Animism and Tarot

Most of my friends who practice tarot treat their decks like their best friends. They name them, ask their birth dates, give them personalities, place them in pretty pouches and boxes, and even chitchat with them. When I first got into tarot, I found this rather unbelievable, but then I understood that this is one way to “bond” with the decks, to integrate the cards with us and our spiritual energy, and therefore make reading and interpretation easier as the cards naturally become extension of our subconscious mind.

I have had my doubts though. A couple of weeks ago I had a friend used my new tarot cards, and for some reasons the cards got sticky and felt disconnected when I tried to use it afterwards. It reeked of my friend’s perfume and got soaked in her energy. I asked for advices and did whatever I could to cleanse the cards: slipped them in-between the pages of my published translations, fanned them under the sun, compressed them under thick dictionaries to restore their shapes, and so on. I even “talked” with them to restore the energy bond with me. The method worked, and I began to be able to read them again, but then the deck suddenly went berserk and threw me ominous-looking cards after two days.

My friends told me the deck has not recovered from the ordeal that changed her (she was being used multiple times that day for heavy readings) and the best way is to leave her alone in her usual storage place until the upsetting energy evaporates, while talking and humoring her. I followed the advice, yet at the same time I suddenly got reminded of ‘animism’, a word that has not crossed my mind since I encountered it in religion subject in high school. For the uninitiated, it means treating dead objects as if they were alive and had souls. I felt ridiculous for humoring the cards, wondering if I have gone a step too far in treating them like a person. After further discussions with my tarotier friends and some mulling of my own, I came to the conclusion that, while naming the decks and treating them like our favorite dolls does help in familiarizing ourselves with the cards, we also need to draw the line and establish that we are the mistress in the house of cards, not the other way around.

So I did a tête-à-tête with the cards, confirming that I am the mistress of the house who serves the Lord as the highest command and that my deck is a mere assistant whose job is to translate our communication. Please be aware that I was actually talking to myself, establishing that thought in my mind to clear the confusion. It worked: I regained my peace once I made it clear about my position in relation to the cards, and my beloved deck again becomes my lovely assistant.

There is indeed a fine line between appropriate and inappropriate use of tarot decks, and every tarot reader must use their discretion and listen to their conscience to know the correct ways of using the cards. I am thankful of my God-fearing spiritualist friends who have been there and done that and able to share their experiences.

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