Should you buy your own Tarot cards?

The most persistent Tarot myth of all time, besides it being of ancient Egyptian origin, is that you should be gifted your first Tarot deck. I’ll cut to the chase: should you buy your own Tarot cards? Absolutely! 

Waiting for someone to gift you a deck might take forever

This is probably my biggest problem with this “advice.”

Suppose you are interested in the Tarot and want your own deck. Are you supposed to just wait around indefinitely until someone happens to randomly gift you a deck? What if you live in the middle of nowhere and don’t know anyone who is into Tarot, let alone someone who has enough extra decks to gift them to you?

It’s so silly. You shouldn’t have to wait around for months or years for someone to randomly give you a Tarot deck. If you want your own Tarot deck, go out and buy one!

Do your research. Watch youtube deck reviews. Go to a metaphysical store and shop around – sometimes they have “test” decks to look through before you buy. Do you want to go Marseille-style or RWS style? RWS or Thoth? Digital artwork or traditional painted? Abstract or narrative? These are largely a matter of taste.

What if you don’t connect with the deck you’re gifted?

This is another big reason to buy your own Tarot deck: there is no guarantee you will connect with the deck someone else gives you. While it might have a special connection insofar as it reminds you of your friend who has given you the deck, there is a risk of the deck itself just not being right for you:

  • What if it is a Marseille-style without images on the pips and that’s just not your style? Not to mention that’s tough for beginners
  • What if you don’t vibe with the art style?
  • What if the deck just feels off to you?
  • What if the deck doesn’t spark joy?
  • What if the deck doesn’t shuffle well and the card stock is of poor qualitty?
  • What if you don’t like the guidebook that comes with the deck?
  • What if the box it comes with is flimsy and you would rather have something sturdier?
  • What if they give you a Thoth deck and you’d much rather have a Rider-Waite-Smith or vice versa?
  • What if it just feels wrong or off in some way you can’t put your finger on?

For all these reasons and more, it’s so much better to do your research and buy the deck you absolutely want. Sometimes even that will take some trial and error. The first deck I ever bought I ended up not liking. I felt like I had jinxed myself somehow. Only later did I realize how it doesn’t really matter. Your very first Tarot deck is only special if you believe it to be special.

It’s fine if you place extra significance on that very first Tarot deck. But if you don’t, that’s perfectly fine as well. What’s important is to get a deck you vibe with and just start reading. Nothing replaces practice and familiarity.

Nothing bad or spooky will happen if you buy your own first Tarot deck

It is quite unfortunate that the Tarot has become the subject of so much superstition. While I absolutely believe that there is much to be gained by treating the Tarot as more than just a mere tool, ultimately it is just a pack of playing cards that you decide the metaphysical significance of.

You won’t be cursed. Your Tarot readings will not be less accurate. Your intuition won’t be stilted. Spirits won’t attack you. The gods won’t be upset at you. Your Tarot deck won’t care, nor will it know the difference whether it has been gifted or not.

All such phenomena are likely to be inside your own head. If you buy into these myths then your own anxieties will unconsciously influence your experience. But if you consciously choose to ignore them, then it is you that has the metaphysical power, not the Tarot deck.

An important part of “magical” practice is having the confidence in your own self such that you are not easily influenced by this or that superstition. You have to stand strong and come into the realization that how you experience the Tarot is up to you.

You decide whether the Tarot has power over you or not. You decide whether buying your own Tarot deck will be a good experience or not. If you’ve bought so deeply into the myth, then perhaps waiting for a deck to be gifted to you will end up the better experience. But that’s a fact about you, not the Tarot itself.

Buying your own first Tarot deck will greatly impact how quickly you learn the Tarot

What if someone gifts you your first Tarot deck and it has a completely abstract art style that your mind just can’t form any good associations with? Sure, it’s pretty, but your intuition just can’t make heads or tails of it.

I have written extensively on why I believe the classic Rider-Waite-Smith is the single best Tarot deck for beginners, mostly because if you manage to master it then you have thereby also learned how to read the vast majority of Tarot decks in existence, which are almost always influenced deeply by the traditional RWS imagery in one way or another.

Waiting for someone to gift you a deck that may or may not be suitable for your learning style is a great way to potentially slow your learning progress significantly. It might even cause you to get so frustrated with the Tarot that you give up on learning it for yourself altogether.

This Tarot myth is a form of gatekeeping

One of the more insidious side-effects of this myth is that it helps promulgate a form of gatekeeping in the Tarot world, which works to keep Tarot in the hands of mysterious insiders who have been initiated into a secret tradition.

But this is completely wrong! Tarot is for everyone, regardless of your spooky “credentials.” It is not just for experts and professional readers. It is not just for people who claim they have psychic powers. It’s not even for those who associate with the occult!

Tarot has been used by psychologists and therapists, atheists, skeptics, artists, and creatives of all stripes. It is an infinitely malleable tool useful for a wide variety of purposes. Novelists have been known to use it for helping to generate characters and story arcs. Mystics use it for spiritual purposes. Atheists use it because it’s just interesting as a historical and artistic object. Scholars study its history and influence.

Tarot is literally for anyone and everyone. By claiming that Tarot ownership has to be continued via some special chain of gift-giving robs potential people from experiencing the joy that is Tarot. And that is tragic!

There is, of course, nothing wrong with being gifted decks

If you did wait until you were gifted a deck, or happen to have been gifted a deck sometime in your Tarot journey, there is nothing wrong with that! It can be a fantastic experience to know that a friend or loved one decided that you ought to have this one particular deck.

Maybe it was special to your friend, which might make it special to you. Maybe every time you use it you are filled with wonderful memories of your friend. Maybe it just feels special to you in some way.

These are all wonderful things! I do not aim to take that away from anyone. My only goal is to show that this isn’t a universal, cosmic rule of the Tarot that applies to everyone.

The point of a myth is not that it’s entirely false. The myth might hold some grain of truth while still not being applicable for the vast majority of people.

So in conclusion: should you buy your own Tarot cards? Yes!

Related Links

Best Tarot Decks and Resources for Beginners

Is Tarot Reading Hard?

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