The Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot Deck: An honest review for tarot beginners

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An honest look at the Llewellyn's Classic Tarot deck and companion book.
All of the images shown in this blog post are from the Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot by Barbara Moore and Eugene Smith © 2014 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125. All rights reserved, used by permission.

One of the questions I get asked the most often is, “Which tarot deck is best for beginners?”

Normally, I’m hesitant to give absolute advice about anything related to tarot. You’ll frequently hear me say something like…”There’s no right or wrong answer, only your answer.”

And that’s true for this question, too…except there are definitely some tarot decks that will make learning to read the cards easy – and some that will make it extremely difficult.

I recommend going easy on yourself. Either choose the original Rider-Waite (RW) tarot deck OR choose a tarot deck that follows the traditional RW-based meanings extremely closely (like this one).

Of all the tarot decks I use and recommend, the Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot deck is the closest to the original RW deck in symbols, meanings, and stories – but it uses a completely different illustration style. If you don’t like the artwork of the original RW cards, definitely consider the Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot deck instead.

This review will cover all of the important details about this deck. I purchased the Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot in 2016 from Amazon for about $26. It’s also available directly from the publisher, Llewellyn Worldwide, for a few dollars more.

LLEWELLYN’S CLASSIC TAROT DECK REVIEW

TL;DR

This deck follows the original Rider-Waite symbols, meanings, and images extremely closely while using a more modern illustration style.

If you are looking for your first tarot deck (or one that is extremely easy to read) – this is a great alternative to the original RW deck.

An honest review of the Llewellyn's Classic Tarot deck, geared towards tarot beginners.

HISTORY OF THE LLEWELLYN’S CLASSIC TAROT DECK

The Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot was created by Barbara Moore and illustrated by Eugene Smith.

Barbara Moore is a tarot expert, prolific author, and all-around awesome human being. She’s the author or creator of some of my favorite tarot decks like the Steampunk Tarot, the Shadowscapes Tarot, the Mystical Manga Tarot – and a book that doesn’t get enough credit in the tarot world, called Your Tarot Your Way: Learn to Read with Any Deck.

Her website, www.TarotShaman.com is an excellent source for tarot tips and news. She’s also an editor at Llewellyn Worldwide, and I get the impression that the Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot was specifically designed as the company’s most basic “beginner” deck. Like with everything else Barbara creates, the details of this deck have been carefully chosen and completely thought through. She knows her stuff.

The cards were illustrated by Eugene Smith, an illustrator based out of Chicago. The cards (like all of his work) is modern, colorful, detailed, and has a fairy-tale feel. You can find out more about his work at www.EugeneSmithIllustration.com.

Barbara and Eugene have also partnered up to create an Alice in Wonderland themed tarot deck which has incredible illustrations. I haven’t purchased this deck yet so I won’t review it, but you can take a look at it here or see some of the images on Eugene’s website.

The Llewellyn's Classic Tarot Deck review.

THE PACKAGE & CONTENTS

The Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot comes in a large box that opens at the top. Inside the box is the companion guide and the deck of cards. There is not “spot” to nestle the cards – once you’ve opened the package, the cards will float loose inside the box. It’s annoying and I’m glad Llewellyn has moved to the side-opening magnetic-flap boxes for their other contemporary tarot decks.

The backside of the cards is blue with a symmetrical pattern of white lilies and red roses. It feels similar to the original Rider-Waite card back, but is more attractive. The cards look very subtle when they are laid out in a tarot spread.

The cardstock is firm, but slippery. I suck at shuffling cards in general and these cards are difficult for me to shuffle. They just feel too stiff. I would prefer if they were a little thinner weight of cardstock, but that’s just me.

Most people prefer a thicker cardstock, so I know I’m in the minority. The cards feel thick and solid and I expect they will last a long time with regular use.

The package includes a companion guide to the deck, which is well written.

The cards themselves are borderless, which means the illustration bleeds off the edge of the cards. There is a small band of blue at the bottom of every card with the name of the card written in large print. It is extremely easy to identify the cards and tell them apart.

Learn how to read tarot cards using the Llewellyn's Classic Tarot deck.

READING TAROT WITH THE LLEWELLYN’S CLASSIC TAROT DECK

These cards are extremely clear, simple, and easy to read. They follow the RW-based meanings exactly, using a more modern illustration style.

There are a few cards where the person in the image is shown facing the opposite direction from the original RW cards. This is very minor, but if you interpret cards facing to the left as representing the past and cards facing to the right as looking towards the future, it’s something to be aware of.

The Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot really shines in the court cards. Since most people find the court cards difficult to learn, remember, and tell apart, I love using this deck with beginners. These court cards are different and you really feel their personality and story. It’s easy to tell them apart.

Not only that, but there is a forcefulness with the Queens and Kings that you don’t find in the original RW-deck. You really feel the mastery and strength of them. I find the Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot’s court cards to be much, much, much easier to read that the original Rider-Waite.

An honest review of the Llewellyn's Classic Tarot Deck.

USING THE LLEWELLYN’S CLASSIC TAROT COMPANION BOOK

This is a standard tarot companion book, and it is well written and quite detailed.

Each card is covered, with keywords (for upright and reversed meanings) and correspondences, followed by a few paragraphs highlighting the symbols on the card and what they mean. Barbara Moore is an excellent storyteller, and she easily weaves together the card images, symbols, meanings and interpretations into a story that is easy to remember.

Unlike most companion books, which are usually very basic and specific to the one deck, this one is more comprehensive and thorough. You will go quite far in your tarot journey using just this book alone. It doesn’t cover everything, but it will give you enough of an understanding that you can learn everything else on your own through experimentation and practice.

This is an honest look at the Llewellyn's Classic Tarot deck, with an emphasis on tarot beginners.

IS THE LLEWELLYN’S CLASSIC TAROT DECK GOOD FOR BEGINNERS?

Yes, absolutely. Along with the original Rider-Waite deck, this is the tarot deck I recommend most often for people just starting out learning tarot.

In fact, in some ways, I think this deck is even better than the original RW-deck. Personally, I prefer the illustration style of the Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot, but even beyond that, the cards are easier to read with more personality and story.

As your first tarot deck, this is an excellent choice.

PROS OF THE LLEWELLYN’S CLASSIC TAROT DECK

  • Extremely easy to read illustrations that closely follow the RW-based traditional meanings.
  • A high-quality, detailed companion book that includes everything you need to get started learning tarot.
  • The court cards have personality, are unique, and really feel like the energy they represent.

CONS OF THE LLEWELLYN’S CLASSIC TAROT DECK

  • None. Seriously.
  • Although, you’ll either like the illustration style or you won’t. But that’s the same for any deck.

Whether you are looking for your first tarot deck, a deck that is easier to read than the one you currently have, or a gift for a tarot newbie, you can’t go wrong with this deck. The Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot is available from Amazon for about $26. It’s also available directly from the publisher, Llewellyn Worldwide, for a few dollars more.

Learn how to read tarot cards using the Llewellyn's Classic Tarot Deck. It's an excellent tarot deck for beginners.