In a world that has been dominated by men for so long, I guess that a female-dominant tarot world might be something worth smiling about. However, as we notice in the tarot, time and again, it is balance and a true mixture of opposites which harmonises life, not the extremes. This is needed in the world of tarot, as well as the world at large.
This article is, by no means, meant to exclude women. I love women! My closest friends are women. And some of my favourite tarotists are women too – just think: where would we be without the Christiana’s, the Theresa’s, the Benebell’s, the Donnaleigh’s, and the Chloe’s of the tarot world? These authors are the new generation of tarot commentators, who have taken to this ancient art like spiritual surgeons with a scalpel, helping to reveal new and modern ways of looking at the cards. And there are many more beside them; far too many inspirational female tarot readers, bloggers, and YouTube hostesses to mention in this one post.
I am not writing this article to cast a shadow over the contributions of my wonderful tarot sisters. Instead, I wish to celebrate my brothers and showcase a deck or two which might suit guys interested in pursuing an interest in tarot.
I have been on the receiving hand of tarot sexism on many occasions. As a public reader, there is many advantages to my gender, since some people do enjoy the experience of being read for by a man. But there have been many times where a woman has looked over the rim of her glasses and questioned my sensitivity, empathy, or ability to ‘tell her fortune’ before I’ve even pulled out a single card. One lady began our session by saying ‘You do realise that I’ve never done this with a man before, don’t you?’. I promptly advised her that she was in capable hands. With a wink, I reminded her that neither of us would need to undress and if she wanted a female friend present, that would be fine too. She smiled and the ice was broken.
I am pleased to say that every person who has had reservations before a reading was satisfied at the end. I’ve had some wonderful testimonials from people who were not used to being read for by a man and have since returned for more readings. A positive recommendation is a warming reward for a reader, whether you’re Arthur or Martha.
Most of my clients and students are female, but I do read for and teach a handful of men. I’ve read for the young, the old, the suited and booted, the tattoo’d, and had a surprising run of young guys who looked as if they’d mistaken my door for the gym. Without making generalisations, I do like to have a selection of tarot decks which will suit all kinds of clients. While not all of those I read for pay much attention to the images or may even enjoy to see the full-bodied and beautiful Queen of Pentacles in the Tarot of the Hidden Realm, I like to use card decks which I feel will resonate with each. Most of the time, the Original Rider Waite is a cap that fits all occasions. However, for those males developing a stronger interest in tarot or who want something with a little more testosterone than the Shadowscapes Tarot, there are options out there.
Over here in the UK, if you go looking for a tarot deck in a mainstream store, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’re going to find. Browse the shelves (or should I say ‘shelf’) of your local Waterstone’s and you’ll find angels, fairies, and the odd ‘witchy’ set. Though my collection of tarot decks has a healthy dosage of all three, angels and fairies generally have a distinctly feminine edge to them and many of the decks connected to Wicca out there might succeed in some men feeling even more excluded. I recently developed a stronger interest in the Mucha Tarot (Lo Scarabeo), but as anyone who owns this deck will know, many of the archetypes are female – the traditionally male Magician and Hermit are two examples of where the gender has been switched. Does this bother me? No, not really. Does it leave me feeling a bit left out? If I’m honest, yes.
Finding a deck which a man can either identify with or use is not about switching all of the gender roles of the characters to his own. For me, it often concerns finding an underlying masculinity in palette, style, and recognisable symbols. As many of you know, I adore the Guardian Angel Tarot by Doreen Virtue and Radleigh Valentine. While it gives beautifully accurate readings, I might think twice about using it at a gig where I would be reading for a majority of men. I like to hold the cards up and discuss them with my clients. Though some might get a lot out of a deck like that, it’s always nice to have an alternative on hand for those who want less glitter and straighter lines in their reading.
So, here are a selection of decks I would recommend for today’s male readers, enthusiasts, and for use with male clients.
The Quantum Tarot
Though I only recently purchased this deck (published by Lo Scarabeo), I’m pretty sure I was around when the original (published by Kunati) was conceived. Back in those days, I befriended the decks two creators, Chris Butler and Kay Stopforth. We met a handful of times in Kensington at tarot meet ups, when I saw the first example of one of their self-published oracles. Chris had been very supportive when I took my first steps into working with the Marseille, sending me three decks he thought I might like.
I remember Chris explaining that he’d compiled a lot of research when designing his first deck (The Son Tarot) – part of this was through the masculine Marseille system, which Quantum Tarot does resemble in places: while the cards are all illustrated, some are influenced by the the pip style of the Marseille tradition.
In the well-written and researched accompanying book by Kay, it tells us that in the Quantum Tarot, “modern science meets the ancient spiritual system of tarot”. Comprising Einsteins theories, black holes, and supernovas, the cards are deep in colour and sensual in mood. While you don’t need any real prior understanding of Quantum Mechanics, the cards can effectively be read with or without scientific knowledge. There are detailed explanations within the book for each, but the images are evocative enough on their own and contain symbolism that any seasoned tarot reader will recognise.
Whether you are male or female, this is a deck worth looking into. The mythical archetypes in the court cards are interesting enough alone, but down to its strong style (which doesn’t lack sensitivity, I might add), I think it would suit many male readers, whether they are science geeks or not. It also contains probably one of my most favourite Hanged Man cards!
