Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
View your shopping cart Shopping Cart | My Account | Help | Become a Fan on Facebook Become a Fan | Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us | Watch Us on YouTube Watch Us | Subscribe to our RSS Feeds Subscribe
Browse ProductsAuthorsArticlesBlogsEncyclopediaNewslettersAffiliate ProgramContact UsBooksellers
Advanced Search

The Future of Tarot

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on June 18, 2013 | Comments (16)

Today’s post is more of a long, rambling kind of question rather than tips or ideas.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. As an acquiring editor, it is part of my job to think of these things. Also, sometimes when I’m at conferences or on panels, I get asked about this. Also, as a deck designer, I get either critiqued or praised for this. What is “this”? Let me tell you.

The Rider Waite Smith (RWS) deck revolutionized tarot for many reasons. And, in the US, it is the most popular deck, selling who knows how many copies a year. Additionally, most teachers use it for classes and in most workshops I attend at conferences, the RWS is the “common language” amongst readers.

But tarot readers want more than one deck. So publishers publish them. And here’s what happens:

If a deck follows the imagery of the RWS deck in the cards, the deck is said by some to be nothing but a clone, as if following in that tradition is a bad thing.

If a deck tries to create a new way of expressing the cards that is different from the RWS, some people say “oh, it is more of an oracle than tarot” or “that card doesn’t look like the Moon to me.”

Now we know that no deck is going to please all readers, so it’s not a problem of “how to make everyone happy.” It’s really just a question: is tarot going to evolve and change, as it always has over the centuries of its existence or has the RWS really nailed it and we should quit trying to reinvent the wheel?

I am really curious to hear your opinions. I confess that I’m a RWS girl and have a hard time imagining something else. That is why doing the Book of Shadows, vol. 1: As Above was such a challenge. I was asked to think outside the RWS box. I’m glad I did it and hope that I continue to flex my creative muscles, because it is good to get outside my comfort zone, right? So tell, me, what do you think is the future of tarot?

Reader Comments

Written By Ty Bevington
on June 18th, 2013 @ 8:38 am


While I am a big RWS fan myself, I feel ‘clones’ let us view the same ‘landscape’ thru different lenses- the Ludy Lescot is different from Robin Wood is different from Tarot of the Pirates…and I don’t think the Thoth Tarot is an ‘oracle’ deck. But as we do try to push boundaries, I think we can be assured that we will move away from RWS ‘terminology’. I don’t think we need to discard the RWS or Thoth in order to ‘evolve’, but we need to think about what ‘lens’ we need to see clearly, and nor be afraid to try on new sets of glasses on a regular basis- we just might like not only what we see, but HOW we see, better than the reading before.

Written By Paula
on June 18th, 2013 @ 8:54 am

Barbara, this is a great question and makes me think about a similar issue with scholars of the Bible and the many versions out there.

For me, I feel that any oracle is to be a vehicle for that connection with the Divine, NOT the Divine. There is a tendency to make idols whether than to allow that oracle to be a living, breathing, growing, changing pathway, connection, channel for insight and wisdom.

I love the structure or framework that RWS provides. And the gift of a structure is to give us something to push against, not to box us in.

Written By Robert
on June 18th, 2013 @ 9:03 am

I think this tool will, and should, continue to evolve and grow. Regardless of whether a deck is a “child” of RWS or something completely different, each has their uses. I think it is also important for people to research a deck they are interested in and find out whether or not the imagery in the deck really speaks to them or not. I have seen some exquisitely beautiful decks in my own searches, but they just didn’t talk to me. Shades, back in the 90’s I rather successfully used a deck that was meant as a prop for the game Mage: The Awakening and I attribute this to my own technological inclination. Today I have three decks that have done good by me…the Robin Wood, Tarot of the Pirates and Ms. Moore’s own Steampunk Tarot. Yet, the venerable old RWS deck doesn’t do much for me anymore. It was good for me when I first started learning to read the cards, but I have grown and so have my needs, thus my tools need to grow with me. Personally, I am looking forward to acquiring a copy of the Book of Shadows decks. I think they will be an excellent addition to my collection and should work well with my Hidden Path deck in teaching the new comers I have been asked to assist.

Written By Tierney
on June 18th, 2013 @ 9:47 am

Barbara, I’m a non-traditionalist. I think things either grow and change or they stagnate and we lose interest. So I’m the opposite of you in that I collect non-RWS tarot decks in far greater numbers than RWS-based ones. I think the non-traditional decks challenge my knowledge and intuition more. And I call them tarot decks because they have 78 cards and four suits and a major arcana.

