GATHERING SUPPLIES: A TAROT AWAKENINGS SHOPPING LIST

What are the essential items for awakening with tarot? What additional items could we add? Is there something special we should do with these items once we’ve gathered them? In this chapter I offer suggestions for external preparations; by “external” I mean that these are items to acquire. I also offer some ideas for how to introduce yourself to these items once you have them. This being sacred work, a thoughtful approach is always recommended.

I remember being new to tarot, and my first experience gathering these items was a strange mix of inspiration, confusion, and fun. Fortunately there’s not a big expensive list here, and there are countless ways to customize your “shopping list” according to what feels right to you. I recommend acquiring the following items, each of which are explained in the sections below:

  • Tarot Deck (of course!)
  • Journal & Pen
  • Tarot Box or Bag
  • Tarot Cloth
  • Candles & other sacred items
  • Guidebooks
  • Storage Chest

TAROT DECK

If this is going to be your first tarot deck, how exciting for you! It’s a big purchase but don’t put any pressure on yourself to make a perfect choice. There are so many types of decks it can get a little overwhelming. I suggest going to your local New Age bookstore and seeing what they offer. I also recommend perusing aeclectic.net, an outstanding online tarot review site.

You can look forward to getting to know these cards very well in the weeks, months, and maybe even years ahead. So naturally you want to feel comfortable with them and want them to evoke positive feelings and curiosity in you. Your first deck is a very personal choice, and frankly no one tarot deck is intrinsically better than any other. The bottom line is that the best deck is the one that works best for you. In other words, you want the deck with pictures that stir your imagination and activate your intuition.

There is some outdated advice out there when it comes to getting your first tarot deck. For example, I’ve read your first deck should be gifted to you. By this logic, you’re not allowed in the tarot club unless someone has initiated you. Of course this is ridiculous. If you want a deck, GET ONE. Another bit of advice I’ve read is to choose your first deck based on the one that “calls to you”. But if you’re not particularly intuitive – which would be quite understandable before you start working with this method – then you might not find any decks speaking to you.

If you’re at all like I was, you might just want to make a sensible choice to get one of the “good” ones. If that’s the case then seriously consider getting the Rider Waite Smith deck (or RWS for short). Also known as the “Rider Waite”, “Waite Smith”, or just plain “Rider” deck, this is the most significant and influential deck in tarot today. It was designed by Arthur Edward Waite, drawn by Pamela Coleman Smith, and published by the Rider Company in England in 1909. Many of the images from the RWS have permeated the collective consciousness and have become synonymous with tarot. It comes in many versions, including my favorite, the borderless. The advantage of learning with the RWS is it gives you foundational knowledge of modern tarot.  This deck is like the trunk of the tree that has sprouted many branches over the past century. It’s could be described as THE seminal classic.

Of course, there are plenty of other good choices for your first deck. Maybe the RWS just doesn’t do it for you! Consider looking at the following choices, which are in the RWS tradition: Morgan Greer, Hanson Roberts (also available as the Essential Tarot Kit), Universal Tarot, and the Gilded Tarot (also available as the “Easy Tarot”). If you want something outside of the RWS tradition, the Wild Unknown Tarot is a great deck to start with.

Remember there’s no pressure to make a perfect choice. If you don’t connect with your first one you can always try something else. That said, choose carefully and enjoy the process of exploring your options. You’ll never forget your first so have fun!

[Side note: I had the pleasure of working with a student who was learning tarot for the first time, and who didn’t want to make a conventional choice. Instead of the Waite Smith he went with a modern deck that borrows from the RWS tradition. The one he chose was very interesting aesthetically, but the artist made a number of significant changes that altered the underlying meaning of some of the cards. After working with this deck for a couple months he came around to trying the RWS. Within a few weeks of working with it he told me he wished he had started with the RWS and branched out to this other deck later. He found the RWS deck was better for activating his intuition, and the meanings he got from this deck felt the most foundational.]

Before using your new deck, I suggest consecrating it first. I offer suggestions for doing so later in this chapter.

