Some decks exist primarily as artwork; and such "art decks" sometimes contain only the 22 cards of the Major Arcana. Esoteric decks are often used in conjunction with the study of the Hermetic Kabala; in these decks the Major Arcana are illustrated in accordance with Kabalistic principles while the numbered suit cards (2 through 10) sometimes bear only stylised renderings of the suit symbol. However, under the influence of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, decks used in the English-speaking world for divination often bear illustrated scenes on the numeric cards to facilitate divination. The more simply illustrated "Marseille" style decks are nevertheless used esoterically, for divination, and previously for game play. The French card game of tarot is now generally played using a relatively modern 19th-century design. Such Tarot decks generally have 22 trumps with genre scenes from 19th-century life, a Fool, and have minor arcana that closely resembles today's French playing cards.
Tarot decks play a significant role in Roger Zelazny's Amber fantasy series, where most major characters carry a magical deck of Tarot cards who's Trumps represent other characters and enable communication with them or locations. An influential deck in English-speaking countries is the Rider-Waite deck (sometimes called simply the Rider deck). In French-speaking countries, the Marseille deck enjoys the equivalent popularity. While the deck is sometimes known as a simple, user-friendly one, its imagery, especially in the Trumps, is complex and replete with occult symbolism. The subjects of the trumps are based on those of the earliest decks, but have been significantly modified to reflect Waite and Smith's view of Tarot. An important difference from 'Marseille'-style decks is that Smith drew scenes on the numeric cards to depict divinatory meanings; those divinatory meanings derive, in great part, from traditional cartomantic divinatory meanings (e.g., Etteilla and others) and from divinatory meanings first espoused by The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, of which both Waite and Smith were members. However, it isn't the first deck to include completely illustrated numeric cards. The first to do so was the 15th-century Sola-Busca deck; however, in this case, the illustrations apparently were not made to facilitate divination.
Different Types of Decks
The Ator Tarot is a smart and whimsical spin on Rider Waite symbolism. The clunky and adorable characters of the Ator Tarot make it the deck of choice for those seeking a refreshing approach to divination.
Cat People Tarot:
The Cat People Tarot paints a picture of faraway lands trod by mystical archetypes and their feline companions. This deck is a perfect tool for dreamers and idealists, and is a great choice for divining the nature of human imagination.
Colman Smith Tarot:
The Colman Smith Tarot is a modern reinvention of the classic Rider Waite deck, infusing the original line drawings by Pamela Colman Smith with colors drawn from the psychedelic digital age.
The Golden Tarot is a modern celebration of late medieval artwork. This deck is the choice of scholars, for it evokes images of elegance amid barbarism, and the light of virtue in dark times.
The Haindl Tarot weaves a tapestry of haunting beauty from the traditions of Native America, the Holy Grail, the I Ching, Kabbalah and the Norse Runes, and is the deck of choice for mystics and those seeking enlightenment.
International Icon Tarot:
The International Icon Tarot renders traditional occult symbolism in Swiss iconography. It is a humorous and direct approach to divination, and one of our favorite new decks.
The Lovecraft Tarot is a tribute to the gothic writings of the visionary H.P. Lovecraft. It is the deck of choice for explorers of the macabre, and for posing questions that should never be asked.
The Marseilles Tarot is an 18th century creation of obscure origins. It predates the occult symbolism of the Rider Waite deck by roughly 200 years, giving the readings a unique and rustic flavor. Many swear by this deck as the true oracle of the common man.
The images of the Minchiate Tarot are drawn from a rare surviving 18th century deck of 97 cards - 19 more than the traditional Tarot. It is considered by many to be the single most powerful divination tool on the web, providing deep insight, rich in ancient symbolism, to any question you may pose.
The Palladini Tarot was created to "bridge the ancient and the future", using elements of Medieval, Egyptian and modern art. It is one of the most popular decks among new students of Tarot.
The Phoenix Tarot is one of the most strikingly beautiful decks of the 20th century. Through vibrant colors and stylized images, it breathes new life into the familiar symbology of the Tarot.
The Renaissance Tarot is a modern deck, with symbolism drawn from the heroic age and rendered in renaissance style. This deck is an excellent choice for exploring questions of passion, mastery, and the inner workings of human reason.
Rider Waite Tarot:
The Rider Waite Tarot is the most widely recognized Tarot deck, and the first deck published in the 20th century. It was created by members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and is especially suited to questions of a mystical nature.
Saint Petersburg's Tarot (Russian):
The Russian Tarot of Saint Petersburg is the final commissioned work of Yuri Shakov, a master in the lost art of Russian miniature painting. The rich, dark images lend themselves to questions regarding the struggle of the human spirit in trying times.
Sola Busca Tarot:
The Sola Busca Tarot is a color embellished reproduction of the only known extant 15th century Tarot deck engraved on metal. It is the choice of purists and those seeking a direct channel with the dawn of Western occultism.
Voodoo Tarot of New Orleans:
The Voodoo Tarot of New Orleans is a deck rich in primal spirituality. It draws on images from the religion Santeria, which weaves Catholic and African beliefs into a vibrant tapestry. This exceptional deck is most often used to ask questions regarding the joy, fury, and spirituality in everyday life.
William Blake Tarot:
The William Blake Tarot explores the mystical vision and artistry of the renowned English painter and poet. Through rich interpretations focused on creative undertakings, it has long been the deck of choice for artists, writers, musicians, and thinkers.