Deck Lust and Forbearance: A Tale of Two Extremes

I haven’t counted lately, but last I knew I had just over 70 decks distributed unequally among tarot, oracle and Lenormand cards. It would be dishonest of me to say that I use all – or even most –  of them. From 2011 through 2018, I went through a serious episode of “Deck Acquisition Syndrome” from which I finally recovered early last year. The pendulum has now swung back in the other direction (although it feels more like the old woman [probably Terry Jones] flinging the cat in Monty Python and the Holy Grail);  I’ve bought only a handful of decks since then and probably spent less than $100 overall, which I easily made back through my sporadic professional reading activities. This is more in character for me since I used the Thoth deck exclusively for almost 40 years.

I’m amazed by the number of deck purchases that have been blamed on the coronavirus lock-down. Some people have bought a dozen decks and counting since the middle of March, which probably set them back upwards of $300 (before shipping) at today’s inflated prices even if they didn’t acquire any expensive limited-edition or “art” decks that would have pushed them over $500. Considering the number of decks I presently own and almost never use, this would amount to a wasteful extravagance for me. On the other side of the coin, there are people who insist that they only need one deck with which they can closely bond, and that those who feel they must have more are misled by marketing and peer pressure. They have little or no vulnerability to the siren-call of especially well-done deck art, which lures the unwary enthusiast with its charms. I have to admit that I admire and want to emulate their single-minded frugality. But I’m afraid that, like a cartomantic Jimmy Carter, I’ve committed “lust in my heart” many times with my  craving for each new stimulus and have only recently learned to curb it.

These are the same people who often ask “What’s your No. 1 favorite deck?” I can only assume that their goal is to buy as few as possible, so they’re looking to pick a few experienced brains before deciding whether and what to pursue next. While it’s certainly true that any standard tarot deck can be used for any inquiry no matter how singular its artwork, there are a few decks that work best as “niche” products.

For me, one of those is the Post-Modern Tarot by Brian Williams. I find its somewhat smirking attitude to be perfect for sociopolitical readings on world and national affairs. Another is the Anna K Tarot, a rustic deck I consider well-suited for a pagan Wheel of the Year reading or a lunar month look-ahead, and also peculiarly effective for weather forecasting. The engaging Chrysalis Tarot is one I use for more mystical subjects in a shamanistic vein since it reads like an intercultural oracle deck despite its name, and the Night Sun Tarot is competent to handle “darker” matters. For psychological probing (to the limited extent I do it) the Psycards – although not strictly a tarot deck – perform quite well. Although I don’t own either one yet, I think the Deviant Moon and the Tarot of the Magical Forest (both resembling a “Tim-Burton-meets-Hieronymus Bosch” mash-up) will pair well in two-deck readings on situations involving unsettled states of mind (one has disturbed-looking lunar creatures and the other paranoid-schizophrenic woodland animals) .

But for face-to-face readings with paying clients, I only use the RWS or nearly identical clones: Centennial Edition, Albano-Waite, Radiant, Golden Universal. Morgan Greer, Robin Wood or Aquarian, since they tick all the boxes for public recognition as legitimate “tarot decks.” For personal readings it will always be the Thoth for me.

2 thoughts on “Deck Lust and Forbearance: A Tale of Two Extremes

  1. I have such a love-hate relationship with the Robin Wood tarot. When I’m not actively using it, I deplore its comic-book, Barbie-doll prettiness as shallow and facile. But readings I actually do with it are always clear and focused. I especially appreciate the energy and vitality of the court cards then. I just can’t decide if I like it or not!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m no fan of comic-book-style deck art, but the Robin Wood is one of several RWS-based decks I bring to sessions where I’m doing a series of back-to-back readings. I like to have a few randomized decks along so I don’t have to do it on the fly between readings, and it gives my sitters a choice of decks.


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