We can think of RWS as traditional all we want, but it was non-traditional young buck itself at one time. Even the Sola Busca was. Even the TdM was. Everything in our lives is the result of some innovation somewhere in time. Sliced bread? Non-traditional. Meat that you can buy at a grocery store? Non-traditional. Teeth that don’t rot by the age of 12? Non-traditional. So life moves forward because we move forward.

My vision is that one day systems like RWS, TdM and Thoth will be considered no differently than what we’re calling “non-traditional” today. And in that vision, everyone will be creating their own spreads, either with the Deck of 1000 Spreads or whatever system they use. The RWS system helped me learn tarot and I think it’s a great tool for that. But for me personally, if I want to keep growing, I have to keep exploring. One way would be to dive further into the esoteric knowledge behind one of these systems. But, for me, the only path of growth that interests me is the less- and un-explored horizons.

Written By Kendra Hurteau
on June 18th, 2013 @ 9:54 am

What a great blog, Barbara!

My opinion: Yep, it will evolve. Times are different, lifestyles are different and for no other sake than that people want decks they can relate to. I think it is the natural course and I look forward to seeing all that will come out of it.

Written By Najah Lightfoot Bagley
on June 18th, 2013 @ 11:14 am

As with any Tarot lover, I too have several decks. But my favorite decks are ones with images of people of different ethnicities. I enjoy using the “World Spirit Tarot”, the “Witches’ Tarot” and the “Universal Goddess Tarot”, because the images reflect different peoples of the world, including my own heritage of African-American.
If the Tarot is going to move forward, I think keeping with this trend of including different ethnicities is very helpful in spreading its use. I beleive the time has come for the magickal world to realize its boundaries extend beyond European ancestry.

Written By Priti Wonder
on June 18th, 2013 @ 11:50 am

I too think that people have narrowed down Tarot to just “the Rider Waite deck”
I guess, any other deck that is published out of the RWS theme needs to be understood fully as a concept.
Because the idea behind that deck too is the same as what RWS has.
And I think that more ‘standards’ like the RWS should emerge as not everyone is accustomed to this deck.
What must follow is a different taste of pack for each Tarot hungry soul which is ultimately going to quench their divination journey.
It doesnt matter who you follow or what you believe, a Tarot Reader is meant to be a perfect blend of a compassionate, loving and a consultant who is can talk straight truth to help people evolve in their lives. Whether they use any standard or not is not what matters!

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on June 18th, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

Hi Barb,
I don’t like to think of decks like the Robinwood, or Gilded Tarot as RW Clones, I Prefer to think of them as Child Decks, and as with the children of any family, some children embrace a more modern sensibility; ala the Pagan Tarot; some a Darker vibe; Dark Angels Tarot; some are Traditionalist and others Whimsical.
If I could have one wish for the Tarot community, it would be to replace this word Clone, with Child; because I feel it better expresses the reality.
With that in Mind I personally see 3 Families, The Waites, the Thoths, and the Marseilles; each has their own strengths, weaknesses and tone of voice; and each is best suited to communication with a different guide. Or Family of Guides. .
Nuff Said by me, but I do think our Tarot Family will continue to live and grow, and the Tarot Family tree, I hope will continue to expand well into the foreseeable future. : ) Blessings, BB.

Written By Marmie
on June 18th, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

I do not read for others, and use the tarot as my personal guide and teacher. I learned Tarot with RWS and appreciate its roots and its foundation to interpretation. Honestly, all Tarot students should learn with RWS if they want to succeed. Tarot as an age old art will withstand the test of time as it has all ready proved through the ages. Tarot decks, on the other hand, are a beautiful and labor intensive form of art in their own right. Art is personal; different styles appeal to different people. As with spirituality, different schools of thought or in this case decks, will bring new students to Tarot. Isn’t that a good thing?

Written By Ann
on June 19th, 2013 @ 4:07 pm

Much like religion, in the end, it’s all the same…a belief in a higher power. There’s room for everyone.

