I'm a professional tarot reader with 20 years of experience. For me, tarot is a fascinating system that reflects all human life.
The Best Tarot Decks I Own
Are you a tarot deck addict? At the last count I have over 50 tarot decks. Yet, I hardly ever do readings with most of them. Sometimes I get them out to have a play, but mostly I read with just a "handful" of decks.
I find that it takes me a while to connect with a deck—and that's a good thing; we get to know each other slowly, but occasionally, I find a Special One, and we fall in love immediately. There's a certain chemistry—just like in any good relationship.
These are my top five out of the decks I own and use regularly. I’ve also picked five cards from each tarot deck to illustrate why I like it.
The Robin Wood Tarot
The Robin Wood Tarot is the second deck I ever owned. I connected with it immediately, and it became my workhorse deck of choice. I still use it all the time, even though the cards have softened and become scratched over the years. It is the deck I carry in my head, every image is imprinted on my mind. It's the one I can turn to, if I can’t make sense of the card in front of me. I just mentally tune into the Robin Wood image of the same card and wait for clarity to come.
The deck is named after its creator, the artist and illustrator, Robin Wood. She created it back in the 1980s, which explains its rather retro look and the fact that it isn’t terribly diverse. However, if you can forgive its sins, it has a great deal of depth and a lot to offer.
It’s based on the traditional Rider-Waite deck, but has a few interesting and illuminating quirks.
The Robin Wood Devil card is probably the best one I’ve ever come across. The illustration perfectly captures the energy of the Devil card. It shows attachment to material effects, and resistance to compromise and even to the prospect of freedom. The two figures are determined to hold onto the things that aren’t serving them and keep themselves enslaved. It shows the Devil is within us and in our negative behavior and thoughts, rather than being some evil entity with horns and a burning torch. We do it to ourselves.
The Page of Swords is another one that gave me goosebumps. Instead of the usual static male Page, we see a young girl holding a sword aloft as she races down a hillside. Look at the energy in that image. It perfectly shows how the Pages are messengers. I see her as carrying inspiration, ideas, and clarity down from the spiritual realm (Wands) to the earthly plane to be made manifest (Pentacles).
Death is pretty straightforward. Look at the Grim Reaper’s surroundings. Life is springing up all around. In the midst of death there are new beginnings. It is always thus. This is a card of positivity and hope.
The Page of Wands in the Robin Wood Tarot is just as interesting as the Page of Swords—in fact all the Pages in this deck are lovely. The Page of Wands is on the verge of some adventure. Perhaps she’s ready to strike out on her own path. Maybe it’s college, or a career. However, she stands on the leeward side of the sand dune. In the shadow. She’s hesitating. It might be because she feels unprepared. Or scared. Or she’s just waiting for the right moment. If you are stuck, she encourages you to take that scary step. If you are about to rush into something, she tells you to wait.
I love the Knight of Pentacles. Just look at him resplendent in his armor and various accoutrements. The Knight of Pentacles is often thought of as a bit of a boring chap. Hard-working, nose to the grindstone. Yet this illustration shows he has a lot more to him. All that green shows he is a conservationist. He loves his environment and will work to protect it. His splendid attire shows that he appreciates the good things in life. And the plowed field suggests that he might be quite a sexy guy under that armor. A good catch if he should turn up in a love reading. Much better than that flaky Knight of Cups, or the charming wastrel that is the Knight of Wands.
Tarot of the New Vision
This deck is a more recent acquisition. I’ve owned it for about 18 months. At first I was doubtful that I’d be able to connect with it, but with a little perseverance it has been my go-to deck when I want an alternative viewpoint. And that’s exactly what it’s about. The deck creators have taken the images from the traditional Rider-Waite and flipped them. Sometimes by a quarter turn, sometimes by a complete 180 degrees. This means the images offer a new perspective. Sometimes bringing in a new visual element to make you think and connect with your intuition. Lots of 'a-ha' moments with this one.
While I do love the deck itself, I really don’t like the book that comes with it. I think that so much more could have been made of that alternative viewpoint. The descriptions of the cards are okay, but the meanings given are very short and simplistic. For example the Five of Pentacles shows a one-legged beggar, sitting on the floor of a church beneath a stained-glass window (he’s managed to get inside to shelter from the snow outside). He’s clutching a child. They’re out of the storm, still suffering but have taken the first step to get help. One of the meanings given in the book is “Sexual turmoil risks disturbing your sleep.” What? The writer and artist are both Italian, so maybe something has been lost or gained in translation? Let’s hope so. Therefore I’d recommend getting the Tarot of the New Vision cards only, and not the full kit. Use your own intuition for these.
