Interesting Beginner Tarot Decks: 22 Favorites

Estimated Reading Time: 22 minutes

My favorite Choices for Interesting Beginner Tarot Decks

Interesting beginner decks Everyday Witch Tarot
Everyday Witch Tarot by Deborah Blake and Elisabeth Alba, 2017. Llewellyn Publications.

One of the best things about tarot is having seventy-eight pieces of art to hold in my hand, contemplate, and adore. Tarot is all about the image. Images lead to stories, and stories are how we communicate with others. So when choosing a beginner tarot deck, I suggest you start with the art. Each card is illustrated with a scene, complete with characters, a setting, props, and symbols. Choose your deck based on images that speak to you. When you find art that you love, characters that you relate to, settings that inspire you, and symbols that speak your language, you’ve found your deck. With thousands of decks available, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. So to help you out, I’ve compiled this list of twenty-two interesting beginner tarot decks.

I start off with my general rules for choosing a deck. Then you will find the list of twenty-two of my favorite choices for interesting beginner tarot decks. After that, you can peruse sample cards and read my thoughts on each of these decks.

See all my articles on choosing your first tarot deck.

Joy’s Rules for Choosing a Beginner Tarot Deck

I have five qualifications for a beginner deck.

1. Scenic Decks Required

First, it must be fully illustrated, meaning that all cards show a scene, not just a symmetrical arrangement of suit symbols.

2. Suit emblems are a part of the scene

Second, the suit icons (wands, cups, etc.), or their symbolic equivalent, must be incorporated into the scene. Just as some decks have only pips on the cards, there are decks that have detailed scenes but don’t use the suit symbols in the artwork. The use of the suit symbols, and the manner in which they are arranged in the scene, is important for the numerology of the card, so I require it for decks used in class.

3. No unfamiliar mythology or symbolism

Third, the deck can’t rely on mythology, history, or esoteric symbolism that the student doesn’t already know well. Personally, decks like this are my favorites! Unfortunately, it’s hard to read a deck if you don’t get the references being made. I’d rather you spend your time learning to read the scenes than researching the mythology of the deck. Then once your general knowledge of the tarot is strong, layering on stories from folklore, mythology, or history will be a fun addition. Keep in mind that a deck can incorporate arcane mythology while still creating scenes that are easily recognizable and relatable. If the cards can be read clearly without knowledge of the underlying mythology or symbolism, the deck is fair game.

4. No Waite-Smith Tarot

I prefer that my students not use the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck to start with. Horrrors! Actually, this iconic deck is one of the best ever made, and absolutely must be included in every deck collection. However, its ubiquity and authority tends to override a newbie’s creativity. It’s hard to hazard your own interpretation when there’s a book, teacher, blog post, and YouTube video that will tell you what a given card really means. I find students loosen up when they are working with a deck of their own choosing, not the RWS. I do allow decks that follow the RWS lineage of symbolism, just not the RWS itself, or its closest clones.

5. All Deck lineages welcome!

Even though I recommend scenic decks, it does not mean that I only allow decks that follow the RWS lineage. I encourage a variety of decks in a variety of traditions for a well-rounded assortment of decks in class. We learn the most when comparing images on different decks, so why not start off with an eclectic and diverse selection?

Here’s the list

I sorted through my collection of decks and picked out ten, no twenty, actually 22 tarot decks that fit these qualifications and that I would readily recommend to a beginning student. Some are my most loved decks of all time. Some are my students’ favorites. I’ve included decks that are universally popular, as well as some that are sadly underrated and get lost in the shuffle. I tried to survey decks from the last forty years to give old favorites a fresh introduction.

I listed the decks in order by publication date, oldest first. Links are to the publisher or the artist’s shop. Some decks are currently out of stock, but all are currently in print, so at most you’ll have to wait for a shipment to arrive.

