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Tarot...so hot right now.
Most people recognize tarot as a deck of 78 cards used for divination or divine consultation, but it’s also a centuries-old practice that’s closely tied to astrology in theory in function. In fact, each zodiac sign is linked to one of the Major Arcana tarot cards. It’s not unusual to meet people who are into both tarot and astrology, and professional tarot readers and astrologers say that learning about both enriches and expands their practice.
Whether your tarot interest is just blossoming or you’re ready to launch your tarot business, we asked some of our favorite astrologers (many of whom are also professional tarot readers!) about their go-to tarot decks. Check out their cosmic recommendations below:
VICE senior astrologer Annabel Gat
Astrology has been a lifelong passion of mine and I started working as a professional astrologer in 2009. Throughout most of the late ‘90s and early 2000s, I spent most of my time in the occult section of the bookstore! My big sister and her best friend would give each other tarot readings, which I found so fascinating; they gifted me my first Rider Waite Smith deck when I was in 4th grade!
I usually use the RWS deck for other people and the Thoth deck for myself—but I definitely mix it up a lot! Right now, I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying the Wild Unknown Animal Spirit deck, which isn’t a tarot deck, but an oracle pack, which I have found very illuminating.
The box and cards are gorgeous, and I found the booklet to be very insightful. I’m a tough judge on booklets and this one surprised me—it was helpful each time I used it! I love that the deck includes mythical creatures as well as ones here on earth. I recommend this deck to anyone whose tarot library is overflowing and is looking for something new!
Astro Guide astrologer Priya Kale
My grandfather was an astrologer and I've been a life-long student of astrology and a full-time professional astrologer since 2006. After all these years of practicing astrology professionally I find that the more I learn, the less I know. Astrology is a vast, deep, infinite ocean—but what I have learned is the more humble you are, the more it will reveal its secrets to you.
I first started reading tarot cards when I was 15, mostly for myself and friends. Being a visual artist, the images and archetypes speak to me in ways that words never could. They never fail to amaze me with their ability to get to the heart of the matter, and my relationship with them continues to deepen, grow, and liven as time progresses.
I stumbled upon this deck quite unforgettably and by chance at a metaphysical store in Woodstock, New York. I went in to buy a different deck, but this was sitting on the shelf and called out to me. I pulled cards to decide between the decks and got the Ace of Pentacles for this deck and decided to go for it. I was even more amazed as I started to read with it. The deck is true to its name—dreamy, magical, and taking you on a journey into another realm. This is by far one of the most lucid decks I have come across. It allows you to slip beyond the veil into another dimension with more ease than you would think—and the characters are alive and very vocal. In spite of its dreamy quality, the Ace of Pentacles energy comes through strongly, revealing crystal clear visions of the real tangible potential in situations.
Astro Guide astrologer Alice Bolen
Tarot and astrology have a lot of associations with one another, and while I choose to keep my focus on astrology, it's fun to pull a couple of cards to add depth and detailed visual representation to further clarify an astrology reading.
I'm a huge fan of Barbara Walker's tarot set, which Walker designed after doing detailed research from a feminist perspective on Pagan and other religious material from all around the world. The accompanying book explains how the deck was designed from a feminist-inclusive perspective.
I really like this deck because it has a lot of character to it, and it respects that women were involved in world history and the esoteric tradition as much as men were. Reading the book was really eye-opening for me and helped me understand in detail the more feminine aspects of spirituality and religion. Overall I think this is a great deck for anyone who would like to move beyond gender stereotypes and likes the depth and honesty of working with the shadow aspects of themselves, as this deck involves a lot of Pagan imagery. This deck suits anyone who likes to go deep, and I wouldn't recommend it for the faint-hearted.
Astro Guide astrologer Randon Rosenbohm
I've been reading about astrology since 2009 or 2010 and taking classes since 2016. I've been a professional astrologer for about two years now. I live and breathe astrology and read charts in my sleep. I can't remember a night in recent history I haven't dreamt about astrology. Sometimes I stare off into space and my boyfriend is like, "What are you thinking about," and I'm like, "Nothing," but honestly? Astrology.
I was gifted my first tarot deck when I was 15 or 16, so a little under a decade ago. I remember giving readings to literally everyone at school, and my family members, too. My AP Art focus was the Major Arcana and I painted, sculpted, and drew a lot of the imagery. Around this time, a grave robber in New Orleans told me that I had to travel through the tree of life using the tarot.
I'm a purist and I'm gonna say: Always start with the Rider-Waite deck. It's standard. My teen self wants to tell you it was illustrated by a lady who went to art school in Brooklyn. Any tarot decks that resemble the structure of the Marseille deck (Major/Minor arcana and the corresponding suits) are kosher in my opinion. As long as the art is based on this system, I ship it. Namaste bookshop on 14th street in New York has the most tarot decks I've ever seen in one place.
I was raised spiritual so I’ve always been somewhat aware of astrology, but I’ve been practicing it most seriously for about two years. I received my first tarot deck on my 16th birthday, and I’ve been practicing it for nine years now.
I recommend the Manzel’s Tarot II. In my personal practice, Manzel's Tarot II is my go-to deck for a couple of reasons, the top ones relating to being able to have representation in my spiritual practice. Growing up, I’ve only ever seen decks that featured white faces, which is sort of ironic because the illustrator of the most popular tarot deck (Rider-Waite tarot), Pamela Colman Smith, is suggested to be biracial. Tarot is a powerful tool that helps me connect to my intuition and my ancestors, and the Manzel’s Tarot II does a spectacular job providing me with the representation that I deserve.
Astro Guide astrologer Lexi Ferguson
I've studied astrology since 2016 and write for Astro Guide, and I’ve studied tarot since 2004 and read professionally.
My main professional deck is the Ellis Deck (which will be restocked after August 23)! I want my deck art to have efficient meaning rather than superfluous decoration. The Ellis Deck manages that while still being evocative and engrossing. I also think it reveals layers of meaning in the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith imagery without smothering it.
My runner up is the Next World Tarot by Cristy C. Road. Surprisingly insightful activism tie-ins in the art, plus astrological associations printed on each card.
VICE astrology editor Sara David
I'm not an astrologer, but I’ve been a lover of astrology all my life and became an astrology editor about a year and a half ago, which is also when I began learning tarot! I’ve had tarot decks since I was a teen, but didn’t take my practice seriously until I started working with Annabel, who is a very gifted reader and a great tarot teacher.
My ex of many years gifted me the Tarot of Pagan Cats—the mini deck version so it could fit easily in my purse/desk drawer at work for day readings. I treasure this deck for sentimental reasons, but also because it is absolutely perfect for learning tarot for people like me, who fall asleep reading boring descriptions of cards and are generally bored with the traditional white-people-in-jester-outfits look of classic decks.
The illustrations are adorable (they’re cats!) and very intuitive. Each picture clearly corresponds to the meaning of the card, and you can easily identify the themes of a card even if you’re not familiar with tarot. If you’re trying to strengthen your craft like me, the illustrations give you enough inspiration for your mind to recall whatever you’ve read about it, and to draw your own inspiration. On a personal note, I think this deck is lucky because it has only guided me in the right direction so far.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.