The Art of Choosing A Tarot Deck

Whether or not to add another deck to one’s collection is (or should be) a process. Questions that we might want to ask ourselves are:

Why do I want to own this deck?

The reasons here are as diverse as the number of decks out there. They include:

* The deck offers a different style than you currently own (styles here referring to the three basic styles: Rider-Waite-Smith, Thoth, and Marseilles).

* The artwork is appealing, and something that you want to work with.

* The theme of the deck is something that you want to explore (i.e. Goddess, Pagan, Celtic, Dragons, Harry Potter, Vampires etc.).

* You want to expand the types of decks that you are offering your clients as a choice for their reading.

* You are a collector of decks, and a card carrying member of the Tarot Deck 12 Step Program!

Am I just getting caught up in Internet hoopla concerning a deck in progress?

* It is very easy to get caught up in each new deck that comes along. We can admire decks without having to own them. They really need to fill some type of “niche” for us before we seriously consider purchasing something that we may regret.

Does this deck fit into my budget?

* I am a collector of decks, as well as a reviewer of same, so I need to look at where they fit into my budget. Being single, I only have myself to consider, and I love my decks! If I catch a deck in progress, I generally make the decision early as to whether I want to purchase it or not, and I start setting aside money. Things to watch for here are availability of purchasing the deck before it is on the market, and whether the deck is a limited edition. With the limited edition decks, you really do not have time to drag your feet.

* Be at peace with your decision. The cost of the deck is the cost of the deck – there are no negotiations. If you are willing to pay the price, do so gracefully. If for whatever reason you feel that the price is too much, then just don’t purchase the deck. Case closed! I really do not like the discussion that I have been seeing lately about whether a deck is worth the price being charged. The deck creator has every right to charge what they feel is a fair price.

What to look for from an Indie?

“Indies” are decks that are published by their creator(s), as opposed to coming from an established publishing house. Some decks start out as Indies, and are then picked up by major publishing houses (Kat Black’s “Touchstone Tarot”, and Joanna Powell Colbert’s “Gaian Tarot” come to mind here). I love the Indies! The only deck presentation that I have seen that comes even close to an Indie production is Stuart Kaplan’s “Smith-Waite Tarot Centennial Edition”.

Presentation is key with an Indie, and is only limited by the imagination of the creator! Lovely Tarot bags, colorful companion books, companion CD’s (often interactive), digital wallpaper, letterhead, small bags of herbs … the list goes on!

Do your research carefully!

If you are in the market for a new deck, look at everything that is out there, as well as decks that are about to come out. Look at what you are drawn to, what they cost, and what they offer. Some decks may seem expensive, but they offer a great deal more than less expensive decks. Remember to add in the shipping cost – and recognise that this cost is not up to the deck creator! They are charging you what they are being charged to ship their work. If you are ordering from overseas, be prepared to pay more than you would be paying if you ordered from somewhere closer to home. Read the reviews, look at the scans … and make an informed decision!

Grow your collection wisely, according to your own wants/needs. Make sure that it serves you well.

(c) July 2011 Bonnie Cehovet

A Few Notes On The Minor Arcana

When we think of the Minor Arcana, we think of the 40 pips (numbered cards) and the sixteen Court cards. We might think along the lines of Marseilles (icons only, no imagery) versus non-Marseilles (those decks that show imagery in the Minor Arcana). Our minds might, momentarily, wander over to the four suits, their differing names from deck to deck, and the elemental association of Fire with Wands and Air with Swords, and how in some decks this association is reversed. Our minds just don’t stay for too long with the Minor Arcana.

There are many different decks out there, representing many different schools of thought. What they have in common are: (1) they have four suits, with Elemental associations, (2) each suit has ten numbered cards (Ace through Ten), and (3) each suit has (traditionally) four Court cards, titled Page, Knight, Queen and King (or some similar titles), or a variation with Princess, Prince, Queen and Knight (the “Thoth Tarot”). Additional cards have been added to some decks, but this is the foundation for the traditional Minor Arcana.

Something that we often only pay passing attention to is the importance of the numbers themselves. The play an important part in bringing “order” to the foundation and geometry of the Minor Arcana, and its ability to drive the “story” of a reading or meditation. In her “Essay On The Minor Arcana”, Christine Payne-Towler talks about Pythagoras, a sixth century BC teacher and prophet. There are some very interesting concepts here, about each number having a specific vibration, and specific properties. From here Pythagoras developed the harmonic theory, which is expressed through music, but which he also applied to the relationship amongst the stars, and at the atomic level.

Pythagoras used numbers to drive his philosophy. Whole numbers, in his world-view, embraced and illustrated the Great Laws of Nature. In both the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana, we are dealing with numbers, numbers which act as the foundation for the card being examined, not to be viewed as a system (numerology) that was super-imposed on the Tarot. The geometric figure that Pythagoras used to express his philosophy was the Tetractys, a pyramid a ten discs, with each disc bearing the geometric figure of a whole number.

Every numbered card in the Tarot takes on the sacred geometry of the number that rules it. Aces represent a whole, and opportunity. Two’s represent duality, while Three’s act to balance and bring together the the properties of each element. Four’s form a foundation, while Five’s act to challenge each individual. Six’s can be seen as two three’s working together, and move the individual forward. Seven’s represent the spiritual triangle in the physical square. Eight’s can be seen as two connected squares, while Nine’s become the “perfect number”, in the form of three triangles. Ten’s act to continue the cycle, as they move into the Ace of the next element.

In future blogs I am going to be taking a look at the sequence of numbers as they play out in each of the suits – how the structure of the number blends with the essence of the Element to make the Tarot what it is. What are your thoughts on numbers as related to Tarot? Do you consider them significant to your readings? Do you see them in an individual format, or as part of a process, with each number holding its own position and responsibility?


Christine Payne-Towler: Essay On The Minor Arcana

(c) June 2011 Bonnie Cehovet