The Deviant Moon Tarot is a contemporary deck that proves helpful when working with the Shadow, as Carl G. Jung described. We often have difficulty admitting our own dark spaces and, instead, try to present ourselves as righteous, a pervasive psychology, really. With its somewhat comical-eerie features, these cards move us to an honest consideration of a side often suppressed, sort of like scary or suspenseful movies do. I also like it that the designer, Patrick Valenza, is from Long Island, NY where I grew up. His book Deviant Moon Tarot is a great compliment to the cards. The author is careful to place strict interpretations and encourages the reader to trust his or her own intuitive faculty.
Alejandro Jodorowsky's Deck
My Favorite Tarot Decks and Why
Whatever way these cards have been used in the past or are being used in the present, I am proposing them here as unique manifestations of a deep, almost inaccessible part of ourselves which it is essential for us to access if we are to come to terms with the world we have created for ourselves to live in. --Mark Patrick Hederman (Philosopher and Monk)
The Deck of the Dead Tarot by Seven Stars is a unique deck that few designers and publishers dare to go. This deck carries central themes that we all must consider when working with existential angst, but not without some hidden pockets of humor. Two themes worth noting: (1) Death or impermanence is always present in spite of our illusion of a "forever after;" and (2) No one or thing can defeat death in spite of great claims of advancement. The designer said it well: "the images speak to the fact that all situations are temporary." Seven Stars was kind to share with me brief personal factors that prompted such a deck. I couldn't help but feel close to her for a moment, given my many years of working around death. Like the Deviant Moon Tarot, though, I use this deck to address a specific theme. This deck parallels my work with Conversing with Death, which draws attention to one's own existential angst.
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The Marseille Tarot is a rather uncommon deck here in the US, but to me it provokes unconscious patterns and relational factors that any worker of the mind finds relevant. Several Marseille decks go as far back to the 14th century in France. The Marseille types are highly respected and used in several countries: France, South America (due, perhaps in part, to card designer and author Alejandro Jodorowsky), and others. The cards have a simple disposition, unlike other decks that flood the mind with too much stimuli, but yet quickly develops a relationship with the unconscious. I like the Millennium deck and love (and carry with me) Pablo A. Roblado's black and white woodcut limited edition of the Major Arcana. An excellent book in understanding the Marseille is Reading the Marseille Tarot by Jean-Michel David.
There are 300-400 Tarot decks in the market today. The interest in this artistic tradition continues to mount not only in marketing but also as the thirst of the collective conscious rises for personal and spiritual growth. Below are a few that I like and why. Historicity and a knowledge about the person behind the cards are important to me, especially if the cards are so contemporary that they leave Italian and French traditional artistry of the Tarot.
Call me traditional, but I have high regards for the Smith-Waite Tarot deck. I fell in love with Pamela-Coleman Smith, the designer behind the 78 pictures, early on in my learning. Interested in theater, Smith produced her art in a short amount of time upon the request of Arthur Waite. Her drawings outside of the deck are worthy to inspect. She combined her cultural language and religious and astrological symbols into her paintings. I find Smith feisty and bold, because she seems to have defied male dominance in her art by using the face of female friends, for instance, to depict male roles. Toward's the end of her life, she converted to Roman Catholicism. A great text on this deck and the designer's history, which I find imperative to learn, is Pamela-Coleman Smith: The Untold Story by Stuart R. Kaplan.
Follow your inner moonlight; don't hide your madness. --Allen Ginsberg
One newer deck that I recently found is the Pholarchus Tarot (pronounced Fo-lar-cus) by Carmen Sorrenti. This is a contemporary deck that is clearly sensitive to cultural and gender themes, while appreciating the soft sensuous side of life which is so lacking in psychological and spiritual work. Carmen's honest and courageous thrust to employ dream work and the unconscious is fascinating. A quote from an interview she describes a deep philosophy, "Words need to haunt us, dig into new places, make us dream further." We live in a day where logic is used to explain everything, leaving little room for the powerful unconscious, a human processing system that promotes dream, mythology, alchemy, personal truth, and more. This deck returns us to this "cave" of felt sense where healing flows. Carmen's advice in a personal exchange: "Step in and feel how it might be to become the card."