Caring for Your Tarot Cards

Even if you’re not a Professional Tarot reader, your Tarot cards will, from time to time, need a little TLC. Perhaps you use your deck frequently, you might even be a little guilty of nibbling some chocolate while doing readings for yourself or your friends and made your cards all sticky; perhaps you’ve had an accident and spilt liquid on your cards! Have no fear, this post aims to show you the many different ways you can take care of your beloved tarot cards including:

Clearing your deck of any unwanted or negative energy through:

    • Visualisations
    • Smudging and incense
    • Lunar energy
    • Shuffling and re-ordering the deck
    • Using crystals

Cleaning your tarot cards so that they shuffle better after:

    • Real life spills
    • Sticky fingers and gleaming cards
    • Smooth shuffling

Storing your tarot deck after its use with:

    • Their original boxes
    • Fabulous fabrics
    • Bohemian bags
    • Beautiful natural wood

In putting this post together, I approached several Professional Tarot reading friends for their tips and techniques in how they care for their Tarot cards. The words that follow are a mix of mine and theirs, but are organised by method so that you can easily refer to this piece should you wish to try out the different and varied techniques they use.

Clearing your Tarot deck

Clearing, or cleansing your tarot deck is about purging it of unwanted energies that it may have picked up through working, resting and handling by others. Each clearing technique listed below is associated to one of the four elements of nature, plus the fifth element of spirit. I have meditated upon which element is associated with which technique and have arrived at the conclusions below.

I’ve stated which element I have assigned to each technique under the heading for that technique with a brief explanation of my thinking. You may disagree with my choices, if so, I’d love to hear which elements you would swap around, and while this may be a little early to say, I’ll see you in the comments section…

Visualisations

Elemental association: Spirit. In drawing down or pulling up white light from the heavens or the earth, we are seeking to embody or assimilate their essences and spirit to merge with our own.

Using meditation based techniques are a great way to not only clear the energy from your cards after the days work, but they’re also a great way to ground yourself at the same time. It’s also important to remember that purification can come from pulling white light down from the heavens into yourself or your cards, while pulling white light up through and from the earth is better for grounding. Again, pull the white light up into your cards, and if for yourself, remember to pull the light up through your feet, continuing upwards through your body.

A wonderful extension to that exercise, while actually holding your tarot cards in your hands, is to visualise yourself holding them and then either pulling the light down or up through your cards and your body. While you are holding your cards you are connected to them – what better way to clear them than together, in unison, at the same time!

In the Smudging and Incense chapter below, Nancy of Tarot Explorer explains that she asks her spirit guides to bless her deck after she has smudged it. Using that part of her technique here, during a visualisation, is a great adaptation to this technique.

My little ritual consists of always “clearing” the cards before or just after a reading. And I do so by visualization, I visualize bright white light from above shooting right through the cards and immediately clearing them of any previous energies. Anton Rossi, Angel’s Tarot

Smudging and incense

Elemental association: Fire. Fire lights and keeps the the smudge stick or incense burning. It has long been associated with purging and purification rituals, and is the only element that can transform one thing into another.

By far the most popular method and it’s easy to see why. Perhaps it’s our memory of frankincense from days at church that make this technique feel effective. It evokes a real sense of cleansing just through the sight and smell of the smoke.

When using a smudge stick, look for white sage, though lavender smudge is also very good if you can find it. Incense comes in many different varieties, aromas, strengths and purities. Each has its own characteristics, associations and functions. The range is huge and can get a little confusing. My advice to you is to try what you can find or what you have. In my own smudgings, I have used many different types to great effect. Don’t be too concerned about having to find exactly the right smudge or incense, you will, after lots of trials and error, and I can vouch that it’s a very pleasant experience in trying.

When I get a new deck, I sage it (light dried native sage and pass the deck several times through the smoke). The smoke from the sage cleanses the cards and creates a sacred space around them. I then ask my spirit guides to bless the deck and to help me use it only for the highest good of whomever I’ve reading for. Nancy Hendrickson, Tarot Explorer. Also favoured by Bonnie Cehovet, Laura Goodfellow, Rainbow Tarot, Misha, Tarot by Misha and my good self.

Moon energy

Elemental Association: Water. La Lunar with her feminine, mysterious and fluid energy has long been associated with water and her power over entire oceans and even your body.

