My first deck was the 1JJ Swiss Tarot deck. It’s a Marseille Deck, and I never would’ve chosen it for myself, but as fate would have it, it was the perfect deck for me at the beginning of my Tarot education.
When we opened The Fortune Teller Bar in 2012, I was a tea-leaf reader. No one wants tea in a bar, so I hired several friends who read Tarot to work in our fortune teller booth. One of them was a friend-of-a-friend, a young woman named Becca, who gave me two decks of cards on the first night she worked. This is the story she told me:
Becca’s friend’s great aunt had passed away. Said friend’s grandmother was going through her things and found a box containing thirteen Tarot decks. She gave it to her granddaughter, who then gave the box to Becca, knowing that Becca liked Tarot cards. None of the decks resonated with her, some even creeped her out. Besides, she was quite satisfied with the deck she’d been using for twelve years, thank you very much. (SHOCKING, I KNOW. In fairness, Becca was one of the most gifted readers I’ve ever known. She was amazing with her cards and the WOO. We’ve lost touch, but I hope she’s well and still reading cards.) Becca kept the box of decks, and when she met someone who was looking for a deck she chose one and made a gift of it.
The first deck she gave me was a Tarocchi Deck. Tarocchi is an Italian playing card game that RWS decks are loosely based upon. As I understand it, Tarrochi is kind of like Bridge, Spades, or Hearts, but with a Major Arcana suit, so much more involved. I held on to that deck for a few years, but passed it on to a client who knew how to play the game.
The second deck she gave me that night was the 1JJ Swiss Marseille deck.
What about that deck made you want to stick with Tarot?
The way they made me feel. I know it sounds all metaphysical, but as soon as I took them out of the box and shuffled them I knew I’d found a tool that fit my hand. They were already frayed at the edges and broken in when they came to me. I used them exclusively for about two years.
Do you still read with/have that deck?
I still have it, it lives in a beautiful box on my altar. It’s bent, worn, shiny from over-shuffling and torn in some places. I read with it occasionally, but only for myself. The last time I consulted it was when I was deciding if Indie Deck Review was something I wanted to commit to participating in. I was concerned that I wouldn’t have time to dedicate to the site and the wonderful folks involved. As I was shuffling and focusing on my query, I dropped the cards on my kitchen table. The The Ten of Cups, Ace of Cups and the Queen of Coins were the only cards that landed face up. I took that as a message that I’d be joining a happy family with creative opportunities and that I had the resources I needed to follow through.
What is your favorite/most learned from/most drawn to deck?
That’s a mean question.
I’m a teacher, it’s like asking “Which student is your favorite?” Each deck is my favorite when I’m using it. Just like my students, each deck has something to teach me, some way of showing me insights and helping me make connections I wouldn’t find in another.
In reading for myself, I’m in love with The Delta Enduring right now. And Sasuraibito. And The Brady. And The Slow Holler. And The Ostara. And. And. And.
What is the deck that you just can’t use?
Tarot del Fuego. I have owned three copies of it to date, and I’ve given all three away. I like it, it’s well made and creative, the illustrations are great, but it just seems like it doesn’t want to stay with me.
How do you feel about the RWS/Marseille/Thoth decks?
Most decks I use are RWS based. The deck I use most often in the booth at the bar is the Centennial Smith-Waite. It’s what people expect a Tarot Deck to look like. I have a lot of non-binary clients, so having access to decks like The Slow Holler and The Numinous is important, I want folks to connect with the cards when I give a reading. I also use The Wild Unknown quite often, the animal-based illustrations leave room for interpretation beyond what human-based imagery brings to the table.
My first deck was a Marseille, so I am comfortable with them, but I don’t use them much. I think I have three or four Marseille decks, my first deck and Le Tarot Noir come to mind. Both are printed in French. I’ve given readings in French with both of them, peut-être j’utilise les cartes Marseille seulemente pour les clientes Françaises.
I have one Thoth deck, THE Thoth Deck. It’s an original printing that belonged to a friend who has passed on. I’m extremely superstitious about it and will only use it to read for people who knew him personally. It is SERIOUSLY magical. My superstition extends so far as to prevent me from using other Thoth-based decks.
I have several Lenormand decks too, The Maybe Lenormand being a personal favorite. I’m still learning to read Lenormand cards, it’s fascinating and has given more depth to my Tarot practice as well.
Where do you whip out your decks?
I read at The Fortune Teller Bar, so there of course. I always have a deck or two with me most of the time. I’m not shy, I’ve whipped my decks out all over the place.
Would you consider yourself a Deck Dealer? A Deck Pusher? A Deck Enabler?
I’m a Deck Fondler. I want to see YOUR cards. I love to see what’s out there, I live for Tarot Deck Show-and-Tell. I have to think long and hard about a deck before I buy it. Sometimes I worry that I’m neglecting certain decks, that they’ve been benched for too long. I also find myself serving as a conduit for deck redistribution, I’m a Deck Enabler in that I give people Tarot decks all the time. Come to the Dark Side, my pretty… we have cards!
What deck is at the top of your wishlist?
The Ghetto Tarot http://www.ghettotarot.de is at the top. I usually am not drawn to photo decks, but this one… it makes me swoon.
If a Deck granting Magic Being appeared at your door, what is the deck you’d ask them for?
I’d ask for the skill, time, drive, inspiration and patience to create my own deck. I’ll get there one day.
How did your Gateway Deck influence your tarot preferences and reading style?
My first deck was a real challenge for me. I’m a visual learner, so the numerical pips were difficult for me to grasp. I had to really study and focus. It made me concentrate on learning the cards. I used several books (Power Tarot by Trish MacGregor and Phyllis Vega, 78 Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack, and Tarot for Yourself by Mary K. Greer) and took tons of notes in my Tarot journal. That first deck definitely made me exercise my study skills. I eventually printed out pictures of different decks and pasted them into the journal to help me learn. That was the first step in becoming a deck collector. After seeing the huge variety of decks available, I began to seek out ones with art that resonated with me. As far as influencing my reading style, I think learning to read with a non-pictorial deck made me trust my intuition. I also researched French styles of Tarot reading and have incorporated elements of Sicilian Stregheria into my personal Tarot practices. My reading style has more elements of Lenormand readings and storytelling than a traditional Q&A spread, or the Celtic Cross. I have a tendency to create my own spreads and read the cards as they relate to the other cards around them, weaving in the details as the narrative coalesces. The story is what’s important, not the way the cards are laid out.