One might think that shuffling Tarot cards has little importance compared to interpreting Tarot cards but, in fact, shuffling is an extremely important, and often overlooked, part of the Tarot ritual. This is my complete guide on how to shuffle Tarot Cards.
The Importance of shuffling
Why is shuffling important?
First off, the most important “function” of shuffling is to impart randomness into your Tarot deck. If you do not shuffle enough, then you risk having a non-random arrangement of cards.
If magic is real at all as it relates to the Tarot (which is debatable, given how one defines “magic”), then it certainly operates through the function of randomness. Without randomness, the magic of the Tarot is dead upon arrival.
If the cards were not random, they would not provide a blank canvas upon which your unconscious mind could project itself. It could not be a medium for synchronicities and meaningfulness.
One might say the Tarot is a synchronicity generator powered by randomness.
Shuffling is the “fuel” of this generator.
Furthermore, shuffling has great ritual importance.
If you just haphazardly shuffle while you are distracted by YouTube or whatever, then your readings will be less effective and less psychologically powerful.
The more you can turn Tarot reading into a serious ritual, the more effective it will be in terms of its power to provide insight and wisdom.
When you treat the Tarot as just a toy, then it will respond as a toy.
But if you take the Tarot seriously, it will take you seriously in return, and give you better answers.
Furthermore, when you take the Tarot seriously, your own mind will be in the proper mindset for creativity and receptivity, which is critical for the operation of intuition, the process whereby the mind makes connections between disparate ideas, the bedrock of insight.
Thus, by bringing a level of intentionality and seriousness to shuffling Tarot cards, you will grow quickly as a Tarot reader.
Before you shuffle
Before you shuffle, it is ideal to clear your space such that it can become a ground for intentionality. If you do not have the option for making your environment quiet and serious, at least try to make the peace in your head. Stop for a second and clear your mind. Take some deep breaths. Adjust your posture.
It is important to treat the Tarot as a ritual if you want to get the best results. Part of any ritual is the preparations we make before the ritual.
This will depend on the particular details of each person and their inclinations. There are no right or wrong ways here, just varying degrees of seriousness and intentionality.
One should treat the Tarot will a certain level of respect. If you see it as a “mere tool” like a hammer or screwdriver, your results will be dry and lacking in insight.
Instead, if you treat the Tarot with respect, it will respect you.
With that said, everyone approaches ritual differently.
Personally, I tend to do a lot of my ritual practice “in my head,” if that makes sense. But others use more external actions or spoken words to perform ritual.
Find what works for you.
Methods of shuffling
There are four common methods of shuffling.
This is how I shuffle because it seems to have the least impact to the integrity of the card stock.
You can find youtube videos of this technique online by searching for “overhand shuffle.”
Basically, the process involves grabbing the back of the deck and releasing it or dropping it into the front of the deck, intersplicing the back into the front.
The key to this is to have the right balance of tension and looseness in how tightly you hold the cards so that the cards can slide in between the others.
This is a great technique for generating “jumpers,” if that is important to you. See below.
This is perhaps the most “classic” form that we see playing cards folks use. It involves separating the deck into two, bending each half backwards, and then “rifling” the two halves so that they intersplice.
I do not like this method because it is liable to bend the cards. For me, Tarot cards are works of art and I try to treat them accordingly.
Some people will say you absolutely should not ever riffle shuffle Tarot cards, but for me, I don’t like to be overly prescriptive. There are no ultimate rules about how one should use the Tarot. Only different preferences. All I can do is say what works for me, and state my reasons why. If riffle shuffling works for you, great.
This is the “messiest” technique but fairly effective, especially if you are reading with reversals. Basically, just take the deck and spread it out into a big pile and mess it around and then gather it back together. It creates reversals though, so be prepared for that.
Intuitive shuffling is basically being completely in tune with your intuition and shuffling the cards in whatever way feels natural to you, using whatever technique you feel is appropriate in the moment.
Often the intuitive shuffling technique involves doing a kind of slow-form of the overhand shuffle where you slowly move the cards in and out of each other.
There are other, less-common methods of shuffling, which you can read about here and here.
How to Shuffle for Reversals
I have a whole post on reversals here. But there are two easy methods for creating reversals.
One is to use the pile shuffle.
The second is to use the overhand method and twist one of the deck halves 180 degrees before intersplicing. Do this enough times and you will create a randomized deck of reversals.
How long to shuffle
I don’t know if this is true, but I read somewhere that if you are using the overhand technique it will take ten “turns” to create a randomized deck.
