Searching For The Perfect Deck

1 Deck.jpeg

The more I’ve worked with the Daniloff Tarot lately, the more I love it and thing it might be THE perfect deck. The one I’ve been searching for. The one I could use for everything. How did I, a tarot card collector and fanatic, ever starting thinking about committing to one, perfect deck?

The idea was planted when I learned that a very talented tarot reader named Rabbit uses one deck for all her readings for a full year. That’s at least 1000 readings! I respect her a great deal and have taken several classes from her on a variety of topics, including tarot.

She says this about choosing a new deck each year:

The criteria for the project is as follows: each deck needs to follow a traditional 78-card system, each deck needs to have traditional suits rather than fanciful suits (I just couldn’t possibly take myself seriously if I was referring to, say, the 7 of Martini Glasses about a major life decision), each deck needs to be bold and grave about cards like Death, the Tower, the Devil- no namby-pamby new age replacements…

Inspired, I’ve been thinking about my standards for tarot decks. If I were to use one deck for a whole year, what would be my requirements?

Follows the traditional 78 card system – but I don’t mind a choice of Lovers of Magician cards like in the Alchemical or Thoth decks or even small deviations, but the 78 cards are non-negotiable.

Has 4 suits that correspond to the elements. I don’t need them to be any specific items, and in fact don’t like pentacles for earth at all. I love the Victoria Regina deck where earth is represented by clocks and it doesn’t make me feel silly in the least.

Has a real Death, Tower and Devil card. I completely agree that Death cards that skirt the issue leave me cold. I don’t mind a good ‘transformation’ card, as long as it is clear that one of those options for transformation is actual death. The Gaian deck does this nicely – with a dead, decaying bird carefully illustrated in the foreground.

I’d add a really scary Moon card to this list. The Moon is supposed to make you uneasy. She needs to be really, really creepy. Freddie Kruger’s mother creepy.

Has an Empress that’s a bit scary-sweet, as I think there are two sides of every coin and she hasn’t always been positive for me. I think of the fairytale ‘The Ice Queen’ where the young heroine stays in the cottage with the Summer Queen too long and almost forgets about her mission to save her friend. The woman who plies you with sweets and keeps you sleepy so you stay, that’s the Empress. As Barbara Sher would say “mother nature wants you fat and happy on the couch, so you stay alive. We are only growing emotionally when we push out of our comfort zone.”

A Hierophant who’s not creepy, as I know lots of priests and ministers who are lovely. I am tired of the Hierophant looking like he’s just waiting to abuse his power. That’s part of this card, but to me the Hierophant is more like a librarian at a research desk – a guardian of knowledge but also eager to help.

A lovely Hermit card. You know how you look at your birth-month before buying a wall calendar? Well, the Hermit is my card. Always has been. He – or she – needs to be beautiful.

Has a picture on each of the minor cards. I just got the Goddess tarot and while I love the majors, the minors are pretty spare. I think that’s just lazy – not to mention harder to grok in a reading. I don’t want a picture of 9 coins – I want a picture that captures the emotions of that card. You don’t even have to work in 9 images of coins or clocks or whatever, just make an appropriate picture.

Has majors and minors that match – I have several decks like the Goddess tarot where the majors are fantastic, and the minors were either an afterthought or a completely different project. One deck in particular they were even done with a completely different medium – paintings vs. collage. It makes the deck feel a bit slap-dash or unfinished.

People of all colors. I really appreciate a deck that has more than just 78 images of white people. I’m white, but I don’t need my cards to be. I love the Gaian deck for having people of many colors represented, and I love a few other decks I have where people have no color at all – they are just figures with no faces. I have a deck or two that makes each suit a different group of people – but that’s not ideal either and feels a bit racist to make all the dark-skinned people the ‘earth’ suit. A deck that had people of all colors doing all things without making a big deal of it is really rare and very nice.

(This is, I admit, the one great failing of the Daniloff Tarot. But as it’s so obviously set in an Italian Renaissance world, it might be something I can overlook.) 

Minimum nudity. I know. I’m a prude. In my defense, I only say this as it’s distracting. The Alchemical tarot is great, but when certain cards get turned over all you see is ‘naked’ instead of the symbolism – it’s a turn off. The Mary-El tarot is fantastic – don’t get me wrong – but wow is there a lot of naked front and center. I really could have done without it – but then again I was raised by a woman who never said a four-letter word.

Vibrant colors. I have synesthesia so often people are a ‘color’ to me first, not a name. Numbers have colors for me, and sometimes they make noise. Odd, I know, but that’s why colors are so key. For me it is a huge piece of information about a card.

Style. Collage decks, watercolor decks, photo decks – I don’t care about the medium, but I like there to be a distinct artistic signature. It is what gives the deck personality and cohesion.

Wow. That’s a lot more requirements than I thought. I don’t think I have one deck in my collection that meets all of those criteria, even the Daniloff. Now, I’d love to know – what are your criteria?

One thought on “Searching For The Perfect Deck

  1. Very interesting question. For me, I’m not an experienced tarot reader at all. I read mostly for myself and for guidance, empowerment, and all that good stuff. I only have about 7 tarot decks at the moment but I recently purchased a Marseille deck by Fournier and I really feel this could be the one. I have fallen completely in love with Marseile type decks. To the point of giving a couple tarot decks away.At the moment I have 3 favorite, top decks. In order the Marseille, Medieval Scapini and Crystal Tarot. There is something about sparsely illustrated pips that I love. Actually, the Daniloff tarot has been on my wishlist for quite a while.

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