Beginner's Tarot by Kathleen McCormack (Quantum 2001, 2013)
I picked this up yesterday at The Works, a sort of balance to the three new tops I bought for work. I paid £4.99 for it, which may or may not have been too much. It's a pleasant enough little kit.
The deck comes in an attractive box that opens like a book. The companion book, full colour and printed on slick paper, fits nicely on top of a decorative custom compartment for holding the cards. All elements fit well, though the top of the box does like to pop open. This would not be a problem if the box were stored on the book shelf between other items. The cards are secure in the box and will not slide around when the box is standing on its end, unlike many tarot packs. The deck consists of 78 cards, in a Marseilles style and soft pastel colours.
The cards are a Marseilles-type design in soft colours, easy on the eye. The art style attempts to retain the primitive sensibility of the Marseilles, while rendering the human figures a bit more pleasing to the contemporary eye. (In other words, it's not quite as ugly.) The titles of the majors are in French, and the numbers on the pip cards are Roman numerals. The majors are presented in the very traditional, familiar forms and are not numbered.
The cardstock is a pleasant thinness (not too thin or thick) and virtually unlaminated. (There's a bit of a coating, but not much at all). They are more or less matte in appearance, not glossy at all. Riffle shuffling is very easy from the first shuffle. The deck measures 10 x 6 x 2 cm, only slightly larger than regular playing cards, so it is good for all those small-handed tarotists out there who talk about their small hands so much (I'm not one of them), as well as a nice little deck for carrying or for travel.
The book contains the usual bumpf about tarot history, presents the 3-card draw, the 7-card draw, the Horseshoe (which here is called 'the Bohemian') and the ubiquitous 10-card Celtic Cross.
One interesting feature of the book is that for each major, the author offers an interpretation of the card in each of the ten positions of the Celtic Cross:
The section on minors and courts is serviceable enough, giving the standard contemporary RWS meanings and laid out in an attractive format:
This deck actually would make a good starter deck. I have no compunctions whatsoever about starting someone out with unillustrated pips. In fact, I wish I had started with that type of deck. I believe it's good for you to learn some meanings by rote and then learn to allow your intuition to kick in, without aid of pictures.
The deck has nothing particular to make it stand out from the crowd. It is simply very affordable and a nice enough base for someone who wants to give tarot a go, without feeling they've had to make a risky investment. The cards are easy to handle, easy to interpret, and the meanings learned in this book will be familiar when the beginner moves on to other books and decks.