Working with Multiple Decks

If the title of this article piqued your interest, I can confidently say one thing about you: you own a number of tarot decks. I have approximately sixty-three (and counting) at the moment, and I’ll bet it’s safe to say you have at least ten or more. I’m sure some of them have very beautiful art work, others are steeped in rich symbolism and still others seem to have something that just connects with you. The question is: Are you using them at some time or another for your readings?

I’ll bet you have one or two decks that you use most often, and another three or four that you rotate on occasion, as the mood strikes you. Assuming you have others sitting around the house gathering dust, I believe I have some good reasons for you to think about taking those decks out of their boxes or bags and start working with them for your readings.

So Many Decks, So Little Time

I find it absolutely fascinating that there are so many different types of Tarot decks in the market today. You can find decks based on various themes, cultures, fantasies, esoteric disciplines and spirituality. Here’s a brief look at what you can find on web sites such as Aeclecitc.net and TarotGarden.com.

Style
Animals, Art, Beginners, Business, Crystals, Erotic, Fantasy, Flowers, Food, Gay & Lesbian, Herbs & Plants, Historical, Humorous, Love, Marseilles, Multicultural, Novelty, Occult, Rider-Waite Clones, Scientific, Sports, Thoth Clones, Visconti, Women

Cultural
Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Greek, Asian, Australian, Celtic, Gothic, Eastern European, Mayan, Medieval, Modern, Native American, Norse, Renaissance, Russian, South American

Fantasy
Aliens, Arthurian, Dragons, Dreams, Fairies, Fairy Tales, The Grail, Vampires,

Esoteric Disciplines
Astrology, I Ching, Runes, Sacred Geometry,

Spiritual
Angels, Christian, Goddess, Golden Dawn, Pagan & Wiccan, Qabalah,

The enormous variety of decks provides you with the opportunity to find something that really connects with you and that really speaks to your soul. You’ll likely find that there are several decks that make that type of connection with you – and that’s a good thing! These decks will give you the means to explore and expand your psychic and intuitive gifts, and enable you to see things that you might not have seen before or even thought conceivable.

I believe there are three basic reasons why you should consider using a variety of decks for your readings.

First: To go beyond your comfort zone.

How many of you have a couch or reclining chair made by a particular manufacturer that you’ve owned for a long time? What about a particular brand of golf clubs or frying pans? Would you ever consider updating what you have or completely switching to another brand? Probably not. And, why not? Because you’re comfortable with what you have. You already know how to get the recliner just to the right level of comfort, and you know just where the lumps are located in the couch; you’ve gotten accustomed to the feel of those clubs and your handicap is pretty decent; you have a feel for the pans and know what types of food you can cook in each one.

Tarot decks are just the same. You have two or three decks that you owned for a long time. They’ve been shuffled thousands of times (and it shows) and they physically feel good. You have a great connection with them, you understand the symbolism, and you’re so comfortable with the core card meanings that you’ve stopped relying on your memory to bring them forth during a reading. It’s all good. So, what’s the problem?

There is no problem, really. You could blissfully continue to do your readings as you’ve done for some time. There is a point, however, when you’re likely to hit a plateau – a period when you find it difficult to read the cards. The cards may not make sense sometimes, or the reading makes you scratch your head and wonder what it is you feel you’re missing, or you feel you just don’t seem to have the connection to the cards that you had in the past. What’s going on, then? Nothing overtly troublesome –you’ve just hit the maximum level of your comfort zone.

Don’t worry, this happens at some point to everyone who does what we do, and it also happens to people in the creative arts. I’ve been a practicing guitarist since I was 15 and I can tell you it’s happened to me a few times. How do you get back into your comfort zone? By going out of it and doing something to extend it. Using different decks for your readings is a great way for you to do this.

Second: To broaden your perspectives.