  1. Sacred Rose Tarot
  2. Motherpeace Tarot
  3. Tarot of the Old Path
  4. Robin Wood Tarot
  5. Spiral Tarot
  6. World Spirit Tarot
  7. LoScarabeo Tarot
  8. Deviant Moon Tarot
  9. Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn
  10. Legacy of the Divine Tarot
  11. Infinite Visions Tarot
  12. Joie de Vivre Tarot
  13. Steampunk Tarot
  14. Bonefire Tarot
  15. Tarot de St. Croix
  16. The Fountain Tarot
  17. Urban Tarot
  18. Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot
  19. Everyday Witch Tarot
  20. New Era Elements Tarot
  21. Light Seer’s Tarot
  22. Lubanko Tarot

Sacred Rose Tarot

The eerie fey-like inhabitants of the Sacred Rose Tarot emerge from and fade into the cosmos as they bring their messages to you. Although the symbolism is influenced by the Golden Dawn system and kabbalistic correspondences, the stories step forward providing clear readings.

Interesting beginner decks Sacred Rose Tarot
Sacred Rose Tarot by Johanna Garguilo-Sherman, 1980. U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Motherpeace Tarot

A classic in its field, the Motherpeace deck is known for its feminist themes and images inspired by world culture. It might surprise you to know that this deck was developed with kabbalistic symbolism in mind and can be read following the numerology of the Tree of Life. Intricate scenes tell clear stories helping this deck to resonate on many levels. Court cards are Daughters, Sons, Priestesses, and Shamans.

Note: This deck comes in a regular size and a mini. The mini is shown here.

Interesting beginner decks Motherpeace Tarot
Motherpeace Tarot by Vicki Noble and Karen Vogel. 1983. U.S. Games Systems, Inc.


Tarot of the Old Path

The Tarot of the Old Path is a neo-Pagan deck filled with animal and flower symbolism. The light backgrounds let the images take center stage. Color symbolism helps to identify the suits and their correspondences to the elements. This deck derives from the RWS lineage while bringing fresh imagery and interpretations. The four suits are Rods (Wands), Cauldrons (Cups), Swords, and Pentacles. Some of the Majors are renamed. As simple as it is, there is a depth to this deck that lets readings flow with ease and uncanny accuracy. This is on my list of favorite decks.

Interesting beginner decks Tarot of the Old Path
Tarot of the Old Path by Howard Rodway and Sylvia Gainsford, 1990. U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Robin Wood Tarot

I love the freedom of movement in this deck. The character’s postures express their moods clearly, from the gleeful Page of Swords to the exhausted Nine of Wands. Light brings this deck to life, with the glinting crystal Wands, beckoning lamp of the Hermit, and the sunburst rays of transformation in the Judgment card. Wide open spaces and bright colors invite you into the scenes. The elemental symbolism is clear and easy-to-read. The Minors follow the RWS tradition closely, while the Majors pull from Neo-Pagan symbolism, mythology, and folklore. Another one of my favorite decks.

Interesting beginner decks Robin Wood Tarot
Robin Wood Tarot by Robin Wood, 1991. Llewellyn Publications.

Spiral Tarot

The RWS lineage tarot deck includes astrological symbolism on the cards, making it a great crossover deck from one modality to the other. The Minor Arcana scenes, set in Victorian times, are detailed and evocative. The Majors are mystical and invite deeper contemplation and study. However, be careful when working with the astrological and elemental glyphs and Hebrew letters. Although for the most part they are correct, not all the correspondences are standard, and some mistakes can be found. Also, the Tree of Life on the Majors is designed to indicate the qabalistic path, but sometimes it is so small or faintly drawn that it’s impossible to read.

Interesting beginner decks Spiral Tarot
Spiral Tarot by Kay Steventon, 1998. U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

World Spirit Tarot

The World Spirit Tarot doesn’t just illustrate the scenes and symbols of each card, it invokes them. This deck embodies the energy of each scene, card by card channeling the spirit of the world we live in simultaneously with that of the world beyond. The Court cards are Seer, Seeker, Sibyl, and Sage and highlight stages of development over hierarchy.

Interesting beginner decks like the World Spirit Tarot
The World Spirit Tarot by Jessica Godino and Lauren O’Leary, 2001. Self-published.

