My favorite deck as of late! And a completely non-traditional deck with beautiful artwork, complex symbolism and deep spirituality. Developed and created by Mary White, each card mixes mythology, folklore, animal lore, and occult / alchemical symbolism to portray deep glimpses into the stirrings of the universe. Most of the cards break with traditional Rider-Waite-Smith and Crawley meanings, and do not shy away from darkness. I love the heavy use of hermaphrodites, ethnic diversity and feminist messages in the card imagery. My only complaint about this deck is in its physical size and printing quality–the large, glossy cards make it a bit difficult to shuffle. Published by Schiffer.
Contemporary and ethereal, my second most used deck. It became a favorite from the moment I unpacked it based on the beautiful imagery alone. I love the modern re-interpretations of the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith cards, soft lines, pastel colors, and use of abstract shapes and geometry mixed with realistically rendered characters. And the extra 79th “Fountain” card adds an additional spiritual component to an already uplifting deck that feels always to speak to me from a pure and high source of wisdom and knowledge. Because each card has a narrative image, this is a great deck for those new to Tarot. Self-published.
Purchase at Fountaintarot.com.
The Wild Unknown Tarot
If any Tarot deck could be claimed to have a cult following, it’s The Wild Unknown. Just google “wild unknown tarot tattoo” and you’ll see why. Designed and created by artist Kim Krans, each card utilizes hand-drawn line work, stark but bold use of color, and no people. That’s right–all her cards feature only animals, symbols and aspects of nature. This is a fun, beautiful deck to use, and the subtle ways that the cards connect and interact through symbols and flashes of color create deep readings. Published by Harper Elixir.
Dreaming Way Tarot
I love this deck for the quirky, character forward images. Each card features a different person, impeccably dressed, sporting a pouty facial expression. Each card seems to want to interact with you, the reader, immediately. This deck was developed by Rome Choi, a transpersonal psychologist, so it is no wonder I connected with the deck immediately. The images are modern re-interpretations of the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition. A highly accessible deck for beginning Tarot readers. Published by US Games.
The Motherpeace Tarot
Created and illustrated by Karen Vogel and Vicki Noble back in the 1970s, this round, feminist deck has had surprising staying power. Perhaps because there is nothing else like it out there. Many of the card names have been renamed to portray a matriarchal lineage, and each suit is represented by a different pre-Christian culture and nature-oriented spirituality. Each card image is charmingly hand drawn and for the most part breaks with traditional Rider-Waite-Smith pictures. The round format of the cards creates a subtle but powerful impact on the readings. This was the first Tarot deck I ever purchased (when I was 21 years old) and so will always have a special place in my heart. Published by US Games.
The Original Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot
All who are serious about Tarot need to have a version of this deck in their library, if only for reference. Countless contemporary decks have been based on the original Rider Waite. Conceived by Arthur Waite and illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith (who until recently, received little credit for her work), this deck comes out of the hermetic tradition and spiritual occultism of the early 1900s. Some of the medieval imagery may feel passe, but the themes and symbolism in the cards are still surprisingly relevant.
Sacred Symbols Oracle
The first time I received a reading with this deck, I knew I needed it immediately. Something clicked on a deep, spiritual level, as if the deck was actually calling my name. The beauty of this deck is in its simplicity. Each card is full bleed, hand painted and includes just one word and one symbol. The 54 cards may be used for self-discovery or meditation. Marcella Kroll, the deck creator and an intuitive healer and reader, charges and blesses each deck to make sure it gets into the right hands. I always get distinctly positive, loving and healing readings from this deck, as if the Great Mother herself, the nurturing life source of the universe, is speaking through them. Self-published by Marcella Kroll.
To purchase, visit Marcella’s Etsy Store.
The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Oracle
I waited a long while to find an animal spirit deck that really spoke to me. Luckily, tKim Krans of the Wild Unknown Tarot, answered that call with this deck. Featuring the same line work and stark, bold use of color, I love the illustrations and animal depictions. The deck is not totally comprehensive, though no animal deck is. And I think a companion book on animal symbolism, like Animal Speak by Ted Andrews (see below), helps deepen the readings. I love the inclusions of some fantastical creatures like Dragon and Unicorn. There is also a strong, grounded quality to this deck that helps to ground the reader firmly in the physical world. Published by the Wild Unknown.
Books on Tarot, Symbolism and Animal Totems
Tarot for Your Self by Mary K. Greer
This is my go-to referral for those wanting a book on deepening their solo practice on drawing cards. Greer offers several approaches and exercises that will get you building a close relationship with your cards and exploring their meanings in a personal and intuitive way.
(Of course, I also offer an Intuitive Tarot Self-Study course called Daily Tarot – Learn more here.)
Animal Speak by Ted Andrews
I have learned a tremendous amount from this book, which includes over 100 explanations of animal, insect, reptile and bird totems. Each explanation is long and full, focusing on natural behaviors, as well as mythical and cultural associations. Also included in the book are meditations to get you in touch with animal spirits, how to recognize when an animal totem has made itself known to you, and the different aspects to consider about your animal totem.
Man and His Symbols
If you’d like to learn about Carl Jung and his influence, this is a wonderful book to get your feet wet in his theory of the symbolic world, archetypes and unconscious realms. I regularly return to this book when I am looking for inspiration. It is a classic. Jung is my primary teacher when it comes to the foundations of dream interpretation and working with archetypes.
Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack
I don’t usually love or promote books on Tarot card explanations, but I make an exception for Pollack’s book, because each card explanation is so thought out. Even with her historical and well researched approach, however, I find myself disagreeing with her explanations often. But I suppose that is half the fun. To allow your intuition to reveal itself when something isn’t aligned with your own experience.