Working with other decks will undoubtedly increase your Tarot Vocabulary – the words and phrases that you have available to you in your mind for a given card – and enable you to interpret the cards with much greater depth. You’ll soon discover a lot of new meanings for cards you thought you knew so well. You’ll take into consideration how a card makes you feel, what it makes you think about, how it strikes you visually, and what it seems to say to you on a personal level. The more decks you study, the wider your vocabulary will grow. Don’t worry about explicitly memorizing each new meaning you learn or create – your mind can assimilate far more information than you can imagine and a given meaning will come back to you when the time is right.

For example, take a look at these three Devil cards. The first is from the Radiant Rider-Waite deck, the second is from the Robin Wood Tarot, and the third is from the Cosmic Tarot.

Multiple Decks Figure 1

You probably already know that two of the core meanings for the Radiant Rider-Waite Devil card are addiction and self-imposed difficulties. (There are more, but let’s use these for now.) Look at the Robin Wood Devil. It seems to me that the couple is unnecessarily dragging the chest with them and that they are allowing it to impede their progress to the open door. The two phrases I get for this card are impeding your own progress and unnecessarily clinging to negative energies. The Cosmic Tarot Devil is a rather dapper fellow who seems to be quite materialistic and in control of people and things around him. The two phrases that jump to my mind here are stop taking yourself so seriously and you’re trying to take too much control. (You’ll certainly come up with more meanings as you study these cards more carefully.) At this point you’ve increased your Tarot Vocabulary and can now incorporate these means as appropriate in your readings.

The difference in the artwork between your current decks and the ones you’re beginning to explore will trigger new discoveries about symbolism in general, and the symbolism in your cards in particular. You’ll naturally want to understand the symbolism in the decks you’re studying, especially as to how it differs from the symbolism you already know. This will automatically broaden your symbolic knowledge, and will also produce a beneficial side effect. As you return to look at your current decks, you’ll begin to notice intricacies and characteristics in your cards that you previously missed – it will very likely add a certain amount of clarity and nuance to your readings.

The flow of the artwork within the Major Arcana or a given suit will provide new perspectives to your current view of the cards. You’ll begin to see different aspects that you may have not thought about before, and new patterns between the cards will emerge. You’ll also learn how the slightest details can make enormous differences in your readings, details such as the position of a figure, the color scheme of a background, the placement of an object, or the facial expression of a given figure. These will all make a difference in the final story you reveal for the reading.

Take a look at the Devil cards once again. Note how the figures in the Radiant Rider-Waite deck are at a complete standstill. In contrast, notice the struggle going on in the Robin Wood Tarot’s Devil – you can tell the couple is desperately trying to move that chest forward. The Devil in the Cosmic Tarot seems to be trying to avoid looking forward and has a condescending smirk, as if he knows something that everyone else doesn’t know. These are all subtleties and perspectives that you can now draw upon to add extra depth to your readings.

Multiple Decks Figure 1

It’s simply amazing how studying a few other decks for a while will make you see your current decks in a new light, enabling you to get deeper and richer readings from them. The ultimate benefit from doing this is that you’ve broadened your knowledge and understanding of the cards and certainly moved out of your comfort zone.

Third: To identify specialty decks.

There’s an old saying that goes, “Use the right tool for the job.” This was brought to my attention in a crystal clear manner by my Automotive Shop instructor back in high school when he said “Don’t use a screw driver to remove the brake shoes, use the brake shoe tool!” Years later I found it also applied to the use of my guitars as a professional guitarist. I certainly wouldn’t use my Fender Stratocaster to play Tarrega classical pieces, and I wouldn’t use my Takamine Classical guitar to play James Brown funk. I’d use the right guitar for the job.

In studying other decks, you’ll eventually learn that certain decks lend themselves to specific types of issues or situations. These decks can become the Specialty Decks in your collection that you’ll use on those occasions when your regular decks just don’t seem to reveal the depth and detail you need for the reading. Here are two examples of how this works for me.