What do you make of the images shown above? The Fool is absorbed and entranced by the awesome sight of the volcano putting on a show just for him. The Two of Pentacles, which is so reflective of our full, juggling lives, asks us just who are we doing all this busy stuff for? Mostly we’re doing it because we think we should. Those sheep really don’t care, and the crow is just doing a fly-by. Or does it have some other message for our poor stressed out juggler?
The Hanged Man maintains his position and his cool in the face of the jeering crowd. He could probably change his position, or get down if he wanted to but he’s living his own truth. He’ll move when he’s ready. No amount of ridicule or bullying will make him change his way of being.
Don’t you love the kindly, ghostly images of the grandparents watching over the children in the Six of Cups? Showing they are united in love and still connected to their descendants?
The last card in the sequence here is the King of Wands. All the court cards are shown from the back. The carvings on their thrones giving an extra dimension to the meaning of the card. Here we can see the lion representing the courage of the King, but above that we see him with his wife in a loving embrace. This, for me, illustrates his softer side and the importance of his relationship.
Deviant Moon Tarot
How much do I love these quirky cards? A real dark shocker of a deck. The Deviant Moon Tarot is surreal, humorous, devilish, fun, and illuminating, all at the same time. I have two versions, the earlier one with a white border around the illustrations and the newer borderless deck. I prefer the borderless. What I also have, is the stunningly beautiful Deviant Moon book. It’s huge, gorgeous and detailed. It made so much difference to my use of the deck. Whereas before it was simply an art deck that I rarely used for readings, now it has come alive because of the artist, Patrick Valenza’s detailed descriptions of how and why he conceptualized the images.
You could read it with the traditional Rider-Waite in mind, but why do that when you can get into the deck in a completely new way? I have to say that I’m careful about using this deck with clients—it can be off-putting to some people.
I picked out the cards above because they are good examples of the unusual perspective of the deck, and also because the cards do contain some nudity, so I picked ones that didn’t.
The Six of Wands shows a creature; a beautiful insect, emerging from a chrysalis. A celebration of life. A victory. Enlightenment. Attainment through education. Reward through your own efforts.
The Five of Cups shows a man being harangued by his scolding wife. Three cups tipped up representing loss, perhaps the loss of love. Yet, as in many decks, the two remaining cups stand untouched and a red rose lies on the ground, showing that the loss is not irretrievable. The wall between the couple is low, meaning that their differences may be reconcilable.
The Four of Wands looks very different, but is very much in line with the traditional meaning. A young couple stand before their new home, an odd structure. They are laying foundations for a happy life together. Stability, celebration, a moment to take pleasure in their completed work.
The Six of Swords, again a new way of illustrating the traditional concept of this card. The figure in the airship has escaped turmoil below and is traveling toward her future. She has no direction, she just needs to go. A refugee situation. This card can literally mean travel, or mental/physical recovery.
The gorgeous, resplendent Ace of Cups is illustrated by an angel who holds a cup of emotional energy which is being constantly replenished by the Moon. New, emotional beginnings. Opening the heart to the possibility of love, and not just romantic love, but love of self and of life.
The Revelations Tarot is an intuitive deck. You can read it without knowing the traditional meanings. You can feel your way though these cards. I was surprised how easy they are to understand. The set comes with one of the best books—it’s not large, but it is succinct and offers some new perspectives that work with any deck, not just this one.
What I really love about the Revelations Tarot are the wonderful built-in reversals. So innovative and clever. Zach Wong definitely had an inspired moment when he conceived this deck.
The Chariot shows discipline, calmness, control in the upright image, and lack of control and dissolution in the reversal. In the top half, the chariot is being pulled by two sea-serpents in harmony, whereas in the reversed image they are actually fighting with each other, as the powerless charioteer tries to direct them by the force of his will.
The Empress is all sunshine and abundance in the upright position, whereas her counterpart rules over desolation. Expansion and growth vs deprivation and recession.
In the Two of Cups we see a couple in joyful appreciation of each other. On the other end of the card are two people giving each other the silent treatment, trapped in a relationship that is going nowhere.
The Queen of Swords is a truth-seeker, a proponent of honesty, upright morals and clarity. The reversed image shows a woman who has lost her way. Perhaps she has used her intelligence for ill, rather than for good? Maybe she has turned into a poisonous gossip, or a nagging shrew. She may even represent the 'other woman'.
Death is lovely. Upright: death. Reversed: birth.
It’s great to be able to lay out the cards, all in the upright position but still be reminded there is a whole spectrum of meaning inherent in the tarot, whatever way they show up in a reading.
