Tarot Tips

What Makes A Tarot?

Written by: Chloe McCracken / Inner Whispers

When the wrangler for this Tarot Blog Hop asked us to think about oracular anomalies, my mind started whirling.  I’ve always liked the feeling of getting something extra, so I’ve long been a fan of decks with extra cards. 

The most frequent way these show up is with one or more extra Majors.  This started early, as the Thoth Tarot (US Games, has three versions of the Magician/Magus!  On a much lighter note, there are several decks which, following a Simpson’s episode, included a Happy Squirrel card (this one is from the All Hallow’s Tarot, 2008).  Others have charted their own path, adding an Unknown card (Crystal Visions Tarot, US Games, 2011).  Or cards beyond the World, such as The Great Work, The White Whole, The Work of Greater Understanding and The Oracle Within (Awakening Aeon Tarot, 2013).

Of course, if it’s ‘simply’ renaming, then the Court cards are where it’s at.  There are so many variations on Courts (Page/Child/Neophyte/Princess, Knight/Seeker/Initiate/Prince, Queen/Guardian/Priestess/Goddess, King/Elder/Sage/God).  There is also at least one deck that has added in extra Court cards: the Steele Wizard Tarot (self-published, 2007) has Pages, Maidens, Knights, Queens and Kings. 

Some decks have added in entire suits (of more or less cards).  The Fifth Tarot (Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2008) and A King’s Journey Tarot (self-published, 2010, soon to be re-released), both have a fifth, spirit suit.  While I’ve always seen spirit in the Majors, so a specific suit for it seems unnecessary, I do like both these decks.  

The Tarot of the Silicon Dawn (Lo Scarabeo, 2011), took this oracular anomaly business furthest, I think.  It has extra Majors (five Fools, an 8.5 – Maya, and additional X – History, XIII – Vulture Mother, VIII – She Is Legend, and Aleph), an extra suit of Void (with only four Court cards), and an extra card in each regular suit: the 99’s.  If 9 is completion and 10 is slight excess, the 99’s take things from the sublime into the ridiculous 😀  The creator also swapped the elemental attributions of the Wands and Pentacles suits, making Wands Earth and Pentacles Fire, and altering the card images to match.  So, the Five of Wands shows a time of hardship, rather than competition, which is on the Five of Pentacles. 

For me, all of these are still tarots.  After all, if you want to stick to a strict definition of tarot, you can always remove the extra cards (though I never do).  

It’s a somewhat different case with John Holland’s decks, the Psychic Tarot Oracle(Hay House, 201) and the Psychic Tarot for the Heart Oracle (Hay House, 201).  For these, he removed the Ten’s of each suit, removed all the Court cards, and added in chakra cards, bringing the decks to a total of 65 cards.  I like these decks, too, but wouldn’t offer someone a ‘tarot reading’ with them. 

Interesting to realise where my personal boundaries are.  I still use Holland’s decks, but wouldn’t use them for professional readings unless the client specifically wanted to look at chakras.  Even then, I’d be more likely to use a chakra spread and a regular tarot deck… That being said, I’d hesitate before using the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn with a paying client, too, though more because of the explicit nature of some of the cards, and the extra work in explaining cards the client wouldn’t recognise…

So, where do you draw the line?  What makes a tarot for you?