Tarot 101: Basic Tarot Rules…

Let’s get right into the nitty-gritty of it all. Tarot has some basic rules that you have to follow to get any result. Like being on a diet; to lose the weight you have to follow some rules.

So what are the rules? Well, it kind of depends on who you ask. One tradition that many are choosing to ignore is that you have to be gifted your first deck. I think it would be a great tradition to uphold, but if you’re like me, then you don’t know any practicing witches yet. Especially within your family, like mine, a family of very white, Christian people. So it would’ve been a cold day in Hell before I received my first deck via gift. So many people who are starting out buy their own decks (or are forced to buy their own deck really).

So here are some hard and fast rules that generally do apply to Tarot.

  1. You gotta put some energy into your deck to get them to work. What does this mean? Well, you got to put some spiritual batteries in those motherfuckers for them to really start pumping out anything. So how do you charge the batteries? The most common way is to just handle them; shuffle them and put them back in order to get a feel of that specific deck and their own energy. Or put them in natural light, like moonlight or sunlight (i prefer moonlight so the colors don’t fade as fast, but if you’re going to be around a little sunbathing won’t hurt for a few minutes). Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘what the fuck do you mean ‘charge your cards?’ So the simple explanation is to think in terms of physics. Everything is made up of molecules which vibrate, so you have to use other forms of energy to get your card molecules to vibrate in a frequency your body and spirit can work with. This means using energy from the sun (solar power anyone?) or your own body heat (thermal energy?) to get in sync with your cards.
  2. You gotta store them right and treat them right. This is more of a common sense rule. Many people suggest storing your deck in a silk or cotton bag, sometimes with crystals to cleanse the energy (I’m not a big crystal believer yet, but I know there is a shit ton of lore behind crystals and the unexplained, so maybe something in there is true?). I personally store mine in antique headscarves from my great-grandma. Now, these are specifically cotton or silk (like everyone else says) but they are good quality and because of the age, help me to treat the cards with reverence and respect. If the deck comes in a sturdy box, they can also just be stored in the box, which will keep them safe from unintended damage.
  3. You gotta use them. Crazy idea I know. But think about it; the only way to get better with them is to use them. The only way to get used to a deck is to USE THEM. I get the whole appeal of buying like 20 decks, because there are so many with amazing art out there. I understand just wanting them for the aesthetic of the deck itself and maybe just keeping it for decor because it’s so damn pretty and you feel bad about using it. But think about all the nice things that will never get used because of this thinking; all the fancy dishes or amazing linens or luxury cars that sit around because people are afraid of them wearing out. But why have them just to collect dust instead of actually using them for their intended purpose and bringing a little bit of joy to your life with the beauty of the deck.
  4. You have to decide if you will let other people touch your cards.  This sounds like a weird rule but, hear me out. The actual rule is that you really shouldn’t let other people touch your cards at all because it will mess with your deck’s energy. Personally, I don’t mind if it’s someone I know personally (like my mom or my boyfriend) because I know, 1) where their hands have been prior to them touching my cards so I know they won’t get dirty, 2) I know them and their vibes, 3) that I’m in an intimate setting where I will have the time and opportunity to properly cleanse the deck’s energy after. I can understand why some people want no one else to touch their decks period. It is very intimate because of the time and energy invested in the deck, but also I can understand why you wouldn’t want strangers to touch your deck, especially when you don’t know their vibe or if their hands are even clean, or if you aren’t going to have the time to restore your energy or your deck’s energy (say running errands or back-to-back readings at your sister’s bridal shower). But in my opinion, this is a decision you will have to make based on how you feel about your cards. Maybe it’s a deck-specific choice or a blanket policy.
  5. Practice, practice, practice. This one is self-explanatory. You have to practice to get good at reading the cards. You have to practice to get a feel for the deck. You have to practice just as with any new skill or knowledge. You can’t learn advanced calculus overnight (trust me I tried and it didn’t work), so don’t expect to get the hang of Tarot overnight (unless you share how the hell you did it)
  6. You have to have a Space™.  Many people agree that you have to a space specifically for learning Tarot, a space you’ve cleansed with sage or incense and devoted entirely for your spiritual journey. Knowing that some people live in small studio apartments or are trying to hide their witchcraft from their family that they live with (or judgy roommates), I think you just have to be able to have a little corner you can slip into or even just a mental zone. I look at doing Tarot like a student; sometimes you won’t have the place to study and lay out all your materials, but if you have the time while you ride the bus or eat your lunch, then you can still study, or in this case, work with your deck. Maybe it just means shuffling the minor arcana while you ride the bus. Maybe it means doing one-card draws about the crime drama you’re obligated to watch with your significant other. Maybe it means waiting until the kids are in bed to pirate the kitchen table for your extensive spreads. I don’t think you have to have an actual corner to practice in, but definitely a mental corner.

These are just some of the rules I’ve seen floating around the witchcraft community online. Maybe there are others I just haven’t discovered yet. There are totally ones I’m going to ignore because I don’t see how they apply productively to me.

Let me know in the comments below some of the things you know or learned. Or to give me a written example of all the ways I’m fucking up.

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