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Friday, 12 July 2013

Deck Review: Beginner's Tarot

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. 

What's Included
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
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
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:

In Summary
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. 


  1. It's interesting you say you wish you'd started with an unillustrated pip deck. I think people vary in that regard. Some people might never get to grips with the cards, or enjoy them, without first having illustrated pips. And though they may come to know the meanings and understand the suit and numerological associations, without that first visual kick might never gotten out of the starting gate with tarot. Certainly, I think that would have been the case for me...

    1. Remember, too, though, that your reading style is very highly intuitive, whereas mine tends to stay within parameters of my own internalized card meanings. :)

    2. I remember you writing once that reading the cards intuitively is just about letting your unconscious choose from the various meanings and associations you've already internalised, which I think is very true! Sometimes I worry that I am too wedded to certain set interpretations I have memorised, though I admit I do also let myself look at the card and see what jumps out at me... All this to say, I don't think I read more intuitively than you. However, while I now enjoy semi-illustrated pips, I still don't really like non-illustrated pips.

    3. I will allow myself to interpret the cards in all sorts of interesting ways, but the basis is always the card meaning. For example, the Devil plus King of Cups once meant an alcoholic father in a reading. But that's not a terrible stretch given that the Devil can be about addiction and a quite literal interpretation of cups having to do with drink and king being an male authority figure. It could have easily been seen as a temptation to have an affair with an overly friendly boss. That's where intuition comes in. But the card basis is there.

      Anyway, I just wonder how my tarot path would have been if I had started with pips only decks. Many, many readers started out that way, back in the old days. But tarot reading has evolved a lot since then. It's something that will always be a question mark for me.