I consider Tarot to be a spiritual tool. When I tell my students that or mention this idea to
people new to Tarot, I often get asked, “Then what is the best way to take care of it”?
Students who have been reading various authors on Tarot will often find ways a deck MUST be stored, MUST be cleared after use, MUST be charged. If they are lucky they have read authors who give a variety of suggestions with a notation of doing which ever one works best for oneself. I tell them people the same thing. Find something you like and use it with respect for you cards and you will be happy.
For people who don’t have access to a quantity of Tarot books, here are listed many different ideas for storage and care of decks I have picked up over the years. Please experiment with different ones, eventually you will come to find the methods and rituals that work best for you.
What to store a deck in can range from the original box it in, to wraps, bags, or special boxes. People often like to wrap their decks in a piece of cloth. Silk seems to be the most written about in my experience. Silk is said to prevent negative energy from entering your deck. Black seems especially popular. For myself, I prefer cotton and don’t care for black. My favourite deck wrap is a square Indian cotton scarf that is a an earthy olive green with a reddish brown primitive looking pattern on it. I bought for my Greenwood deck, the cloth just seem to go with how I felt about my Greenwood deck, earthy and connected to tribal things. I also like this cloth because it is large enough to lay a reading out on. Don’t let the practical slip by you in care and storage of a deck. If you have limited resources, getting a wrap cloth that can also serve as a reading cloth makes a lot of sense. Use your favourite colours and a material you like.
Many people also like to keep decks in bags. These can be a simple little sacs with a draw string at the top, a bag with a flap and snap at the top, or a crocheted or knitted bag of a size to fit your deck. One of my favourite things to use are small cosmetic bags. You can find nice ones in a myriad of colours, patterns and sizes for a reasonable price. I have picked up a hand painted leather one with a top zipper in bargain store for $3.00 US. I have also paid $25.00 CAD at a gift boutique for a beautiful gold and red rose one with quilted lining that I just had to have for a certain deck . The variety is limited only to keeping a sharp eye open for what appeals to you and what you can afford. Making your own bag is also vary rewarding and may add much to your feeling of “being special” to your cards. If you sew, knit, crochet, do leather work, or weave, it is very easy to make a rectangle of cloth that can be folded over, the edges sewn and a fastener, flap or draw string inserted for closure. With any storage bag, make sure the bag is large enough to put your cards, their wrap if you are using one and any other small objects you want to keep with your deck (e.g. a crystal) in and out of it with ease. Too small of a bag could result in not only frustration trying to get the deck in and out, but physical damage as well.
Some tarotists like to store their decks in boxes. The box the deck comes in is always a choice. I have found that with repeated open and closing the cardboard box will soon be damaged. If you are collecting decks as well as studying Tarot, you probably want to store the original box separately to maintain its pristine condition and store your cards in a different container. A lot people enjoy finding a lovely wooden box to store their deck in. You can make or buy one to fit one deck or many. I was once given a large brass plated treasure chest, lined with blue velvet with a hasp and lock and key that I used to store my decks in. I had only 4 or 5 deck then and never carried them around with me so it suit the purpose perfectly at the time. If you wanted to have a hand in making a box for storage but have little or no woodworking skills try a craft shop. You can get boxes made of many materials and paint, decoupage or decorate it however you want. This can be a really good option if you have particular symbols or images in mind that you relate to Tarot and want on your container.
And of course, you can wrap your deck in a cloth, put it in a bag and put the bag in a box if you desire. All of these things will help protect your cards and protection is a good way of showing respect for this tool.
Some important questions to ask yourself are:
What materials do I want to use, is it important I used natural materials or are man made products okay with my view of things? What colours do I want? Patterned or Plain? Do I want symbols significant to me on the containers? How well will it stand up to wear and tear? Do my cards fit with ease? Is it practical to keep clean? Does it convey a felling of being special? And most important of all, Does is please me?
Ritual can be a part of all things, even how we store and take out our Tarot deck for use. Ritual is a very good way of setting the tone for Tarot use and for ending the session of use. In regards to storage, the very act of getting a storage box out, putting it in the place you are working, opening it and removing the deck can be ritualistic. If you are using a wrap, wrapping and unwrapping your cards in the same manner each time you use them is ritual. Often we will fall into a ritual of use without even realizing it, but I feel that attention to actions that are meaningful in every stage of use with Tarot is more satisfying and will add to the sense of your cards being a spiritual tool. Lighting a special candle or incense, playing special music, saying a prayer, poem, affirmation or meditation can all add the ritual use of your tarot deck.
