Tarot for Beginners Part 2 – Mainstream Tarot Systems

Hi Tarot Tribe, today I am sharing the second part of my Tarot for Beginners series. In this part, we will be learning about Mainstream Tarot Systems.

If you missed Part One where I talk about the difference between Tarot and Oracle decks you can check it out here.

Before I begin, as with everything I share, take what resonates with you and simply leave the rest.

Now that you know how to be 100% sure that you are working with a Tarot deck, it is time to look at the types of Tarot decks that are available to you. I am calling these the Mainstream Tarot Systems.

There is a lot of contradicting information about the origins of Tarot and I respect many Tarot historians and have studied it intensely. What I’m telling you is based on the records that have been found and verified, however, I’m not a historian.

I want to give you an overview of each of the most popular systems to give you as much information as I can so you can make an informed choice with which one you would like to study.

The Mainstream Tarot Systems

The first is the oldest Tarot/Cartomancy deck that has been found. It is the 15th Century deck called the Visconti-Sforza Tarot. It was commissioned and created by two Italian families, Visconti and Sforza.

Many of the visual components are mirrored in modern Tarot decks. The Visconti-Sforza Tarot also had a role in the way that modern Tarot decks are numbered. They have pip cards which means that their Minor Arcana Cards were not fully illustrated.

I have a video about this over on my Youtube channel if you would like to learn more about Pip decks vs fully illustrated decks.

The next is the 18th Century French Tarot deck Marseille Tarot. The deck is structured just like the Visconti-Sforza tarot. 22 Major Arcana or Trump cards. 56 Minor Arcana Cards. It is also a pip card Deck.

These two decks are very popular and you can use either as beginner’s decks. I know a lot of people who use these deck exclusively.

As a Tarot reader and teacher, I don’t focus on either of these systems. I am lucky to have many of these kind of decks and books in my collection and I read with them, but the majority of the readings and my Tarot training is based on the theRider Waite-Smith system.

The next two Tarot systems are The Rider Waite Smith Tarot and The Thoth

The Rider Waite Smith Tarot

Also known as the Rider Waite Tarot (it’s the same system, many people add Smith in the title to pay respect to the artist of the deck) was created by Arthur Waite and first published in 1910.

The iconic art was painted by artist Pamela Coleman Smith. This deck was heavily influenced by occultist Eliphas Levi.

Some key notes on structure:

  • Cards: 78 Cards – 22 Major Arcana, 16 Court Cards, 56 Minor Arcana
  • Court Cards – Pages, Knights, Queens, Kings
  • Suits for the Minor Arcana and Court – Cups, Wands, Swords, Pentacles
  • Strength is number 8
  • Justice is number 11

The deck was meticulously created. Every card was painted by Pamela, or Pixie as she is fondly known, as a full scene. There is so much going on in each of the cards they are compelling and representational of the experiences we can have in life.

This deck is one of the most reproduced decks of all time. This is the deck that the majority of Tarot decks use as the base and influence when they create a Tarot deck.

This is the deck that I learned and that I teach. It is the deck that I have the most kinds of in my collection. This deck brought about the revival of the Tarot in popular culture. There are a number of editions of the Rider Waite Smith deck in circulation.

The Thoth Tarot

The Thoth Tarot was created by the infamous Aleister Crowley. It was being produced between 1938 – 1943. The art was created by artist Lady Frieda Harris. The deck was first published in 1969, sadly either Crowley or Harris lived to see the deck in print. The Thoth Tarot is influenced by the Golden Dawn Tradition.

Some key notes on structure:

  • Cards: 78 Cards – 22 Major Arcana, 16 Court Cards, 56 Minor Arcana
  • Court Cards – Princess, Princes, Queens, Knights – There are no Kings. The Knights take the place of the Kings.
  • Suits for the Minor Arcana and Court – Cups, Wands, Swords, Disks
  • Strength is number 11
  • Justice is number 8

Each card has a key word that is the main theme of the card and many of the Major Arcana names are changed. Temperance is Art. Strength is Lust. Justice is Adjustment.

The name changes in some of the cards and the keywords will either be something that you personally find helpful or limiting, depending on the way you like to work with your decks.

Personally, I prefer Tarot decks not to have keywords on them. However, they can be very helpful learning tools. Adding keywords is up to the deck creator, not all modern Thoth decks have keywords, and there are also Rider Waite Smith decks that have keywords on them.

Modern Tarot Decks That Cross Over

There are many different decks out there that are a complete crossover or mixture of systems. This has become common with the abundance of incredible independent decks that have emerged in the last 5 years.

Some include the very popular Wild Unknown Tarot deck and the Ostara Tarot. This is also very obvious when it comes to collective or collaborative decks where each artist brings their own interpretation of the card.

What deck you choose is completely up to you. I have a post on the Top 15 Tarot decks for Beginners where I go through some recommendations and why I have recommended them. In a nutshell, however, I always advise picking the deck that you feel the most drawn to.

Thank you for joining me through a look at some of the Mainstream Tarot Systems and I hope this was illuminating. I will see you for Part 3 of my Tarot for Beginners series soon.

  • Karma conceptz
    Posted at 23:33h, 25 February Reply

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful blog post.
    Your post is really insightful blog post.

  • emmagabarron
    Posted at 10:08h, 01 March Reply

    Ethony, thank you this post.

  • Blesiman
    Posted at 06:14h, 02 March Reply

    Ethony, Really cool post. Thanks

  • soztheo
    Posted at 22:43h, 05 March Reply

    et le travail. Ils sont souvent aidés par un support comme un pendule ou les 22 arcanes du tirage tarot de Marseille gratuit. Ils peuvent trouver une solution ou un conseil qui aideront les consultants en mal de

  • Jake
    Posted at 13:47h, 06 March Reply

    I think you should do a workshop on using the tarot for character development and plot structure.

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