Tarot cards and, more recently, oracle cards are outstanding tools for psychological and spiritual work. Each year they become more and more a part of the common vernacular and readily available in mass-market venues, especially the online retailer, Amazon. The number of decks available in and out of print is mind-boggling, easily in the thousands, especially if you go do a search for decks on eBay.
Once shrouded in mystery and a “tool of people with questionable character, dark intentions, or acolytes of heathen beliefs”, tarot and oracle cards are enjoying widespread, if still hesitant acceptance. In this article I will discuss the proper way to clean, store, and use your tarot/oracle deck.
Whether you buy a new or used tarot/oracle deck, it is important to do cleansing work on the deck of cards before you begin to use them, especially if it is a used deck. Before you get the deck out of the packaging, it can be a good first practice to light some white sage and have it smoking.
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You can start by waving the package over the smoke, then you can open the package and pull the cards out. Wave the cards over the smoke. I also recommend shuffling the cards to activate them if they are new and disturb the absorbed energy if they are old. For a new deck, smudging with Sage should be enough to cleanse the deck of the packing energy.
If the deck is an older one, I would recommend wrapping the deck in a black silk cloth or placing an onyx, jet, obsidian, or black tourmaline stone on top of the deck and let it rest in the cloth or under the stone for 24 hours. The black cloth or the stone will absorb any negative energy. To cleanse the cloth light some more sage and wave the cloth over it. For the stone, the best cleansing is to bury it in the soil for 24 hours.
Once you have cleansed the deck, you should activate it with your energy by shuffling the cards and doing a reading. You want to bind the deck to your energy.
Many readers will keep decks wrapped in silk cloth or bags, which is good storage. But the best storage is a wooden box, which has been smudged and charged with protecting the contents, either through ritual meditation or with protective carvings in the design or added by you. The most secure storage is a silk cloth or bag inside the box.
As a reader who works with multiple decks in public settings, my decks are all stored in charged boxes and each time I read for a client, I take the deck out of the box and return it to the box before the next reading. As soon as the deck is back in the box it is “reset” and cleared. That is the intention and use of the box. Where the boxes are stored, they share a shelf with Amethyst geodes to keep the protective energy stay fully charged.
As with any tool, but especially spiritual tools, it is important to ritualize the usage of the tool. You must decide if you will be the only one to handle your deck or if you will allow others (friends or clients) to handle the cards in any way. You may decide to own a personal and public deck of the same cards or have a private deck and a public deck(s) that are different.
If you decide to let clients handle your deck in any way, whether by shuffling the cards, cutting the cards, or drawing the cards, then you should have a way to cleanse the cards immediately after each use. I prefer to use boxes that I have charged to reset the deck energetically each time the cards go back into the box after usage. And when the decks are idle, they are inside the box. You can also use black cloth or cloth with protective symbols that will cleanse and keep the cards energetically safe.
Also, whether you read only for yourself or for others, it is important to develop a shuffling, cutting, drawing ritual. Ritual practice and performance enhance the spiritual experience by creating meditative access that comes with intentional repetition.
In my process, I have a series of 10 questions I ask for a 10-card spread that can be adjusted down to smaller spreads, like 6 or 5 or 3 cards. I will shuffle the cards once, then spread them out in front of the client. I will ask the client if they want to ask something specific, concentrate on an area of life, or just be open and see what comes up.
After they decide how they want to approach the reading, I start by asking them a question and directing them to draw a card to answer the question and hand it to me face down. Once I have all the cards, I recount them from top to bottom to put them in the correct order in which they were handed to me. I start by saying the date, who the reading is for, and which tarot deck we are using (because I also tell people to record the reading).
Once I have stated the information about the reading about to take place and for whom, I then repeat the question before I turn over the card for them to see. For example: “Today is March 14, 2020 and this reading is for Deborah. You selected the Linestrider Tarot and I asked you 10 questions. The first question was, ‘what do you need to know right now?’ and the card you selected is the 3 of Wands.” I go on to explain the meaning of the card in the context of the question and we are off and running in the reading.
The double repetition of the question is ritualistic to help embed the idea of the question in the psyche of the client. It also allows me to use the process back to back with clients without losing any energy in the interpretation process because the functional process has been so thoroughly developed and used that it is completely automatic.