Style and Theme
When choosing a Tarot deck, I consider the theme to be of primary importance. Themes that I am drawn to are nature and world myths. Because I relate well to nature, I often see more meaning in the cards beyond the usual Tarot ones. For example, in “The Tarot of the Animal Lords” (Angelo Giannini, 1999), The Empress (III) is a she-wolf and The Hierophant (V) is a reindeer. If these two cards show up in spread, this adds to the basic meaning of the Tarot cards since the wolf/deer pairing is the dynamic predator and prey balance.
I enjoy the literary overlay of the Tarot and a particular myth because both enhance the other. Choosing cards based on myths leads into choosing the culture depicted in a Tarot deck. The cultures I gravitate towards are Egyptian and Middle Eastern, since I find them fascinating. Because I do no resonate with the Celtic culture, I usually do not buy decks about this popular culture.
An example of what I see in the cultural decks that I do enjoy is “The Jane Austen Tarot” (Diane Wilkes, 2006) which presents the “myths” of the English Regency period. This Tarot deck features Jane Austen’s perceptions of English life at the time, supplementing the Tarot card’s meaning. For example, Elizabeth Bennet as The Fool (0) goes off unaccompanied, which was frowned upon for young women of the time. This gives The Fool (0) the added dimension of great daring.
Another major criterion of mine is the art style. Because I express myself in color, it is important to me to have decks with bold colors and striking lines. I also see time and words in color (synesthesia). For these reasons, I do not seek out decks that employ muted colors. Since color is important, I have made exceptions to owning certain decks such as “The Celtic Wisdom Tarot” by Caitlin Matthews (1999). The Mingler (Temperance, XIV) of this deck positively glows with greens and blues to soothe you. The Remember (Hierophant, V) uses oranges, reds, yellows offset by greens to startle you beyond The Hierophant’s (V) staid role.
Besides colors, I do enjoy decks in water colors or in the style of the Impressionists. I enjoy these styles of painting and look for them in Tarot decks. Again, “The Celtic Wisdom Tarot” won me over with its expressive artwork. Meanwhile, “The Tarot of the Animal Lords” by Angelo Giannini (1999) shows art with a sense of joy and humor. I appreciate a well-realized picture gracefully drawn.
When choosing a deck, I rarely think about the time period. Most of the decks I own (outside of the Rider-Waite ones for Tarot class) have no particular period. As nature-themed decks, they exist in the now. The decks focused on Egyptian myths of course are in ancient historical periods. However, I do find it jarring to see modern things in Tarot decks. I tend to avoid such decks as “The Housewives Tarot” by Paul Kepple and Jude Buffum (2004) or “Baseball Tarot” by Mark Lerner and Dan Gardiner (1999). However, I do enjoy “Science Tarot” (various, 2010) because of the topic and execution of style. The telescopes, Bunsen burners, and microscopes seem to be soft and fitting in this particular deck.
In choosing a Tarot deck, I prefer lively art work with a mythic or natural theme. There are exceptions because of the theme or well-designed cards. However, time periods are rarely a factor for my choices.