Confessions of a Card Addict

About 30 years ago I got my first tarot deck. It was the standard US Games Rider Waite deck, the kind that has the dark thick lines and orange toned coloring. I still have it and it is worn to hell.

My grandmother bought the deck for me at the mall. I had recently discovered the tarot while reading a book at the library. While staying with my grandmother during they day in the summer while my parents were at work, I’d take her playing cards and combine the decks and pretend I was reading tarot cards. She was kind of sick of having cards all over the place when her friends came over for bridge. She purchased the tarot deck for me for one reason, so I would stop messing with her playing cards.

I don’t think she ever would have expected that this deck would be a gateway to not only a career using the tarot but also an addiction to divination decks. If she could see what I’ve amassed in the years since she’d be laughing and shaking her head.

The reason I became interested in the tarot in the first place is the same reason that I’m addicted to collecting card decks to this day; its the art.

When I found the tarot as a kid I discovered pictures of some cards from the Rider Waite deck in a book. The High Priestess, the Magician, and the different cards from suit of Swords fascinated me. As someone who’s always been a visual person I was really excited by these images. They were strange, mystical, and a little scary, especially to a little kid.

I had only that one deck for years. I don’t really remember when I started getting other decks and I don’t remember when I started buying oracle decks. I used the cards a little in high school, mainly just for fun. I was the only person I knew back then that was a practicing Witch and {at the time also} Wiccan. Most people just found the cards entertaining and didn’t take any of that stuff I was into seriously.

In college it was a bit of a different story. I found using the cards for myself became really important. I would sometimes bring out my cards when hanging out with friends and they would really enjoy the readings I gave them. The more I used the cards the more interested I got into tarot in general and soon was learning all about the wild world of different decks.

A few years ago I got to a point where we were moving and I wasn’t going to have the room for all the decks I had. I went through my cards and sorted them by where they would rank on a scale of favorites. When I counted the decks at the end I discovered I had over 250 decks. I decided it was time to get rid of a few.

I got down to about 175 or so. For the sake of accuracy and transparency I thought I would count my current collection of all decks {tarot, oracle, angel, lenormand, fortune telling decks} to see how many decks I have right now. The count is…

 

308

 

This is just one layer of cards. The bins in the layer above look exactly the same.

 

I say that with two decks currently on order, a third that I’m backing on Kickstarter, and about eight decks on a private wishlist on Amazon that haven’t been released yet but which I fully intend to purchase when they’re out.

So, with such a big collection and having worked with the cards for over half my life, I thought I would share some thoughts on what I feel makes a good deck. Here are my top ten.

 

Jess’s Top Ten Things That Make A Deck Awesome

1 – It needs to be pretty. That might sound superficial, or maybe even pretty fucking obvious, but if a deck isn’t pretty I’m not interested. This is one of the reasons that I got rid of some of my decks. I had won a copy of the Shadowfox Tarot a handful of years ago and it quickly went to the donate bin. It’s black, white, and grey and, IMO, hideous.

When it comes to pretty decks, the Wild Unknown and the Wild Unknown Animal Spirit decks are the best.

 

2 – It should be colorful. As someone who reads intuitively things like color matter to me. This is another reason I got rid of the Shadowfox Tarot. When a deck has no color or is monochrome I find it hard to read unless it’s really strong in imagery and symbolism. That’s what I still like the Gothic Tarot by Joseph Vargo. It has a pretty basic 3-4 color scheme but the art is beautiful {if gothic art is your thing}.

3 – The cards have to be thick. If they aren’t thick, per se, they have to at least not be paper thin. If you’ve read or heard any of my card reviews in recent years you’ll know this is a huge gripe I have with Llewellyn decks. Their cards have done from OK to almost paper thin in a lot of cases. On the other hand if they’re too thick they’re hard to shuffle. It’s tricky finding the right balance but in general I don’t want my cards to rip, chip, bend or tear in the first handful of uses.

4 – It has a theme. Well, OK, a theme other than “tarot.” Decks that have a story all their own or have a very specific thematic aesthetic are my favorites Usually these decks have a very specific vibe to them that make them perfect for specific kinds of readings. For example, I love using the Gaian Tarot for readings related to healing. I often use the Green Witch tarot for anything related to spirituality and the Bohemian Gothic Tarot is great for anything that might have a touch of darkness to it. Oracle decks always have a theme and often have specific uses in mind, like the Romance Angels or Psychic Tarot of the Heart {which is really an oracle deck} for love readings.

5 – It doesn’t have a lot of words. This isn’t usually a problem with tarot and it’s usually more of an oracle deck issues. I do have a few tarot decks that have keywords and phrases on them, like the Madam Clara Tarot or the Rock n’ Roll Tarot. I really like both these decks, but as someone that is an intuitive reader, I don’t like having too many influences that might take away from my intuitive approach. Too many words and phrases often pull me out of my heart and into my head and I end up thinking through a reading rather than feeling through it.