Using lunar energy to clear your tarot deck is very effective. At its most simplest, you simply place your deck on the window sill, or near to it, and let the moon work her magic in clearing, and rejuvenating your cards. You don’t need a Full Moon, though it helps, particularly if it’s visible from the window near to where you will place your deck. It’s a technique that I have applied numerous times with great effect. You can also add a little ritual around this technique, as the Tarot Lady suggests below, using crystals. Lighting incense or smudging to begin the ritual can be very beneficial too, and if you’re looking to add a little ambience to your Full Moon ritual, add candles, but be safe!

Leave the cards out overnight, loose, directly in moonlight. Be sure to keep them inside though and use a nice cloth to sit them on or a basket that you like. Bonnie Cehovet

The only time I’ve *had to* cleanse a Tarot deck was when I was first starting out in the wonderful world of divination and magick. I’d bought a second hand deck and each time I picked it up to work with it I got a headache. As I newbie I was a bit unsure of what to do so, through more luck than skill, I stumbled on a ritual which has worked for me ever since. I took a black lay cloth, sprinkled salt on top of it, wrapped my deck (in box) and left it out on the window sill for 24 hours. To this day I have no headaches when I work with that deck. Lyn, Witch Blog

Shuffling and re-ordering the deck

Elemental association: Air. Shuffling with focussed intent, being systematic and logically re-ordering your deck is very much a thoughtful, mental process. Visualise the deft hand movements of shuffling, light as air, quick to the touch.

This technique is very popular, and requires little else than to be sat with your deck, playing gently with it (as we do), shuffling it until you feel it has been cleansed, or, putting the cards back into their original order before mixing it back up again. This isn’t something I’ve actually done before, however, I’ve inadvertently done the latter recently while I’ve been working on some spread designs. I’d re-ordered the deck for the work I was doing and have found the same deck to be incredibly accurate after I’ve mixed it back up again for readings.
Favoured by Lori Green, Tarot For Life Guidance, Bonnie Cehovet and Misha, Tarot by Misha who brings in a little incense into her ritual (see above).

Using crystals

Elemental association: Earth. Born from the earth and containing her essence and power. Crystals ground effortlessly and emanate that power to whatever is around them, blessing whatever they feel nearby or touch, by the spirit of nature.

I love crystals and use them throughout my day, whether that’s holding one just to calm my nerves or help me focus, there’s no doubt they’re multitalented! Apart from the Tarot Lady’s excellent advice below, I often use one to sit on top of an opened deck, in between readings, or just because I’m working with the deck in another capacity and may be leaving it unattended for a while. It’s less about clearing & more about protecting, but is still a crystal working in harmony with a tarot deck.

Great all rounders are clear quartz and amethyst – useful for many tarot and spiritual practices.

When I feel my deck has become “drained”, my preferred technique is to put it on a shelf with a crystal on top of the deck. Often I use a quartz crystal but will also use a smoky quartz or a hematite if I feel the deck has become ungrounded (this can happen if I read for a client who has really bad or spacey energy). If there is a full moon, I also try to make sure the deck can sit directly in the moonlight as this seems to really charge the deck beautifully. Theresa Reed aka The Tarot Lady

Cleaning your Tarot deck

From time to time, you will find that your tarot cards can get a little sticky which can make them harder to shuffle and much less pleasant to hold. Compare your well used deck to a brand new one and you will see exactly what I mean. There are remedies though and you can put the ‘slip’ back onto your cards with a little time and patience – yes, it can be a very laborious job cleaning 78 cards, but well worth the effort at the end of it.

For real life spills:

Rather like having a drink near a keyboard, you should take care with fluids around your deck. Also very worthy of note is eating while using your deck, or rather, not to. I have worked on the Psychic Text lines and it’s too easy to eat some chocolate while you’re working… Problem is your fingers will be way too sticky to be handling tarot cards, and I should know, I nearly ruined my Thoth deck doing just that! The following tips should help you keep your cards clean through general maintenance, and when you’re facing an emergency clean up job.

Helen Howell uses a J Cloth for spills to her deck. They absorb liquid quickly which is definitely a plus in an emergency situation! If you have no J Cloths or cloths like it immediately to hand, get your cards out of the spill as quickly as possible and separate them so they don’t stick together. You can dry them one at a time and hopefully, if they’re not damaged, you can then use the method below for restoring them back to their prime.

Sticky fingers and gleaming cards

I personally recommend furniture wipes to clean sticky cards, or for general cleaning maintenance. You can of course use baby wipes, I just find the furniture wipes leave a nice sheen and a smoother surface. In the UK in particular, you can get furniture wipes with nice spring time aromas so you don’t have to worry about that waxy smell normally associated with furniture polish.
Regardless of which you use though, you will need to dry your cards before restacking them. After using furniture wipes, dry and buff your cards with a nice high quality duster (clean and unused). Do this one card at a time and it will add a nice sheen and smoothness to them.

