So you just got a new deck and you want to know how to connect with your Tarot deck. This post will explain how to connect with your Tarot deck, learn its symbolism, and develop a good working relationship with it.
Cleanse Your Deck
Although I do not generally find it necessary to cleanse my Tarot decks, I have written a complete guide on cleaning Tarot decks here.
Briefly Familiarize Yourself With Each Card
After unboxing, the first step I generally do with a new deck is flipping through each card just to familiarize myself with its imagery. At this point it is not important to dwell for a long time on each card; simply flip through, briefly scan the card and note how it makes you feel and what thoughts it triggers in your mind, and then move through to the next card. This should be a quick process but make sure you go through all 78 cards.
Shuffle and Get a Sense of How it Feels
An important part of getting to know a Tarot deck for me is from a texture perspective. How does it feel in your hands? Does the card stock feel good? How does it shuffle? Do the cards stick together? Is the texture slick and glossy or more matte? Is it easy to shuffle? Hard to shuffle?
Spend a lot of time shuffling it when you first get your deck because you want to not only randomize the deck for the first time but you want to get a sense of how it feels in your hands. In my opinion, since you spend so much time shuffling a deck in course of your time with it, this is one of the most important and underappreciated aspects of bonding with it.
Interview Your Deck
Not everyone anthropomorphizes their deck but many people do. It’s quite common for people to sense a certain kind of energy from different decks and to think of each Tarot deck as having a different personality. Accordingly, it is common to “interview” your deck when you first get it in order to get a sense of its personality and how you might work together.
Even if you take a completely secular approach to Tarot, we all know different decks have different feels e.g. compare the happy vibes of the Light Seers Tarot to the dark themes of the Thoth Tarot.
So here are some questions you might want to post to your new deck:
- Who are you?
- How would you describe yourself?
- What can you help me with?
- How can I develop a better ritual practice with you?
- Are there particular kinds of readings you prefer?
- What do you think of me?
- What is the first message you have for me?
- How might I misunderstand you?
- How can we work together for the highest good?
- What do you ask from me in order to work with you?
- What is the energy of this deck?
- What are your limitations as a Tarot deck?
- What are your strengths as a Tarot deck?
- What will be the outcome of us working together?
- How will you challenge me to achieve my highest good?
- What is your connection to the Divine?
- What is your connection to my unconscious?
However, keep in mind that the answers you get from this initial interview are not deterministic. Just like the Tarot doesn’t determine the future with certainty, your interview with a deck does not determine your destiny with that deck. Consider it like a first date, where you are first getting to know someone. You might get a first impression, but this will not uncover their depths as a person as you get to know them over time. A Tarot deck is no different.
Establish a Daily Practice
Absolutely the best way to connect with your Tarot deck is to establish a daily routine of pulling a card. I have written a complete guide to daily Tarot practice with my 101 Daily Tarot Spreads for Your Daily Practice. If you are also just running dry on questions to ask the Tarot, see my guide on 201 Questions to Ask the Tarot.
The key to connecting with a new Tarot deck is to develop an unconscious familiarity with each card such that it triggers a familiarity and association with every card that is unique to its symbology. This process can only happen with practice and familiarity.
For this reason, I would advise against buying so many decks that you don’t have the time to connect with each one of them. It’s ok if you are simply a collector and enjoy collecting Tarot decks for their artistic merits or what have you, but if you truly want to connect with a deck you need to spend a significant amount of time using it and doing readings with it.
After all, how can you say you are truly familiar with a deck unless you’ve done at least one reading where you’ve pulled each card? It’s one thing to have a general idea of what a card means, but it’s quite another to be able to resonate with the imagery and symbolism within the context of a particular reading or spread.
And it’s not just pulling a card once. That’s just the beginning. To truly know a deck you have to pull all the cards in multiple different contexts in relation to multiple different questions and spreads. Only then will you get a sense of how to truly read with a deck.
