It’s All Indie Cards

There are a lot of tarot decks out there to choose from. It’s hard to find an original fortune-telling deck these days – one that resonates with both your spiritual path and your aesthetic. I’ve sifted through hundreds of professionally published decks only to come up with one I love and can actually read with — The Wildwood Tarot (though, what I wouldn’t do to get my hands on the original Greenwood Tarot… except pay half my rent for it). One alternative is to go old-school and learn how to read fortunes with ordinary playing cards.

Another option is to look for independently published tarot decks which you can purchase directly from the artist. The wonderful thing about indie decks is that the artists have no restrictions put upon them by a publisher, no one interfering with their artwork or design, resulting in a deck that truly speaks the artist’s vision. An indie deck is also more likely to have been created by a card reader for other card readers, usually resulting in a more functional deck rather than a “collector’s” deck. Often crowdfunded, the downside to indie tarot decks is that they are often only available in limited quantities due to the high cost of printing, so when they sell out — they’re gone and the artist can’t afford to print more. Learn from my mistakes: if you find an indie deck you love, snap it up as soon as you have the funds!

Below is a selection of independent goodness to get a taste of what is out there from playing cards to tarot and oracle decks.


54 DEVILS: THE ART & FOLKLORE OF FORTUNE-TELLING WITH PLAYING CARDS

54 Devils by Cory Thomas HutchesonAuthor: Cory Thomas Hutcheson

Purchase: amazon.com

Okay, so it’s not a tarot deck, but if you buy this book all you’ll ever need is a pack of playing cards (you probably already have some in a junk drawer somewhere). If you had your fortune told sixty to a hundred years ago  by a little old granny, it would’ve been with a regular deck of playing cards or a cup of tea rather than a tarot or oracle deck. Cory is an excellent folklorist with a passion for history and is the host of the popular New World Witchery podcast. He has the ability to make complex subjects easy to approach and will soon have you telling fortunes with your playing cards instead of playing gin rummy.


ARCANE BULLSHIT ORACLE CARDS

Artist: Evan Doherty

Website: arcanebullshit.com

Purchase: thegamecrafter.com

“Arcane Bullshit is an incredibly grave and sophisticated divination system, steeped in potent and unfathomable meaning, and intended for the solemn contemplation of serious disciples only.”

I’m sure there are those out there who would be offended by this deck, but I think it’s awesome with a side of awesome sauce. A mocking tarot parody of 49 cards that can, ironically, in fact be used for performing real readings.  Look for original cards such as “Raptor Riding a Dolphin in Space” and “Look at this Fucking Hourglass”. If you have a sense of humour and you’re a fan of black and white decks (or you’re a Discordian or Pastafarian or a big fan of Cards Against Humanity), go check it out. It pleases me greatly.

Arcane Bullshit


CHIBI TAROT

Artist: Adam Blodgett

Website: chibitarot.com

The Chibi Tarot is a Kickstarter-funded deck that appears cute and silly on the surface but which actually has deeper and complex meanings hidden within. Chibi is a style of Japanese art known for it’s child-like cuteness. Even if you’re not aware of chibi, if you love cartoon-like artwork and are look for an adorable deck that is still an easy and approachable  choice to perform tarot readings with, this one is for you. It’s still a work in progress, however, so you’ll have to wait to get your hands on the full deck. The major arcana is currently available in the shop for collectors and those who can’t wait. I have friends who seriously need this deck…


GOLDEN MOTH ILLUMINATION DECK

Artist: Aijung Kim

Website: aijungkim.com

Purchase: etsy.com

An original 75-card oracle deck with story book style illustrations full of symbolism. This one is something completely different, a new divination system made up by the artist which comes with its own meanings, a booklet, and reading spread. The artist recommends to use it for inspiration if you are an artist, musician, or writer, or to use it for divination as you would a tarot deck. This deck was also funded by Kickstarter and is limited to 300 decks. It’s a bit pricier than other decks, but because it is one-of-a-kind, I consider it worth the extra cash. I love the simple illustrations and spare choice of colours. If anyone owns this deck, I’d love to hear what reading with it is like.

Golden Moth Illumination Deck by Aijung Kim


PORTABLE FORTITUDE PLAYING CARDS

Portable Fortitude by Corina DrossArtist: Corina Dross

Website: corinadross.com

Purchase: etsy.com

Portable Fortitude is not a tarot deck, but a unique set of playing cards where each card is a work of talismanic art to protect from just about anything life can throw at you. The Kings and Queens are illustrations of people that inspired the artist and are meant to be “emblematic of certain virtues”.  The cards are beautifully and sparely illustrated using only the traditional playing card colours of black, white, and red.

