Despite its origins as a recreational deck of cards in Renaissance-era Italy, tarot has taken on an air of mysticism. And its esoteric reputation has fueled an ongoing myth that tarot neophytes must have their first deck bestowed unto them as a gift — they shouldn't go out of their way to purchase one themselves.
Unsurprisingly, according to tarot experts, this is very much a myth. In fact, it's "total rubbish," says intuitive tarot reader and author Theresa Reed: "If I would have waited around for that to happen, I might not have started working with the tarot as soon as I did — if ever."
Besides, psychic intuitive Mary Shannon explains, if you want to enter into a spiritual practice that's as personal as tarot, you're actually better off picking out your own deck, rather than potentially ending up with a "'meh' deck" that doesn't resonate with you and your tastes. Reed echoes her sentiments, admitting that "most of the decks that I have been gifted sit in a dark drawer somewhere."
So, if you've been thinking about buying a tarot deck but this superstition has held you back, fear no longer — shop your heart out. But, Reed and Shannon are both quick to clarify, you should still go into the process mindfully.
First off, Reed says it's fine to judge a deck by its cover. "If you don’t dig the art on the deck, chances are you won’t enjoy working with it," she says, adding that you should check out the deck in person before making your decision, if you can. Do you like how the cards feel? Can you handle and shuffle them easily? These are a few things to consider if you have the chance to "test drive" the deck, so to speak. If your only option is to buy online, look for a site that features reviews and, again, images, Reed says.
In addition to shopping by your aesthetic and the cards' physical feel, Shannon recommends finding a design that fits your learning style, too. If you're planning to take a by-the-book approach (literally) to learning the meanings of each card, opt for a Rider-Waite-Smith or Thoth deck, she says, since these are the two decks that beginner's books and websites reference most often, so you'll have plenty of resources to reference as you read.
"But, if you are more of a free-flowing intuitive or want to just let your imagination speak, then a deck that is more abstract like the Wild Unknown or the Starchild Tarot may work for you," Shannon says. These decks are illustrated in a way that leaves the cards' meanings more open to interpretation — if you want to fully personalize your tarot practice, take this route.
For what it's worth, although the "gifted first deck" myth has been thoroughly dismissed in the tarot community, it's totally fine if you don't get into tarot until someone gives you a deck. Shannon adds that getting a new tarot deck from your friend is never a bad thing, regardless of where you are in your exploration of the practice: "There is nothing wrong with having more than one or two or 20 decks!"