Regardless, the number one mistake of shuffling I see is not shuffling long enough to create randomness.
Randomness is the key to magic, how you might define that term as it relates to Tarot.
Furthermore, the longer you shuffle, the more intentionality you can bring into the Tarot ritual.
How do you know when to stop shuffling?
So you now know what it’s important to shuffle a lot in order to create the randomness needed for generating synchronicities. But how do you know exactly when to stop shuffling?
This is not something that you can really teach anyone, but it requires listening to your intuition. If you pay close enough attention to what feels right you will eventually reach a point in your shuffling process where it just feels right to stop.
Eventually, this process of intuitive listening might just become automatic or habitual. But if you’re new to Tarot it’s important to train your senses to be attuned to the demands of intuition.
Stopping at the precise right time is also critical for making your readings effective insofar as if you know in your heart of hearts that you stopped at the right time, then you are more likely to take seriously the messages you receive from your Tarot.
Cutting the deck
Almost all Tarot readers cut the deck once they are done shuffling. In a way, this serves as another way of inserting randomness into the deck and also as a ritualistic method for imparting your intuitive guidance into the reading.
Every reader has a different deck cutting ritual though it is generally agreed you should find what works for you and stick with it. Making it ritualistic is important for creating the proper mindset for reflection and introspection.
There are generally speaking two different methods, both self-explanatory:
- Cutting the deck into two piles
- Cutting the deck into three piles
Obviously, you want to put the piles back together in such a way so as to have the “inside” of the deck show up on top of the deck.
Which hand to use when cutting the deck
Many Tarot readers insist that you should always cut the deck with your left hand because the left hand is controlled by the right hemisphere of the brain, which is arguably the side of the brain more specialized in automatic, fast, holistic, parallel processing aka what we often call “intuition.” And if you follow the theories of Julian Jaynes and bicameralism, the right hemisphere is also the seat of the gods.
But I by no means think this is a hard and fast rule. Do whatever feels right to you. What’s important is to find a method that works for you and stick with it (which isn’t to say you can never modify your rituals in the future; the point is merely that striving to make your Tarot practice ritualistic is generally speaking a good thing.)
How to set intentions while you’re shuffling
This is the most important part of the shuffling process because it is through intention-making that we formulate our questions to the Tarot. And without good questions, we will not receive good answers.
As you are shuffling it is important to clarify in your mind exactly the intention or question you are bringing to the Tarot.
Also, as you are shuffling is the proper time to figure out who or what you are asking the questions to.
The answer to this question depends on your personal beliefs.
If you take a more secular approach to the Tarot, then you will largely address your questions to your own mind, perhaps your unconscious, your Higher Self, or something like that. Or you might take a completely non-ritualistic perspective and just treat it as essentially a kind of secular game of some kind.
If you take a more spiritual approach to the Tarot, you might address your questions to your personal pantheon of gods, your spirit guide(s), your ancestors, or some other spiritual force or entity.
One approach I find interesting, which I have written about extensively, is taking the occult concept of egregores and see the Tarot itself as a kind of egregore.
An egregore is a kind of conceptual construct that has been generated by the intention and attention of humans pouring their mental energy into said conceptual construct. Insofar as there is so much mental energy poured into the concept, it ends up taking on a life of its own, kind of like Santa Claus, or things like Mothman or Slender Man.
Accordingly, some occultists believe that this is how the gods themselves were created. I believe one could, in theory, apply this idea to the Tarot itself such that all the intention and attention give to the Tarot over the centuries has, in effect, created “Tarot gods.”
And if you follow this line of reasoning, then it can be an interesting exercise to perform your Tarot rituals with this in mind and take your intentions and questions and direct them towards these Tarot gods.
Regardless of your personal beliefs about metaphysics, it’s important to be clear about where you expect the answers to come from.
Are they coming from inside you? Or outside of you? How you approach the Tarot will depend on such personal beliefs. Personally, I am agnostic about the question.
But while you are shuffling, you need to be thinking about such things.
You also need to get very clear on exactly what you are asking. A vaguely worded question will lead to vague answers. Use the shuffling process as an opportunity to get clear in your mind about what exactly you are asking.
In my post on asking the Tarot yes/no questions, I give many examples of how to turn simple, black-and-white questions into open-ended questions. Experienced Tarot folks generally agree open-ended questions are better than questions that admit of simplistic answers.
Use your shuffling time to transform your question into a better question, one that will educate your soul, and not just entertain your ego.
How to deal with jumpers
What happens when you’re shuffling and a card flies out? These are called “jumpers.” I have already written extensively on how to interpret jumpers.
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