I've noticed for the last several months that I get out a tarot deck, look through it, put it away and pull out one of my 'real' tarot decks. For months and months it was a Rider Waite Smith. I have collected several over the years: Original Rider Waite-Smith, the yellow boxed Rider Deck, the Giant RWS, the Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative. Then I have those that deviate a bit more: Universal Waite (my first tarot deck--I don't count the debacle with Osho Zen!), Radiant Rider, Diamond Tarot. Beyond that I have all those RWS-based decks: Druidcraft, Morgan Greer...but for the last year or so, I tend to get out an old favourite like Druidcraft, look through it, throw it back in the box and use a 'real' RWS to do the actual reading. Perhaps it's because I have been reading so much Rachel Pollack, and she refers so much to RWS decks. But also, I found myself getting more and more interested in the esoteric and occult symbolism inherent in the RWS, which is often lacking in RWS-based decks, and sometimes purposely removed (such as in the Anna K Tarot).
Arthur Edward Waite
I still maintain that Golden Dawn and other occultists added on the qabalistic, astrological and other esoteric correspondences to the tarot deck after the fact. It seems clear to me that the earliest tarot decks were merely a set of renaissance images based on Christianity, plus pips, and that divination occurred as an offshoot, a novel use of this gaming tool. The occultists of the 19th century seem to be responsible for bolting esoteric meanings onto this card deck. Also, I believe that one doesn't need to know ANYTHING about these esoteric add-ons in order to use tarot cards for divination. It is pretty well-known that the creators of the two most prominent Golden Dawn decks, Arthur Edward Waite and Aleister Crowley, thought divination was a vulgar use of the cards, possibly even a misuse of them. I suppose you would think that of a set of images that you had bolted your entire universal paradigm of beliefs upon.
I suppose these 'purist' leanings (for lack of a better term) are what have led me to at last examine the Thoth Tarot. I am finding the 'add-ons' quite fascinating, and the Lon Milo DuQuette book very helpful, in a frustrating kind of way. (I can't help but thinking he sugar-coats the truth about Crowley, and even the deck, quite a little bit. But I believe a lot of contemporary followers of Themela and the OTO do that). I find the images, symbols and references in this deck fascinating, confounding and sometimes disturbing. But when I look through it (and I have spent a lot of time in the last several weeks just handling the deck and looking through it) I can see why some people fall for it to the virtual exclusion of other decks. I don't think anyone has ever got their head completely around this deck. I don't think even Aleister Crowley ever did. He would probably say the same, I bet. And I have a feeling that Harris wished she could have done more to convey what she was driving at...even though this is probably one of the best tarot decks ever painted.
I bring all this up because I have been looking at images of other tarot decks online, as I always do, and I keep thinking that so many of them are so lacking. Sure, they may have artwork on them that hearkens back to traditional divinatory meanings, or even riffs on them a bit, but then there's nothing else there. One will search in vain for 'other stuff'. Right now that other stuff is what I find attractive, what I find fascinating, what I find missing. Right now my definition of a tarot deck has become very, very narrow. And other decks begin to look to me like oracles. The pendulum has swung very far to one side. I'm sure I'll find my way back to the middle at some point. I don't profess to understand or even want to understand qabalah, astrology, and so forth. But I feel that paddling around, even in the shallow end of it all, is stretching me in good ways. So for now, decks like the Gaian will stay in their boxes. Decks like Wild Unknown will stay out of my shopping cart.
But I still really dislike Crowley and think his Thelema is a bunch of derivative, drug-induced, adolescent shock-schlock bollocks.