Read the Guidebook that Comes with the Deck
This might seem obvious but it’s important. Every Tarot deck is partially influenced by the history and collective unconscious of the entire Tarot tradition and partially influenced by the creative mind of the Tarot creator themselves. So it stands to reason that a good way to connect with your Tarot deck is to connect with the creator of the deck. Many Tarot creators have put a lot of time and energy into writing a guidebook so it is time well spent studying it and using it in your readings.
For example, if you want to understand the Rider-Waite-Smith deck you really need to read Waite’s guidebook A Pictorial Key to the Tarot. And if you want to understand the Thoth Tarot, you really need to read his guidebook The Book of Thoth. The same can be said for many other Tarot decks. The guidebook is often a key to the hidden symbolism and meaning of the cards and gives you an insight into the unique personality of each deck.
Meditate on Your Deck
A more advanced technique to connect with your deck involves meditative practice. Get into a quiet environment and state of mind. Lower the stimulation if possible by making the room dark. This technique works best with candles and incense, if possible.
What you want to do is get into a good sitting posture for meditation, hold the deck in your hands, close your eyes, and meditate on the deck.
You can either do a traditional mindfulness-based meditation where you try to empty your mind and just focus your attention, either on your breath or maybe on a particular card, set of cards, or the deck as a whole.
Otherwise, you can engage in more active imagination and visualization. Depending on how strong your imagination skills are, you can imagine a personified version of the deck, or engage with its symbols and cards. Who is the deck? What does the deck look like? Do they have any messages for you? Let your imagination run wild. I have found it very useful to create a kind of Wonderland in my imagination where I can connect with different decks.
What you really want to do is connect deeply with your unconscious, the source of your ideas and creativity, and let your unconscious tell you who the deck is and how best to connect with them. Don’t be afraid to even have a conversation with your deck as if you were talking to someone! It might seem as if you are merely talking to yourself but so long as you simply relax, even “talking to yourself” can take on a life of its own as you let your thoughts and imagination guide you.
Establish a Journal Practice with Your Deck
It’s always a good habit to develop a Tarot journal. One of the best ways to learn the Tarot and connect with the Tarot, in general, is to write about your experiences with the Tarot and what it means to you.
And of course, the same thing applies to connecting with a new Tarot deck! Record all your readings and daily pulls with the deck. Write about the symbolism. Write down questions you have where you are unsure what a particular symbol or image means. Make it totally your own! Writing is a fantastic way to boost your creativity.
It is also a great way to cement your learnings with the Tarot. Writing about the Tarot helps improve my memory for Tarot meaning and symbolism and I’m sure it’d do the same for you.
Perform a Deeper Dive into the Symbolism of the Deck
Now that you have familiarized yourself with the basics of the deck, it’s time to dive deeper. Here are some things to meditate on and pay attention to as you study the deck:
Is the deck based on Rider-Waite-Smith symbolism, Marseille symbolism, Thoth symbolism, or something entirely unique?
Do the pip cards have stories and images on them or are they more abstract?
How are the names of the suites different from traditional decks?
Do the different suits map onto the traditional structure the same?
What are the color schemes of the deck? How do they make you feel? Happy or sad?
What types of characters are in the deck? What is their mood and personality?
What are the general themes or motifs of the deck?
Are there esoteric symbols that you are not familiar with? Look them up on google or ask a forum
How are the court cards named?
How are the court cards gendered? What energy do they express?
Perform a Tarot Ritual
This is a more advanced practice but can be very powerful. Every magician or witch has their own unique way of approach ritual, so I will not prescribe you any particular method.
Regardless of what you do, you will want to (1) be intentional (2) be meditative (3) have an appropriate environment (4) have an appropriate mindset.
Just to give you an idea of what a Tarot ritual might look like you could combine sigil magic with Tarot by creating a sigil for the desired outcome and then using the Tarot to determine how that outcome might play out.