Old traditions tell us much about how Tarot cards should be handled.
Such customs can of course be ignored, but to do so would not be in keeping with the spirit of the Tarot, which must be approached in a sympathetic manner if it is to function.
Never allow your Tarot cards to be handled casually by the curious.
The only time other hands touch the cards should be when they are being shuffled just prior to a reading.
You yourself should handle the cards as frequently as possible, studying the designs and imprinting their significance on your memory. The more you are familiar with the cards, it is said, the better they will work for you. This is for two reasons:
This question of protecting the cards from outside influences is a very important one, which is stressed in all traditional instructions regarding the use of the Tarot, and which is found in magical systems in all parts of the world. The setting apart of a ritual object is thought to keep its special powers and qualities intact.
Many Hindu yogis, for example, can only exhibit paranormal faculties when seated on a mat woven from certain grasses which are believed to insulate the body from the magnetic currents of the earth.
First, Tarot divination can only work if you have built a bridge of intuition between your subconscious mind and the symbols of the cards—this takes time.
Second, the cards must become imbued with what one might call your personal vibrations. A kind of rapport must be created between you and your personal pack of Tarot cards. Any experienced reader will tell you that a new pack must be broken in by frequent handling before it will give reliable results.
Casual handling of the cards by hands other than your own will swiftly break down the link you have forged with them.
There is no known scientific foundation for such a belief, so perhaps the "setting apart" is a necessary part of the training of consciousness to exercise its lesser-known abilities, and the effect is psychological.
If you believe a thing is sacred then it becomes imbued with the power of the psyche and can act as a focal point for the display of psychic phenomena.
When your Tarot cards are not being used, you should wrap them in a square of silk, preferably purple or black in colour.
The pack should be kept in its silk covering inside a wooden box fitted with a lid, which should then be stored in a place where other people are unlikely to handle it—if possible on the side of the room that faces east, the direction from which light and inspiration symbolically appear.
You also need a flat surface on which to lay the cards when reading them, sufficiently large to accommodate all the cards needed for the largest spread—about two feet square is the smallest practicable size.
Ask the querent to sit at the table on the south side facing north. Seat yourself on the north side of the table facing south. This is because, in esoteric lore, the hidden currents of the earth are said to flow from north to south and back again, and therefore the seat of authority and power is in the north. (In ancient China magistrates always sat at the north end of an audience chamber, with litigants facing them from the south.)
If you are reading the cards alone, either for yourself or for someone who is absent, then sit facing the east.
You are now ready to start the reading. Take the cards from their wrapper of silk, which should be spread flat across the table. The square of silk should be sufficiently large to cover the area of a spread, so that as each card is dealt it can be placed on the silk and thus avoid contact with the table-top.
These rather elaborate preparations may appear to be a superstitious irrelevance, but they do serve to concentrate the mind on what is being done, and awaken whatever psychic faculties may be present.
There are a vast number of Tarot spreads. Here are three. The Nine Card Spread relates to the past, present and future; the Circular Spread forecasts the year ahead, and the Horseshoe Spread deals with a specific question.
In every case the reader shuffles the cards thoroughly, turning some of them from top to bottom at intervals to ensure that there will be a mixture of upright and reversed cards by the time the shuffling is completed.
The reader hands the shuffled pack to the querent requesting him or her as the case may be to shuffle them again in the same fashion, remembering to reverse some of the cards.
The reader then takes the pack from the querent and begins laying out whichever spread seems most appropriate to the querent's needs.
Texts : Alfred Douglas