Like many of you I learned to read cards using a Rider Waite deck. It was great, but soon enough the call of other more beautiful decks called me away. My second deck was a Medeival Scapini, which I consider one of the best decks out there both in terms of beauty and symbolism. Unofortunately, it never spoke to me the way that the Rider Waite deck did. I still love it, and occasionally it has a message for me, but otherwise my Medeival Scapini sits on a shelf.
Though the Rider did speak for me, I just couldn’t go back. The bright garrish colors, the sloppy paint job, the terrible crosshatching, and my god the backs… the horrible blue plaid backs just looked like the most un-mystical thing in the world.
There are other colorings of the Rider. The Universal Wait is too pastel. The Radient Waite is to garrish. The Illuminated Tarot is too psychedelic (and its basically laminated paper). In 1993, they released the original Rider Waite, which was a reproduction of one of the earliest versions of the deck, and while miles better than the regular Rider Waite – it still sucks ass.
My search continued. I moved through many decks through the past two decades…
I stuck with the Thoth Deck through much of my early OTO Days. I like the art, and I like the names of the cards. I was happy for a while. Than I started to reject the Crowleyanic perspective – hard. Once you reject Crowley as the Prophet of the New Aeon and all that comes with it, the Thoth Deck starts to have some serious issues. So, I moved on…
After that I can barely remember the order that I floated through them.
The Morgan Greer was close enough to Rider. The art was better and I liked the borderless design. Unfortunately there is something too cartoonish about the figures. I also never liked close up decks where everyone is seen from the torso up (thus also no Aquarian for me). The cards are also WAY to slick.
Lots of other decks like “Stairs of Gold” and the various Visconti decks get tried. I love the majors, but I just cannot tap into decks without scenes on the pip cards. That cuts out a lot of decks.
Than there are decks like the Ansata Tarot, which may be my favorite set of Major Arcana anywhere. But thats it! No Minor Arcana.
The Egorov Tarot is fantastic and might be my deck of choice today except for one thing: It is impossible to shuffle. The cards are like a full 8th of an inch thick. Cant read with a deck I can’t shuffle.
The Hermetic Tarot shuffles great. Though I tend to reject the GD oriented Khabbalistic interpretations in favor of the cartomantic tradition, this deck does it better than most, and gives me decent readings. Unfortunately the deck is too small, too crowded, and black and white.
In 2008 I, along with everyone else, fell in love with the Lunatic Tarot from Japan. Nice art. Just fetishy enough to be titilating (the chariot is pulled by female slaves with ball gags) without turning it into an erotic tarot. Unfortunately the deck has three distinct styles running through it. The Majors are all consistent and are really well done. The Court cards have a more Japanese paper style to them – equally beautiful, but different enough from the majors to look like a different deck. Finally many of the other minor cards, have only sparse sketches that seem off when appearing next to one of the other very ornate cards. Like Scapini, I love the deck for the art, but it just doesnt speak to me when I try to read with it.
A year or so ago I decided to spring for a Nybor Tarot. This is a $350 Tarot deck that is VERY non-traditional. Everything is re-named and recategorized. Really it is just barely hanging on to being a Tarot deck – but it still is. I keep it at my desk for certain types of occult questions. It reads strategic planning well, and as Ferric says: “if you have the means I do recommendpicking one up”.
Though some reviewers have called the Nybor an erotic tarot, its not. Only about half the cards have naked people on them. That said the half that does not only has naked people, but it has naked people screwing in every possible combination. Man-Man, Woman-Woman, Man Woman. Woman being screwed by wolf (not a werewolf mind you, just a wolf). There are hookers, bondage, old people, young people, cunnilingum, fellatio, and lots of lots of cock. A bit too much cock for me thanks. The biggest problem is the “Family” card. There is nothing sexual happening persay, just a father holding a daughter with son at their side – all naked. Nothing wrong with the card itself, however when it gets sandwiched in between a card showing bestiality and another one showing fallatio it kind of paints it in an uncomfortable light. I take it out for special readings, but it could never be my main tarot.
So I turn to the many rider clones. Most of which either make a couple idiotic changes to the symbolism that bug the crap out of me (its the Devil, Robinwood, not people stealing a chest!) or have cartoonish charaters (like almost all Lo Scarabeo decks) that I just cannot connect with.
Of special mention in the Tarot Hall of SHAME is the Dierdre of the Sorrows deck by Deirdre O’Donoghue. This deck is gorgeous. It is pencil with just a few splashes of color. Kind of like the idea behind the Fez Moroccan, but done well. The deck is also printed on this linen card stock that is unlike any other deck. If I ever work with Matt Brownlee to do a Tarot, this is the stock I want it printed on. I just got the deck this past September and when i opened it I was awed at the beauty and simplicity of the scenes which are all slightly Irish pastoral without going crazy with the theme. Just as I was getting into, I came accross the Tower, and I just blurted out audibly: WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!
In this deck, that is all country scenes that could be placed in Ireland in the 17-19th centuries (ie: timeless and not modern at all), is a Tower card that shows an American Bald Eagle in the foreground standing on the rubble of 9-11 with the un-collapsed towers in the background. In other words, it looks like a “never Forget” sticker.
Now, I live in NJ. I was close enough to hear the towers when they fell. I passed them every morning on the way to work until that day. I and everyone else in this area literally breathed in the remains of both the building and the people that died. The last thing I want someone in this area to see when I do a reading is the place that their father, husband, wife or other loved one died. I also don’t like it brought up and exploited for no reason what do fucking ever. This event has been used and twisted in ways that are almost as horrid as the event itself. I just cannot understand the thinking.
I was so offended by this, that I actually wrote her just a few minutes after opening it and asked her to explain her thoughts. She claimed it was a tribute to the American people (she has never been here) and the eagle is the spirit rising after the attack showing the good that can come of it, and the tower is in the background because they can never be truly destroyed, blah blah blah. Apart from changing the whole meaning of the card and ruining the artistic theme of her deck, she answered me in such a smarmy way as if to say “if you were smart enough to realize the symbolism you would understand” that I almost returned the deck. Instead I kept it as an example of bad art.
Sorry. Got off on a bit of a rant there…
Anyway, Last week I was gifted with a deck, that I am now pretty sure is my permenant go-to tarot deck. Its the one that I will use day in and out along with the Sybilla and Mo Dice that I sometimes read.
This deck jumps right into my mind, and gives me reading that are clear as a bell.
Its the Centennial Coleman Smith Deck. In other words: The Rider Waite.
But you haven’t seen this one. This is the deck that comes in the new Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Set. This Deck is beautiful. I never knew how beautiful the Waite deck was, until I opened this up.
Unlike the “Original Waite Deck” from 1993, this really is a reproduction of a 1909 Rider Waite deck that Stuart Kaplan purchased on Ebay last year. He went all out and made a deck with clean lines, and coloring exactly how Pixie Smith did it – no more colors running together, no more splotchy faces and crappy lines. This is how it was meant to be done.
The colors are very subdued compared to other versions, in fact the whole deck has a sort of tea-stained look. Even the white on the borders of the cards is not bright white. Before writing this I dragged out my regular Rider Waite and my Original Rider Waite and compared them card for card with this Centennial deck. The difference is astounding.
My only question is why did it take so long for them to do this?
The set is $35 and has a wealth of info on Pamela Colman Smith, a copy of key to the Tarot, and a few other non-occult prints. The deck alone is well worth the price.