By Beth Allen
Autumn is almost here and so begins a magical time of changing colors and ritual.
If tarot is part of your celebration and practice, you may be looking for that perfect witch deck to use, especially for Mabon and Samhain.
But which witch deck?
Two tried-and-true decks to consider are the Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan, illustrated by Mark Evans, and the Green Witch tarot by Ann Moura, art by Kiri Ostergaard Leonard. They are both beautiful decks but very different, so let’s compare!
If you’re looking for a deck that closely follows the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith meanings and titles, or if you’re new to tarot, you might want to go with the Witches Tarot. This is a deck you can read right out of the gate if you’re familiar with RWS or to learn how to read if you’re a beginner.
There are only four cards out of the 78 that differ from the original RWS titles, all in the Major Arcana: V changes from The Hierophant to a kind of Yoda-like figure called The High Priest; X becomes The Wheel of the Year, not the Wheel of Fortune; XV changes from The Devil to The Shadow Side; and XX is Karma instead of Judgement. In the traditional RWS these cards in particular use Christian iconography so it makes sense that the titles and images would be changed to be consistent with the deck’s pagan theme.
First published in 2012 by Llewellyn, the deck uses photographic digital art that blends fantasy with realism. The feeling you get from the deck is an interesting mix of Old World with Modern.
The backs of the deck are very pretty, however they are not reversible because of the coloration. They are a tad smaller than standard-sized cards so they are good for smaller hands, and the Llewellyn card stock makes them easy to shuffle.
I must admit that I have a sentimental attachment to this deck because it was the deck I first learned to read tarot with. The deck is straightforward and offers clear messages, and it’s a great all-round workhorse. My deck is well-worn and well-loved and I continue to use it after many years, especially when I have questions on practical or financial matters, as I find it really shines in those areas.
The Green Witch, with its fanciful pagan-village art, has a different vibe altogether. This deck puts more emphasis on pagan lore and practice and therefore, makes a good study tool. Many of the cards’ images and titles have been changed from the traditional RWS, for example, The Fool becomes The Greenman; The Magician is The Witch; Strength is The Crone; Judgement is Harvest, etc. The titles of the Minor Arcana follow the RWS, only Cups have been changed to Chalices and Swords are Athames. All 78 cards also depict a plant/herb and an animal that correspond to the meaning of the card. You can read the deck intuitively, but with the emphasis and information on herbs and the craft, to do it justice requires more of a deep dive.
This deck was first published in 2015, also by Llewellyn. The art is illustrated with lush folkloric and fairy-tale like images. It’s borderless and smaller than a standard-sized deck so it also is good for small hands. The backs are stunning and they’re reversible if you don’t look too closely at the points of the pentagram.
If you want a tarot tool to use for green witchcraft and pagan wheel-of-the-year practices and symbols, this deck would be a great choice for you.
I use this deck exclusively to read for myself. I find it to be a spiritual deck that helps me connect with Mother Earth. It’s a deck I recommend for gratitude practice or offerings and it never fails to remind me of what’s really important.
Both decks come with detailed, helpful guidebooks and both are available for purchase on this Magical Omaha site. You also can find a more detailed review of the Green Witch tarot on this site if you’re interested.
Neither deck offers much diversity if that’s important to you. The Witches does have some cards showing people of color and some older people, while the Green Witch shows more varied body types and ages but has no racial or ethnic diversity.
Comparing these decks is a bit like comparing ravens and mugwort. The Witches has a dark, mysterious feel, while the Green Witch comes out from under the shadows and lets us visit a community in harmony with nature.
So which witch calls to you? Both decks are wonderfully witchy so the answer really depends on what you’re looking for this season. Why not treat yourself and get two witch decks, after all, Yule is just around the corner?!