Holding the Stars in Your Hands

Astrology Decks
By Allan Ritchie

We say it all the time, Tarot is a tool. A tool of what? A tool of awareness, self-examination, divination, exploration, game play and creativity. Each one of these has a place in the history of the Tarot but I would like to focus for a moment on one use that is often ignored. Tarot is a tool of learning. As we look to add astrology to a Tarot there as some decks that are better than others at using, identifying and assisting the reader on pulling on the that information. There are decks out there that can teach you how to use astrology in your readings.

Astrology is a deep well of symbolic energy. Astrology is infused with the elemental systems of Fire, Earth, Air and Water in all of its modality, polarities and variants. Also it pulls in the long standing mythological archetypes. These also support idea that the movement of the cosmos is more of an influencer of human events than the logical modern mind would allow.

When we have the Tarot loaded with so much symbolism, it can be a bit much to process. Some decks are better at this than others and so I thought I would make a few recommendations on a few decks that can help you notice and incorporate more of this into your own use.

Crowley Harris Thoth Tarot


Published by AGMueller and distributed by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

There is no way around the first recommendation so let's just start there. The Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot is a go-to deck for understanding the astrological attributions. This is a tough deck and will require some to work to understand it. Still with the astrological glyphs on the cards and the titles, not keywords, on the card are there as a reminder. Those readers wholearned on the Rider-Waite-Smith style Tarot the Thoth may be a surprising challenge. For some readers it is a great deck they can use right off the bat. There are loads of helpful Thoth guides for the novice. I would recommend “Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot” by Lon Milo Duquette as a standard reference on the Thoth and “Keywords for the Crowley Tarot” by Hajo Banzhaf as a guide that is very beginner friendly. 

Although I would not recommend all Thoth-based decks, I would include one for those that are not faint of heart. The Liber T Tarot of the Stars Eternal is a deck that can push you further in this study.  The major trumps and the court cards are visually similar to the Crowley-Harris Thoth. They lack the projective geometry style and for me are a bit clearer. What is a standout are the pip cards with their scenic illustrations similar to the Rider-Waite-Smith. These are a greater study on the source idea for the deacon and that daemon/spirits once thought to rule during each tend day segment of the year. There is a learning curve on this deck as with the Thoth and there is no real helpful resource on the imagery of the deck. With its explicit nudity, scenes of sex, and torture that is depicted this is a recommendation that has some serious warnings.

Looking for something a bit more approachable then I would recommend whichever of the Ciro Marchetti decks fits your preference. Each of them is loaded with the astrological glyphs and with their beautiful art they are very readable and 

Legacy of the Divine


 Published by Llewellyn Worldwide

approachable. I find that my favorite is the Legacy of the Divine Tarot. Here we are able to see the references but they do not overwhelm the card. It allows us to add it to the reading vocabulary with out it being the primary focus of the image.

The Quantum Tarot is one deck that I want to recommend because it has a strange place to fit in this subject. It is a science-based deck that uses images from the Hubble Space Telescope. It still based on the Golden Dawn structure and therefore has the ascribed astrological attributions as well. Here you have a spacey deck to just get you into the feel of the planets, stars and the way that the universe does influence us.

An apparently out of print deck is the Zodiac Deck by Lee Bursten. This deck plays with the astrological archetypes and attempts to bring them to a modern era equivalent. It starts sign the major trumps depicting the trumps with planetary attributions as people and then those which corresponds to the Signs are represented as places. This sets up the minor pips as people in places and therefore can illustrate the complementary nature of planet-sign combination or the contrast in a situation. This is an interesting idea that has some legs as an intellectual exercise but not a great reading deck as it seems to get mired down. An example is the 7 of Waves, shows a woman in a formal party dress at the controls of a submarine. Clearly an interesting take on the 7 of Cups. The Courts in the deck are a illustration of the elemental dignities of the Courts and lacks the image of a person for instance the Queen of Wands which corresponds to Water of Fire is seen as a wave of water on a fiery background.

Along with these Tarot decks there are a couple of oracle decks which may help you to understand astrology in readings a bit better.

First there are the Karma Cards. As a deck fully fashioned on astrology, the cards are divided into three categories, the planets, the signs, and the houses.  Each card is filled with words about each of the astrological element as it fits into the reading. In a reading, the cards are drawn out in order, one of each and then the sentence fragments are read across each of the cards to find the meaning. This allows, in addition to a reading, the user to use each card as  flash card of a sort to the meaning of a planet, a sign or a house in astrology.

These cards also reference the mental, physical, and spiritual along with outcome and action steps. These cards are more text-based than I normally like but I still find that it has helped me to understand the scope of the planets, signs, and houses when I see them in different contexts.

Second oracle recommendation is the Symbolon. While it does not refer to itself as an oracle but rather as "Deck of Remembrance" it draws from astrological archetypes to develop meaning in the individual cards. The deck has 78 cards 

Symbolon - Deck of Remembrance


Published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

divided into two sections. It has a twelve-card section where each sign and their planetary ruler are depicted as a archetypal person. Then the remaining sixty-six cards are illustrations of the archetypes in combination. This is a bit similar to the Zodiac Tarot but a bit more successful. It is also not limited to the 36 deacons of the Tarot but a broader range of astrological combinations. So if our goal is to understand astrology better then this will help to expand your overall understanding.

For those that are visually stimulated the Symbolon is a large, colorful deck that is demanding and requires a commitment to work. The cards are not numbered or named with only the astrological glyphs as reference. To look up their meaning in the little white book you must cross-referencing each card image picture with the image printed in the back index which then turn to the referenced page for meaning and card name. This can be frustrating for those who like to study a deck, but for those that are more intuitively then you may be saved the effort by jumping in and start using the cards with out the looking and the creator’s meanings.

This is a list of decks that I own and use which have helped me understand the principles of astrology better in my own Tarot craft. There are other decks which are likely to be good fits for this list. It is always a great joy when I find a deck that is not only readable for myself and other but will also expand my knowledge base. I hope that these help you understand what is out there that may help you add some meaning to your readings. If I have left off your favorite astrological deck then add it to the comments

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