LoScarabeo Tarot

Some decks are beautiful to look at, but fall flat when reading them. Not Mark McElroy’s LoScarabeo Tarot! This deck is as quick-witted as its author, and the loquacious scenes are at times glib then just as easily deeply sagacious. This deck draws equally on the RWS, Thoth, Tarot de Marseille, and other historical traditions. This tag-team symbolism brings out the best of each lineage, proving each can play well with others! This deck is on my list of all-time favorites.

Note: Cards shown have been trimmed and the astrological correspondences for the Minors are hand-written in. The actual cards have the old style Lo Scarabeo borders (such as those in the Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn, below). From the collection of Hal Weeks. This deck is generally titled “LoScarabeo” without the space to distinguish it from the publisher of the same name.

LoScarabeo Tarot by Mark McElroy and Anna Lazzarini, 2007. Lo Scarabeo.

Deviant Moon Tarot

This whimsical and irreverent deck might seem aberrant at first glance, but the saturated colors and graceful lines reveal its playfulness. Influenced by, but not slavish to, the RWS tradition, the scenes are expressive and visceral, letting you revel in the initial stricture and ultimate freedom of deviating from the norm.

Note: Shown in the borderless edition, from the collection of Hal Weeks. (I couldn’t find my copy at the time of scanning, although it has since turned up.)

Interesting beginner decks Deviant Moon Tarot
Deviant Moon Tarot by Patrick Valenza, 2008. U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn

The Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn follows the written card guidelines from the early 20th century esoteric handbook, Book T, but was drawn by an artist unfamiliar with Golden Dawn style tarot decks. The resulting translation of symbol into image is exceptionally creative in this deck. Normally, GD decks are read not by image but by the use of symbols, geometry, and esoteric correspondences. However, this deck brings those abstractions to life in colorful scenes. The result is a highly readable and intuitive deck that animates older, secretive symbols.

Interesting beginner decks Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn
Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn by Giordano Berti and Patrizio Evangelisti, 2008. Lo Scarabeo.

Legacy of the Divine Tarot

Ciro Marchetti’s Legacy of the Divine is my primary client deck and has been for many years (note the well-worn card edges in the photo). I think it’s his best deck, although I have to admit I don’t own all of them. Clients love this deck. They are attracted to the beautiful artwork, the detailed scenes, and the suggestive symbolism. It has a high BP quotient (beautiful people!), which I like, but can be a turn off for some. I like having beautiful people in a deck, because it brings out our capacity to see the best in ourselves. Also, it’s useful to point to a hottie in a card and let a client know that this is their new romance! But, although that is a feature that strikes the viewer right away, it’s not the main reason that I like the deck.

More than most decks, Ciro’s interpretations consistently work for me. Typically, a deck will have an annoying card or two that frustrate me because I disagree with the interpretation. I don’t think I have a single hard-to-read card in this deck. Although there might be some weaker cards, none trips me out of my reading state of mind. If you can find a deck like that for yourself, you’ve found your forever deck!

Interesting beginner decks Legacy of the Divine Tarot
Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti, 2008. Llewellyn Publications.

Infinite Visions Tarot

The Infinite Visions Tarot by Gloria Jean is a gorgeous deck with wonderful images curated from Renaissance art and digitally collaged to add relevant symbolism. The resulting high quality scenes are expertly composed, maintaining both the beauty of classical artwork and a strong tarot identity. I’ve always gotten clear readings from this deck and found it easy to work with. It follows the RWS lineage closely, while offering fresh scenes that refine and augment standard interpretations. But mostly, the beauty of the artwork is inspiring!

Interesting beginner decks Infinite Visions Tarot
Infinite Visions Tarot by Gloria Jean, 2009. Self-published.

Joie de Vivre Tarot

I find Paulina Cassidy’s whimsical and fantastical art to be perfect for tarot! Her art is a lighthearted, pastel version of Edward Gorey. I love most of her decks, but chose the Joie de Vivre Tarot, her second deck, to share with you today.

The images are true to their name, joyously embracing all aspects of life. The characters include humanoids, animals, insects, and fantasy creatures, creating a many-dimensional world view. The card backgrounds are primarily abstract, with swirling lines that provide a sense of movement, direction, and growth. The abundance of plants and vegetation in the scenes offers an earthy connection to nature. Tiny details invite you to dwell in each image, soaking up all it has to reveal. Bonus: No nudity.

