It’s been probably about half a year since I’ve obtained a new Tarot deck. That’s insane, considering how many decks I’d racked up in the two years prior (it averaged out at about two decks per month, which is insane in itself considering how much trepidation I experienced when I first started massing a proper collection).
There are a couple reasons for this. First and foremost is the simple fact that my expendable income has become much less expendable, and I’ve had to exercise prudence when making fiscal decisions. I love Tarot cards, but there are more pressing matters, and, well, what can you do. Such is life.
But, to be honest, my collection has filled out nicely, and it really doesn’t need any more. With the most recent addition of the Sola-Busca, I felt like I had reached a new level, if you will, and my desire for expansion sort of plateaued. I have not since had the thought that I needed a deck to fill a spot in my collection. Every now and then I come across a deck that I think would round things out nicely, and I do have a casual wishlist in the back of my mind* – and some days, I think about buying a new deck just because I kind of miss the excitement of cracking open a fresh pack of cards – but overall I feel satisfied with my Tarot library.
As it turns out, collecting is as much an aspect of my Tarot hobby as reading and writing about the cards.** I do not collect randomly. I had a general scheme from the moment my first Tarot deck became three (because my second and third were purchased simultaneously) – Rider (1), Marseilles (2), and Thoth (3). These three are considered the “classics” in the greater Tarot community, and they formed the pillars that hold up the structure of my collection. With the addition of my next deck, the Wildwood, I completed the four-sided foundation upon which my entire collection would be constructed.
My four pillars remain the same, but I’ve taken to considering them in broader terms than the specific decks which started them. There is plenty of overlap, and many of my Tarot decks span multiple categories. I like this, and the result is that my collection takes on the shape of a spiderweb in my mind, spun across the four pillars. There are many sub-categories (like fantasy-themed or art decks, for example) that tie the original pillars together in interesting ways.
I wrote a post a while back on the (very) broad categorizations I’d come up with for methods of divination with Tarot cards. These methods actually mirror the pillars of my collection.
- What started with the Rider has pretty much remained the Rider. Because this deck is so prevalent today, it is basically its own category. Rider clones and Rider-inspired decks all go here. Most prominent are the Radiant and Universal Waite decks, and of course the Mini Rider. Least is the Hobbit Tarot, which is only a Rider in structure (With Strength as 8 and Justice as 11) and in divinatory definitions. The spectrum in between includes the Mystical Tarot, the Aquarian, and the Shadowscapes. I generally will also include any packs with illustrated small cards in this category, as well, and decks that are best divined with “intuitively,” as I defined it in the above-linked post (I generally link “intuitive” reading with illustrated small cards). In this case, decks like the Sun and Moon, the Deviant Moon, the Medieval Scapini, Dame Fortune’s Wheel, the Mary-El, the Wildwood, and the Sola Busca all fit the bill, although for many of these, this isn’t the primary category.
- The broadened version of the Marseille category includes Pip cards and historical decks, used mainly for what I like to call “cartomantic” divinatory approaches.*** The Universal Burdel and the Conver Ben-Dov, as well as the miniature pack of Conver Majors, are the standards for this category. Other decks which fit easily here are the Book of Thoth Etteilla and the Visconti-Sforza. Though the pips are illustrated and it was created in modern times, Dame Fortune’s Wheel fits best in this section, as does the Medieval Scapini. Structure-wise, the Deviant Moon fits here more than in the previous category, too, although its imagery defies categorization (I struggle with placing the Deviant Moon more than any other Tarot). Oswald Wirth‘s deck did not include a Minor Arcana, but it is so clearly based on the Marseille that I would also place both versions of his cards here in a pinch. Finally, as a historical deck, the Sola-Busca can go here, too.