Everyday Witch Tarot
My new favorite tarot cards, the Everyday Witch Tarot is so much fun. I love this young-at-heart interpretation of the cards. Conceived by Deborah Blake and illustrated by Elisabeth Alba, these cards offer new and alternative perspectives as well as being lovely to look at.
Lots of whimsy—I do love a bit of whimsy—lots of cats, pointy hats and stripy stockings populate the Everyday Witch Tarot; there’s nothing overly negative in these images. However, they still manage to get the whole human experience into the 78 cards. This is a good deck to use with a client who might be disturbed by some of the images in a traditional or darker deck. And no borders—yay!
The Ace of Swords looks very much like the Page of Swords in a traditional deck. Reaching up for a blinding moment of clarity and understanding. A young witch holds on to her hat as the birds of truth fly around her. I really don’t know if they are 'birds of truth', but it sounded good.
The Three of Cups is nicely done, with the maiden, mother, crone theme. Threes are all about cycles, and this image illustrates that perfectly. I love that generations can come together and celebrate just being together, with no other reason necessary. However, if a little magic can be raised, then all to the good.
The Nine of Pentacles. I love this illustration. It is so perfectly right for this card. Contentment. No need to stress. Everything is good. Stay in the moment and appreciate all that you’ve achieved. Another cyclical card.
The Five of Pentacles offers a lot more hope than many versions. The welcoming cottage calls the travellers home. Rest is near. The challenge of discomfort is almost over.
Lastly, the dear blessed Hermit shows that solitude, introversion and peaceful meditation is so good for body and mind. What a lovely soul-restoring scene.
So those are my top five favorite decks—so far. I have my sights set on a few more soon.
Which is your favorite out of the ones above, and which is your real favorite reading deck?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Bev G
Jean Bakula from New Jersey on January 15, 2018:
Ah, it's not cheating. It's "extra research." lol.
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on January 14, 2018:
Thanks so much for that... I now must go see Zack Wong's other work and have a look at that deck. I've heard of it but can't remember it.
Yes, I get stuck often. Happened yesterday when Judgment appeared for a health question (health is usually one area I avoid). I usually grab a book to kick-start my brain again. Feels like cheating though. xx
Jean Bakula from New Jersey on January 14, 2018:
I love the Revelations Tarot. Isn't Zack Wong super talented? He also does paintings of doors. I have 3 of them in my room. They are framed, and are all Moroccan styles, but in blues and yellow that went perfect with my turquoise room with yellow accents. Marisa told me it's a "Noosa" color scheme.
If you like art, James Ricklef has a lovely deck too, based on well known art, Tarot of the Masters. He has a blog too, and both a Pithy Tarot book for quick explanations, and a longer, more spiritual one which helps us think of new interpretations. Do you get stuck on some cards at times? I do, and like to see what other tarot readers are thinking of. Sometimes I forget how many different meanings each card can have!
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 28, 2017:
It's cool, isn't it, Anna? There's another newish one which does a similar thing... Oh, I've looked but can't find it. It's like a 'what happens next' deck.
Anna from South Carolina on November 27, 2017:
I like tarot of a new vision! neat perspective
Joanna Pilatowicz from Germany on November 23, 2017:
Mystical Tarot is beautiful indeed. I think thanks to your inspiring article I will go through all the list to see if anything reminds me of my dream ;) I know it was mystical view and cards were a bit bigger than normal set.
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 23, 2017:
I know that dream! You always feel that The One is out there but you haven't found it yet. I'm liking the look of the Mystical Tarot... but...?
Joanna Pilatowicz from Germany on November 23, 2017:
Hi Bev! Thanks for sharing that! I had a dream I have a new deck ;) It looked beautiful but in reality I didn't see it yet. I hope to find it. Inspiring article!
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 22, 2017:
Hi Linda, it is difficult. You need to set some parameters that you can use as filters. For example, if you are new to tarot reading, you might want to stick to a version of the Rider-Waite or a close 'relative'. There might be certain types of art you prefer. I'd recommend avoiding themed decks or anything that has its own system. Good luck!
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 21, 2017:
I loved looking at your photos and reading your descriptions. There's a store in my area that sells tarot decks, but its website has page after page of different decks for sale. It's very difficult for me to decide on a good one to buy. I appreciate the guidance that you provide.
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 21, 2017:
Thank you, Threekeys. The Revelations is well worth taking a look at.
threekeys on November 20, 2017:
Enjoyed this article raggededge. Like you, I have a trying time to connect with a tarot deck and thus only have a handful of decks.
But, the Revelations Deck? I'd like to take a closer look at it. Thankyou for leading me to this tarot deck.