Thursday, October 4, 2007

Lesson 5 -- Cleansing and Protecting Your Cards

Here's my take on ritual and ceremony in regard to divination. The more rules you create for how tarot reading should be done, the more you put yourself in a box. The fact is, there are no rules. The only wrong way to read tarot is to do it with bad intentions. The only wrong way to treat your cards is to treat them in a way that makes you uncomfortable or goes against your belief system.

Your cards don't need a moon bath or to be passed through incense smoke. They don't need special colored cloths to cover them. They don't need a sacred box to be stored in or to be kept on an altar. They don't need to be prayed over. They don't need protection from evil spirits. They don't need any of these things unless it makes you happy to do them. Tarot cards are just a tool, like a hammer or a screwdriver. The "magic" is in you. So, in caring for and cleansing your cards, do what You need, not what someone somewhere says your cards need. They're just paper. All they really need is to be kept out of direct sunlight (or they will fade over time) and to be kept away from liquids.

My tarot cards frequently get moon baths. I do it because I like having an excuse to go outside and play in the moonlight. If there is a thunderstorm about I will open a window and set my cards near it--not too close--so that they can soak up all that awesome pre-storm air. I frequently pass my cards/runes/divination tools through incense smoke as I recite the following, "Through the use of (insert name of divination tool here) I shall do no harm. Under the influence of the full moon (or whatever phase the moon happens to be in at the time) I re-commit myself to serving a higher purpose. Through the use of __________ I seek to help others find their own truths. I release myself of any negativity, I release myself of illusions. I am cleansed. I am perfect. I am a clear channel of wisdom, love, and understanding. I am a part of All That Is. I am one with Everything." Is any of this ritual necessary? No. Not at all.

The thing is, it's not my cards that need this "spell." It's my mind that needs the reminder of why I read cards or cast runes or walk around with divining rods in my hands.

It's important, of course, to honor your personal beliefs and work that into your own personal rituals. I don't mean to discount what you believe in. I'm just suggesting that you don't box yourself in by creating too many new rules for yourself.

If I've been reading with a deck for a long while or if I do a reading that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I put all my cards in order by playing solitaire with them. If you cheat, it goes very quickly. This is a way to cleanse cards.... not cheating at solitaire but putting them all in order. I don't think it really cleanses the cards, although it could, but I think it does clear the mind. Playing solitaire with them is hardly a requirement for putting them in order. I just wanted to have more fun with my cards.

I once got a little too enthusiastic about my tarot ritual. I decided my cards needed to be annointed with my favorite oils. I thought I was being so smart to rub the oil into my hand and then, basically, just touch the cards a bit to pass the most minute amount of oil onto them. Well, I can tell you, this was really stupid of me. My cards stuck together and later I had to rip them apart in places. I still use that deck, but it's forever marked by my brilliant idea. Now I just keep a sachet of cloves in my tarot box (where all my tarot decks are stored) that I occasionally drip a few drops of oil onto. All my tarot bags smell so nice.

I honestly don't believe that a tarot deck needs the protection of a tarot cloth or bag. Not on a spiritual/cosmic level. But it keeps them together, protects them from light and dust, and it's very attractive. For this reason, all my tarot decks are in bags or bandanas. I found that I could buy bandanas in enough different colors that my decks are now color coded and I don't have to unwrap every deck to find the one I want. A dear, sweet, wonderful but sadly departed friend made me several tarot bags, each of a different fabric, that now provide excellent protection as well as easy identification for six of my tarot decks. I will treasure these bags forever. When I first started collecting decks I'd read that decks should be wrapped in black cloth for protection. Well..... this makes them nearly impossible to differentiate from each other. So I changed the rule.

Use a rule because it works for you, not because someone told you that you should do it. Use a rule so long as it serves you and when/if it ceases to serve you, change the rule! Make a ritual of it if you need to. Ritual can be so fun!

