The age old adage of “use what works for you” and “use what you are attracted to” had been beaten to death. As true as it is, I always feel the underlying basis of this question comes from someone looking for a bit of foundation as in– “Where do I even start”?.
I always like to make the distinction that are are roughly three camps of tarot that is typical as a “foundation” for people. These are your big three camps. Many modern decks are derived or influenced by one of these three:
The oldest, Tarot de Marseilles or TdM for short.
The popular, Rider Waite Smith or RWS for short.
And the infamous esoteric Thoth Tarot.
Now, here is an important distinction to make before you run off and purchase a deck.
TdM has a long history and purist may not consider all pip decks (pips meaning the minor arcana is non-scenic) as a true TdM. This is because some versions were not created in Marseilles, but in other places like the Noblet 1650 is from Paris, Dodal 1710 is from Lyons, and Conver 1750 is from Marseilles. Conver is the most popular of the TdM decks. There are many out there. Furthermore, there are some books available on the market and do a good job at helping you to get going with readings. If you happen to speak French I believe that opens more avenues for books.
Do you want a lot of written material on the tarot deck you purchase? If so, you would probably want to go with a RWS based deck as this has the most written about it, hence its popularity. There are hundreds of RWS editions and clones available on the market. You cannot go wrong here.
Thoth is Thoth same as with TdM, there is a limited amount of books written for this but the resources available are fantastic to get you going. There are a small amount of Thoth based clones on the market but many of them are lovely. Additionally, the minor arcana are ‘pipish’.
Now that I am off my soapbox, here is a video I did with my deck and book recommendations for beginners:
In this video I discuss an overview of the three tarot traditions and some resources to help get you get started on your way. All of the decks I showed can be found on Amazon at reasonable prices.
Tarot de Marseille
Deck shown: CAMOIN JODOROWSKY
->The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards by Alejandro Jodorowsky
->Tarot on Earth by Tom Benjamin
->Tarot – The Open Reading by Yoav Ben-Dov
Rider Waite Smith Tarot
Deck Shown: Smith-Waite Centennial Tarot Deck by U.S. Game Systems Books:
->Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot by Rachel Pollack
->Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot: by Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin
->Tarot 101: Mastering the Art of Reading the Cards by Kim Huggens
Deck shown: The Thoth Tarot
->Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot by Lon Milo Duquette
->The Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley
->The Chicken Qabalah by Lon Milo DuQuette
->The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols by Angeles Arrien (I forgot to mention this one but it is good one if you do not want to get into the ‘esoteric’ stuff but still want to learn)
Website mentioned to browse for decks: www.aeclectic.net