My Top Decks of All Time

March 9, 2008 § 1 Comment

I made a startling discovery today. Whilst compiling the list of my personal top decks of all time for a forum topic, I realized only THREE out of the 25 decks I own made the grade. What does this mean? Are all the other decks I own no good? Have the last five years of tarot deck acquisition been wasted? Should I get rid of all my other decks? (Don’t panic – that’s not a serious question.)

It’s possible my standards are too high. When I sat down to make the list, I thought it would consist of 5-7 decks (including the Haindl and the Mythic which are no-brainers). I got my decks out and looked through them. And for almost all of them, I just couldn’t place my hand on my heart and say, Yes, this deck is an all-time favourite, This is a Top Deck.

I am (generally) not a compulsive deck buyer. I think 25 decks over five years shows a moderately restrained approach to deck-buying. I’ve also recently sold several decks which I no longer had feelings for. (Which, okay, means that it’s probably been more like 35 decks over five years, but still…) My point is, I thought nearly all the decks in my collection were top decks. It was quite a shock to find out how few of them I would publicly honour with that title.

So why did I reject so many? Well, here are the ones I considered but didn’t pick:

International Icon
Transformational Tarot
I Naibi di Giovanni Vacchetta
Original Rider Waite
Hoi Polloi

The International Icon is a desperately underrated deck. I think the world needs a deck like this, a neutral deck – unthemed, un-esoteric, devoid of any references to gender, race or belief system. But I don’t read with it often and, unfortunately, I’ve come to associate it with work after spending so long with it during the making of Tarot Stripped Bare. So I can’t honestly say it’s a top deck for me. 

The Transformational Tarot has given me some very good readings over the year or so since I got it. The cards combine well to tell stories. But it’s a very personal deck (personal to its creator, that is) and I find some of the cards difficult to relate to. As a collage deck, it occasionally feels inconsistent to me. Some images are very beautiful whilst others, well…not so much.

The Vacchetta is without doubt a deck of outstanding artistic skill and production quality. It was a thirtieth birthday gift from Hubby so will always be treasured. But I rarely read with it and the non-scenic pips and Marseille-ish structure of the deck mean it doesn’t altogether feel like tarot to me. At least, not the tarot I’m used to.

If I had to choose a RWS, it would be the Original. I prefer the grainy colours of this version to any other (I think I recently described this deck as “vintagey”, which seems a good a label as any). But the RWS has never been a favourite of mine. It’s a useful reference deck and you can’t argue its contribution to the tarotverse, but “top deck”? I’m afraid not.

Finally, the Hoi Polloi. Hmmm…the most expensive deck I’ve ever bought. I love the colours, the stylized art and the feel of the cardstock, which is soft and chewy (not that I’ve tried eating it, but that seems like a good word for it). This almost made the cut. It missed out because I find it difficult to read with (no idea why) and because some of the images are a little muddy. The suit of wands, in particular, could be more appealing.

So those are the almost-rans.

And now, finally, without further ado, procrastination, umming, ahhing or beating around the bush, here are my top tarot decks of all time (so far):

1. Haindl Tarot
I like this deck because I find the art profoundly beautiful and it weaves together so many different traditions. I also like the respect it shows for nature, the earth, and history. I have studied it for almost a year now and I have barely scratched the surface. I am continually learning from it.

2. The Mythic Tarot
This is probably my favourite reading deck. I like it because I love Greek mythology, and because it doesn’t pull any punches – in particular, the swords suit seems to delight in portraying as much tragedy and suffering as possible. It has good “range” – meaning I think it’s able to address all kinds of problems and situations.

3. Morgan Greer
I’ve had this deck much longer than the other two so it’s an old favourite. I like it because it is a very strong, masculine deck. In readings it says what needs to be said. I also like the bold colours, the “close-up” artwork and the lack of borders.

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