A final note on cleansing your decks of whatever it is you feel they need to be cleansed of or to protect them from whatever you feel they may need protection from: Whatever higher power you pray to, worship, or connect with... do you think it forgets you after a while? If you ask for protection from _______ for yourself or your tools, that same amount of protection will always be with you and your tools for as long as you desire it because Goddess/God/Source/The Universe doesn't take coffee breaks and s/he doesn't forget. I encourage you to have faith.

Lesson 6 -- Shuffling Tarot Cards

Most of this post is blatantly plagiarized from Learn Tarot, I edited it a bit according to my own experiences. What I didn't lift off of Learn Tarot or didn't add myself (mostly in bracketted italics) was taken from a Wikipedia page on shuffling cards.

There are many shuffling methods, but here are some of the main ones:

Card Player's Method [also known as "riffling" or "riffle style]. The Card Player's Method is commonly used ]to shuffle everyday playing cards. Hold about half the cards face down in each hand and intermingle them as they drop to the surface of the table. This technique mixes the cards thoroughly, but it can be awkward because most tarot cards are bigger than normal. This method is also hard on your cards. They tend to form a bend in the middle. The Card Player's Method is effective, but somewhat mechanical in spirit. [If you don't like reading reversed cards, simply be aware of how you shuffle them when you use the rifling technique. Make sure that when you cut the deck in half that, before you begin shuffling, all the bottoms of the cards are pointed in the same direction. This becomes quite natural in time, I do it without even thinking about it.]

Insertion Method Hold [also known as Lacing, Stripping, or Overhand] about half the deck in each hand, and insert one half in a scattered fashion down through the other half. You can hold the cards on their long or short side. This method is fast, efficient and composed with a lot of hand-to-card contact. Be careful with the edges as they can fray over time [this last sentence is very important to note as it's very very true, except that the edges WILL fray over time. But remember, in this day and age tarot decks are not hard to come by. Unless you are using a collectible deck, why worry too much? Your deck can be easily replaced when it wears out. That being said, I do shuffle rather gently, I want my cards to remain in excellent condition for as long as possible].

Hindu Shuffle Also known as 'Kattar' or 'Kenchi' [Hindi for scissor]. The deck is held face down, with the middle finger on one long edge and the thumb on the other on the bottom half of the deck. The other hand draws off a packet from the bottom of the deck. This packet is allowed to drop into the palm, then put on top of the first half.The manoever is repeated over and over until the deck is all in the second hand. It is also the most common way in Asia and other parts of the world. [I haven't used this method myself, although playing with it just now with my Halloween Tarot deck made me realize that it's a good technique for smaller and pocket decks, but lousy for your average sized deck unless you have very long fingers].

Cowie Push/Put Method In Tarot for Successful Living, Norma Cowie describes her push/put shuffling method. Her technique thoroughly mixes the cards with maximum hand contact and little or no damage. Hold the deck face down in your dominant hand. Push some cards from the top with your thumb into the other hand. Then, push again, but this time to the bottom of the new pile. Continue alternating a push to the top, then one to the bottom until all the cards have been transferred. At this point, put the entire deck back into your dominant hand and start over. This method can be difficult at first. You may push too many or drop some, but your technique will improve with practice. [my version of this method, which I've never bothered to name, involves holding the deck with the non-dominant hand and pulling the top and bottom card off the deck simultaneously with the dominant hand. It starts out smoothly enough but as the deck grows in your dominant hand -- usually held between my first and second finger as I'm going -- it gets rather hard to hold. I usually just slide off the bottom and top card onto the growing pile on my desk or work surface, ignoring the messy way they tend to fall, I repeat this shuffle several times, cutting or lacing the deck a bit between each repetition of the shuffle]

Scrambling Method [a.k.a. the Chemmy Shuffle] The Scrambling Method is about as basic as you can get. Spread all the cards face down on the floor or table, and start scrambling. This technique creates a good mix with few ill effects on the cards. The main drawback is that you need room. This shuffle also has a rather uncomposed feel which some find undesirable. [I almost never use this method as I rarely have enough room and because I don't read reversals, but I really like it for my double-ended deck and use it with that deck whenever space allows]

Pile shuffle Cards are simply dealt out into a number of piles, then the piles are stacked on top of each other. This ensures that cards that were next to each other are now separated. The pile shuffle does not provide a good randomization of the cards (but this can be enormously improved by dealing to the piles in a different order each circuit, not always in the same order).

