If you have already bought a deck which works for you, then all well and good. There are so many designs available today that it can be quite bewildering if you know nothing about the subject. All designs are NOT equal.
The standard Tarot pack should be made up of five suits usually known as Coins or Pentacles, Swords, Wands or Staffs, Cups, and the Trumps. The first four suits are known collectively as the Minor Arcana and comprise of 14 cards in each suit. The trumps are usually referred to as the Major Arcana and number 22 cards.
In older designs, the Major Arcana was always illustrated, but, like modern day playing cards, only the court cards in the Minor Arcana bore pictures. If you use one of the older designs, it can be a bit confusing at first as ten swords and ten wands look very similar in many of these packs.
This trend was broken by A.E. Waite, who together with artist Pamela Coleman- Smith produced the Rider Waite Deck. This is an ideal deck for the beginner as it is illustrated throughout - it is much easier to memorise the basic meanings this way. Also, Waite was a knowledgeable and skilled Magician, and the symbolism throughout the deck is accurately rendered. If you want to take your relationship with the cards beyond what we can discuss here, then this is the deck I recommend.
Another advantage of this deck is that it is currently (2006) available in four different sizes. One is minute and impractical, the second is the same size as standard playing cards, the third is standard Tarot deck size, and the fourth, enormous.
Many modern decks are modelled on, or inspired by, the Rider Waite version, most notably the Morgan Greer deck which aims to give the now slightly dated look of the Rider Waite an overhaul. It's a far more colourful deck, very vivid in places, and appears to be "close ups" of some of the Rider Waite designs. Morgan Greer is useful as a second deck, if your first is the Rider Waite, because of the similarity.
The best advice though is to shop around. Take a look at the decks on offer and if one design appeals to you over the others, then that is the one to go with even if common sense says otherwise. A design which appeals to your deep mind will work better for you.
When you decide on your deck, I recommend that you also purchase a box to keep
it in and a black cloth (preferably silk) to wrap it in. Keep the wrapped pack
in the box when not in use. The box will protect the cards physically whilst
the black cloth is reputed to insulate the pack from the general psychic background
noise all around us.
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