There are a variety of ways to take care of a tarot deck, and a plethora of old wives tales (some of them practical, others not so much). I think what is important, though, isn’t the old wives tales and superstitions, but gratitude. You work with these cards, you trust these cards. They speak to your intuition, and they are used as guides, as self care tools, as expressions, and as many other things. They deserve to be treated well.
What I’ve found, though, is that everyone cares for their deck(s) differently. I personally can’t speak for other’s methods and reasons for those methods, but here’s how I care for mine…
Step 1) Saying Hello – When a deck first comes into my possession, I look through the cards and familiarize myself with the artwork, the card stock, the feel of the cards in my hands, and the feel of the shuffle. I spend some time with the deck, just looking at each card and repeatedly shuffling the deck. I might, at this time, also do a couple of deck exercises, just to become more familiar with the structure of the deck. These most commonly include…
A) Laying out the cards of each suit, one at a time, and paying attention to how the element of the suit is expressed in each card, as well as take time to notice the similarities in the qualities of the cards within each suit, and the differences expressed through their progression from the Ace to King.
B) Looking at each number, from each suite together (all aces, all twos, etc) including the corresponding Major Arcana Cards. At this time, I seek the “theme” of the number within each of the five cards, and the differences of the elements they represent as well.
Step 2) Modifications – At this point, I will often do my modifications if I’m interested in doing any kind of alterations to the cards. I like to do the modifications before cleansing the cards, as I want them to be their “finished selves” before I get to that part of things.
I’ve just started modifying my decks (beyond the occasional edging) recently, so along with starting a new cycle of cleansing and interviews with all of the decks in my collection (mentioned below), as I go through my decks to prepare them for this process, I am also picking out and setting aside those that I have definite feelings about wanting to modify in some way in the future.
3) Cleansing – I almost always will do this before I ever use the cards for any type of reading or communication. In my case, cleansing is done by setting up outside (see the picture to the right) with a candle, appropriate crystals to lend their energy to the process, my abalone shell (on its stand) to catch ash, and a small smudge stick (usually that I’ve made myself) of white sage, sweet grass, and a very slender toothpick-sized sliver of palo santo wood. (I have a number of decent sized sticks that I purchased years and years ago, but it’s currently on the endangered watch list so I use what I have very sparingly, as I will not purchase more until it is off the endangered species list). I then run each card through the smoke of the smudge stick, one at a time, paying mind to the individual card before me as I do so.
Some people do not cleanse their cards, as they worry it will alter the card’s personality (I’m sure there are other reasons, as well). And, I guess I can understand that. But for me, it’s important.
I see this process as similar to taking a bath. When you take a bath, you wash yourself but you don’t lose your appearance or personality in the washing. I feel that the “bath” is an important step, as it washes away any stray energy that might be lingering in the cards (for example, the energy of a suicidal employee that handled the cards at the printing company, or a resentful worker at the storage warehouse, etc). I think it is important to wash away those energies so they don’t “muddle” the communication that comes from the cards.
After the initial cleansing that happens with the cards when they come into my collection, the only other time I ever cleanse them is 1) they are not communicating as clearly as they once did, 2) I’m re-doing a deck interview and feel a cleansing could help in “clearing the air” and opening up communication, or 3) I have allowed someone other than myself or my sister to touch them. The last isn’t really something that happens all that much anymore. Once upon a time, I used to do face to face readings and would have the querent shuffle the cards, split the deck, draw cards, etc. Since the event that changed my appearance and the ways I communicate, though, I no longer do face to face readings so it is rare anyone aside from myself and my sister ever handle my cards.
4) Deck Interview – After the cards have been cleansed, I will go through the process of my deck interview. This involves first putting the cards in order. I’ve already shuffled this deck multiple times when first getting familiar with it and possibly during the modification process. So I now take the time to put the cards back in order, which I feel helps “pause and reset” the deck, opening things up for them to speak clearly. Sort of like organizing the deck’s thoughts before the interview begins.
I then do six riffle shuffles, before then shifting to overhand seesaw shuffling while I wait for a card to stick out (or jump out) for each question in the interview. Once I’ve gone through all of the questions, I photograph the finished interview spread, and then I thank the cards as I riffle shuffle them three more times, then put them away.
5) Journaling – After the interview spread, I then print out the photo of the interview and add it to my deck interview journal, and write my journal entry about this deck, which includes why I bought the deck (or how it entered my collection), what my first impressions of the deck were, and then an outline of my interpretations of each answer the deck replied to during the interview.
6) Storage – With as many decks as I have, I am very conscientious about how I store my decks. This depends on a variety of factors.
If the deck came with a “fitted” tuck box, I will usually keep the deck stored in this box. The same can be said for small hard boxes that are made to specifically fit the size of the deck.
The BIG boxes that a lot of decks come with these days? I remove the deck from the box, and will then take time to peel the artwork from the box to save and use later in the deck interview journal or in an in-depth study journal of that specific deck. The deck is then wrapped in cotton cloth in a “swaddle” of sorts. I am aware of the old wives tale that says you should wrap your decks in silk, but it just doesn’t feel good to me. Silk is not as breathable or as comfortable as cotton. I want them to be comfortable in their swaddle, and enjoy their resting time with the other decks in my collection. It doesn’t seem enjoyable (in my opinion) to be wrapped up in suffocating silk when you can be in something far more comfortable.
My decks are then placed in one of four places. I have two trunks (and a basket), which I store the majority of my decks in. One trunk is for boxed Tarot decks only, the other is for all other boxed decks (such as Lenormand decks, Oracle decks, playing card decks, etc). The basket currently houses my swaddled decks. This system will possibly change a bit over time, and with the possible addition of a third trunk.
I have a shelf in my nightstand where a handful of decks that are my “go to” decks sit along side whatever decks are next in my monthly deck studies.
I also have a small basket dedicated to decks that are waiting to be modified in some way. A lot of these are decks that require more extensive modifications such as trimming or backing, as I often do edgings right away when I have decided a deck needs it.
Aside from those spots, I have reference decks (and decks in tins) on a shelf in the living room beneath my computer monitor. There is also between one to three decks at our altar in the bedroom, two decks on the night stand for ease of access and decoration, and my sister and I now (as of last week) have a plastic bin beside the bathtub that has a trio of waterproof decks in it.