The Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck is essentially the default setting for tarot card reading.
(Maybe it’s just me, but does it look like Matt Mercer modeled for The Magician to anyone else?)
There’s nothing wrong with default settings, just that most of us don’t usually keep them. But they are, generally speaking, the best ways to learn. So if you’re new to Tarot decks I do recommend starting with a Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck.
The downside to the RWS is that not only is it going to be the default setting, but it’s going to be set in the wee early years of the 1900s.
Every human depicted on the cards will be white and straight – and hell, probably Christian for good measure. (I kid, I kid).
The important part to focus on with a RWS is that the cards are going to contain ALL the clues to knowing what the card is talking about. There’s no artist flourish, there’s no alternative readings (save for if a card shows itself as inverted), there’s nothing to take away from the important things you should be learning.
RWS decks, given how long they’ve been around don’t generally come with a Book for guidance. You’ll get a tiny little booklet with the basic meanings of the cards upright and inverted, and that’s not bad. But Quin’s here to help, not just toss you stumbling drunk into the deep end of the pool and then run a Over/Under on if you make it out in one piece.
So, to sober you up and equip you with a flotation device prior to shoving you off into the deep end, I recommend Melissa Cynova’s Kitchen Table Tarot.
Melissa murdered my concerns about expanding my divination out to tarot card, and the book is an easy read long before you start stepping into the card meanings. There’s no smoke and mirrors here, it’s all there – and no bullshit either, so you don’t have to mind where you step.
There is a key part of her book repeated in various ways that I’m going to share here – mostly because it’s really important to keep in mind, but also because it needs be said in all corners of divination.
You’re not telling the future.
You’re providing tools to help them – or you – on their/your journey.
Look, here’s the best way I know how to lay it out – Predictive Algorithms. It’s a fun term and shows like Numb3rs and Criminal Minds love to toss it around like a rag doll, but the foundation’s there. Math is the scientific language of the Universe. It’s Divination with a different – some would argue more precise – set of tools. But, as is often repeated every time it’s ever mentioned because it is So Important – the algoritim provides how Possible it is for something to occur. Nothing shows as 100%. As a matter of fact somewhere on the order of 20%+ is consider Statistically Significant – which means even in “ideal” situations, there’s still an 80% chance that literally anything else could happen.
There’s just too many variables. The cards, the runes, the bones, they’re not telling you something is set in stone, because nothing is. You cannot and should not use these tools to tell a friend/family member/client/etc. that you’re seeing their future. The damage you can do is pretty fucking major – DID MY CURSE WORD GET YOUR ATTENTION? Good.
Seriously, you use my help to lead people astray purposefully and My People™ will find you.
Now, it obvious I’ve got some feelings on this matter, so I’m going to cut short and get down to My Tools. Currently I’ve got three decks, and I’ll get into those in their own posts, but HERE is the deck I’m referring to when I refer to my RWS.
It’s small – like, slightly smaller than a standard size pack of cards. But I like that smallness, and I wish I could get most of my other decks in a slightly reduced size. I’m pretty small, I’m a whopping 60 inches tall on the best of days and my hands are proportionate to that.
But small is a little hard to fit detailed artwork on, so I understand why it’s rare.
This is the deck that feels like training wheels, and that’s good because that’s exactly what I got it for. This is the Teacher, the Guide, the Instructor. This is the deck that stands in front of the Universe and puts the Parental Controls on. Maybe all first decks are like this because they have some sense of obligation or duty, but since you only ever have one “First” and this was mine, I can’t say.
It is appreciated though. The small deck is like the teddy bear keeping the terrible evil at bay while I sleep. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it’s standing guard over my grove when I work on Trance. It’s the deck that gave me The Empress 4 straight days in a row, and I feel like I still haven’t learned everything it was trying to tell me. Drawing a single card a day is akin to looking through a keyhole vs opening a door and walking into the room to have a look around. You still learn something, and if you’re just trying to focus on a single piece of information it helps you keep that focus, but you’re certainly not getting a full picture.
That said, you don’t start learning math by leaping feet first into quadratic equations, you start out with 2+2 and go from there. Just because you’re not 5 anymore, doesn’t mean you should skip the basics, or feel like you’re going to slow by focusing on something specific one bit at a time.
With luck, I can make it an interesting journey for both of us.