here 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
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
“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.
Artist: Adam Blodgett
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
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.
PORTABLE FORTITUDE PLAYING CARDS
Artist: Corina Dross
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
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…
Artist: Amy Swartz
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.