It is a fun deck, but they are also magically practical in case you need protection from garden pests, puritans, heartbreak, disturbed sleep, narcissism, cynicism, stagnation… or the more whimsical “protection from rebirth as an insect” and “protection from feeling left out when your friends haven’t called… but you haven’t called them either”. There is a talismanic card for everyone and every situation making this a great deck to purchase to give individual cards away, or to keep the whole deck on hand as needed for any situations that come up in your life. They are a perfect size to sneak into a wallet, purse or notebook, or to place on your altar, tuck into a door frame, or under your mattress. If you need “bigger” protection, the artist also sells larger prints of the individual cards which are perfect to frame and hang on your wall for some more long-term protection. Overall, a beautiful, fun, practical, and affordable deck.


WILD UNKNOWN TAROT

Artist: Kim Krans

Website: thewildunknown.com

This one has been on my wishlist for a long time, but I always put off purchasing it due to the expensive shipping to Canada. It’s so gorgeous and high quality and I love the dark and simple nature-themed illustrations with the spare but intense use of colour… I’m just going to have to buck up and grab it next pay day. I can see myself reading with this deck and that’s what usually cinches a buy for me when it comes to a tarot deck. Have you ever worn a tarot card? Some of the cards have been turned into sexy, rustic silver pendants and rings in a collaboration with the talented Unearthen Jewelry. I covet. Okay, I covet everything over at The Wild Unknown

Wild Unknown Tarot by Kim Krans


WOODEN TAROT

Artist: Amy Swartz

Website: skullgarden.net

Purchase Full Deck: kickstarter.com

Purchase Major Arcana: etsy.com

The Wooden Tarot was originally a Kickstarter-funded major arcana art deck of extra-large cards.  It was so successful and the artist received such good feedback and so many pleas for a full deck that she has started working on the minor arcana. I own the original major arcana deck of which only 1000 were printed (available here) and love the artwork, which is almost psychedelic — like viewing nature through eyes painted with entheogens. The deck gets its name from the artwork for each card being drawn onto birch wood. I’m excited for the minor arcana as, instead of being conventional, will be suits of plumes (birds & feathers for air), blooms (flowers for water), bones (animal bones & skulls! for earth), and stones (crystals & antlers for fire). I don’t have to see you to know you’re drooling.

The Wooden Tarot by Amy Swrtz

Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • Clare says:

    I have to say, Wild Unknown is worth every penny. The cards are sturdy and they come is a quality lidded box with a ribbon. The imagery is beautiful, a combination between spare and intricate. When I read with them it’s like the meaning is beamed directly into my brain. Chills!

    Thanks for sharing Arcane Bullshit. The cards remind me of fortunes we’d write as kids for cootie catchers/fortune tellers!

  • Carla says:

    These are truly some wonderful works of art. What do you do when you have all these ideas running around in your head for tarot decks but your really not much of an artist? I think mine would end up being the stick figure deck lol.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Yeti says:

    As always, thanks for pointing. I’ve been eyeing Wild Unknown for some time also. Good review of it on Aeclectic but you knew that… :)

    Adam McLean, author of alchemical texts, has an informative site for Tarot enthusiasts as well as an exhaustive database on the subject at his Tarot Weblog.

    Peace

  • Euforilla says:

    I have the Wild Unknown Tarot deck, it’s truly beautiful and as Clare says they’re great quality.
    Though I have to say that while reading some “meanings” come out differently, some cards speak to me different things if comparing the same card to a “classic” one.
    This is not a “bad” thing, it’s fun to pick up a deck first and then its cards, I think it adds to the value of the reading ^_^

  • Kayla says:

    I own the Wildwood deck and use it fairly often. It is the first deck I ever owned that really spoke to me. I covet the Wild Unknown deck though. However, I do have a deck that I love dearly and works better for me than any deck I’ve ever used or owned. It’s called The Stolen Child Tarot based off of W.B. Yeats’ poem. A friend of mine gifted it to me and she purchased it off of etsy. I posted about it in my blog here: http://thewhitethornwitch.com/2014/01/18/to-the-waters-and-the-wild/
    Such beautiful, charming, otherworldly artwork! I believe one of the things I love most about this deck is that the artists left off the names of the cards so that it allows you to truly divine solely by the images without any distraction by words or names (I have trouble with that with most decks).

  • Isabel says:

    You’re so right about snapping up decks that speak to you as long as they’re available! I just ordered the Burning Serpent Oracle on Indiegogo in its final days and I’m so excited. I already have the Alchemical Tarot Renewed from the same artist, Robert M. Place, and I’ve never loved a deck more. They both cost me an arm & a leg but I can’t wait to see how they interact!

