Photo of Tarot Deck

10 Unique (and Beautiful) Tarot Decks to Refresh Your Divination Practice

The history of tarot goes back centuries, but these creative tarot decks are decidedly modern.

DoubleBlind Mag

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One of the oldest known tarot decks is a pack of hand-painted cards commissioned by the nobility of 15th-century Italy. Rendered in cloudy gold and set in its time by the medieval outfits, you’ll find lots of yellow hair and curiously pencil-thin eyebrows long before the ‘90s trend that left so many applying castor oil to their naked skin and praying. These tarocchi (Italian for “tarot”) were miniature works of art that composed a set of playing cards, but it wasn’t until 18th-century France that the iconography of the tarot cards became used as a tool for reflection and divining the future. 

What I love most about Tarot is that it combines archetypal imagery — those old things we hang our hats on — with the interpreter’s modern visions. Each person who delves into its mysteries leaves their own imprint on the practice. My friend and experienced Tarot enthusiast, Pia, put it best: To work with tarot cards is to enter a question sideways instead of head-on.

Superstition has it that you aren’t supposed to buy a tarot deck for yourself, so some people find that there’s an inherent sense of longing and anticipation embedded in these stacks of cards, along with the concepts of gift giving and the practice of learning to ask for what you want — all of which plays into the practice of Tarot itself. To help you get the lay of the land, let’s go through a mini roundup of some of the most unique, beautiful tarot decks out there — and one eternal classic to get you started.

Rider-Waite-Smith Deck

Rider Tarot Deck

The Rider-Waite-Smith deck serves as the template for many other tarot decks and is a worthy place to start. Before this edition, prior decks did not illustrate the minor arcana (wands, swords, cups, and pentacles) so the Rider-Waite-Smith made an easier passage to interpretation without consulting a guidebook.

The deck was designed by Arthur Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, both members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a British occultist group from the late 1800s that drew from astrology, tarot, and geomancy—although, being a “secret society,” many of their practices are shrouded in mystery.

READ: The Playful History of Tarot

This deck is usually referred to as the “Rider-Waite,” omitting the name and contributions of artist Pamela Colman Smith, but let that be less and less the case. Pamela Colman Smith, a suffrage activist who attended Pratt Institute in its early days, never married or had children, and there is no record of her having any significant romantic relationships with men, leading to speculations about her sexuality (most easily accessed if you Google “Pamela Colman Smith gay,” like I did).

This deck might inspire you to expand your artistic practice or start your own secret society — see what the cards might say.

Dust2Onyx: A Melanated Tarot Deck

Photo of Tarot Deck and Book with abstract background

Courtney Alexander’s multimedia collages, in her words, evoke “a living tapestry that weaves together the historical narratives and modern culture of the Black Diaspora.” If you find yourself mesmerized by this stunning and weighty deck and want to learn more, she offers a course, “Tarot Through the Spiral” that draws on Bantu-Kongo, Dogon, and Dagara cosmologies, speaking to anyone who might feel alienated by the traditional interpretations of the Tarot or who feels curious about what Tarot can look like within one’s own lineage.

READ: Where Witchcraft Meets Plant Medicine

Psychedelic Tarot Erotique

Illustration of surreal person holding tarot cards

Gift someone Jessalyn Ragus’ Tarot Erotique for something lush and silly-surreal. In this deck’s fever dream, the delighted are penetrated by tulip stems and swords and multicolored plastic straws and everything feels willingly on display. Fruits loom large and flowers spill forth as pants are pulled down and shirts lifted up in an endless psychedelic strip tease.

The Jade Oracle Deck/Oráculo Jade

Photo of Tarot Card Deck

The Jade Oracle: Deities and Symbols of Ancient Mexico highlights pre-Hispanic deities like Xochiquetzal, the Aztec goddess of beauty, pleasure, and flowers; Tecuciztecatl, the “old moon god” known for carrying a white shell upon his back; and Coatlicue, the earth serpent goddess with her skirt of snakes and necklace made of human hearts. These ultra-glossy cards, written in Nahuatl, Spanish, and English with a bilingual guidebook, are laden with myth — in a sense, thousands of years in the making.

