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Tarot Musings with Arwen

cleansing rites

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Fool, RWS, Rider Waite Smith
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Tarot Musings
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Tarot Musings

cleansing rites

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In response to a couple of requests regarding cleansing decks, I thought I'd open up the topic for discussion.

I first began working with Tarot at the same time my religious practices shifted from a conservative Christian faith to a Pagan philosophy so my understanding to both Tarot and ritual evolved simultaneously. Because I did not have a traditional mentor in either and do not follow a specific practice or tradition, much of what I developed came from my own understanding of what I learned from books and a widening network of pagan spiritualists that I began interacting with.

As I explain the cleansing rituals I used then and now, I want to honor and invite others to share their thought and experiences.



My practices are very elementally based. Direction, season, Tarot suits and indeed life in general are expressed in my craft as being centered in Earth, Air, Fire and Water. This is not uncommon in Pagan practices. In fact, it was one of the most recurring themes in my study of witch craft, Tarot work and ritual so I'm really not surprised that it plays such a significant role in my spirituality today.

These elemental forces were brought to bear when I cleansed new decks of cards or used decks that needed to be "scrubbed" for some reason. This work was always done in sacred space at my altar, also designed around the primary elements of magic. After creating my altar space I would announce that I was clearing the deck of any harm or ill purpose that it had encountered and that it was being set apart as a link to communicate with my Lord and Lady. I would sprinkle it with salt, earth, pass it through cleansing incense usually containing either frankincense and/or myrrh, air, pass it over a candle flame, fire, and touch it with a finger that had been dipped in altar water. I would then open a channel and allow energy to flow through me and into the deck to bind the two of us as one in purpose. Once that was done, I would close the circle as I would any other ritual. This ritual was similar to those I used to consecrate tools for the altar as well.

As I evolved and began to develop my own understanding of magic and the role it played in my life, as well as the role I played in magic, my relationship with Tarot changed. Ritual is very important as it focuses our thoughts and our power into a give goal or desire. The more a ritual is done, however, the more it becomes like second nature. Think of it like learning to read. At first, you have to labor over each letter of every word sounding it out slowly and carefully. Your eye obediently follows your finger as it moves though the sentence with focus and intent. After a few years of success, however, the need for ritual memory is replaced by the confidence that comes with incorporating it as an aspect of your life and you may even find that you and read sentences as a time where once you had to read literally word for word.

The ritual of cleansing a deck changed for me along the same lines. I still dedicate a deck to the purpose of open communication with the divine, just like I still see every word on a page, but now I have moved beyond needing the physical reminders of the salt, incense, candle and water and into an act as natural to me as reading a book.

As I open a new deck and sort through it to enjoy the art of each card, I am having the first one on one conversation with the deck.If it is a deck I intend to use, as opposed to a deck I am buying for the art or concept, then I begin to find ways to associate each card with the individual meaning I understand each card to carry.

I then begin shuffling the deck. With each time the cards are fanned I envision the four elements chasing out anything that would prevent the deck for speaking to me. As I push the cards back into a unified stack, I envision the four elements gathering and binding into the cards those aspects that enhance our ability to communicate. As far as sacred space is concerned, anywhere that I am communication with my deck IS sacred space whether it is my altar or a coffee shop table.

I handed my deck to someone who was beginning to become more accomplished in their reading. He politely declined saying, in effect, that he didn't want to mess with the energy of the deck. While I respect and appreciate his concern, I did let him know that there was nothing short of physical destruction that he could do to my deck that I could not undo. My cards tell me what they do because we have had conversations on how to tell me, what to show me, to convey any given message. I will admit that there are times when we are clearly not on the same page, but that is the nature of divine communication from time to time. Just like when I get bitten by one of my snakes, it's always my fault, not their.

So, what rituals or practices to you use when adding a deck to your work?

Xposted several places.
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