
A deck for every occasion.
It’s common for readers to have more than one deck! If you're thinking of starting your tarot card collection, or expanding it, you might want to think of why you’re being drawn to a new deck. Perhaps you’ve gone through a transformation and feel like you need to upgrade your active personal deck with a new ‘personality’ or ‘voice’.
We’ve listed some beginner friendly decks on our blog before, but at the end of the day if you feel a special connection to a particular deck, its non-traditional imagery won’t stop you from learning. After all, every deck is like a unique individual in its own right, and a reader always takes time to introduce and get to know their new deck. It’s like starting a new relationship, as if for the first time every time. Which is part of the reason why we’re developing an AR guidebook app with Fantôme — to make learning and ice-breaking for both beginners and intermediate readers intuitive, accessible and fun.
Don’t forget to pop into our store — you might find yourself drawn to one of our designs. If you feel like starting with the Rider Waite tarot as the all-time beginner-friendly option, we have three variations of the classical deck with a stylish twist: Âme, Magic and Gaia.
Be brave and don’t be afraid to learn. Trust your intuition and if a deck calls to you, answer the call. It’s like a first date, scary, but exciting to get to know each deck for the first time.