Interesting beginner decks Joie de Vivre Tarot. Paulina Cassidy's whimsical and fantastical art is a lighthearted, pastel version of Edward Gorey.
Joie de Vivre Tarot by Paulina Cassidy, 2011. U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Steampunk Tarot

I’ve known a number of people who use this as their primary deck. And students have used it in my beginning tarot class with great results. The Steampunk style is a personal favorite, with its Victorian aesthetic and steam-powered industrial setting. Accordingly, while a lot of scenes are set in nature, there are equally many scenes indoors or in cityscapes.

The ubiquitous gears, machinery, and sometimes foggy, sometimes smoggy steam give a gritty feel. But the gender-fluid, beautiful people in their flowing silks, sturdy velvets, military dress uniforms, and yes, aviator goggles give a smart and sassy feel to the deck. Funny to notice that corsets truss and gird, the fashion equivalent of the new invention: the skyscraper. The engaging scenes follow the RWS tradition, while the detailed environments bring original interpretations to life in the world of the deck.

This is another deck with no nudity. I always joke that author Barbara Moore loves fashion so much she couldn’t stand to waste a single chance to design a cute outfit.

Interesting beginner decks Moore Fell Steampunk Tarot
Steampunk Tarot by Barbara Moore and Aly Fell, 2012. Llewellyn Publications.

Bonefire Tarot

The Bonefire Tarot is not yet ten years old, but it reminisces about a previous generation. The bright colors and long, lean characters bring to mind the free love culture of the 60s and 70s. The wan, gray denizens of this magical land always seem a little depressed to me. However, the bright, tattoo-style art on dark backgrounds shines with an optimistic, rainbow feel. The dense layers of decoration and symbols provide the eye plenty to work with. The RWS symbolism is ingeniously expressed, and hints to astrological correspondences are woven into the designs.

Interesting beginner decks Bonefire Tarot
Bonefire Tarot by Gabi Angus-West, 2013. Schiffer Books.

Tarot de St. Croix

Lisa de St. Croix invokes world wisdom with the multicultural myths and indigenous stories told through her accessible and colorful oil paintings. The magical realism of the deck shapeshifts through current events, childhood memories, travelogues, world religion, shamanic visions, and personal intuitive insights. This diverse symbolism explores the traditional RWS archetypes with fresh eyes and relatable experiences. Outdoor scenes are abundant, with lush gardens and stoic plains. Characters, while mostly human, include animals and insects, as well as the fantastical. This is an easy-to-use deck while encouraging the study of its mythological source material.

Note: I like the color orange, but I never liked the borders of the first edition. Orange is a powerful color, so much so that it skews the color symbolism of many of the cards. I highly recommend the current edition of this deck, which is borderless.

Interesting beginner decks Tarot de St Croix
Tarot de St. Croix by Lisa de St. Croix, Self published, 2014. Self-published.

The Fountain Tarot

The Fountain Tarot is an all-time favorite as well as a modern classic. Its overwhelming popularity when it first came out is a testament to the brilliant artwork by Jonathan Saiz and the depthful interpretations cultivated by author Jason Gruhl and designer Andi Todaro. This deck reads beautifully out of the box, while offering scenes worth exploring through contemplation. This is a fine art piece and powerful intuitive tool.

The Fountain Tarot by Jason Gruhl, Jonathan Saiz, and Andi Todaro, 2014. Roost Books.

Urban Tarot

The Urban Tarot follows the Thoth lineage, bringing modern, relatable scenes to this esoteric tradition. The artist used different media for each suit, providing a coherence within the suits and contrast between them. Pulling extensively from metropolitan life in New York City, the scenes bring the enduring symbolism of the tarot into the chaos and clarity of urban life. Not all the scenes have people, but they all tell stories.