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Dirt Gems

“Designed to invite you into a more personal and subtle relationship with the plant world,” this oracle deck pairs the watery and vibrant plant paintings of Chelsea Granger with the poetic renderings of Anne Louise Burdett. 

You might receive a Ginger card with a galloping stallion that evokes the root’s relationship to “the oceany tissue of our bodies” and its fiery capacity to remove blockages. Or you might pull the “perimeter walker,” elecampane, a yellow flower suspended below a pair of blue lungs — an “ally if you feel yourself torn between two worlds.” 

Anne’s background in agroecology and herbalism make this a crash course in the healing properties of these plant allies. You might find yourself leaving a particularly resonant card up on your windowsill for the week, then noticing it in the wild, or infusing it in your food, tinctures, or a hot bath.

Fifth Spirit Tarot

Created by Charlie Claire Burgess, a nonbinary queer from the Deep South who lives with a one-eyed pug named Apollo, Fifth Spirit Tarot plays with gender in the most delightful of ways. 

Set against creamy backgrounds with soft illustrations, all the figures in this deck seem softly contemplative and ready to receive you. If you love their work, there is even more to explore: 

Burgess is the author of a book called Radical Tarot: Queer the Cards, Liberate Your Practice, and Create the Future, and made their own version of the famous Marseille Deck (now called The Gay Marseille). 

Grandma Baby’s Black Gold Lenormand Too

Grandma Baby’s Black Gold takes on the spirit of Grandma Baby Suggs of Toni Morrison’s Beloved in this version of the traditional 36-card Lenormand deck (named for the French necromancer and fortune teller Madame Marie Anne Lenormand). 

This deck works with Hoodoo history and archival photography to merge the world of archetypes with the radically specific stories embedded in a photograph. Faces gaze up at you from their time and become a part of yours. Tea, the artist, also offers spiritual consultations “along the lines of Black Indigenous religious technologies,” reminding seekers that “what we’ve come here seeking … we likely came here with.”

A Soul’s Odyssey Oracle Deck

Many Tarot readers will tell you that decks have personalities, enabling you to consult them for advice the way you would a friend. Much like certain confidantes, some know which deck will go easy on them and where they’ll find the toughest advice. 

Think of A Soul’s Odyssey as the friend who’s gently tucking a flower behind your ear — the one who seems to have joy on tap and probably grew up in California. In this oracle deck, messages like “Blessings are All Around You” and “Together, We Create Magic” are set against electric rainbows and stardust vision — a reliable source of light when you can’t seem to shake the gloom. 

Rainbow Tarot

Illustrator So Lazo riffs on Rider-Waite-Smith’s iconography in super-saturated color palettes — seafoam green, dusky pinks and blues, and landscapes doused in color — to celebrate emotionality and wild love. The deck reflects a cheeky animist sensibility, with faces painted on a bird, a sun, a moon, or a pair of darkened clouds in the sky, suggesting not just that we might find beyond-human friends, but that these animals and entities possess their own emotional lives. Rainbow Tarot’s guidebook is interpreted by poet and spiritualist Cyrée Jarelle Johnson, who comes from three generations of clairvoyants, making this well-guided and vividly rendered deck perfect for beginners.

Next World Tarot

Next World Tarot insists that the personal is political. The figures in this deck are “body outlaws” and outcasts who are tending to each other and paying fierce attention. The Seven of Wands depicts a woman holding a plant ally and surrounded by candlelight, undaunted by the crowd of cops in riot gear behind her. The Queen of Cups is a bearded and serene elder on a sea rock, ornamented in flowers and frills. A Revolution card paints an oil refinery on fire with a protest sign in the foreground reading, “Defend the Sacred.” This deck, while anti-escapist, still offers joy and whimsy: music-making, ritual, and community ever at the center. 

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