Top 5 Decks I Can’t Live Without (2019)

I believe Kelly Bear started “Top 5 Decks I Can’t Live Without” over on YouTube and you have to type in those keywords into the search bar to check out all the video responses from our community! I’ve been binge-watching them while I cook, clean, or exercise. And I’m loving it!

Instead of a VR (video response), I’m blogging it. =)

The way I’m responding to this prompt is five physical individual decks that I feel like I can’t live without, updated to present day, meaning it’s not just about that particular deck and any and all copies of that deck everywhere; it’s about this very, very specific physical copy of the deck I’ve got in hand as a result of the collective history of energies I’ve infused into it over the course of the deck’s life with me.

I hope I’m explaining that right.

#1. My Long-Time Workhorse Deck

And here’s what I mean. I’m not saying I can’t live without the Golden Universal Tarot published by Lo Scarabeo back in 2013.

I’m saying this specific physical copy of that deck you see in the above photograph.

This specific physical copy of the deck that has been one of my go-to public reading decks since 2013, because the year it came out was the year I bought this physical copy. I had to retire my previous public events reading workhorse deck in 2013 and so moved on to this one.

You can see how much the edges have worn away. You can see how I’ve vandalized the cards. A couple of them are bent and creased, though it doesn’t bother my readings with it because this is a public reading deck. I only use it to read for others and the querent won’t have any idea which card is bent and which isn’t. Me knowing which card has come up in the reading because I can see the familiar crease has no bearing on the client’s reading. Plus, when the client sees a creased card, whether that attracts them to pick it or deters them from picking it, I believe, is in and of itself divinatory and relevant.

If you just hand me any physical copy of the Golden Universal Tarot, I’m neutral and meh about it. But this very specific copy of that deck, almost transcending whatever the heck is printed on the cardstock, is a deck I can’t live without. I love it. I love the history and client energies it has collected over the years.

Also, each of these decks are paired with a tarot bag of sentimental value to me. I love the hand-made tarot bags by Divine Noctivaga, which is the one pictured above paired with my Golden Universal. When I’m doing events, I’ll slip in a selenite palm stone and have that nearby while I do the readings. For certain types of events, given the nature of it, I might switch out the selenite for a rose quartz palm stone instead.

#2. Pam A 1910 Replica

This deck is a faithful replica of the “Pam A” 1910 edition of our beloved Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Because of the technology and painstaking diligence that went in to preserving the exact coloring of the original “Pam A,” I love how this version of the RWS looks. The size of the cards is also slightly smaller than your standard 2.75″ x 4.75″ but still bigger than your poker playing cards.

I also use this one as a workhorse deck. I love to toss it into my handbag and heck, it’s almost always with me. Although not pictured in the above photograph, I usually keep a pendulum in that bag with the deck. I have a blood red agate pendulum, a lapis lazuli one, and one hand-crafted by Ethony with smoky quartz and a silver raven charm. I’ll rotate among those three pendulums.

The tarot bag I pair with my “Pam A” replica is one hand-made by Jessi Huntenberg.

#3. The Versatile RWS

This is the Smith-Waite Centennial Tarot in a Tin published by U.S. Games back in 2015. It’s even smaller than my “Pam A” replica. I’ve marked this one up with astrological correspondences and edged it with distressed ink to give it that vintage feel. When I want to travel with it, I’ll take it out of that hand-carved wood box and tuck it into a tarot bag. Otherwise, it stays in that wood box, which fits the deck perfectly!

I love the coloring on this version of the RWS more than the classic “yellow box” 1971 Rider Waite. I also love its travel-friendly size! When I need to travel light, like when Hubby and I plan on blazing through six different countries and three continents in two weeks, I’m not going to bring a bunch of decks with me but I will most certainly bring at least one. This pocket-size Smith-Waite Centennial is the one I’ll opt for.

