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Choosing a Deck, IV

September 17, 2016

by Tony Willis  

A final consideration concerns the backs of the cards. Some decks carry designs that signal all too conspicuously whether a card is upright or reversed. Below are three such designs. The first is from the Thoth deck, the second from the legends tarot, and the third from the Initiatory Golden Dawn deck.

aleister-crowley-thoth-03694   anne-stokes-legends-tarot-13985   initiatory-golden-dawn-06638

Examine the design on the back of the pack you are considering buying carefully. What may at first glance appear to be a perfectly symmetrical arrangement may, when you come to use the deck, prove to be full of subtle details easily missed on cursory examination. Take the backs of the Insight Institute deck, for example. On the upright card, the thicker strokes of the two capital ‘I’s are on the right. On the reversed card, these thicker strokes are on the left.

II back upright                                II back reversed

Upright                                                           Reversed

There are tarot readers who find this state of affairs disconcerting or distracting. If you are one of these, then you must either avoid such decks entirely or, should you have set your heart on, for example, a Thoth pack and feel driven by some inner demon to employ it as your premier tool of divination, you will need to train your unconscious mind to remain impassive whenever an indication that a card you are about to turn face up is actually reversed happens to catch your eye.

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