  • There’s some beautiful things here…now I will shop!

  • Pamela says:

    I’ve had my eye on the wild unknown tarot, I may just have to treat myself next month :)

    I’m currently using the mythic tarot but the imagery doesn’t do it for me.

    Have you thought about creating your own deck?

  • Joanna DeVoe says:

    This is so cool! Love this list- all the creativity- AND I JUST posted an interview with Kim Krans of The Wild Unknown today! Sweet synchronicity… And- of course, I’m still hoping to interview you too one day, Ms. Lawless. -xo

  • Hello!

    Truly wonderful tarot cards! My prefered one is the Portable Fortitude Playing Cards. It’s funny :)
    However, I must say I really wouldn’t care of rebirthing as an insect. It’s life is too short (in the case life wasn’t so good, there wouldn’t be a good reason to blame it). What really makes me afraid is to rebirth as a turtle (imagine me in an aquarium)…

    Thank you :)

  • Robin says:

    A friend of mine just posted about this deck on Etsy, and I thought of you. The artist is in the PNW (Bellingham, WA). https://www.etsy.com/listing/184943893/nomad-tarot-deck-modern-illustrated?ref=shop_home_active_1 I really want the Wild Unknown deck. And am super pissed that I missed out on the Krist Mort deck. :-\

  • Phoebe says:

    Wow! Thanks for the great recommendations. They’re all incredibly stunning.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Great suggestions from everyone. Another great deck worth considering is the Mary-el Tarot. It is my personal favorite and the one I set aside my Wildwood deck for. The illustrations are gorgeous and speak to me on so many levels. Just as wonderful is the accompanying book. Beautifully written. She has her own etsy shop here:

    https://www.etsy.com/shop/MarieWhiteArt?ref=listing-shop-header-item-count

    You can preview all of the cards in the deck. The book, however, is what pushes this deck from extraordinary into the sublime.

  • Luke says:

    I really urge people to check out ‘Lenormand’ decks also. The simple symbolism in these cards are quick for anyone to learn and they are currently experiencing a burst of renewed interest. You can find cheap, classical decks online easily. I think Lenormand is perfect for someone who wants to read using an alternative to Tarot, or for someone who enjoys the ‘fortunetelling’ side of divination. I personally find the simple symbols speak to a deep part of my mind and all sorts of interesting meanings present themselves when I am divining using these decks. They are really addictive to collect also!

  • Yvonne says:

    Thanks for pointing us towards some great artists! I didn’t know skullgarden before *swoon*
    I’d love to one day have a place where all this art comes together…

  • WanderingGreen says:

    Thanks for the recommendation of the The Wild Unknown deck. I am also from Canada so was expecting a huge shipping cost based on your comment but it is quite reasonable. Shipping from the US to Canada took a massive jump a year or two back and everything costs more to ship up here.

  • Chris says:

    I have been working with the Tarot of the Spirit deck by Pamela Eakins for awhile now…..I never got as strong a “pull” from any other deck and its a very “light” oriented deck. But wow! That WildUnknown deck looks amazing. It would probably be a good balance to my other deck.

    Thanks for sharing. :)

  • Brianna says:

    I own the Wildwood deck and find that it is the only one I use. I never connected with any deck before that one and it is a beautiful one to own! Earlier this year I had won a contest run by New World Witchery and received 54 Devils as part of the prize. If you haven’t picked it up yet, I sincerely would urge you to to do so. The book is well written, interesting and I actually find that I enjoy using plain ol’ playing cards for divination over Tarot. Well worth the money!

  • Riezen says:

    After reading this, I must admit Reading The Cards has never been my strong suit (no pun intended). But it has sparked my interest in creating my own deck as I am decent with the Calligraphy Pen. I live on an old farm surrounded by 100 year old Oaks and plenty of wild growing lovelies to provide all the inspiration I need.

  • Cory says:

    Thank you for the mention, Sarah!

    I have the Portable Fortitude deck, which is really wonderful in terms of symbols being paired with a focus. I’ve never been able to read them, exactly, but I really love them as images I can use to focus on specific needs (sort of artistic sigils, I guess).

    Love that Golden Moth deck, and the Arcane BS one as well (right on with the Cards Against Humanity similarity there, by the way…if Laine and I ever sit down with you we’ll have to play a game or 9 of that). And I will definitely be looking more closely at the Wooden Tarot. It looks a bit like a naturalist’s deck, which is very appealing!

    Thank you as well, Brianna! That’s absolutely lovely of you to say :-)