Tarot cards I can actually hold in my hand and shuffle
March 1, 2019 8:01 PM   Subscribe

What is your favorite tarot deck with beautiful art and has high shuffleability? The last deck I bought had beautiful cards that clearly don't like me—they're too large and thick for my hands and cut me when I try to cut and shuffle them. Tell me your favorites! I'm OK with decks with variations on a few cards, but I want one that has all the standard Rider-Waite cards in some form. I prefer art that adds to the symbolism, high-quality prints, many colors, sparkle and shine, and a good feel in the hands.

I went to the Strand tonight to buy a couple bell hooks and Warren Ellis books and poke around. I bought many books, and I would've bought another tarot deck from the store's decent selection if there had been a deck I liked that also had a good size and feel in my hands. I decided when I got home I would poll you all for what you like in this vein.

Like I said, the last deck I bought (the Spolia tarot) is a beautiful display piece, but impossible for me to use with my woman's hands. So I continually fall back on my Witches tarot deck, which I love but want a change from sometimes.

Another deck I love and that feels high-quality and great in my hands is Jonathan Saiz's Fountain tarot, which I should probably buy. But I'm looking for additional suggestions to check out.

Bonus sub-question: Do you know of any stores in New York City that have a great tarot selection where I could browse and hold some of these in my hands?

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!
posted by limeonaire to Shopping (17 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I've reviewed some Tarot decks casually; index here with links to pics.

Of the ones I've experienced, I might suggest:

- Everyday Tarot for its smaller sized cards, although it has a very clever limited palette of purple, gold, and white in different combinations, which might not be for you if you want lots of different colors.

- Shadowscapes Tarot is clearly Rider-Waite-inspired but interprets the images loosely with gorgeous watercolor art that uses different palettes to distinguish the four suits.

- Sasuraibito Tarot has somewhat Japanese-inspired art with gilt-edged cards and nice heavy cardstock. I don't have large hands and I found it reasonable to shuffle.

- For something more unusual, Silhouettes Tarot has whimsical black silhouette artwork against bright colored backgrounds.

- Urban Tarot has a more modern sensibility and a collage approach to its art.
posted by yhlee at 8:14 PM on March 1, 2019 [5 favorites]

I’ve got Shadowscapes, and the cards are the standard Tarot size (as compared to, say, playing cards).

I guess it depends on an individual’s hands. I’m a woman who fits a size M glove, and I shuffle standard tarot decks without a problem.

I can’t speak for NYC, but personally I’ve found that Barnes & Noble usually has a pretty solid selection of tarot decks.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:40 PM on March 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Don't have anything to compare for shuffle-ability, but I love this Eight Coins Deck for the illustrations.
posted by KMoney at 8:50 PM on March 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

A lot of tarot decks need breaking in. Even when they're a good size for your hands (which is unusual since they're normally bigger than playing cards, which are optimized for that, but easier to find since dimensions can usually be determined by the box at least) they can often do the thing you mention where they cut you. My big bugbear with tarot decks is when they slither together and one just shoots off into space like it needs to get free. Is it the universe trying to tell me something? No, the cards are just too slick and thick and interact poorly with each other. Of all the decks I've had, they always get better to shuffle over time. If you're not precious with them they get better faster.

My favorite deck that I use when things are really tough is the Morgan-Greer Tarot. Its luscious colors really work for me and the people depicted always seem to convey different emotions every time I flip them over. It's a common deck so I'm not worried about ruining it, but I've had the same one for at least a decade and they're still bright and smooth, just a little foxing on the edges and a bit of warp from the shuffle, no cracking in the print or anything like that. It seems that it's also available in a small size, in a tin, which might be something for you to look into.
posted by Mizu at 9:55 PM on March 1, 2019 [5 favorites]

For a store in NYC, try out Namaste Bookshop on 14th between Sixth and Seventh. They have approximately one zillion decks, with a basket full of sample cards from a lot of the decks. Enchantments on 9th Street between, um, First and Second, I think, has a great selection, but I’m not sure they have un-shrinkwrapped boxes.

I have hands that are disproportionately small, and for that reason I really like the Universal Waite Pocket deck. The cards are about 2” by 3”. You also might want to have a look at the Vanessa Tarot, which uses all women; the cards are about playing card size.
posted by holborne at 9:58 PM on March 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

The Linestrider Tarot by Siolo Thompson. It has rounded corners, so I find it easier to handle.