- The Thoth category has expanded to include all occult decks, most especially those based in the tradition of the Golden Dawn. The Thoth (and the pocket version thereof) is of course the basis of this category. The Hermetic Tarot and the Sun and Moon fit nicely here, as well. Technically, I would consider placing the strictest renditions of the Rider-Waite (that is, the Universal and the Mini) decks here, because Waite and Smith were one-time members of the Golden Dawn, and their Tarot incorporates some of the GD’s teachings, but because those have their own category, I hesitate to do so. Oswald Wirth and Etteilla decks are occult, too, so they also can be considered in this section (I’m more inclined to place Wirth here and leave Etteilla in the previous section, personally). And lastly, because of the myriad occult details so deftly executed by the artist (including, but not limited to, symbols from the GD, Wirth, and Etteilla), the Medieval Scapini fits here, as well.
- What began with the Wildwood has become “Un-categorizable” or “Non-traditional.” I’m pretty sure everything in this section has been mentioned in the previous sections, but if it shows up here, this is where I truly consider it to belong (excepting Etteilla, who I believe might go better in category #2). This category includes the Mary-El, the Sola Busca, the Deviant Moon, the Etteilla, and the Hobbit Tarot. I would almost place the Medieval Scapini here, but don’t because rather than defy categorization, it actually spans all three of the others more or less equally (the artist behind the Mary-El, on the other hand, claims to have been influenced by the Thoth, Marseilles, and Rider, but her cards are so incredibly original that they absolutely belong here). The decks here do not fit a mainstream tradition, and many of them are modern enough to have not yet stood the test of time like the Thoth or the Rider have. But I like having all of them in my collection, and I like having a “catch-all” category to round things out. Though I am a traditionalist at heart, if my collection focused only on the Big Three many beautiful and important cards would be left out.
I acknowledge that all this is quite a lot of reading without much in the way of substantial Tarot content, and for that I apologize. I’m trying my damnedest to keep this blog active, though, and while it largely consists of the fluff of a collector showing off, this post does serve the purpose of illustrating just how I actually think about the collecting aspect of my hobby. I don’t know if anyone cares, but I figured I’d share, anyway.
In case you do care to know what exactly is in my collection, and the above list is as confusing to you as it looks to me (like I said, it’s a spiderweb), as of this writing I have 24 Tarot decks (technically, I have 21 complete packs, and three Majors-only packs). You can find a more straightforward list of them here, and each is linked to my initial thoughts upon obtaining (many of those thoughts are a bit outdated for me now, but I haven’t yet mustered the motivation to revise my reviews).
To wrap this post up, I want to say this: I collect the Tarot with intent. I do indeed focus on the Big Three as the foundation, but it would perhaps be more accurate to sum my aims in collecting thus: I want my collection to be useful from a scholarly perspective, and so have collected primarily renditions of Tarots that are historically significant or influential (as an amateur with limited funds, these are all reproductions from mainstream brand names, of course). At the same time, however, my collection is personalized to suit my tastes, and the cards I select appeal to my aesthetics and my philosophies. Therefore, I think it is safe to say that my collection is a well-rounded blend of established Tarot tradition,**** with a bit of my own peculiar interests as a student of this tradition. It is a collection designed around both the theory and practice of Tarot, spanning past and present, with an eye for the future.
*Right now, I’ve got the Liber T: Tarot of Stars Eternal on my mind, as well as an Egyptian Tarot and a Marseilles that isn’t based on Conver or Burdel’s cards (Probably a Jean Noblet). I don’t doubt that eventually some of these cards will end up being reviewed on this blog.
**I’m hesitant to call divination and other spiritual work a “hobby”, but I certainly do that stuff, too. A hobby to me is confined to a more mundane realm of consciousness than divination, and so collecting, reading books, and writing this blog are all aspects of that. Of course, casual parlor-trick “fortune-telling” treads the divination line, but remains more or less in the realm of hobby to me, because it’s more of an entertainment than spiritual exercise. But now I’m just getting nit-picky.
***Though they are not Tarots, I consider my decks of regular playing cards (of which I have four or five) as a part of this category, as well. I might talk a bit about them if I ever get bored enough. Consider yourself warned.
****A healthy dose of Tarot tradition should be a part any serious collection (IMHO).