There is an exception to this. The Affirmators deck is one of them. When a deck is meant to be an affirmation deck, like this, I expect words and info.

 

6 – The backs don’t make upright or reversed position obvious. Basically this means that when you’re shuffling and pulling cards you can’t tell if the card is going to be upright or reversed when you’re pulling it. This was something that was more of a concern for me when I worked with reversed cards, but I read a little differently now where the reversed position doesn’t play as big of a role. That said, it’s still nice to not feel like I’m unknowingly picking cards because they’re going to come up reversed or upright.

7 – It will pair well with another deck. If you follow me on Instagram you know that I love to work with tarot and oracle decks together, and in general I like pairing decks. Some decks are just meant to work with other decks it seems. Sometimes this is really easy because an artist and deck creator put out both a tarot and an oracle deck and they end up being similar. This is the case with Kim from The Wild Unknown with her tarot and Animal Spirits oracle and Lauren from Inner Hue with the Lumina Tarot and the Alchemists Oracle. Sometimes I find a new tarot deck that instantly makes me think of an oracle deck I have and it makes me more inclined to buy it because I can see them working so well together.

This is the Alchemist’s Oracle on the left and the Tiny Devotions affirmation deck on the right. They just feel like a great pair to me.

 

8 – All the cards are fully illustrated. This is an issue sometimes with tarot decks when the minor arcana doesn’t have full illustrations. For instance the Four of Cups card just has a picture of four cups. When you read intuitively that isn’t always helpful. I personally find cards like that have me relying more on common keywords, or even worse, just trying to call into my mind’s eye the Rider Waite image of that card. If that’s the case, why don’t I just use the Rider Waite!

9 – It’s a little subversive. I’m not going to lie, I like decks that are a bit weird. Sometimes they might even trigger people, but I’m always conscious of who I’m reading for and not using certain decks with people that I either don’t know or that I know might have a negative reaction to a deck. A great example is the Cosmic Tribe Tarot. Almost every person in this deck is naked. And I’m talking full frontal nudity naked…tits and dicks just flying all over the place. However, it’s SO unique and SO pretty and the energy that comes with the nudity is awesome. I also love that it comes with three different Lovers cards; a heterosexual couple, a gay couple, and a lesbian couple. But it’s definitely not for everyone, just like the Tarot of the Vampyres deck wont be for everyone because all the blood is going to be upsetting. That said, I love it!

While it may not be the MOST subversive deck I have, Oliver Hibert’s tarot deck has a lot of books, vajayjays, and acid induced flesh melting. It’s one of my favorites, so much so this is the deck I carry in my purse.

 

10 – It supports an independent artist. While I do have a lot of decks from large publishers like Llewellyn, US Games, and Blue Angel I’m a big fan of purchasing decks right from the artist or through small publishers. This is also why I love to back decks on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Some of my favorite decks that I purchased as indie decks started were later picked up by big publishers like the Gaian Tarot and the Bonefire Tarot. I love to just look around on Etsy, Kickstarter, and Instagram for new and unique decks.

 

These are just a few of the things that make me love a deck. What are some of your favorite decks? What are some of the things that make you really love a deck?

 

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  • Traci York
    March 7, 2017 at 10:20 am

    *swoon* I suppose it’s a good thing I don’t have the extra cash to invest, or this would be me in short order! I have a few FB friends who collect decks (I think one might even have a collection close to yours), and my Amazon wish list is growing by leaps and bounds!

    I think one of the first ones I’ll get to add to my HUGE collection of two (the Radiant and Universal versions of the RWS deck) is the “After Tarot” because I’m intrigued by the idea of what happens next in each card.

    • Jess Carlson
      March 7, 2017 at 10:23 am

      The “After Tarot” is one that really fascinates me as well. I have it on my Amazon list too and hope to get it soon. Have you seen the “Tarot of the New Vision?” That’s another really fascinating take on the RWS that I love.

      • Traci York
        March 8, 2017 at 1:33 pm

        Oh, that’s right! I almost forgot about “Tarot of the New Vision!” I saw it ages ago on Aeclectic Tarot, but somehow forgot to add it to my Amazon wish list. Off to do that now! *grin*

  • Dana
    March 7, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    I agree with this list 100%! I’m a weirdo and really love plastic-y cards, though. I feel less afraid to shuffle them! <3 Another criteria for me that's not a dealbreaker, but a preference, is size. The Starchild tarot is so awkward to hold! If the standard-sized version had been out when I was buying it, I would have got that one instead 😛

    • Jess Carlson
      March 7, 2017 at 12:51 pm

      I’m so into the Starchild Tarot that I ordered the standard size too. It will be here in a few days and I can’t wait. I’ll be able to carry that one in my purse and leave the big one at home. 🙂

  • Sue
    March 8, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    This is fascinating, Jess. I thought having several decks was excessive, now I realise I have a long way to go!

    • Jess Carlson
      March 11, 2017 at 11:50 am

      Well there is a point where this is ridiculous. I’ve gone FAR beyond that point…lol