Written By Aniva J
on June 19th, 2013 @ 7:06 pm

I too don’t typically read for others, although I have read a couple of times for a girlfriend when she asked. I have used the Sacred Path/Medicine Cards from Jamie Sams as a personal teacher for over 20 years and a few years ago got interested in tarot. I started with a simple deck from the bookstore that my husband put in my stocking at Christmas called the Tarot Nova. It interested me enough that I collected the 1JJ Swiss Tarot with the Mind, Body & Spirit set and from that enrolled in the tarot class at Magicka School which teaches you tarot from the RWS deck. Once I began classes I also began collecting decks that called to me both from an artistic and spiritual/emotional standpoint. I have over 25 decks in my collection with about 6-8 more on my “want” list and yet I work with mainly six decks depending on what mood I’m in. For tarot my “go to” deck that talks to me the most is the Steampunk Tarot! I never even knew about Steampunk before I saw that deck and yet I have the best “feel” with those cards. The other deck I have a great working relationship with is the Gilded Tarot (I also have the Royal edition). I also believe that tarot and oracle cards are different in that they convey a different type of message or lesson and for that I use the Sacred Path/Medicine cards or the Oracle of Shadows & L:ight/Oracle of Shapeshifters. Once in a while I will pull out one of the other decks and see if they are “talking to me” the way my favorites do, but I am always drawn back to these six decks when I need guidance. I’ve read all the opinions so far and every one of them makes a wonderful point and I suppose my chattering just proves Marmie’s point that different styles appeal to different (or even the same!) people and that in my humble opinion I believe tarot will continue to evolve just as we, human beings, continue to evolve.

Written By Bogiesan
on June 19th, 2013 @ 8:19 pm

I posed a question on Aeclectic last year. Considering the TdM, Waite-Smith and Thoth as seminal, and likely to be around for freakin’ ever, which currently available or out of print decks will surpass current or pop status, survive the tests of time and still be in use in another hundred years?

One might look at 78 individual pieces or art and enjoy them only for the vision of the artist.
One might use a tarot for serious work; making a living, perhaps.
One might enjoy collecting styles, media, themes, or artists or writers.

But which few of the many hundreds of beautiful–and hundreds of terrible–tarot decks will, in one hundred years, have earned the status of having their own dedicated folders on sites like Aeclectic?

Written By Linda Tenney
on June 20th, 2013 @ 9:58 am

Hi Barbara and everyone, I’m Linda! I just came upon this blog yesterday on a circuitous journey looking up other info on the web. But it’s very synchronistic to come upon this posting about the future of tarot now, because this has been very much on my mind lately, albeit on a broader scale.

I have been pondering about the future relevancy of tarot and other oracular tools for accessing inner guidance, as well as healing modalities. With this accelerated shift in consciousness (that I feel we are smack in the middle of), I have been wondering what tools and techniques of guidance and healing will be relevant in the months and years to come if we all (eventually) can access our own higher knowing and healing faculties?

Surely, in the near-term, we will not all be Masters of the Universe!—all-powerful seers and healers—there will be stair steps and gradations for awhile, and this is where those of us who read for others can surely help them open to their own inner knowing. So that’s good!

But lets project a bit further into the future…we can now access information and guidance “directly,” as our “higher and lower” aspects have merged. Will there still be a use/need for the power of symbolic and metaphoric imagery? Is imagery, imagination, and envisioning, in fact, how manifestation and creation happen at higher levels? At my present level of understanding, I believe this to be so…but who knows?!

So then, how could imagery—and specifically in a structured framework such as tarot—be used by us in the future? Will it still be a “tool”? If so, for what? Manifestation and creation of ideas and other non-physical energies? For inner exploration? If we become multi-dimensional beings, how would the imagery change and be relevant? How could non-physical concepts and ideas be “pictured”?

A quote attributed to Meister Eckhart, a 14th century Christian mystic, goes: “When the soul wishes to experience something, she throws an image of the experience before her and enters into her own image.”

Will the tarot become a 4D/5D “structure” that we can use to explore possibilities and potentialities? Perhaps, instead of just looking at their 2D representation on a card and talking about what would happen if I “chose option A,” we could step into the cards and test drive the potential?! The possibilities are exciting!

To bring my musings back down to Earth, I do hope to see the tarot expand and grow into new paradigms of exploration because me loves that symbolic/ metaphoric imagery! After 17 years of tarot exploration, reading, and teaching (using imagery, personal associations, and intuition only), my reading style relies much more heavily on using my intuition and associations to interpret a spread, as opposed to heavy reliance on “traditional” keywords and attributions (though I do still incorporate them). I now do readings where I deep dive into what’s going on in and between the pictures and I can spend hours with a layout, teasing out multi-layered details.

And thanks to Tierney’s awesome new Deck of a 1000 Spreads (which I got about a month ago), my spreads have gotten larger—because there are just too many juicy “data points” I want to get answers for in a given situation! And I love pictures so much—every picture really does tell a story!—that I now photograph my own spreads in addition to just writing down the reading in words. Images can bring back impressions in an instant!

Anyway, I’d love to hear what you and others think of some of these points and questions I’ve raised!

Written By jane
on June 21st, 2013 @ 11:12 pm

yes, peoples and everythings are evolving…
intersting blog, nice to read…..

Add a Comment

required, use real name
required, will not be published
optional, your blog address

Verification Code:
Please enter the words that you see, below, into the box provided.

Previous Post: