Hey, fellow Tarot Nerds!
This time I will be talking about the process I go through with any new decks I receive, whether they are Tarot or Oracle decks. I’ve been seeing a lot of people new to tarot asking things like how to bond with a deck, or what to do first or not, so I thought I’d share my own process so you can see what and why and if that could work out for you.
By no means is this the only way to do it. You may choose to do some things, but not others, or none of these at all. That is completely fine! I just want to give a different perspective on this subject, as I feel it’s not often really covered that much.
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Again, my way of doing it, you don’t need to agree. Don’t come to me saying my way is wrong. This has worked very well for me over the years, as it naturally evolved over the years, so I don’t need to prove myself it works. That doesn’t mean it will work as well for you. We’re all different people with different qualities, so just see what goes for you. (I know a lot of people feel offended when this isn’t stated well enough.)
In short, these are the steps I go through:
1. Unbox & Check contents
The first step, of course, is to unbox your new deck and check if everything is in there that needs to be. To me, this always feels like receiving a present!
Usually, you know what will be in the box when you order it. Usually, but not always, the cards come with a box or pouch and a guidebook. Not all decks come with guides, and some come with apps instead of books. Not all decks come with small boxes or pouches but in big fancy keepsake boxes. It doesn’t matter what, as long all is there that needs to be there.
You may get a vibe from the deck instantly or maybe not. Maybe it’s just excitement! None of that is necessarily good or bad. Not everyone gets vibes like this and that’s okay. If you do get any specific vibes maybe write them down in a notebook or your phone.
Marvel at your new tool for a second and we’ll go to the next step.
2. Index & Admire
Soon after unboxing I will move on to indexing the deck and admiring it. I will go through all the cards one by one in de deck. While doing this I will admire the artwork on the card and also check if the deck is complete or if there are any duplicate cards or something else.
Some decks come with extra cards about the creator, an affirmation or maybe the meanings of the cards. This is usually where I find out about that if I didn’t know yet. (I do tend to watch reviews on YouTube before ordering them though.) In some cases, I leave out the extra cards but it depends on what they are. If I do keep them in I always turn them around so the backs of these cards face the backs of the deck. This way I can easily take them apart without having to look for them.
I will also quickly go through the guide book, if there is one, to see if there’s any extra information. Some guides cover the thoughts of the creator, some extra info on the theme or spreads, etc. I will also take a look at how the Major and Minor Arcana cards are featured. Some decks use the same layout for both parts, some use different layouts. Sometimes they even have different borders on the cards themselves. It’s also nice to know how the cards are described. Is it just a vague description of the cards depiction? Or how does that tie into the meaning? Are there keywords, themes, reversed meanings? etc.
This is usually the stage where I find out if a deck is meant to be read reversed or not. (I tend to read reversed cards regardless but if the meanings aren’t featured then that tends to say something.)
This step takes quite some time so I recommend you take your time with a nice cup of tea. When you think you’re done go to step 3.
This step depends more on how you plan to use it overall. I’m someone who takes decks with me wherever I go, so portability and sturdy storage is important to me! This also ties in a little to my bonding step.
In this step, I determine if the container it came in is suitable for storage where I desire it to be stored, or if it’s suitable to be taken with on the go. If not, I will change it to a different box or pouch.
For example, the Ostara Tarot came in a luxurious box with a guidebook and it was able to hold both the deck and book at once. However, it was quite wide and the deck had to be split in half for it to fit. I rarely use the guidebooks, they sit on my workspace altar, so I decided to move the deck to a pouch. In this case, I also decorated the pouch and sewed it a little tighter around the deck and added charms to it so there are plenty of possibilities.
I even found this amazing crochet pattern to make your own deck pouch.
If you don’t care about portability and this is your only deck, you could look into getting a neat Tarot box from wood or metal or something like that. (There are some really cool ones available on the internet!) If it doesn’t need to be moved around at all you can even leave it in a glass box and only take it out when you want to read. (This makes for great decor too!)
So yes, this step is quite important depending on how you plan to use the deck.
I don’t do this all the time, and it definitely isn’t required. However, sometimes it just feels good to cleanse new tools. Sometimes a deck just feels off despite being gorgeous, and this could be because of the environment the deck was from or because my own energy is screwing around!
If you buy a secondhand deck or inherit one you may choose to do this to make sure both you and the deck are on a clean slate working together. You can, of course, choose not to cleanse them, in this case, to work with this person for example in case of a deceased mother or grandma. You could use it as a tool to remember them and ask them for guidance in this case. It’s up to you.
So how do I cleanse a deck?
I wanted to make sure if you’re not familiar that I wouldn’t leave you in the dark here.
If I haven’t used the deck before, as is the case with new decks, I tend to do it a little more elaborate. I tend to go with smoke cleansing (no, not smudging). I usually grab a Sage stick or Rosemary and burn them. Then I will mindfully take the deck through the smoke with the intention to cleanse it from lingering energy, that it may serve me in my Tarot journey. I pretty much always include myself in cleansing rituals just to make sure it’s not just me that needed cleansing.
There are also other methods for cleansing a deck, like using Palo Santo instead of Sage or using singing bowls or bells for sound-cleansing (sound is a good alternative for air element cleansing in case you can’t use smoke for reasons). I added a palo santo picture beside this. Some people knock on a deck 3 times to “knock out the bad energy”. Some people hold it or use Reiki. Some of these methods may work very well for you, but some of these I feel are too mild for the first time or if there’s something feeling very off. Do whatever feels right to you. Experiment. Maybe you tried something and it didn’t really do anything for you so you can try a different technique. I personally only use smoke and sound-cleansing.
Why I keep saying it may be me personally:
Sometimes we just have things going on in our lives, in our minds, that seep into our auras or energy however you wanna call it. So that off feeling you’re getting from a new tool may just be something of that “dirt” brushing against it, stopping you from being your true clear and powerful self. There’s no harm in cleansing yourself if you plan to cleanse a tool anyway. I do feel the more experienced you are the easier it gets to identify which is the case or not.
Some people consider this step crucial, I just go with whatever I feel at the time. I recommend you do some research on cleansing yourself to see more of other possibilities!
In case you’re curious, I’ve yet to cleanse the last 3 decks I got over the last couple of months and haven’t felt the need to yet. They’ve been working great for me regardless!
Probably the vaguest step among them. There’s not really a right or wrong way to do this as long as you give “attention” to your deck. I wrote a list of things you can do to bond with your deck:
- Personally, I will take my deck with me wherever I go. It may just sit in my bag the whole time, I may take it out. There’s no limit where I’ll take it. To school, on public transport, etc.
- Shifting through the deck and admiring the cards again is another favorite of mine. What’s different about this from the indexing step is that I will pay more attention to the actual depiction compared to the meaning of the card. I’ll try to understand it. Feel it. Maybe even write it down.
- If you’re a first time user of Tarot in general, I would include writing down these feelings and interpretations you see. This could be a bonding & study step combined for you!
- Talk to your deck. Whether that is in your head or out loud, talking to your deck might make you feel more comfortable using it, or maybe just talk to yourself about it if that makes you feel less awkward. (I know this may be a bit weird to some of you!) Some people feel decks have their own personality. I think they reflect a part of our own personality so I see this step as bonding with that part of yourself through the deck.
- Another thing I do and hear a lot from others is sleeping with a new deck! Yep, you read that right. You don’t need to place it literally in the bed, it could also be on your nightstand. I’d place it next to my pillow.
- Meditate with it. You could hold the deck during meditation and just focus your thought on it or look at a card and meditate on its meaning.
The whole idea is that by doing all these things you give and pay attention to it, making it more familiar to you. When it feels more familiar, it’s easier to tune in with your intuition! Some people, not everyone, believe decks have their own personalities or spirits, so if you believe this too then that’d be another reason to bond with the deck. Like I said before, I see them as mirrors of parts of ourselves.
Another thing most people do before doing proper readings with a new deck is an interview spread. These are spreads that help you get familiar with the energy of the deck and what it could mean to you or help you with. This is not required, and I don’t do it all the time, but it can be a very interesting thing to do!
I wrote a spread for this purpose in case you’re interested, that will help you get to know your new deck.
Last but not least, practice! Practice with your deck. Do one card readings, readings for yourself or maybe a good friend and get familiar with its depiction and style of reading.
Some decks are easier to learn, as a lot are based on the Rider-Waite-Smith depictions. Bu this isn’t the case for all of them. Some use color within the meaning, some don’t. Some use animals or astrology within the deck, and some don’t. Overall, you’ll have to get used to it. The same card in 2 different decks may give you an entirely different intuitive interpretation and this is just as important in my opinion when doing a reading as just knowing the meanings of the cards. If you need help with practice then I encourage you to take a look at this post.
But in the end…
Only with time will you really sync up with your deck in your readings. To some people or with some decks this will happen faster or easier than with others and mind you, that’s not a bad thing. It can still be difficult even if you are experienced! Give it whatever it needs. Be patient and be rewarded. When you do, you’ll have a wonderful tool there to use whenever you wish. Or two. Or sixteen. Maybe you become a hoarder of decks and you’ll have a whole lot to pick and choose from! (My counter is currently on 19 decks… Oops!)
Whatever be the case, these first steps with a new deck can really make this a wonderful and worthy experience. I hope these steps inspired you to get working with your deck, whether you already have one or not, and may your days be filled with insight from the cards.