If you’ve opted for baby wipes, again, make sure they’re not too wet and then dry and buff them with any soft cloth so long as it’s clean before you use it. Please make sure it’s soft though as a rougher surface to your cloth will weaken the outer layers of the card and begin to damage them. I also cannot stress enough though that your cards shouldn’t be allowed to get wet during this process and if your wipes have a high moisture content, as the ones at the bottom usually do, drain them by squeezing before cleaning your tarot cards with them.

Sticky fingers are the main culprits for sticky cards and Helen and I joked that we really shouldn’t be eating while working with our cards! Good hand hygiene is essential but there are times when that’s just not possible. If you’re reading away from home, or a sink, then the next best thing is Sanitizing Hand Gel. I love this stuff! You can buy a small handbag size bottle to carry around with you to use in place of soap and water. They’re also moisturising for your hands and also now come in fresh aromas and don’t smell medical at all. They also come in larger bottles with hand pumps, perfect for your desk or work area. Now your hands need never be sticky when you’re going to handle your deck ever again – result!

Smooth shuffling

This is a technique I’ve yet to try, but comes highly recommended by Barbara Moore and involves a little bit of magic, I’ll let Barbara explain….

I am not very consistent or ritualistic with my cleansing practices. However, something I do on a regular basis is apply fanning powder to my decks.

Fanning powder is something used by stage magicians. I first heard about it from Dan Pelletier when he was on a podcast, Tarot Connection by Leisa Refalo. It looks like talcum powder and is used to reduce friction and make the cards shuffle more smoothly.

Do not use talcum powder, though! Make sure you buy actual fanning powder (you can get it inexpensively from a Magic Shop). Talcum powder absorbs moisture, so it will have the opposite effect on your cards. It will make them sticky not smooth.

Reading cards is a tactile experience and shuffling adds to that. Fanning powder makes the shuffle feel better. Barbara Moore

Storing your tarot decks

How you store your tarot decks is as much about their care as is the clearing and cleaning of them. There are many ways to do this but the most popular are:

Their original boxes

If you have any number of tarot decks, chances are you will have one or two ‘working’ decks, leaving the others pretty much untouched. It’s a delightful habit to collect tarot decks and so many are left in their original boxes. As unglamorous as this is, your cards will be perfectly safe and cared for in this way. I work with a lot of my decks for readings as well as using them for spread design and tarot exercises. Many of them are kept in their original boxes and come out frequently with no harm to them at all.

We all have our favourite decks though and these deserve special treatment. The following list is for those stars in your collection who you think deserve a little red carpet treatment.

Fabulous fabrics

Imagine a beautiful piece of cloth wrapped around your favourite deck – colourful, silky and enchanting. Now imagine unwrapping the cloth from your deck like the most exquisitely wrapped diamonds at Christmas. The joy of peeling back the layers and asking your deck to wake from its slumber, it’s time to play….

The imagination is a wonderful thing, but this is not far from how I feel when I use a deck wrapped in fabulous fabric. Velvet, silk, satin or any variation makes a lovely protective coat for your favourite deck and can also double as a reading cloth. How evocative and enchanting this little unwrapping ceremony will be for your client too.

Bohemian bags

Tarot bags are like little quilts or sleeping bags for your tarot deck. They’ll be all tucked up nice and snug, safe and protected in one of these babies. Available from any New Age or metaphysical store on the high street or online. Buy handmade if you can, there’s a little bit of love sewn into everyone and you can’t beat that. I personally recommend the handmade tarot bags from fellow Professional Tarot reader Ania Marczyk, they’re gorgeous!

Beautiful natural wood

Solid, strong and waterproof, wooden boxes will keep your cards protected at home from pretty much every danger. The only downside is really that a wooden box is perhaps bulky and more difficult to transport. But at home, they come into their own. Depending on their size, they can hold two decks or even a deck wrapped in fabulous fabric and are even stackable for better storage.

Closing thoughts

I hope you enjoyed reading how other Professional Tarot readers clear their Tarot cards, and hope you will try out their tried and trusted methods. I also hope you get don’t have to implement any emergency procedures with spills!

If you have a technique you use that’s not listed here, whether it’s clearing, cleaning or storing your tarot cards, please feel free to share your techniques with us in the comments so others may try them too!

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