Last week, I received this question from a reader:
I’ve had my deck of tarot cards for only a month, but I saw the Wild Unknown deck on tumblr and fell in love with it and ordered it as a “help get through the semester” sort of thing. The owner of the local small Wicca shop, when I mentioned I had ordered it, looked it up and royally ragged on it (“it’s barely a tarot deck,” said it was “impossible to read,” was confused that there were animals, not people, featured).
Because I’m teaching myself about tarot, and also Wicca but that’s separate, I’m sort of like a little Bambi who thinks both are very scary looming clouds of intimidation to deal with.
But! I knew that tarot is about personal connection to the cards more than anything (especially what an old cranky stranger thinks), and I remembered that you used the Wild Unknown Tarot deck quite a bit and loved it a lot as well. Do you have any comforting words about the deck?
Part of me is afraid that the woman’s negative words will throw me off my balance with the cards when they get here, despite all of my personal empowerment [attempts].
As I read Jenna’s email, I felt pretty mad. Who was this shopkeeper to tell a budding tarotist that a deck is ‘impossible to read’?
I replied with lots of reassuring gushing about The Wild Unknown Tarot and how I personally find it to be the very best deck to read with. (Plus, it’s the only tarot deck I stock in my shop, which says something about my love for these cards!) But, just like the shopkeeper, that’s just my opinion. Maybe this woman will love her new deck and scale new heights of tarot reading with it. Maybe she’ll hate it. Or maybe she’ll love it for a month or two and then get a whole new deck and consign this one to a cupboard of once-loved, now-forgotten tarot decks.
The point is that my opinion of this deck doesn’t matter one bit.
As Jenna points out, it’s all about her personal connection with the cards. Some people love animal-based decks. Some people look for feminist or robot or pagan or Harry Potter themed decks. I’ve fallen for many tarot decks on-screen, only to find that when I read with them, I can’t get a connection…and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by several decks I wasn’t drawn to intially, but somehow seem to speak to me when I’m reading. People go nuts for Ciro Marchetti’s tarot decks – personally I find his artwork eye-wateringly disgusting, whilst I’ve not found many nice reviews of my beloved Kitty Kahane Tarot.
I could ramble on, but you catch my drift. Each to their own. What’s upsetting is that the shopkeeper used her position as a ‘tarot authority’ to potentially dissuade a tarot newbie from a deck she liked. Not cool!
On a more specific note, I was bewildered by the shopkeeper’s unfamiliarity with animal-based decks. Hasn’t she heard of the Wildwood Tarot? Or the Badger’s Forest Tarot (currently on my wish list)? Or any number of other animal-based tarot decks? What would she make of the Tarot of Trees, or the Dragon Tarot, or a deck like the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn, which features people, but also robots and cyborgs and not-people-people and gender-nonconforming people? Does this, too, mess with her idea of what makes a deck easy to read?
I get that if you’re a serious tartotist you might get frustrated with all the ‘novelty’ decks that are constantly coming out. But who’s to say what’s a novelty deck and what’s ‘proper tarot’? A tarot deck’s truth is in the mind/heart/soul of the holder, not of the vendor – it’s down to the person using the deck to understand whether they feel they can use it for readings.
Searching for the right tarot deck?
I’m a 30-something writer, artist, tarot reader, and perpetual explorer of the space between thought, feeling, and action.
I believe that spirituality and ritual are for everybody. I’m about the journey, in all of its messy, non-linear, chaotic iterations. I am excited by anticapitalist business and living with my whole entire self present. I use tarot cards to bring forth hidden truth, and ritual to affirm my commitment, over and over, to my ever-shifting path.