I'd also look around for pocket sized decks or versions of an existing deck - they tend to be closer to playing card size (as opposed to the minis). You could also try trimming or edging a deck yourself, but I personally don't have the patience for it. (I see people do this often with Shadowscapes.)
posted by Freeze Peach at 11:42 PM on March 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

It’s my first and only deck so I don’t know how it compares to others, but I love the art and symbolism of The Wild Unknown deck, and it shuffles beautifully. I know they used to sell it at ABC Home, and it’s worth every penny of the $40 retail price.
posted by stellaluna at 12:27 AM on March 2, 2019 [5 favorites]

Oh, this is a great question. I have small hands and have never been great as shuffling. I have the traditional Rider deck; which I use the most. I have the Shadowscape deck which I love but is a bit too large
I had a few “theme” decks given as gifts that I passed on because they were not me..zombies and vampire..
I did get the Druid Animal Oracle deck from a family member and I like it a lot.
posted by ReiFlinx at 4:48 AM on March 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ooh I love Tarot and i'm pleasantly surprised to find this question on Ask Metafilter.

I also have the same issue as my hands are tiny. My go-to is Rider Waite. Perhaps consider the After Tarot? Other than Fountain Tarot (which I just sold) I don't find many Tarot cards to be "beautiful" but...

- Thelema Tarot is well designed and slick and a very easy shuffle because of the gloss effect.

- Peanuts Tarot and Alice in Wonderland Tarot are tiny and cute from U.S. Games. Size makes them an easy shuffle.

- I have to put a good word in for the John Holland cards - psychic tarot and psychic tarot for the heart. Very easy shuffle.

- Morgan Greer is very bold and very 70s and a good shuffle too

- Aquarian Tarot is an acquired taste. It's not immediately attractive but it is an easy shuffle.

Do you want Oracle Card recommendations? I find those to be more attractive.

- Wisdom of the Oracle is very beautiful and very easy to shuffle.

- Mystical Wisdom is also a very beautiful deck and very easy to shuffle. Anything Josephine Wall designs is beautiful but I have found her other cards hard to shuffle. These are very good though. My only complaint is that there should be more.

Yes I have loads of Tarot cards.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 10:25 AM on March 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

+1 to both the Wonderland Tarot, which is slightly smaller than standard and lends itself well to being shuffled by my small hands, and to the Aquarian Tarot, which was my first deck and has survived many, many unskilled and awkward shufflings.

The Manara Erotic Tarot is also easy to handle and shuffle--but as the name suggests, is quite NSFW.
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:40 PM on March 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

You might like Arcana Tarot Playing Cards. They're poker-sized, not tarot-sized. From one of the reviews: "Love the smaller card size vs the traditional tarot size. I have smaller hands which make for difficulties shuffling."
posted by reductiondesign at 3:15 PM on March 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nthing Morgan Greer. I adore the bright colors, there is some diversity in the skin colors depicted, and it shuffles beautifully.

Another deck I've recently received that is both beautiful and shuffles nicely is the Herbal Tarot. It has the same cards as a typical tarot but it's not a Rider Waite clone by any means.

The Santa Muerte tarot is gorgeous if you are into the Dia de los Muertos aesthetic at all, and it shuffles well.

Another recently acquired deck is the Zillich tarot, which is a beautiful deck of watercolor images. I guess it follows the Thoth system rather than Rider Waite, but the imagery is not Thoth-like at all. Size-wise it meets your criteria.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:43 PM on March 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Robin Wood Tarot Deck is still in print. Card size is 3 x 1.2 x 4.5 inches, which is reasonable for smaller hand. The artwork is colorful. It sometimes varies from the Rider Waite imagery. A small booklet is included.
Some amazon.com reviews are complaining about a thinner-than-usual cardstock.
posted by TrishaU at 8:07 PM on March 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Another vote for Morgan-Greer.

U.S. Games produces some of their most popular decks in a smaller size in a tin. They’re about the size of regular playing cards, and Morgan-Greer is one of the available decks. These are usually priced a bit lower than full size decks.

The Smith-Waite Tarot (Centennial Edition) in a tin would be my other rec. It’s the standard tarot art with softer coloring.

Wild Unknown should now be widely available. It was picked up by a mass-market publisher, so you should be able to find it in a lot of mainstream stores. The cards in it have never been very large, so it might be another to try, although the iconography is not standard RWS.
posted by verbminx at 9:37 PM on March 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Wild Unknown is GORGEOUS, but it is also the largest deck I own and can sometimes be a little too large for me to shuffle comfortably. This is partly because the cards are nice and thick though, so paper cuts aren't an issue.

