Getting to Know a New Tarot Deck
Like any good tarot obsessed person I buy new decks on the regular. It’s like being in college; you meet new interesting friends every week, except in this case you get to put them in bags and keep them locked away forever. Since our cards aren’t drunk and carefree it can take a little more time to get to know them. Let me share with you a few ways that I connect with new decks when they come to live with me.
First of all, I am much less elaborate and much more flexible about how I use my decks then when I first started. I have even (gasp!) used a deck for a reading before interviewing it. I certainly do not do all of the ideas on this list with every deck I bring home. Like working dogs, cards will perform better for you with a treat and a head scratch, but they want to do the job they were made to do. I firmly believe they are happiest when they can get down to work.
Talk To the Cards
Yes, I am that weirdo. As I am unboxing and taking my first peek I have a chat with the deck…out loud. I speak to them as I would a new colleague. “Hi I’m Jessie. I am glad that you are here and I look forward to getting to know you and working together”. I also compliment the card, telling them what I like about them. "Your artwork is lovely.“ or “This artwork if amazeballs.” and even “Your cardstock is so strong. Have you been working out?”
Give Them a Look Through…Many Times
In high school when we learned to read poetry we were advised to read it at least three times. It’s the same with tarot decks. The first look is usually quick and dirty, like a kid on Christmas. The subsequent look throughs are done more slowly and deliberately each time, paying increasingly more attention. I consider these look throughs a time to gather information. I focus on my reactions and the questions and feelings that come up.
Take a Look at Your Deal Breaker Cards
Deal breaker cards are those cards that you always check out in a deck first. The cards that are most important and personal for you. For me, The Empress is a deal-breaker. She is my soul card, but I tire of seeing her depicted pregnant all the time. Women are fertile creators in so many other ways. As a person in recovery from drug addiction, The Devil is also important. Deal-Breaker cards can tell you a lot about a deck quickly because they are so personal. Deal breakers are a quick litmus test. If you resonate with them immediately then you know that you and the deck are fundamentally on the same wavelength. If there is something about them that does not appeal to you, then you may have to dig deeper to work with the deck effectively.
Likes, Dislikes and WTF’s
After going through the deck several times (this usually takes place over the course of a few days). I begin to sort the deck into piles. I pull out any cards that I have a strong reaction too, my favorites, those I dislike and the ones that I just don’t get. I look through each pile to see what they have in common, what they lack or what bothers me about them. During this process I am very tuned into my inner voice and acknowledge anything that comes into my head. I spend the most time with the WTF’s pile. I usually find that these cards are the ones where I don’t feel the artwork matches the energy of the card or those with changes too (i.e. the names of majors) that don’t resonate with me. If there is a book worth reading with the deck I will take a look and see if I can gain some insight into the choices that were made, if not I spend time meditating with the card. Meditate sounds fancy, but it mostly just means me staring at the cards, thinking hard and asking myself questions in hopes of coming up with an answer.
Discover Your Guide
This method of getting to know the cards is my personal favorite. It’s always fun, accurate and gives an abundance of insight. Separate the Major Arcana from the deck, give a good shuffle and pick one card. This card will be your guiding energy for using this particular deck. Using your knowledge of the majors take some time to journal how you believe this will play out in regards to using your deck. You can also use this card as a significator in your initial interview spread.
Pile it On
For this exercise you will sort the deck into various categories and look at them as a whole. This is a good one to do before you perform the official first shuffle. Take each suit, lay them out and look them as a whole. Then do the same with each suit and the courts. If you are feeling ambitious you might also sort the cards by number and look at them that way. This exercise will give you some insight into overarching themes in the deck and the cohesiveness of those themes.
If you have an altar or other scared space, place the deck there while you perform your daily prayers/meditations/rituals. You can focus some of your spirit time on the cards but it’s not imperative, just having them there will add its energy to the mix. You may be surprised what messages pop up just by hanging out with them this way.
Read the Book
This would be the least sexy of all the options. I rarely read the books cover to cover. I usually dip in and out. Some folks would have you throw the book away entirely and use only intuition, but I am firm believer in good ol’ fashioned book learnin’. The cards do carry with them the intentions of the author and artist and it is important to give them their due and learn a bit about their perspective in order to broaden your own.
Card of the Day
Use the deck for your card of the day exercise. Pretty simple. I always use the decks that are not in regular rotation for card of the day so that they don’t get lonely. You can see a full post on how I journal my card of the day and get a printable template here:
The final step for me is always to do an interview spread. Ideally this is the first spread that I do with a deck and this will inform how I use it in the future. Here is the spread I use
1. What card best represents you?
2. What are your strengths?
3. What are your weaknesses?
4. What are you here to teach me?
5. How can we best collaborate?
6. What kind of work are you most interested in doing?
7. What is the potential outcome of our work together?
Remember ya’ll, there are no hard and fast rules in tarot, so you can do some, all or none of these exercises. Always go with what feels right! I hope that you found them helpful. Do you have other ways of getting to know your tarot decks? Please comment and tell me all about it. I would love to hear from you.