What is the most traditionally valid tarot deck available today?
Im familiar with the Thoth deck and have used various oracles, but want further suggestions.
Any of A.E. Waite's versions, like the Rider-Waite
It really depends upon what you mean by "valid", she muses.
The Rider deck, although a little dull artistically, satisfies c/k/qabalistic concerns (as does your Thoth deck). The black and white Hermetic Tarot deck ticks all the right boxes too.
Depends on what you mean by "traditional".
If you mean the one used for the longest period of time, then it would be the "Marseilles" deck or one of it's clones. Images on Major Arcana, pip counts on Minor Arcana.
If you mean the most commonly known, then it would be the Rider-Waite-Smith version or one of it's clones. It's only been around since the early 1900's, though, so you can't really say it's the most traditional one. Images on both Major and Minor Arcana.
Thoth has been around since the mid 1900's (maybe a tiny bit before), so it's even newer than RWS. Unique images on Major and Minor Arcana.
The Rider-Waite-Smith deck is the most common and popular. It's also known as "The Rider Deck" or "The Rider-Waite Deck." It was conceived by Arthur Edward Waite and the pictures were made by the artist Pamela Colman Smith (aka Pixie Smith). Before this deck there were no pictures on the pip cards in the Minor Arcana. It's this deck that many of today's Tarot decks somewhat copy or sometimes downright clone. I suggest the deck in the yellow box with the Magician on the cover--but there is also a smaller version and a much larger version, but I like the regular sized version. Also, the "Original Rider Waite Tarot Pack" is good as well, but the pictures are more dull in color. I do not suggest any other Rider-Waite-Smith version as they are complete clones. These include the following: The Radiant Rider Waite Tarot, Universal Rider Waite Tarot, Albano Rider Waite Tarot, etc. I'm offended by these because they are usually copied by another artist, but they are so close to the original that I don't understand why people clone it when the original is still the best and is still available.
Also, the Marseilles Tarot is very old, and there are many clones of it as well, but unlike the Rider-Waite-Smith version I'm not offended by the clones out there where the Marseilles deck is concerned. The Marseilles deck does not have any pictures on the pip cards. Instead, the pip cards are set in a pattern much like a regular playing card deck. For example, the 5 of Swords has only 5 swords in a pattern on the card, and so forth.
The Swiss 1JJ Tarot deck is also quite old, but I believe it's out of print. It's similar in style to the Marseilles deck to a degree. I'm not as familiar with that deck, but again, I believe it doesn't have actual pictures on the pip cards, but continue having a pattern like all other decks before the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.
Hope that helps! By the way, if you're not familiar with or do not own the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, I suggest you get it. Most books on Tarot use this as a basic reference and also if they have pictures they are usually of this deck. I own numerous Tarot decks, but I always go back to this one for the accurate answers it always gives me. It never lets me down!
Also, I noticed after I posted this somone posted this before me, and they mentioned the Thoth deck. It was invented by Aleister Crowley and painted by Lady Frieda Harris. I believe his book on this deck came out in the 1940s and the deck started selling I believe in the 1960s. In a way, it was his response to Arthur Edward Waite's Tarot deck. They had both been members of the Golden Dawn. Hope that helps, but I could be biased, but the Rider-Waite-Smith deck is the best and my all-time favorite, but use what works for you!
The question is, which tradition?
The earliest tarot packs date from the mid 15th century Italy and were created for the Milanese court. They consisted of two parts: a standard pack of Latin suited playing cards (which predated tarot in Europe by nearly 100 years) and a set of picture cards that took as their theme a triumph procession - hence their early name of Trionfi, meaning Triumph and from which we get our word trump. These cards were used only for playing card games which spread throughout much of continental Europe today.
Perhaps the best known variety is the Marseilles pack, named after the place in France that produced it. This pattern later spread back to Italy and from this the Piedmontese pattern developed (and is still in use for card games).
Another variety that was very popular in its day but that died out in the 1930s is the Minchiate. This pack was from Florence and added additional trumps to a total of 97 cards. The game was very popular and was played as far as New Orleans in the 19th century!
The Tarocco Bolognese is also very old and has some unique features - in particular the II-V of trumps have been replaced by four trumps of equal rank called the Four Moors. The family of games played with them is often hailed as one of the finest in the world.
The Tarocco Siciliano is now only made by Modiano and has some unique trumps that include the Ship (taken from the Minchiate) and The Beggar. Also, these cards are very small - not much larger than a patience pack!
Early in the 18th century, German card makers began to make tarot packs that had French suits and replaced the traditional Italian trumps with a variety of themes, such as animals, local buildings, or simply domestic scenes. This is now the dominant form of pack used for card games, though it was only adopted by France in the early 20th century.
There are a few other regional variations that have died out, though one is found in the Swiss 1JJ, featuring Jupiter and Juno in place of the Pope and Female Pope. This particular pack is 19th century and is still used in Switzerland to play Troccas and Troggu.
At the end of the 18th century, a French occultist claimed that tarot cards were from ancient Egypt and published an account of how they could be used for divination. He began the tradition of 'rectifying' the designs by turning the Hanged Man the other way up and calling him prudence. He was working with the Marseilles pattern and French occultists after him also began to work from these cards, often redesigning them. It was the Marseille pattern that was first imported into England by members of the Golden Dawn, who also translated some of the French occultist literature.
It was in the early 20th century that Arthur Edward Waite backed the creation and publication of the cards now known as the Rider Waite Smith. These cards were radically different from the Marseille or any that had gone before. They were now laden with occult images and the pip cards showed scenes relating to occult and divinatory meanings. Later, the cards saw another important re-design by Crowley and Harris, this pack was the Thoth. Most subsequent packs designed for occultism and divination are to some degree based upon one of these patterns.
Tarot cards have been with us for little short of 600 years and have diversified a great deal, by both region and by use. New traditions have developed and grown. If you want the occult, then the earliest to have been given those associations are the Marseilles cards. If you want game play - well, the Visconti packs are the oldest but aren't very practical and sometimes the cards you will need will depend upon the game you want to play anyway.
The Thoth deck references descriptions defined by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The Golden Dawn Magical Tarot by Chic & Sandra Cicero sticks to those definitions pretty well with color and elemental & astrological references.