I'm also a fan of the Aquarian Tarot deck. I found my deck at a thrift store of all places, so it was well broken in already and very easy to shuffle. The art style is definitely unique (it's like Medieval imagery drawn in a 1930s art deco style with a 1970s color palette) but I think it's one of those things where if you like it, you REALLY like it, so it might be worth checking out.

Also, I don't own these, so I can't vouch for their size or how well they handle, but the Golden Thread tarot deck has been on my wish list for awhile because it is SO PRETTY.
posted by helloimjennsco at 5:55 AM on March 4, 2019

I have this problem as well! I'm a woman with fairly small hands, and found shuffling most of my decks to be an uncomfortable strain. I can recommend a few decks that've worked for me, but I'd also like to recommend a solution that comes at the problem from a different angle: learning an alternate shuffling technique.

I'm guessing that you shuffle by holding the cards long-ways, then riffling the short sides together, since I think that's how most people learn, and it works well with standard-sized cards. My husband does card tricks, so when I was having trouble with some of my decks, I asked him if he had any suggestions, and he suggested a casino-style table riffle. It definitely takes some practice to get used to, but you shuffle holding the cards across the shorter dimension, then riffling only a corner of the deck. It's still hard with stiffer cards, but it does mean that I can at least handle even the biggest decks.

As for deck recommendations, I'll second the Wild Unknown if it's an art style that appeals to you. It doesn't mirror the RWS imagery, but it does stick to about the same card meanings. The mass-market version uses a very easy-to-shuffle stock, but is still on the big side. I ended up trimming my copy (it arrived printed badly off-center, so there wasn't much to lose) and it was a revelation! The art really sings, and the size is perfect. They came out about 4.5 x 2.5 inches, which is very easy to handle.

If you like The Fountain Tarot, buy it yesterday. It's an absolute joy to read, with wonderfully well-thought-out art and a surprisingly good little book. That said, it does have pretty stiff card-stock, and the way the silver is applied to the edge leaves it pretty sharp. It's worn down some over time, but can still be pretty uncomfortable if I try to shuffle it normally.

The Slow Holler deck is wonderful. It's a comfortable size, and the cards are thin enough to shuffle easily without feeling cheap. It uses different names for a number of the cards, mostly to separate them from their gender associations, but uses standard meanings. It's out of print at the moment, but they're considering a reprint this year.

If you want something that sticks to RWS, I would probably stay away from the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn. It adds a number of additional cards, and also swaps the elemental association of two suits (swapping the meaning of only some of the cards) so it takes a lot of getting used to. It's also almost too small to shuffle comfortably for me, especially since it ends up being extra-thick with the extra cards. That said, since it's out of print, if you take a look at it online and really like it, me-mail me and I can ship you my copy.

Another that I enjoy and that I can shuffle long-ways is The Starchild Tarot. That borderless version has cards almost the exact same size as The Fountain, but with somewhat easier-to-handle stock and smoother card edges. It's an odd deck, but if the aesthetic works for you, it can be quite nice.

In general, the more mass-produced decks tend to have thinner stock, and are more likely to be available in a smaller size. Both US Game Systems and Lo Scarabeo let you filter down to only mini-sized decks on their sites, so you might look through their catalogs for some ideas. I'd also consider looking specifically for decks that have borders they don't need, since trimming them is a great way to make for a more comfortable size, and can also be a really nice way to bond with the deck, as you end up going slowly through each card multiple times.

Even though it's just on the edge of long-wise shuffle-ability for me I'd also like to recommend The Brady Tarot, because it is absolutely worth every hand cramp it takes to shuffle it. The art is incredibly detailed and beautiful, without sacrificing readability at all. The symbolism is deeply considered and the excellent book (by Rachel Pollock!) explains the choices behind the card designs as well as the meanings. It's a very high-quality deck, and the first printing will likely be sold out soon.
posted by duien at 12:00 PM on March 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

One more Tarot deck I can't believe I forgot:

Haindl Tarot

They are as hard as a board and may cut you but they're good to shuffle, narrow and I really like the imagery and colouring. It is similar to Rider Waite certainly with the major arcana but I think it is also influenced by the I Ching and contains other symbolism. The readings I did with those cards felt very rich.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 2:00 PM on March 6, 2019

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