I find that the Osho Zen Tarot is particularly good for inward readings, that is, when the focus must be on the client’s personal, innermost thoughts, feelings and viewpoints. The artwork really lends itself to looking inward, and everyone for whom I’ve read using this deck has walked away from the reading with the sense of having made a true connection with his or her inner self.

Multiple Decks Figure 2

I really prefer the Cosmic Tarot for relationship readings. There is a lot of intensity in the deck, especially in the figures of the people. I’ve often used a court card to describe “the other person” and I’ve been surprisingly accurate. I also like the broad range of emotion that the cards provide – it really provides a depth that I’ve seen only occasionally in other decks.

Multiple Decks Figure 3

I’ve got several specialty decks, and I use them in the same manner that I use my guitars – I use the “right” deck for the given topic.

Expand Your Horizons

Aside from using other decks for your readings, try using two decks for a single reading. Or three, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous. You’ll be amazed at the layers of meaning you’ll see if you do this. The cards you draw from both decks will typically support each other in terms of the message itself, and in some cases, the cards from both decks will be so close in meaning to each other that the overall message becomes undeniably clear.

I hope I’ve given you ample food for thought and some good reasons to consider using a variety of decks for your readings. Let me be clear about something, though: I’m not saying that you actually have to use the decks you study, but I sure think it’s a great way to keep your readings fresh. I also think it’s just a whole lot of fun!

Images from the Rider-Waite Tarot and the Cosmic Tarot copyright U.S. Games Systems. Images from the Robin Wood Tarot copyright Llewellyn Publishing. Images from the Osho Zen Tarot copyright St. Martin’s Press.

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7 Responses to Working with Multiple Decks

  1. Sharon says:

    Thanks so much for the great post Mike. You’re absolutely right. I’ve gotten used to using my favorite four or five decks to read with when I have a numerous collection to choose from. I needed this reminder to take me out of the box, pardon the pun, and give me some new and different perspectives when I’m doing a reading.

  2. Lady_Seeta says:

    hi mike
    I have the nudge of buying a second deck of cards but i dont know if i should buy the same one or another style. What do u think?

  3. If you’re still learning the Tarot, it would probably be a good idea to buy the same one. If you’re getting more comfortable with the Tarot, then I’d suggest buying a different deck. You could try the Universal Tarot, the Robin Wood Tarot, the Radiant Waite Tarot, or perhaps the Pictorial Key Tarot. All of these would be great second decks. Let me know what you finally purchased. :?)

  4. woley says:

    I’m late to the party Mike but would like to say that my collection of disparate tarot decks (and other cards) really opened the world to me. I often buy attendant books or make my own journals for decks. I find it discouraging when certain cliques put the evil eye on collecting decks as if using just one deck is the only way to enlightenment. Like you, I have found it to be different. Your idea of support between decks: range of emotions, depth, the way they highlight different things that may not have occurred to you, the increase in definition from using many decks, is something I am firmly convinced by.

    I have seen a very ephemeral quality to deck collecting where a person might buy something and immediately trade it away, then begin screaming about wanting the latest and greatest to be published, but I think most of us attempt a deeper look and find it beneficial. The vision of others comes across in their decks and everyone has some little window on awareness that would have passed me by if I didn’t collect a few.

    • I’m happy to hear that you use several decks, too. I like your perspective about the vision of others coming across in their decks – so true. It all adds to your broad palette of meanings and range of knowledge, doesn’t it? I find it all so fascinating!

      Thanks so much for replying and I hope to hear from you again on some of my other posts!

      Mike

  5. giang says:

    I’m the beginner and I’m looking for a tarot deck suitable for me. Should I buy 2 tarot decks at the same time?

    • There’s no limit as to how many decks you can buy at once. I would start with just one, though, and get used to it. See how it feels to you. See how you like the artwork and how well it speaks to you. Once you know this, you’ll then have an idea as to what you’d like to see in any new deck you purchase. Good luck on your journey!

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