Feel free to read THIS POST if you’d like more information about selecting a deck – whether it’s your first or your 100th.

JOURNAL & PEN

It’s crucial to keep a tarot journal, for reasons that are explained in another chapter. For now I just want to stress that your journal will become a treasured personal document. That’s why I suggest getting a decent journal instead of writing in a cheap notebook. Our subconscious picks up on subtle cues, including the value we place on our work with tarot. You don’t have to get an expensive journal, just one that you’ve taken a moment to mindfully choose and that you’ll enjoy writing in on a regular basis.

The same idea applies to choosing your writing utensil. I’ve noticed I enjoy holding some pens in my hand more than others, and with some I like the way the ink looks better on the page than others. These considerations may seem trivial, but in my experience they matter. Generally speaking, a decent pen is more likely to elicit more consistently valuable intuitive insights than a chewed-up old pencil.

When I first started I used beautiful journals from Pauper Press, but after a while this no longer felt necessary. Now I write in Moleskine journals with Paper Mate flair pens in blue ink.

Of course, you can choose to go paperless and keep a digital journal if you prefer. I admit I’m a bit old-fashioned, but I think there’s value in taking the time and energy in writing longhand. Moreover, you don’t want to be inhibited in your writing process, and typing makes it far too easy to take something back by erasing and editing as you go. So if you keep a digital journal, I recommend a permanent moratorium on using the “backspace” button!

TAROT BOX or BAG

Since your tarot deck will serve as your tool for spiritual awakening,  you’ll probably feel a deep desire to maintain a respectful relationship with it. One way to do so is to have a special container to hold the deck. While most decks come in a cardboard box or metal tin wrapped in cellophane, you may choose to buy a special little box or bag for holding it once you’ve taken it out of its original packaging. Doing so adds a special little something every time you handle your deck.

There are many places to get one, either in person or online. Etsy is a good website for these kinds of crafty items; I got my first box at a local store called New Age People. Look around for a small box or bag with meaningful artwork or symbolic imagery on it. Choose something that resonates with you, and know that your deck is being housed in something special and significant to you. This small extra step toward your tarot practice adds an extra layer of sacredness to the work.

If you’re crafty or feeling particularly inspired, you may choose to create your own. The upside for doing this should be obvious: you’ll be storing your deck in something you’ve put that much more care into. But please do not feel that going this extra mile is required! As with every aspect of your tarot practice, act from a place of inspiration over perspiration. There’s no “right way” to do this, and if it gets heavy you won’t want to do it!

TAROT CLOTH

You may choose to create an altar that serves as your designated space for tarot working.  If so, you’ll automatically have a surface for placing your tarot cards on.

On the other hand, creating an altar may not be feasible or resonate with you. If that’s the case, you’ll want to get a tarot cloth.  The cloth creates a protective barrier between your cards and any surface where you work with them. Cloths are sold in New Age stores or online, on sites like Etsy. Some are very simple while others have intricate designs on them, often of some religious or spiritual significance. As in the case of your box or bag, you’ll obviously want to choose something that you find pleasing to look at, and perhaps that has some underlying significance to you.

Using a tarot cloth serves both a practical and symbolic purpose.  As a practical concern, the cloth helps protect your cards from getting dirty or wet, regardless where you work with them. But equally as important, It creates a metaphorical barrier between the sacred space for using tarot and the mundane world of the table you’re doing the work on.

CANDLES & OTHER SACRED ITEMS

It’s hard to imagine doing a tarot reading without lighting a candle first! As with our tarot cloth, there is a practical and symbolic benefit for using candles in this work. On a practical level, candles create a nice mood to help us relax so that our intuition can shine through. But also, a flame symbolizes the sacred light of spirit. When we light a candle with mindful intention, we create a unique atmosphere for sacred working to be done. We also metaphorically light the flame within.

With countless types of candles available, which should you get? For me, since I’m using them every day, I choose not to spend much money on them. Basic tealight candles are good enough for daily use, but I do also like to keep a special candle or two around for special occasion spreads. I offer plenty about these “special occasions” throughout this book!

What other sacred items should you get? Incense, crystals, and talismans can also be brought into your tarot practice. They’re not necessary, but if they contribute to your sacred intention of the work, then they are encouraged. But maybe for you all this “junk for the journey” feels like a bit too much. If you’re brand new to intuitive work, feel free to keep it simple! Start with your first deck and a journal, and you can always add to them later, when it feels right to do so.

GUIDEBOOKS

Your deck comes with an instruction book. Some of these are great, with very insightful card descriptions. But sometimes they’re surprisingly weak, with very brief or even confusing card descriptions. Don’t be discouraged if your deck came with a lame book! And regardless how good yours is, I suggest getting an additional book or two. You’ll find it helpful when you’re first learning to have a few different interpretations of the what all those 78 cards mean.

There are lots of great books out there, with new ones being published all the time. Browse your local bookstore and find something you connect with. One that I’ve always found very useful, and which I continue to refer to, is the Tarot Dictionary & Compendium by Jana Riley. It’s less flashy than most other books, but it does include very useful, pithy card descriptions by leading tarot authorities.

Of course, you’ll also find card descriptions in this book as well. As you consult these various resources, you’ll notice that some writers’ interpretations of the cards are very different from each other, and that some just seem to resonate better for you than others. That doesn’t necessarily make those writers “better” than the others; it just means they’re better for you. With practice you’re going to develop your own personalized meanings of the cards. For now, enjoy relying on these trusted resources to provide a trusted foundation of knowledge that you can look forward to building on.

STORAGE CHEST

Once you’ve gathered all your supplies, I recommend getting a storage chest or box where you can keep all your items together. It doesn’t have to be very big; just large enough to fit all your items. And as with your other supplies, it doesn’t have to be very fancy or expensive. This is a very special purchase because it’s your own little magic chest, so feel free to have some fun looking around. I got lucky when I found a perfect little chest at a Goodwill Store. See where your intuitive searching takes you!

One very important thing to keep in mind: If you are the least bit concerned that anyone will be tempted to tamper with your tarot items or read your journal then by all means get a box that you can keep locked. It is crucial you know deep down that your journal is for your eyes only, or the tarot work you do will be compromised.

Breaking In Your New Tarot Deck

Before you begin using your new deck, take a moment to consider this special purchase. You will be using it to discover truths that reside deep within you, in the spirit of awakening to the light within yourself. This is a very special item you now possess.

I recommend taking a few steps to make the deck uniquely yours before using it. There are any number of ways to do this, and yours do not need to be complicated or time-consuming unless you want them to be.

So whether your new deck is your very first or your hundredth, please feel free to take these steps to create a special relationship with your cards. In my experience, all future work you do with it will benefit as a result.

MAKING A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION

As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Psychological research has proven that initial impressions (or “primacy effects”, to use the jargon term) are nearly impossible to shake. With this in mind, please be careful of how you’re feeling when you open the box for the first time. Of course, if you just left a store and have a new deck in your hands you’re likely to feel quite good! But if your mind is distracted or you just received a text with bad news, then hold off opening the box. You may choose to set a time later, when you’re in a good energetic space, for making that first impression.

Once it’s opened, I encourage you to take some quality uninterrupted time to sit down and just look through your deck. With no pressure to figure anything out, just relax and allow your imagination to enjoy the experience. Go slow. Invite possibility. Build anticipation for the magic that is going to happen with these cards. You may choose to read each card’s description in the companion book during this initial session, but it’s not at all necessary. Perhaps it’s best to not have anything to read or “learn” at all, so there’s no need to turn on your logical left-brain and you can just get into the flow of right-brain allowing.

I remember when I introduced myself to my first deck, my eyes and mind were drawn in by the captivating imagery. I had no clue what I was supposed to do with the cards yet and I had no idea what the images meant. But I sure became curious to find out. I did follow along with the book a little, but mostly I just looked closely at the pictures. I’ve followed this rewarding process with nearly every new deck since.

