As 2017 winds down, Tarot enthusiasts are making a list and checking it twice. Which decks do you hope to find under the Yule tree?
Here at Grove and Grotto, we buy and sell Tarot decks, of course—but we’re also readers and collectors ourselves. Just for fun, we’ve put together a list of our most-recommended decks of 2017.
This was a hard list to compile, as 2017 was a strong year for Tarot and oracle deck publishing. Here, we will laud the best of the best with our brand new Grove and Grotto Excellence in Divination Award, (or “Groveys,” as we like to call them.)
This year we are awarding five Groveys and one honorable mention. There are three awards for best Tarot deck (mass market, indie, and re-issue), one for best oracle deck, and one for best Lenormand deck. We considered all decks that were published in 2017, whether we carry them in the shop or not.
Decks are judged on the following three criteria:
1. Look and Feel
The art is probably the most important consideration when choosing a Tarot deck for the list. There are so many gorgeous decks out there that consumers’ standards are very high. Whether the artwork is traditional or modern, we’re looking for cards that look sharp, consistent, and original. Paper stock and packaging quality count, too.
We’re also interested in how a deck “reads” —that is, how functional it is for divination. Although some people do buy Tarot and oracle cards just for the artwork, most users will want to use the cards to answer questions and explore inner and outer ways of being. We prefer decks with enough depth and range to speak clearly on a variety of issues. If a book is included, we want it to illuminate (rather than simplify) the meanings of the cards.
The third criterion for inclusion is basically the “so-what” factor. Why do you need this deck? Is it a good value for the money? Why should you pick it over others? What does it contribute (besides novelty) to an already packed bookshelf? We’re looking for decks that bring something new to the card-reading experience, and those that improve substantially on previously-published material.
Tiebreaker: Customers’ Choice
In case of a close call, the excellent AND best-selling deck will win out over the merely excellent. The Groveys aren’t a popularity contest, but we do consider sales data from the shop and feedback from our customers in calculating which decks stood out from the pack in 2017.
Without further ado, here are your Grovey winners for 2017:
Best New Tarot Deck (Major Publisher): Spiritsong Tarot
One of the most anticipated decks of 2017, Spiritsong Tarot finally hit our shelves in September. A resounding chorus of cartomancers reported that this deck was totally worth the wait. And our warehouse elves complained that they just cannot seem to keep it in stock.
Tarot collectors will recognize Paulina Cassidy’s art from two earlier Tarot decks (Paulina Tarot and Joie de Vivre Tarot), along with the Witchlings oracle deck. With a pastel color palette and wispy botanical doodles, her illustration style is soft and sweet. The gimmick: Seventy-eight animals of every type of fur and feather and scale and skin stand in for the traditional people of the Tarot.
Why we love it: It’s a new release from a much-loved artist. It’s beautiful to look at, approachable, and fun. The oversized 3x5 inch cards and sturdy box are a step up from regular old Tarot packaging, at an extremely modest price.
Tarot purists will scoff, but do you really need another RWS clone? Spiritsong bridges traditional Tarot and the evergreen “animal messages” genre in a deck with exceptionally broad appeal.
Publisher: US Games
Where to get it: From us!
Best New Tarot Deck (Indie Publisher): Mesquite Tarot
As crowdfunding and independent publishing blows up the Tarot scene, Tarot collectors are truly spoiled for choice. The field was crowded in this category, but we kept returning to one deck over and over: Mesquite Tarot.
Why we love it: With shades of seaglass, cream, and terracotta, Mesquite Tarot is a minimalist art deck that’s easy on the eyes. It’s inspired by the slow, persistent growth of the native Texas Mesquite tree. These poker-size, borderless cards lend themselves to solitary divination and contemplation.
Good quality stock and Pinterest-y packaging help offset the steep-ish $44 price tag. The fully funded Kickstarter campaign for Mesquite Tarot concluded last summer, and the deck is now available directly from the artists (second printing).
