Deck Showdown: Paulina Tarot vs. the Delos Tarot

Decks used: Paulina Tarot (Paulina Cassidy, US Games) and Delos Tarot (lamblamb99)

Decks used: Paulina Tarot (Paulina Cassidy, US Games) and Delos Tarot (lamblamb99)

Sugar and spice, and everything nice

Whenever I want to use some cards that are lighthearted, friendly and feminine, these two instantly come to mind. Both are very sweet and take on similar, but different storybook-like aesthetics… something that reminds me of bedtime stories from my childhood. I guess that's why I turn to these decks when I know a client needs to hear uplifting messages (versus punch-you-in-the-face truths), and it's why I use these for my daily draws when I know I have a long, hard day ahead of me.

I first came across the Delos Tarot through Elyse of Wild Moon Woman on YouTube (who has instigated a lot of my deck-buying, and I love her for it! :). This fun Etsy find is actually a Korean deck, much like The Dreaming Way. Unlike the Dreaming Way, however, the Delos Tarot takes direct inspiration from the Rider Waite Smith deck, translating the classic scenes we're all familiar with into boldly outlined figures, brightly colored backdrops, and pretty, stylized drawings that look like something straight out of an animated feature.

All the cards are cute, colorful and classic storybook material. If I were ever to introduce the tarot to kids, then this would definitely be the deck. Even the "scarier" cards manage to be endearing. I know kawaii is a Japanese thing, but it is super befitting of the Delos Tarot too.

You're not going to get a lot from the LWB that comes with this deck since it's written in Korean—this is a pity though because it looks like some pretty hefty reading material, for a little white book. That said, you'll barely notice the lack of a guide book because the packaging of the Delos Tarot is so adorable, you won't be able to fixate on anything else. The tuck box is flimsy but so pretty, and if you look carefully, you'll see the black and white striped interior of the box. The cards aren't thick, but they aren't too thin either—they lack the sheen that makes these thinner cards so wonderful to handle, but that said, they're easy and non-combative in the hands.

Overall, I would say that this makes a pretty, charming starter deck if you're able to get your hands on a RWS guidebook (they're a dime a dozen anyway!).

I bought the Paulina Tarot during a trip to Portland, Oregon. I was at Powell's Books and told myself I wouldn't step out of that bookstore without at least one deck. So even if none of the decks in their locked cabinet really appealed to me, I just forced myself to zone in on one. My friend had the Joie de Vivre deck by Paulina Cassidy already, and while I thought it was whimsical and beautiful, I had a couple of nitpicks. One, the clown-like creatures had the potential of creeping me out if I looked at them long enough. Two, I didn't like the font that was used for the labels (confession: I am a self-professed typography geek). 

I narrowed down my choices, didn't have any problems with the type that the Paulina Tarot used, and saw that it had a darker, more haunting quality to it, and went for that instead. This tarot, like most of Paulina Cassidy's art, gives you an explosion of detail with every image. There's just so. much. going. on. Every card is a virtual Where's Waldo? cornucopia of clues and hidden symbols that you weed through to get to the gist of the archetype depicted.

I love Paulina's fine lines and lovely use of color. Like the Delos Tarot, the feel this deck gives is storybook, albeit a different kind. A little more mysterious, a little more complex, the stories her cards tell run deep—which is why I relegate this deck to daily draws. A single pull can offer a lot. And while someone who has knowledge of the RWS can certainly make do with these cards without going through its LWB, I feel like the Paulina some further study if you intend to take it seriously.

One of my resolutions for the year was to dive a little deeper into this deck and I have made it a point to include it in my daily draw rotations. That said, I have yet to use this for full readings, the kind I do during full and new moons. It just seems like a lot to deal with! I'm working through it slowly though—maybe before the year ends, I'll have graduated from single pulls to 3-card spreads to an actual Celtic Cross.

This deck is a typical US Games deck—the cards have that powdery layer that makes them easy to handle and shuffle, but they're as mass market as mass market can get. If you're looking for the fun little extras that come with independently published decks, you're not going to find them with this.

Would you rather have the clearly outlined figures of the Delos Tarot or the richly visual watercolor drawings of the Paulina?

Would you rather have the clearly outlined figures of the Delos Tarot or the richly visual watercolor drawings of the Paulina?

Using these two decks alongside each other makes for an interesting tarot exercise just because they're so decidedly different. Then again, when you place the cards side by side, you are able to pick up the similarities quite easily—and because of that, you're able to draw out our own associations with the tarot.

We see both Queens of Cups, for example, gazing at the chalice they're holding. The Paulina's queen holds some serious swirling emotions within, while the Delos Tarot's queen sits on solid ground surrounding by that same dynamic, swirling water.

The Knight of Pentacles of the Delos Tarot on the other hand, is unmoving and steady on his horse.  The same character from the Paulina Tarot is off his "horse" (which looks more like a mythical creature), but his stance embodies a similar steadiness and stability.

Similarities are clear in The Star, too. We see our main character holding two water jugs, have their legs in an asymmetric position, one foot in the water and one foot out. Paulina's Star offers a lot more greenery and flowers surrounding her, while the Delos Tarot is naked and uninhibited, much like the RWS Star.

Similarities are clear in The Star, too. We see our main character holding two water jugs, have their legs in an asymmetric position, one foot in the water and one foot out. Paulina's Star offers a lot more greenery and flowers surrounding her, while the Delos Tarot is naked and uninhibited, much like the RWS Star.

Your deck pick, when it comes to the Delos and the Paulina, will largely depend on personal preference. The Paulina adds layer upon layer of frills to the Rider Waite Smith, while the Delos Tarot strips it of any unnecessary elements so you get down to the basics in a very focused and direct way. No matter which you choose, both decks immerse you in a pretty, charming wonderland that transforms the tarot into a joyful, sunny experience.