I have become skilled at Tarot reading. Not from super-dedicated study, mind you; it just proved to be a useful skill so I simply used it regularly. First with heavy use of a reference (learntarot.com, specifically), then with intermittent use of a reference, and now recently without having to refer to references at all. (I had the hardest time learning the court cards, actually.) This wasn't really a slow development of skill, though; it lurched forward at two notable points.
Those would be both times I switched decks. That, more than years of practice, or my attempts at dedicated study, made pretty much all the difference.
My first deck was Peter Pracownik's Dragon Tarot, which got my attention for fairly obvious reasons. It's pretty, but it's really not a good first deck at all unless you'd rather try to learn by rote memorization than useful symbolism. The symbolism of the cards is sparse, indistinct, and unmemorable on all but the Major Arcana, who aren't hard to remember anyway. I mean, I'm not going to pretend that I don't like the deck, I very much do- I just can't read it very well. It didn't give me a good, intuitive feel for the meanings of the cards- just something I had to look up to understand. I gained no confidence, and no real ability to read the deck.
This was my only deck for a couple of years, though, and it proved unsettlingly accurate, increasing with practice as I got better at it. It also proved to remain opaque- except for the cards I got familiar with because they came up again and again, I really couldn't read them without a reference. So when I started to attend a monthly Tarot gathering where the organizer was very much against using a reference because she's a strong proponent of highly intuitive reading, I struggled for a few sessions, then bought another deck- a Rider-Waite.
The Rider-Waite is one of the two very traditional decks, and I found it much easier to read- it had actual imagery. There was an actual connection between the divinitory meaning of the card and the image on it. My efforts to memorize the card meanings got a lot more successful, and when I sometimes went back to my Dragon Tarot deck, I found myself most effectively remembering meanings by remembering what the Rider-Waite cards were. I still needed references, and I was still bad at reading the Court Cards and Aces, but I could at least read it with some confidence most of the time.
Acting on a recommendation from a friend who knows the artist personally, I have now switched to Robin Wood's deck, and it immediately worked a lot better for me. The imagery is only slightly clearer, but I can just understand the deck better.
My magic-related belief system is based mostly around energy and energy manipulation, so I rely on that for divination- mixing the energy of the deck with my own (and that of whoever I'm doing the reading for, if it's not me), mixing it with the question I'm asking, and releasing it as I shuffle- and letting its returning answer guide my hands. As a result, I'm very much feeling the energy of the deck I work with- and I work best, by far, with the energy of Robin Wood's deck.
The Dragon Tarot felt... not uncooperative, exactly, but like it would rather be aloof and mystical. Prideful and accurate, but neither sympathetic nor inclined to be especially helpful. It certainly didn't want to explain itself, so it gave me no intuitive clues to read the cards. It would say its piece, but had only marginal interest in helping me understand it. Sometimes, that's just the right attitude for a reading, but it wasn't very helpful to my efforts to learn.
The Rider-Waite felt like a thing more than an entity. Its energy felt well-established, classical, anchored by a hundred years of use and the cultural symbolism it's accumulated along the way. It explained itself very matter-of-fact-ly; it had no qualms about working with me and had no agenda about how it wanted to seem; it just was, and I could read what it said to me, or not, and that's a significant step up from the Dragon Tarot taking a certain pride in being a bit obscure.
Robin Wood's deck, conversely, feels very much alive, and I have a suspicion it's simply closely tied to the energy of the artist- someone who wrote it as a project to write a Tarot deck that expressed as much of her experience with and symbolism of the Tarot as she could, and wanted it to be open and clear- and her attitude is all through the energy of her deck. I worked with her deck before I read the book she wrote for it (after much nagging, according to the introduction), and they speak with the same voice. More than any other deck, that one will go out of its way to be clear and helpful, and working with the energy of the deck, it's trying to highlight exactly what I should be paying attention to in each card it's chosen. It's a deck with all the compassion in the world, but no reluctance to warn of bad events or bad outcomes- and this happens to be, of the three, the one I work best with.
For the other Tarot readers here, have you discovered differences in how your different decks (if you have more than one!) read to you?
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