Runners-up: There were many other standouts in the Kickstarter class of 2017. We also heartily recommend the Dark Days Tarot and the (Majors-only) Lost Tarot. (Both of these decks lost points for arriving damaged due to skimpy outer packaging.)
Where to get it: Mesquitetarot.com
Best Tarot Deck (Historical or Re-Issue): Tarot Sola Busca: Ferrara XV Century (Anima Antiqua Series)
The first in a series of historical re-issues from Lo Scarabeo, this edition restores the Sola Busca Tarot in all its splendor. Sola Busca was the inspiration for many subsequent decks, and most notably inspired some of Pamela Colman Smith’s drawings for the Rider-Waite Tarot.
The distributor sold out this limited 3000-copy edition in a matter of weeks. Check your favorite online marketplace, or stay tuned for the forthcoming entries in the Anima Antiqua series.
Why we love it: It’s truly amazing to see a deck that is over 500 years old dusted off and ready for duty. The deluxe packaging is a treat, too. The paper is not as durable as it could be, and some buyers reported problems with missing or duplicate cards. Still, this is the first affordable Sola Busca printing to hit the market in a couple of decades.
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Where to get it: From us (if you’re fast), or other online sellers
Best New Oracle Deck: Secrets of the Mystic Grove
Oracle decks are a broad category, unfortunately riddled with New Age fluff and cynical cash-in attempts. (Unicorn Oracle, anyone?) Still, a few good ones come out every year and this is one of them. A Grovey award for Mystic Grove!
Why we love it: With arresting artwork and concise, gentle messages, Secrets of the Mystic Grove is a fine companion for introspection and divination. Mary Alayne Thomas’s fairy-tale illustrations pop with color. The guidebook is a big help in extracting meaning from these pretty, pretty images. (Read our full review here.)
Publisher: US Games
Where to get it: From the Grove, naturally.
Best New Lenormand Deck: Gilded Reverie Lenormand (Expanded Edition)
Ciro Marchetti’s Gilded Reverie Lenormand (2013) is so well-regarded that the re-issue was a shoo-in for Best Lenormand. Marchetti is known for his digital illustrations that meld Renaissance, Victorian, Steampunk, circus fashion, and fantasy elements into a lush and dazzling style. Gilt edges and a snazzy sliding box are the cherry on top of this delicious confection.
Why we love it: Gilded Reverie was out of print for a couple of years, and boy, did you tell us about it. This is another deck that has been flying off the shelves. Here’s hoping US Games ordered a bazillion copies, because the Lenormand juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down.
The Expanded Edition features the classic 36-card deck along with 11 supplemental cards: Time, Bridges, Dice, Mask, Well, Compass, Labyrinth, and Magnifying Glass. Extra Man, Lady, and Owl cards are also included this time around. A worthy re-issue, the Expanded Edition might be worth buying even if you have the original deck.
Publisher: US Games
Where to get it: Right here!
Honorable Mention: Ostara Tarot
As an indie deck picked up by a mid-sized publisher, Ostara Tarot qualified for two categories but just missed breaking into either. Ostara Tarot began life as a mobile app—something we’ll surely see more of in the future. There are four artists represented here, each one illustrating a different suit.
Why we love it: This deck is inspired by the Pagan spring festival Ostara, and is full of cheery spring illustrations. It’s a breath of fresh air in a swarm of dark ‘n moody Tarot decks.
The full-color, borderless cards are marvelous in their variety. The art is top-notch, highly saturated and imaginative. There are a lot of animals, which seemed to be a theme for 2017. The accompanying guidebook is plush but pedestrian.
Cheers for the concept of silver-coated edges and borders, which beautifully accent the jewel-toned palette. Boo for the actual silver coating, which makes the cards stick together and flakes off everywhere. (We’re passing on stocking it, out of concern for the glitter-averse.)
Where to get it: Your local Tarot shop (just follow the sparkly silver trail)
Disclosure: Deck reviews are our own opinions--we did not receive review copies or any compensation in return for a review. Deck images are reproduced for review purposes and are the property of their respective owners.