New And Old Tarot Traditions
Today I saw an interesting picture on Facebook and it got me thinking about traditions. When it comes to the Tarot, there is a wide range of old traditions for how to keep the cards, how to use them, and who’s permitted to touch them. Added to those old “rules” are new concepts that have become common place and considered to be new traditions. But there’s no one single definitive or authoritative list of these ‘rules’. And some of these existing concepts even contradict each other. Here’s a short list from around the world as an example.
- Keep your cards in a pine box.
- Wrap your cards in silk or cotton.
- Sleep with your cards under your pillow.
- Never let anyone else touch your cards.
- Only the querent should touch your cards at the time of their reading.
- Always purify your deck in sunlight.
- Only purify your deck in moonlight.
- Sit the deck in a plate of sea salt to purify it.
- Light a candle or incense before a reading.
- Lay all your readings out on a pine board.
- Always face east when doing a reading.
- Always face your querent.
- Shuffle and cut the deck three times to the left.
- Don’t shuffle, cut once to the right.
- Have only the querent shuffle.
- Have only the reader shuffle.
- Your cards must be gifted to you or stolen.
- Never use a used deck.
- If your cards are lost, they needed a new owner.
Here in the U.S. using sage for clearing and cedar for protection is a traditional combination shared by Native American Nations. But not all Native peoples use these specific items for clearing or protection. This is merely the common combination that transcended Native Nations and made its way into the culture of early settlers. But remember sage and cedar aren’t available everywhere in the world.
In Europe, Pine was seen as the wood of protection. That evolved to any natural wooden box because different countries view symbology in different ways. As cards traveled across Europe, other forms of containers became popular. Bags made of silk, leather or natural cotton were in vogue for a time. In the highlands of Scotland, wool was a favored material. In Italy, marble boxes holding a deck stored inside a silk bag was the thing to do. Others would call that over kill.
I like the “natural” material idea. Too many chemicals in plastics and other unnatural forms of containers for my liking. I do like putting my deck in a special bag. And my most favorite deck, which would be very difficult to replace is indeed in a bag that’s in a box. A locked box even.
Generally though, I like colorful tarot bags that have a symbol on them. The symbol depends on the deck it’s going to hold and how it speaks to me. My Steampunk tarot deck for instance is kept inside a black velvet Sun/Moon bag. Mostly because I think they complement each other.
My Tarot Rules:
I do have a few personal rules for my decks. Some are from old traditions, some are from my own experiences and what I feel connected to. I think its important to remember that the cards are your tool for divining the information within their images as influenced by your connection with the Divine in your life and the cards themselves. So you are the center force between the Divine energy information and the client. The cards are your tool to help you visualize that energy into a message for the client to ponder. The querent doesn’t need to touch the cards and put their energy onto the deck for that. Doing so could actually confuse what you see for the next person you might do a reading for.
- No one else touches the cards but me. Though I will let my cat or dog sniff them or on a few occasions lick them. My cat Mooshu has even pulled a card for my Daily Tarot Meditation message.
- When the querent is present, I like to lay the cards out on a special table cloth. It’s made of heavy silk and has a Celtic design on it. Presentation adds to the reading for some. And often a client and I like the pomp and circumstance. If the client is not present, I lay the spread out on whatever is handy, a book, a blanket, the arm of a sofa chair, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s for convenience others because I feel drawn to a more formal space.
- The formal space generally happens if the client is in another country around the world. In my mind, it helps me raise the energy to a stronger level for an easier connection. For these events I’ll add items to enhance the energy of the reading. Such as a statue, often a white wolf, a crystal ball, a special table cloth that might be connected to the occasion or culture I’m “going to”.
- I do light a candle regardless of presence or location. I also use a Shamanistic technique to visualize a ritual in my head before every reading or use of the cards. I clear the space and set protection for the reading circle. I see myself lighting the candle, smudging the space and stating my intent. (This might be over kill for small readings, such as a daily message. But keep in mind how you’re feeling that morning. If you don’t feel up to snuff, it’s a great way to raise your energy and feel a little better.)
- I also say a prayer to the Divine in my life, my guides and the guides of the client before I lay out the first spread. I ask for their assistance in seeing the highest message possible for all concerned.
- This prayer is especially important when I’m providing my Daily Tarot Meditation message. Doing a one card reading for the world takes a little help.
- Part of my visualized ritual is to say a prayer to my Faerie friends and asking for their help to perform the reading and connect with the client or world. I provide email and phone readings, so a number of my clients are out of my area or aren’t even involved at the moment the reading takes place. The fae help me focus and connect so I know I’m connecting to the right energy.
- I’ll ask the Faeries to help me shuffle and cut the deck. Sometimes it’s 3 shuffles and several cuts, other times it’s 1 shuffle and 4 cuts. It all depends on what they tell me is needed. For the daily tarot message I’ll ask them how many cards do I count from the top to find the card for this particular day. The number often has special meaning to me, or for that day. It’s my personal connection to the number and the day so it’s often unique. I’ll also get an indication if I count from the top, or the bottom. Let’s face it, who wants to count to card 48.
- I have decks that were given to me, because someone thought I’d like a new deck. Unfortunately I don’t have a connection to their design so I don’t use them. I don’t advise people to buy a deck for someone unless that person has said they like a specific deck and would like to have that one day. I have decks that I purchased new that I had an immediate connection with. I also have unique used decks that I found at antique stores that I thought were interesting and wanted to take care of. I don’t necessarily use them. They’re part of a collection because they’re interesting to me. If you want to gift someone a deck, get a gift card or see if they have a wish list on Amazon. There are many ways to find the perfect item for someone special.
- I always clear and cleanse the deck before using it for the first time. Especially if it’s a used antique deck. I’ll put the deck in a plate of sea salt and spread them out as much as possible, like a fan. Then I’ll set the plate in the window with sun for a day, and the moon for a night. Typically I do this on a new moon night.
- They always go into a Tarot bag of some sort. Along with the cards, I add one of my business cards in case the deck is ever misplaced, lost or even stolen. If someone finds it, they know who to contact. But I also see this as physical action to surround the deck with my energy and declare this deck as mine. On the back of the business card, I stamp my personal Hanko. In the image below, you can see the back of one of my cards sitting below the crystal ball. The Hanko to me is my spiritual mark. This one says “Springwolf” and it’s my personal sigil and trademark. Adding it to the card that goes with the deck says this is my spiritual tool for my connection to the Great Spirits. Of course you don’t have to do this. But you may have some ritual or tradition that you’d like to add to your own deck. Go ahead, do it and make it yours.
I think some standards or traditions are important to know simply for the sake of history. But I don’t think anything is written in stone. Especially when it comes to spirituality and divination. You’re the psychic. If you don’t have a connection to the tool you’re using, it’s going to be difficult to read their message. If you like the tool, you’re going to take care of it and treat it with respect. Being a psychic you should follow your instincts and do what feels right to you. My two cents.
You might like the follow up post to this article. It was a A Unique Milestone For Reflections and I performed a little numerology to mark the occasion.
I have published several articles about The Tarot across my sites. If you’d like to know more, feel free to visit these:
- A Perspective On Tarot – What’s Behind The Card
- Meditating With The Tarot – (on SpringsHaven.com)
- The Spirituality Of The Tarot – An Increase In Interest
- Tarot Meditation – The Daily Tarot Insight
- The Tarot – A Students Guide On Pagan’s Path
- Tarot Spreads – A Sampling On Pagan’s Path
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