#4. First Edition THL

I believe this is the first edition of Christine Payne-Towler’s Tarot of the Holy Light but don’t quote me on that. Over the years I’ve bought many different versions and multiple copies of the same version of THL so I can’t actually be certain which is which at this point.

I’m pretty sure I’ve had this deck and used it in face to face client readings even before the Golden Universal one you saw above, but see how new and fresh this one looks? It’s because I don’t have clients shuffle the cards when I’m reading with this deck. I use this one for online readings or when it’s in person, I’ll only have them cut the cards.

At one point I did offer to clients to shuffle, but for some reason, most of them were terrible at shuffling with these cards! (Whereas with the Golden Universal pictured above, no one seems to have any problems with it.) Cards go flying everywhere, off the reading table onto the floor and I have to leap up and chase after them, or a lot of the cards stick to each other so clients aren’t fully randomizing the deck.

After just a few years, I stopped using this as a public reading deck altogether (I’m talking about this specific physical copy of the cards that you see photographed) and this became a personal reading deck only.

I keep a smoky quartz that I tumbled and polished myself along with a tarot bag that was gifted to me. Hint–hint– hands down the best gift to get me is a tarot bag. They’re like dresses or shoes for most other women– you can never have too many and I love having the options. They’re also the most useful gift, because I actually use them and I appreciate the added sentimental value of the bag having been gifted to me.

#5. Tabula Mundi Tarot

As with the THL, I have multiple copies of the Tabula Mundi Tarot by M. M. Meleen and copies from different editions of the deck. This and the THL are up there as two of my all-time favorite tarot decks. I love everything about the Tabula Mundi. I love how it reads. I love how it looks. I love its energy. I love everything its creator has put into this deck, logistical and magical.

I’ll extract specific cards from this deck to place strategically on my home office desk when I’m trying to get through a project. When I’m going through an emotionally rougher patch, this deck will become a fixture on one of my reading tables at home along with a clutter of crystals. I’ll pull a card every morning and every evening; I’ll journal with the cards; I’ll have full-on conversations (don’t judge) in Q&A Socratic style with my Tabula Mundi.

I got a custom-made silk Arcana Case by T. Susan Chang for my Tabula Mundi, which you’ll see pictured above with the cards.

Okay, so here’s the thing. Actually, the decks I now can’t live without are my SKT decks, both the black and white First Edition, which are just direct scans of the original pen and ink line drawings I did, and the sepia-toned Vitruvian Edition, which has minor and yet magically significant changes from the First.

The SKT is my go-to deck for anything and everything. For me, it’s the most reliable, most accurate, most connective, most powerful, most everything, but I’m not saying that the deck itself is objectively all that– heck no. I’m saying it’s subjectively that way for me, and me alone. Sure, it may have a lot to do with the fact I hand-drew each and every card and every step of the production process was all me.

Pictured above with my personal workhorse copy of the SKT First Edition is a knitted tarot bag someone made just for me and gifted to me. Wow, right? Inside there’s even a little pocket for a tumbled stone! How cool is that! I keep a little one-inch-ish tumbled lapis lazuli with this deck. I forgot to take it out of its pocket to include with the photo.

I didn’t want to include my own deck in the response because that seems kinda… I don’t know. I just really wanted to showcase other decks in the Top 5 and then in an addendum or post-script, hold up my own. Plus, literally the First Edition of SKT is 11 months old as of this posting and the Vitruvian Edition is 3 months old!

But the reality is the SKT has become my everything deck. It’s now the deck I’ll travel with and keep tucked away in my handbag. It’s the deck I use for client readings, no matter what the subject matter is. I can go on and on about exactly why this deck is my everything now, but the explanation does involve crazy levels of woo. =P

The tarot bag I pair with my SKT Vitruvian is one hand-made by Jenna Diaz of Moonlit Faye. By the way, the reading cloth you’ve been looking at in the background of every one of these photos is by Peggy over at SparxCreations. I need to visit her Etsy shop again soon to buy a couple more reading cloths and tarot bags.