Mongean shuffle The Mongean shuffle, or Monge's shuffle, is performed as follows (by a right-handed person): Start with the unshuffled deck in the left hand and transfer the top card to the right. Then repeatedly take the top card from the left hand and transfer it to the right, putting the second card at the top of the new deck, the third at the bottom, the fourth at the top, the fifth at the bottom, etc. [This sounds more efficient than my method of taking one from the top and bottom simultaneously and forming a new pile]

Weave and Faro shuffles Weaving is the procedure of pushing the ends of two halves of a deck against each other in such a way that they naturally intertwine. Sometimes the deck is split into equal halves of 26 cards which are then pushed together in a certain way so as to make them perfectly interweave. This is known as a Faro Shuffle

The faro shuffle is performed by cutting the deck into two, preferably equal, packs in both hands as follows (right-handed): The cards are held from above in the right and from below in the left hand. Separation of the deck is done simply lifting up half the cards with the right hand thumb slightly and pushing the left hand's packet forward away from the right hand. The two packets are often crossed and slammed into each other as to align them. They are then pushed together by the short sides and bent (either up or down). The cards will then alternately fall into each other, much like a zipper. A flourish can be added by springing the packets together by applying pressure and bending them from above. The faro is a controlled shuffle which does not randomize a deck. [I use the above Weaving method on my Rohrig deck because of it's size. The cards are HUGE and "lacing" or "weaving" them into each other from end to end is one of the few ways they can be shuffled]

To Avoid Reversed Cards Start with your cards all facing the same direction.Every time you divide the deck before shuffling,make sure the two piles stay facing the same way.

To Encourage Reversed Cards Every time you divide the deck before shuffling, rotate one of the piles 180 degrees.

I riffle most of my decks, if they aren't too large to do so. I don't have any collector's decks so I don't worry about wearing my cards out too fast. Although I'm much kinder to them than I am to playing card decks. I'm careful about how much I bend them and I make sure they get bent the other direction from time to time--if I don't, the deck becomes permanently arched. The average tarot deck is less expensive than a new, hardcover book. I finally realized there was no reason to treat them like they were glass. They are tools... meant to be utilized!

I don't believe it matters how many times you shuffle and which direction you cut the deck towards... if you cut it at all. Tarot references will stipulate that the deck must be cut with the left hand and lots of other rigormarole. If it makes sense to you to follow such rules and you believe it to be important, then by all means, do so! But don't decide that such strictures must be applied to shuffling tarot cards just because somebody wrote it in a book. Do what works for you and what aligns with your own beliefs.

For me, sevens and threes are important. I don't know why, I just like those numbers. So I tend to shuffle in groups of three or seven. Generally I riffle three times with one cutting of the deck as well as three "Lacings" between each riffle. I also announce to the Universe, usually silently, before I begin the shuffle how many times I intended to shuffle and how many cards I intend to draw. I think a certain amount of consistency in how I shuffle and draw may encourage better channeling of energy between myself and Source, but this is only a feeling, not a rule. It works for me, so I do it. It's just a belief I've had from the beginning... that I should be consistent. If I make a change, I make sure and have a brief conversation with Source about it.... just in case Source is still counting on me using the old method. By even believing this I know I put myself in a box as well as pulling the power of Source in there with me... but so what? If it works, don't fix it. We humans like our rituals, our habits, and our patterns. I'm human.