Tarot lore says you should only ever read with decks that are gifts. I scoff at this. Really. That’s like saying you can only wear jeans or shoes someone else picked out for you. It would never be the right fit, would it? Best to find the perfect pair of jeans, er, tarot card deck yourself. Now, this can get expensive. The same people who would have us think we have to be gifted a deck likely also dislike the idea of reading with a deck that used to belong to someone else. But some of my favorite jeans and boots have been from thrift stores, and I bought them specifically because they were already broken in. A good cleaning, a good hemming, or a trip to a talented cobbler can work wonders. Suddenly you have a pair of shoes that only look expensive. It’s no different with tarot cards. So what if they belonged to someone else before you? A good cleaning, and it’s your new favorite deck for a fraction of the price. How do you go about that? Honestly, it depends on the deck. Here is a run down of things I’ve done in the past to both used and new decks to make them feel clean, energized and mine.
1. Saltwater, smudge and a bell. Yup. Just like you would if you were clearing a house. This is all-purpose, but great for decks with a particularly pagan flair. It’s speaking that language. It also seems to be required for my Voyager Deck on a regular basis.
2. Shuffle, shuffle, and shuffle again. Great for a deck that was clearly opened, but not really used. Seriously, I’ve gotten a few where the box was opened, and shrink wrap off the cards but some cards still in order and stuck together. Clearly, a gift of a deck that was not well-received.
3. Ask the cards. How do they want to be cleared? What will make them feel all shiny and new? I’ve gotten strange answers – “Leave me alone for 3 months” said the Ellora tarot. “Carry me in your purse for a week” said the Housewife’s Tarot – but it’s always worked.
4. Sunlight & dirt. Some decks, like the Gaian Tarot, love the sun and just need to be put out at noon for a few days to feel revitalized. Some decks, like the Deviant Moon, want to be wrapped in black cloth and buried for a moon cycle in dirt. A potted plant was fine.
5. Stones. I have a few lovely stones to put on top of decks. Big, smooth pieces of labradorite and selenium work well for this, but I also have a flat circle of carnelian too. But never underestimate the value of a flat river rock. Nothing fancy, but it’s effective.
6. Sleep with them. This is what I did with my recent acquisition of The Dreaming Way tarot. I got a used copy at the ‘garage sale’ at BATS, and after thinking about it both the theme of the deck and the approaching super moon in Pisces led me to think that this was a case where that old advice of sleeping with a deck under your pillow would work. I wrapped that deck up in silk, tied it up with labradorite and put it beside my pillow for a week solid.
7. Lastly, you might not want to clean them at all. Do nothing. I just picked up a couple of decks at a sale. All the decks were from a man who is reported to be a great reader and teacher. I am not sure I want to rub all that goodness off the decks – I want it to rub on to me!