And just for fun– this isn’t a tarot deck. It’s a 33-card oracle deck that’s in deck form only because that’s the most economical way to work with what’s here. What it really is, is more along the lines of runes. These are 33 Chinese oracle bone scripts, each with magical purposes onto itself, but altogether form a divination system. They can also be used for both divination and Fu talisman or Taoist sigil crafting. Yes, the 33-card deck comes with a guidebook.

Oh, I mentioned all of the above is free, right? Well, the digital files for it so you can customize, design, produce, and print out your own personal copy of the deck and/or guidebook can be downloaded here. I have direct links to a third party print-on-demand website but please do not think you’re doing me any favors by ordering straight from that site. The “creator’s cut” from makeplayingcards.com when you order using my direct link is so laughably insignificant that I don’t even treat what I “earn” there as earnings.

As of this writing, I haven’t even made enough from the “creator’s cut” to buy myself a cup of gourmet coffee.

The pre-set links are there only for the lazy, if you want the deck and book set, are willing to shell out (to the publisher sites, not to me! I’m not profiting from this!), but don’t have time to go all arts-and-crafts, then that’s what the pre-set links are for.

I would rather you download the digital files, customize the card back design, do what you want to the files until it’s something you really, really love, that reflects your vibes, and then use a print-on-demand site to produce your very personalized copy of the cards plus guidebook.

11 thoughts on “Top 5 Decks I Can’t Live Without (2019)

  1. It’s cool to see what decks you’re interested in.

    It totally makes sense your deck is your #1 go-to deck. It’s a synthesis of everything you believe and is important to you boiled down into one deck. Of course it speaks most clearly to you, and it will likely continue to for the next 5-10 years. That is if you do encounter significant more inspiration and revelations with tarot theory, otherwise I’ll gamble your deck (or any editions you’re inspired to produce), will remain your go-to for the rest of your life.

    I can’t contribute to a top 5, because I only have 4 decks! 😂 😅 Wildwood, Brady, your Vitruvian, and the same pocket RWS in your list. I don’t feel entirely comfortable with RWS, and I’m not knowledgeable enough about SKT and Brady, so Wildwood is my go-to deck.

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  2. Sally

    Gosh Bell I really enjoyed this. The whole shebang. I’m not sure I’d ever use a pendulum but your oracle deck I love and you chose some of my faves as well. i’m Not great at using the Thoth deck or THL deck but I keep pulling them out. I’m plodding along with the SKT deck as well—just so you know. I love that it was created by you and inclusive of the RW and Thoth methods.
    BTW: guilty. I love reading your blog rather than watching vids. HOWEVER I really really REALLY appreciate the closed captioning on your vids bc I’m so HOH. Thank you very much for that. XO

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  3. Ha ha! Golden Universal & rws my top 2 too & my fav for pulic reading!;) Shadowscapes probably no3!^^ 4&5 hard to pick but I’ll go with golden box agm thoth & my new Gigantic Visconti Modrone by LS!;) btw totally understands how deck you created works best for you that’s whole point of it!^^ lol p.s luv your bags! that with crystal pockets top of my wishlist!;) also these boxes; https://www.instagram.com/p/B1PExPbn40q/

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  4. Leslie

    I guessed three of the five 🙂 If I had to pick my top 5 your SKT would be one of them for sure! I like wooden boxes for my favorite decks and they all have little selenite sticks in with them. My first deck, a gift from my father a long time ago, is wrapped in silk in a metal box that my grandfather used to keep his pipe tobacco in. I haven’t tried bags – yours are so beautiful, I may have to give it a go!

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  5. Tess Cors

    Would love to read more about SKT being your everything. I expect “crazy levels of woo” – that’s the best part! You are my favorite creatrix.

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  6. Top 5
    Wildwood (my first deck which I used for 1 year straight), thoth, skt, indigo alchemist (it’s 100% me 20 years ago), tarot of the sidhe.

    Most I just use the wildwood and skt these days.

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