Most teachers would say the Rider-Waite Tarot is best for beginners, or maybe decks that are like the Rider-Waite. But if you don't even know why the Rider-Waite is preferred, or what makes a deck similar to the Rider-Waite, or what the heck a "rider weight" is anyway, you might have a hard time taking this advice on faith. In fact, if you're like me, having somebody tell you that you have to do something a certain way will cause you to resist doing what you're told. People drawn to Tarot are often rebels, after all... That deck is evil! Don't look at Tarot! they said, and here we are. :)
Which Tarot Deck is Right for You?
I think you can start learning on any Tarot deck. Each presents its own unique challenges, but that's exactly the point: we all respond differently to different teachers and teaching styles. Consider the deck a teaching style, and any accompanying books on the deck a teacher. If you're an excellent, adaptable student, any teacher (and therefore any Tarot deck) will do. If you're like most people, though, you'll prefer some teachers and their teaching styles over others.
That's why I made this quiz. People frequently ask me, "What Tarot deck is good for beginners?" and some of them follow it up with, "I don't like the Rider-Waite..." Or, "I have a deck, but I've never been able to learn on it..." Ultimately, learning takes effort and the willingness to make a habit of developing your knowledge and skills. Loving the tools you're learning with works wonders, though. If you've ever heard an artist say, "I thought I wasn't good at painting, but then I discovered watercolor," it's kind of like that.
Getting Your First Tarot Deck
Maybe you've heard that a Tarot deck needs to be gifted to you. I bought mine at a store, and most people nowadays do the same. Hooray, mass printing and easy access to teachers!
My advice is to go to a store that sells a wide variety of Tarot decks, and ask if they have samples. Some places will provide a sample deck for each variety they sell, and you can thumb through the whole thing, shuffle it, and really experience how the deck feels when you use it.
Other places might have a key ring or a binder behind the counter full of example cards. Deck publishers send extra, sample cards to retailers for just this purpose, hoping that seeing 6 cards from a product will convince them to stock the deck in the store. The only danger of looking at the binder to view sample cards is you might walk away with, like, five brand new, gorgeous Tarot decks instead of one. ;) Do your wallet a favor: make a commitment to learn on one deck, and only buy a second to reward yourself for getting the hang of your first!
Take some time shopping around, and pick the one you fall in love with. Why? Because love inspires us to commit. That's why fitness coaches tell you to find an exercise you enjoy, and why diet books promise yummy recipes. Learning Tarot takes work, but it shouldn't feel like a chore.
Take the personality quiz to match you to a Tarot deck!
This quiz takes over 30 popular decks that you're sure to love and gives you 2-4 suggestions based on your answers. It's like a sorting hat for Tarot cards! Don't want the deck it assigns you? Change an answer or two and get a new result. It's your education!
Which deck did you learn on? I learned on the Morgan-Greer. I have friends who learned on the Robin Wood, the Hanson-Roberts, the Thoth deck... and my students have brought all manner of decks to the table! If it has 78 unique cards, four suits, and 22 major arcana, it's a Tarot deck, and you can adapt generic teachings on the Tarot to whatever's going on your version.