There is much controversy about whether or not to let other people touch your Tarot cards, whether or not you want another persons energy in YOUR cards. This is something everyone has to decide for themselves. I love to share Tarot with other people and do face to face readings and so I often am handing my deck to another to look at or shuffle for a reading. Only on rare occasions have I come in contact with a person who made me uncomfortable enough that I did not want them to pick up my cards. Listen to your gut instincts about this. Having two copies of a deck is a way of keeping one deck for spiritual work like mediation and another for reading or teaching where others will handle your cards. Again, do what feels right to you.
I like to practice what I call clearing energy from my deck after every reading and after someone besides myself has held my deck. There are many ways of doing this and again, experimentation to find a method that works best for you is highly recommended. Much of what works, will be in your own intent when clearing the energy. So I recommend that you clear your mind before trying to clear your cards.
One of the easiest ways I know was shared to me by DenElder. Simply knock three times on the cards with the purpose in mind to knock out any residual energy from another or from the reading.
Shuffling your deck is another simple and favoured method to release unwanted energy. Putting the deck in what you would consider to be it’s arch typical order is another method. Example: Majors 0-21, Wands, Swords, Cups, Discs. Any consistent order you prefer would work. They can even be combined. I used to reorder my deck into my preferred arch typical order after every session or reading and them shuffle the deck. This is very time consuming though. Now I only shuffle, most of the time. If I have a reading laid out, I reinsert it one card at a time, in the same order I laid it out, shuffling well between reinserting each card. This method was shared to me by Lanie. It works well for me and is reasonably quick.
Clearing your cards with light. This is very much a method of intent, it is like a grounding and centering exercise for your deck. You use a grounding and centering meditation you like while holding your cards. When you feel you are well grounded and centered yourself you draw purified light energy from yourself into your deck and pull out unwanted energy through yourself and back down into the ground.
Wiping you cards down with salt water. Make sure your cards are heavily laminated before attempting this one. Salt water is supposed to remove negative energies, the salt absorbing the negativity and the water washing it away. Don’t soak your cards! Even the most well laminated deck could be ruined. Just dip a cloth in salt water and wipe the card down, then wipe again with a dry clean cloth. Using cloth of a colour you consider purifying would probably add clout to this type of clearing.
Freezing was a method shared to me by Alex Palermo of The Tremont Tea Room on CompuServe and got many laughs in the process. His deck ended up in an accident in the freezer with chicken soup. So use common sense, if you are going to freeze your cards, make sure they are completely dry and are well wrapped and then wrapped again in plastic wrap, zip lock bag or plastic container so no food can get on them. Let your cards warm up to room temperature before unwrapping and using them. I have used this method a couple of times when a deck felt cloudy or murky and didn’t seem to be reading well for me and actually liked it. I imagined my deck to be thawing like a pure mountain spring, clear of any impurities.
Burying your cards in the ground is supposed to be very good for a deck that is really feeling negative to you. Use the same precautions as for freezing and don’t forget to mark where you buried it or you may have solved the cards negative energy problem permanently. The earth is supposed to absorb and negate the unwanted energy of the cards. Again, intent should be considered, don’t expect mother earth to do all your work for you. I have heard of this method being done as a yearly cleaning ritual in a very ritualistic manner. A special holiday in your spiritual practice might be an appropriate time for this.
Burning a deck of cards may seem drastic, but it is a time honoured method of disposing of something that is holy or a spiritual tool. Why would you do it you might ask? Well, a deck that is too worn from use might be a reason, like a cremation really. Or if you have a deck that somehow seems polluted with an unwanted energy you can not get rid might be another reason. I don’t suggest tossing it in the garbage incinerator as a very good way of practicing this method though. If you are going to cremate a deck of cards, do it with respect and intent to the purpose and use caution. Make sure you use a container or fire safe area, like a fireplace and keep water or some other extinguisher handy.
All in all, love and respect your special tool and it will be a friend to you and give you many years of wonderful use in return.
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