Practices like tarot, birth chart reading, and manifestation have seen a spike in popularity in recent years. While, ultimately, we all have the power to take control of our destinies, it remains endlessly exciting (and fun) to buy a new deck of tarot cards and lay out a spread that promises to teach and excite you about what lies ahead.
What Is Tarot?
Tarot cards can be traced back to at least the late 14th century, but it's unknown where, exactly, they came from or who invented the practice. Tarot reading itself is a means of divination, or fortune-telling, in which each card symbolizes a certain idea or theme. Tarot readers shuffle the cards and draw one or several, and are able to discern a message about the future through the resulting spread.
How To Read Tarot Cards
There are many ways of reading tarot cards. Most tarot card decks come with little instruction booklets that give the meaning of each card along with suggestions on how to read them. There are certain spreads for love, career, family, and even full-life readings, wherein the position of each card within the spread contains its own significance (i.e., a certain position might indicate the current situation, another person's feelings toward you, what the likely outcome is, etc.). Alternatively, some people shuffle their tarot cards while thinking about they're question until one "jumps" or falls out to answer them.
Whatever you do, though, don't look into cards too literally. The Death card, for instance, is often used in movies and television shows to allude to literal death, but that's often not the case in real life. If you're doing a reading about a relationship, for example, and you draw the Death card, it could mean the "death" of an argument, a certain set of circumstances, or a phase in you and your partner's life.
Our Favorite Tarot Card Decks
Without further ado, here are some of our favorite tarot decks, both new and tried-and-true. Each presents an opportunity for self-care, meditation, and some deep, calm thought about the path you're on.
Ah, yes, the Rider-Waite deck: The most instantly recognizable set of cards of all time. This classic was created in 1909 by Pamela Colman Smith, along with Arthur Edward Waite, and its intricate art remains as moving and striking as ever―a whole 113 years later.
This deck, written by Lisa Sterle, is based on the original Rider-Waite deck, but with a modern twist. In the cards' beautiful illustrations, our modern witch rides a bike, looks at her cell phone, goes to work, and engages in a myriad of other mundane modern activities that ultimately make divination feel more relatable to the modern reader.
This fun, unconventional tarot deck by Katya Tylevich and Mikkel Sommer uses famous artists like Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, and Caravaggio to impart wisdom on work, life, and creativity. The deck also comes with a little book containing brief biographies on each artist, so you can brush up on some art history knowledge while gaining inspiration for your next creative project.
Carol Bridges wrote this soothing deck in the wake of the Second Wave Feminist Movement. The cards are colorful and positive, and focus on crafting a positive path forth based on New Age, feminine-focused wisdom. I recommend buying the Medicine Woman Inner Guidebook along with this deck in order to better understand the cards.
I love this deck! Written by Yoshi Yoshitani, it follows the classic structure of the Major and Minor Arcana (with cards like The Star, The Moon, Knight of Cups, etc.), but each card is based on a fairytale from around the world. Not only is this deck fun to use, but it will also awaken your cultural curiosity and make you feel, once again, like a child listening with bated breath to a bedtime story.
The game of Lotería originated in Italy and Spain before becoming popularized in Latin America. This tarot deck by Mike Alfaro honors the game, which has become a symbol or Latinx culture, and includes an accessible guide so that tarot newcomers can easily begin their divination journeys.
Based on both the Rider-Waite deck and the research of tarot leaders Arthur Edward Waite and Paul Foster Case, F. Greer Bill's Morgan Greer Tarot is a strikingly colorful interpretation of the tarot whose cards are meant to elicit immediate emotional reactions.
When Trung Le Nguyen wrote this deck, he incorporated a multitude of stories and fairytales from around the world while including various ethnic groups along with the LGBTQ+ community.
This deck by Meggan Watterson celebrates femininity by honoring goddesses from around the world. Each card gives insight not only into your external circumstances, but also into how you can improve your emotional and spiritual health.
Much like the aforementioned Art Oracle deck, this unique set of cards provides an education about female authors like Jane Austen, Octavia Butler, Mirabai, and Gertrude Stein―to name only a few. Through this project, author Taisia Kitaiskaia and illustrator Katy Horan sought to celebrate female authors both well- and lesser-known so that their legacies can continue to live on and inspire us as we seek wisdom from the beyond.
The highly talented Matt Hughes drew inspiration from the Art Nouveau, Symbolist, and Pre-Raphaelite art movements when he illustrated this opulent deck, whose art is hypnotic in its intricacy and gentle use of color.
This card deck and ritual kit by Zolrak and Durkon blends the West African Yoruba, Brazilian Candomblé, Caribbean Santería, and Umbanda cultures with detailed artwork and thorough explanations. This deck is perfect for African and/or Latinx people seeking to connect with their heritage, or for anyone looking to learn more about these captivating cultures.
Sofie Birkin's Erotic Tarot deck is both sex positive and trans inclusive, so anyone and everyone can feel seen while exploring spirituality via intimacy.
Lo Scarabeo's Klimt-themed tarot deck is an absolute gift to art lovers old and young. Each card boasts a different painting by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, and will both reignite your love for Klimt's more famous work and expose you to a few of his lesser-known pieces.
Lo Scarabeo's Tarot of Marseille is another vintage classic that's always been popular, featuring old-fashioned designs that will undoubtedly put you in a mystical mood.
Tattoos are far more than just fashion and beauty statements―they're works of art. And this deck by Diana McMahon-Collins and illustrator MEGAMUNDEN honors tattoo art (especially the American Traditional style) through its unique depictions of the traditional Rider-Waite structure.
This lovingly hand-drawn deck is perfect for anyone who's ever fallen in love with New York City. Its cards depict the everyday magic of living in this concrete jungle, and each deck is packed and shipped off with love by the small business owner who wrote and illustrated them.
Ricardo Caravelo's Tarot del Fuego is filled with colorful fire and eye motifs. When you get these cards, you might just have to spend time shuffling through them to admire their stunning illustrations.
Maybe you're going on vacation, or maybe you just want to be able to read your cards on the go―regardless, this adorably tiny deck by Brigit Esselmont and Eleanor Grosch is bound to delight.
If you're a movie buff like me, then you'll love this deck by Diana McMahon Collis and Natalie Foss. The cards reference popular films like Kill Bill, Donnie Darko, Forrest Gump, and The Sound of Music, ensuring that you're next tarot reading will be as entertaining as it is illuminating.
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Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, fashion, culture, and politics both at Marie Claire and for publications like The New York Times, Bustle, and HuffPost Personal. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, including two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.