Interesting beginner decks Urban Tarot
Urban Tarot by Robin Scott, 2015. U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot

With knowledgeable interpretations by author Melanie Marquis and gorgeous, detailed art by Scott Murphy, the Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot is a easy to relate to Neo-Pagan influenced deck. Following the Wiccan standard of assigning Swords to Fire and Wands to air (the older Golden Dawn tradition, the most common, reverses those attributions), this deck reinvisions the symbolism of many of the cards. There is also strong seasonal symbolism, making this a great deck for doing timing readings.

Note: I thought I had a copy of this deck, but apparently gifted it. Until I can replace it, this one card I had previously scanned will have to do as illustration.

Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot by Melanie Marquis and Scott Murphy, 2016. Llewellyn Publications.

Everyday Witch Tarot

This is possibly my top choice for a beginner deck. It is fun, lighthearted, and accessible. The scenes are clever and relatable, making it easy to understand the gist of each card. The companion cat in every card is cute and plays a pivotal role in many of the scenes. The deck follows the RWS lineage closely, while the storybook style conjures playful adventure. And for me, the pointy black witch’s hat brings back fond memories of the Little Witch books by Linda Glovach.

Incidentally, I just discovered that Scott Murphy, of the Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot, above, and Elisabeth Alba, the artist for the Everyday Witch tarot, are a couple!

This is another deck with no nudity, making it not only client-friendly but also a good kids deck.

Interesting beginner decks Everyday Witch Tarot
Everyday Witch Tarot by Deborah Blake and Elisabeth Alba, 2017. Llewellyn Publications.

New Era Elements Tarot

The exquisite detail of the New Era Elements Tarot heightens the intensity of a photo-realism style. Images pulled from contemporary times, combined with the sepia palette, create a photo-journalistic aesthetic. The court cards stand out in this deck, with expert portraiture capturing the essence of each personality. This Thoth-style deck follows that lineage’s keywords, but uses a Father, Mother, Son, Daughter court card family. The astrological correspondences are worked into the art in the Majors and numbered cards, but not the courts. Also, it might not be immediately apparent, but the number symbolism is incorporated into the Minors. For example, you can count seven branches in the Seven of Air and nine leaves on the plant in the Nine of Earth.

This deck takes a sometimes unflinching, sometimes hopeful, but always direct look at environmentalism, science, nature, and humanity. Some images are challenging to view, but the clinical detachment is belied by scenes of joy and exuberant beauty.

No nudity, but definitely not a kids’ deck.

Interesting beginner decks New Era Elements Tarot
New Era Elements Tarot by Eleonore F. Pieper, PhD, 2018. U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Light Seer’s Tarot

Lovely artwork, a colorful palette, a culturally diverse — and beautiful — cast of characters, and a positive attitude make this one of the most popular decks available. Following the RWS tradition, the scenes of contemporary life, creativity, and spirituality appeal to modern taste. I love the movement, freedom, and ingenious interpretations. Sparkling, shining, flowing lines of energy infuse the cards, calling spiritual light into the simplicity of everyday life. This deck is easy to read, easy to like, and easy to be with.

Interesting beginner decks Light Seers Tarot
Light Seers Tarot by Chris-Anne, 2019. Hay House.

Lubanko Tarot

I funded this deck on Kickstarter, and made a flip-through video of it when it first came out. This fine art deck with a graphic design sensibility immediately caught my eye. Its unique palette, at times bright, at times subdued, nevertheless has a clarity that stands out among other decks. There is an economy that leaves well enough alone when a simple shape will capture the mood or meaning, making the delicious detail all the more savory. The imagery is visceral, chaotic, jubilant, and full of wonder. Intense images can be discomfiting, but the honesty of response is rewarded when the viewer arrives at scenes of deep peace and tranquility, victorious achievement, or the wide expanse of cosmic potential.

Interesting beginner decks Lubanko Tarot
Lubanko Tarot by Emily Lubanko, 2021. Self-published.

What are your most interesting beginner tarot decks?

Let me know your favorite picks for a beginner deck in the comments!

Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.

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2 Comments

    • I’m not familiar with the Playful Heart Tarot! Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll check it out! A friend of mine uses the Star Tarot and loves it! So many great decks. 🙂

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