Whether you purchase your cards new, second-hand or they are given to you as a gift, they need to be cleansed and charged/blessed before working with them.
When I first receive a new deck, I always open it and have a little play before
doing a thorough cleanse. I’m excited and full of anticipation. I go through the full deck and make sure all the cards are there first and foremost. This I learned after working with a deck that was a card short (even though it was purchased new) many years ago. It took me a week or so to realise! My younger self learned a very basic lesson and I have always checked since.
When you meet a deck for the first time, it’s much the same as meeting a new person. We tend to pass the time with small talk initially, a few laughs, perhaps a shy smile. We test the water to see what the other person is about. This is why I ‘play’ initially, just to see my very first impressions. I shuffle them and note if any cards fall out. I flick through card by card seeing which I like and which I might struggle with. I focus on how the cards feel in my hands. Do they feel slippy, cool and rather like a blank slate or do they feel marked by someone else’s impressions?
My new deck (the Celestial Tarot by the way) feels quite clear but now that we’ve had a courtesy introduction, it’s time for them to be thoroughly cleansed before our true bonding can begin.
There are many ways of cleansing a new pack and over the years, we each develop our preferences. Cleansing can be as simple or as ritualised as you see fit. The most important thing is for you to feel that the procedure works for you.
Whichever cleansing method you use, ensure you begin by putting the deck into sequence from Fool to World and Ace to King of each suit. I then put the full deck in sequence of Major Arcana followed by Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. You will see this minor sequence varies from reader to reader. My sequence comes from the astrological correspondence of :-
Spring Equinox – Aries – Fire – Wands
Summer Solstice – Cancer – Water – Cups
Autumn Equinox – Libra – Air – Swords
Winter Solstice – Capricorn – Earth – Pentacles
Passing the cards through the smoke of a smudge stick or incense is a popular cleansing technique. It also honours the elements of fire and air.
Sage is a good choice as it is sacred to Jupiter and signifies wisdom and learning.
You could also use Thyme for increasing psychic awareness or Rosemary for purification. Your local witchy store is likely to have handmade blends, some dedicated to specific Gods, Goddesses, sacred days or attributes. Choose what speaks to you intuitively. Sometimes different herbs or mixtures suit different cards. I tend to favour lavender as when I was little, I instinctively named it ‘the magic plant’
Before you smudge the cards, consider how you will be using them. You may for example want to use them as a personal/spiritual development deck or perhaps this is a deck that you will only use to read for others. Perhaps it will be a combination of both.
If you are completely new to Tarot, you may not yet know how you wish to use them. It’s a whole new journey! In this case, I suggest simply thinking of light whether it be the Sun or Moon or a beautiful clear sky.
Think of the highest purpose of the deck and hold that feeling in your mind and body. Now take the pack and pass it through the smoke either as an entire deck or card by card. If you wish, you may like to say a prayer or speak to your spirit guide or Guardian Angel.
For a really simple cleanse, place the cards on a window sill for 24 hours so that they absorb the rays of both the Sun and the Moon. For an extra special cleanse which can be done at any time (not just when the cards are new), this could be done at Equinox (Spring or Autumn) bringing intuition and emotions (the Moon) in harmony with consciousness and purpose (the Sun).
Many choose to cleanse and then dedicate their cards under the light of a Full Moon. The Full Moon signifies a peak of energy and achievement.
On the night of the Full Moon, place your cards on a windowsill (or outside if the weather is fine). Sit with them for a time and visualise the Moonlight washing through the deck until it feels like each has been touched by a sparkle of silver. Once they feel clean, meditate on what you hope to gain from using them. Be still and quiet in the moonlight. Imagine the beams from the moon carrying your intentions down through the pack. When you feel ready, you can carry on with your evening or go to bed.
Leave the cards in the moonlight for the rest of the night.
You can also use the New Moon if you prefer. Three days before the New Moon we experience ‘the dark of the Moon’. At this point the Moon has apparently disappeared from the sky. This is the banishing phase and it can be used to ‘banish’ any energies retained from previous ownership or handling. You can either visualise or say something to reiterate what is being banished.
When you have clearly visualised all previous energies have been dispelled, wrap the deck in a black cloth until you can see a sliver of the Moon in the sky a few nights later (or if you know astrology, when the perfect conjunction of the Sun and Moon has begun to wane). Unwrap your cards and then say a prayer over them or whatever you wish to dedicate them to. Your tarot knowledge and wisdom will grow like the light of the Moon.
Some people use both the New and Full Moon by leaving the cards wrapped in black cloth until the following Full Moon. The cards are then charged and dedicated under the power of the Moon as described above. By the way, quiet meditation is only one way to charge your cards with intent. If you prefer, you could sing, dance and chant to raise energy which you then direct into the cards. It’s always about what feels good to you.
Using the breathe as a healing/cleansing force is an ancient method of purification. Simply blow on each card, visualising your breath carrying away any unwanted traces.
This is my preferred method of card cleansing. I have a lovely piece of quartz crystal which I charge in sunlight regularly. This particular crystal feels extremely clean, like it carries a tiny spark of the sun within it. If I put it to my third eye, it tingles and I get flashes of rainbow colours in my mind.
After a short play with my new cards this morning, I put them back into sequence and laid them on the windowsill in the bright autumn sun with the quartz on top of the deck. I shall leave them there tonight to also catch the light of the waxing moon. Tomorrow, upon awakening, I will whisper a blessing over them and then they will be ready to work with. Simple and effective.
This method feels right for this deck in particular seeing as the theme is based on the stars in the sky.
Sound is another method I really like to use. Music is healing and pure notes stimulate on an energetic level. Music can change your mood and even your body chemistry. It can evoke tears, laughter and peace. Sound healing and therapies are now an extensive art.
Sadly my tuning fork seems to have disappeared into the ether (!) but I used to have one tuned to the note A which relates to the third eye chakra. These days you can buy a full chakra set and I imagine it would be a rather lovely way to ‘tune in’ to your new deck. The same applies to crystals or Tibetan bowls. If you have a fork or crystal bowl, strike or play it near your cards so that the sounds waves travel through the deck. Bless the pack in whatever words or thoughts appeal once they are clear.
If you don’t want to invest in a tuning fork set, you could try a cd such as The Healing Sound of Chakra Tuning Forks. You could use a mantra or new age cd specifically designed for healing, opening to angelic connection or even solfeggio frequencies. There are a huge variety on the market to choose from. Simply put on your cd and sit with the cards in your hands. Imagine the music travelling down from your ears through to your fingers, enveloping the cards.
The goal of cleansing and charging your deck is harmonise your energy with it. Music is a wonderful symbolic way of doing this.
There are many other ways to cleanse cards. This is just a selection of methods I have personally used. I hope you find one of these methods helpful. Of course you can combine methods such as music and Lunar Phases or Breath followed by Light.
Feel free to share your cleansing methods below.