Tarot Boot Camp: Required Decks
The Boot Camp requires the Rider-Waite (aka the Waite-Smith) deck in any of its variations. You must bring one of the following—I’ve listed them in my preferred order, with links to purchase them on Amazon, but please purchase the one that feels right for you.
And please consider picking up your deck at a local new age/occult retailer. Any of them can order these decks for you, and they are happy to. My favorite retailers in the Baltimore/DC metro are listed here. These businesses deserve your support, so please spend your money with them—and tell them Tarot Boot Camp sent you!
Universal Waite Tarot
I like the bright colors and soft shades in this version.
Radiant Rider Waite
This deck is, as it suggests, bright and radiant, with some of the figures haloed.
Rider Tarot Deck
The classic. Flat but vibrant colors and simply iconic. If you want to buy a deck that is as close to the original 1909 art as possible, your choices are the Original Rider Waite Tarot Pack or the very collectible Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Set, which comes with an extra booklet and art from Pamela Colman Smith (aka Pixie).
Other Decks (for Advanced Tarot Workshop or Personal Use and Study)
Rider-Waite/Waite-Smith “Clone” Decks
These decks are all based on the RW/WS artwork and symbolism, often very closely. They are good decks for Boot Camp graduates who want to try something new, but with decks that match the symbolism and content of the classic RW/WS.
This is an absolutely gorgeous deck, made up of collages from artwork of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. The card edges are gilded in gold and it comes with a great booklet.
This is one of the earliest “borderless” decks. It has a very 70s artistic style (particularly the male figures) but is very bold, dynamic, and an acknowledged classic.
This is a very approachable, “light” deck, especially suitable if you’re reading for people who are intimidated by some of the darker imagery.
Robin Wood Tarot
For the pagan peeps. Lush with nature imagery and pagan symbolism.
Advanced Decks for Esoteric and Occult Students
These decks emerge from particular esoteric and magical systems, and are recommended for advanced readers who are drawn to the rich and sometimes complex Western Hermetic traditions.
Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot Deck
Dense, complex, and symbolically rich, Crowley’s Thoth deck is based in his magical religion of Thelema. But even if you don’t buy into the infamous man’s philosophy, it’s a gorgeous and powerful deck.
The Golden Dawn Magical Tarot
If you’re drawn to the magical theories and practices of the enormously influential Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, this is the most faithful deck on the market. While at first it seemed a little cartoonish for my taste, I grew to appreciate the style of noted Golden Dawn author and artist Sandra Tabatha Cicero. It’s another very powerful esoteric deck, particularly for visionary exploration and pathworking.
Advanced Traditional and Historical Decks
There comes a time in many Tarotists’ studies when the ancient, historical decks become alluring. I show many of these decks in my classes and my students are drawn to the beautiful art and the rawness of the symbolism. I have acquired a large number of historical decks, and if you’re seriously interested in collecting, please contact me and I can help you find some of the more rare facsimiles and reproductions. I am developing a course in using the historical decks—particularly the Tarot de Marseille (TdM)—so please sign up for my mailing list and email me directly if you’re interested in learning to read with the ancient decks.
Jodorowsky-Camoin Tarot de Marseille
This is one of my favorite TdMs, and although it is not 100% historically accurate, if you want to study Jodorowsky’s methods and interpretations, this is the deck you need.
CBD Tarot de Marseille
This is a high quality, faithful reproduction of the traditional Tarot de Marseille deck published by Nicholas Conver in 1760. The creator and artist is Yoav Ben-Dov, who wrote an excellent book on reading the TdM, Tarot – The Open Reading .
Tarot de Marseille de Pierre Madenié 1709
A facsimile reproduction of one of the oldest decks, created with exquisite care and craftsmanship, and a limited edition of 3,000 copies. If you want a piece of history in your hands, any of the decks by master card maker Yves Reynaud are the best of the best.
The Book of Thoth Etteilla Tarot
My Boot Camp students learn that French occultist Etteilla was an enormous influence on the occult, divinatory use of the Tarot. This is his unusual, but highly influential deck—the very first deck designed exclusively for divination. I have not found it especially useful for readings, but I like its imagery.
I have written about a most unusual deck, the Sola-Busca, sold by Giordano Berti. It is available in a very limited edition. It is another I enjoy mainly for its powerful, surprisingly modern-ish art, and is historically important because it was the first Tarot deck with illustrated minor cards (instead of the pip cards found in other decks).