The Mythic Tarot
The Mythic Tarot is a classic deck, which has rightly earned its place in the tarot hall of fame. Based around Greek Mythology, the pack, conceived in the 1980s, uses mythological characters for its Major Arcana and specific stories for its Minors.
I bought the original version of this deck (since there are two versions) while on a break. I found it in a dusty old bookshop by the sea during my travels. I spent that week (without internet) in a caravan. With the rain beating down on the metal roof, it was me, the deck, the guidebook and a bottomless cup of tea. I look back at that week affectionately. It was one of those times when you really bond with a deck and I could never part with it now.
The initial paintings for the Mythic Tarot are by Tricia Newell (right). They are naive in places, but truly magical. While the pack had its followers back then, it actually took a redrawing of the illustrations by another artist for the original set to be truly appreciated. While the New Mythic Tarot (left) is a decent pack in its own right, it does have a crudeness to it that the original does not. It’s the less attractive sibling of the two, in my opinion.
What really makes either printing of Mythic Tarot a great deck is the backbone behind it – the system and two books by Juliet Sharman Burke. For a newbie, this deck follows the Rider Waite system closely, but beautifully entwines it with the Greek Myths. The symbolism is all relevant, with guidance at hand, making it both a wonderful workhorse deck and a doorway to learning.
In terms of design, this deck is straight talking and the images are powerful. They are beautifully constructed but are not overly-sentimental. I think that it’s jewel colouring and basic cream borders would make it a worthy deck for anyone who finds a lot of what is on the market overly feminine. Both sets contain the same imagery. The later one might actually be more masculine than the first. Though difficult to find, the earlier publication is not impossible to locate if you try hard enough and don’t mind parting with a little extra cash.
The Ravens Prophecy Tarot
I’ve already reviewed this deck here on the blog. It is a relatively recent pack by Maggie Steifvater – the deck’s creator and artist.
While this deck contains flowers, birds, bubbles, and feathers, its palette is anything but delicate. Think of oil on water or deep indigo ink bleeding out onto a paper unashamedly. That is what you’ve got. As beautiful as a ravens feather but as sharp as its beak, this is a deck which would suit the most masculine of men.
Aside from a few cards, this tarot doesn’t contain people. The court cards are symbolic, using inanimate objects (like scissors, a spade, and a match) to highlight the energy of its tarot families. Hands are often used (from the strong to the skeletal), often dripping in the remnants of coloured paint and tattoo.
While beautiful to behold, The Ravens Prophesy Tarot is a force of its own. It’s a clenched fist, bold but unassuming.
The Fountain Tarot
One of the most popular tarots over the last year has been The Fountain Tarot – a joint effort between Jonathan Siaz, Jason Gruhl, and Andi Todaro. This deck has made it onto many Instagram feeds and even the pages of Vogue. Why? Because it is beautifully constructed and executed. But more than that, it is deep and contains the secrets within us all.
This is not a deck to be sniffed at or dismissed as just an art set. Without doubt, the artwork is first-class. Jonathan’s paintings are evocative and can pull at the hardest of hearts. The set is beautifully put together and the words within the book are a gem, waiting to be discovered.
What makes this deck a must for men is that it is contradiction in terms. You might wonder how something so ethereal, so gentle, and so poetic could be masculine. What I like about The Fountain Tarot is that it manages to combine these qualities with simplicity and an everyday accessibility. As well as having a palette as sharp as a cool breeze, it has a depth of emotion within its pages. While it is deeply mystical and thought provoking, the people within it are real and easily identifiable for the majority of people who will read with it or be read by it.
The Fountain Tarot is a modern classic. Often, it takes time for a deck to gain its place in tarot history but this one has assured its seat and it’s not going anywhere. With it’s geometric designs and uncluttered imagery, this deck is one I’d recommend for the reading table of any male reader, enthusiast, or student.
Here are a few other Suggestions …
The Morgan Greer Tarot (Bill Greer, Lloyd Morgan)
The Aquarian Tarot (David Palladini)
The Druidcraft Tarot (Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, Will Worthington)
The Legacy of the Divine Tarot (Ciro Marchetti)
The Haindl Tarot (Hermann Haindl)
The Intuitive Tarot (Cilla Conway)
The Wild Unknown Tarot (Kim Krans)
As we hear many times, tarot is not within the cards, but within our self. You may ask ‘If that is true, then why would it matter what deck you use?’. You would make a good point, but some decks push buttons within one person that cannot touch another reader or client in the same way. One-size really does not fit-all in tarot. While there are decks for the sensitive, the Pagan, the alternative-thinker, and those embracing the feminine, I’m glad that decks are being created for those who wish to embrace the masculine side of their work too – whether they are a man or woman.
Which decks do you find to be masculine and which do your masculine clients or friends prefer? I’d love to know, so why not drop me a message below!
Images from The Witchy Tarot (Antonella Platano), Mystic Faerie Tarot (Linda Ravenscroft), Quantum Tarot (Chris Butler), The Mythic Tarot (Trica Newell), The New Mythic Tarot (Giovanni Caselli), The Ravens Prophecy Tarot (Maggie Stiefvater), The Fountain Tarot (Jonathan Saiz) and The Aquarian Tarot (David Palladini).