If it feels right to do so, I invite you to spend some quiet time looking through your new deck. Put aside an hour or maybe even make an evening of it. Play some nice music, and maybe light a candle or incense. Open yourself to the magic of possibility in a relaxed, peaceful state of mind.

THE SLIDING SCALE OF WOOWOO

This feels like a good time to discuss what I call the “Sliding Scale of WooWoo” (or SSoWW for short). WooWoo is a term for belief in the mystical and supernatural. Some of us are really into crystals, angel guides, auras, and other New Agey concepts and some of us are not. You don’t have to go all the way to use tarot 100% effectively. Just like you don’t have to become a full-on “Trekkie” nerd to enjoy Star Trek, or become a full blown Deadhead to enjoy the music of the Grateful Dead (yes, I acknowledge these are pretty old references, haha!), it’s okay not to buy into the whole New Age package to love tarot.

I mention this because when I first started I was pretty low on the Sliding Scale of WooWoo. I’d just started opening to astrology and other concepts that I’ve come to love and revere. But I recognized that the whole New Age culture wasn’t really my thing, and I wondered if that meant I couldn’t use tarot. Looking back, I’m really happy I didn’t give too much energy to this doubting mind. So if you’re feeling a little self-conscious about being low on the SSoWW, it’s okay to take all this at your own pace.

The bottom line is that your spiritual path is uniquely your own. Throughout your awakening journey, continue to do what feels right for you. Feel free to take your time, remain true to yourself, and experiment with what inspires you. If you’re like me, as you grow in your tarot practice and awaken further, you’ll probably notice yourself slowly going up on that Sliding Scale of WooWoo. But you can’t force it without compromising the key awakening virtues of Honesty and Sincerity.

CONSECRATING YOUR TAROT DECK

If your intention is to use tarot as a tool for spiritual awakening, it’s appropriate to consecrate it. Consecrating a deck – also known as blessing it – is a mindful way to formally introduce yourself to a new set of cards. Doing a consecration allows you to set a sacred intention for your work. It also creates a special bond between you and your cards.

If you want a quick and easy way to consecrate your deck (or if you are especially low on the SSoWW), you can just hold it in your hands as you say words of intention. What do you want from your tarot deck? Speak your answer with conviction. These words of intention can take the form of a prayer if you wish.

You may choose to put a little more time and effort into it. If so, start by writing down your intention (or words of prayer) for your deck. Sit quietly and consider why you made this purchase. What do you want from your deck? What makes it special to you? What will you do with the wisdom it reveals to you? Once you’ve written down your answer, you’re ready to perform a little ritual.

You may choose to include a few additional items for your ritual of blessing. A candle is certainly appropriate, as the flame signifies the transformative presence of spirit. You may also include incense, as many religious traditions burn it in purification rituals. Some popular choices for cleansing are white sage, sweet grass, or palo santo. You may also include crystals in your ritual too. Clear quartz is believed to cleanse the deck and amplify its energy. Selenite can be used for connecting with spirit guides. And amethyst is known to enhance intuition.

Gather your deck, your words of intention, and your ritual items. Take a few moments to sit quietly and relax. Light your candle and incense. Then hold the deck in your hands and speak your special words of intention. Do this slowly and mindfully. As you do so, pass the deck through the incense smoke and over the candle flame. Just be very careful not to get too close and burn them! If you want the ritual to take longer, you may choose to pass each card over the smoke and flame one at a time, but this is not necessary.

Some tarot practitioners choose to place their consecrated deck on a windowsill under the next Full Moon to absorb its magical energies. This final step completes the ritual. Again, do this only if you feel inspired to, and never feel it is required. If you’re not sure, try and see how it feels.

Once you’ve completed your consecration ritual, expect to feel a special kinship with your tarot deck for as long as you use it. Now all the work you do with your cards will carry the resonance of this very special, sacred act you have performed.

USING YOUR DECK FOR THE FIRST TIME

Congratulations on taking the time and care to mindfully and intentionally establish a sacred relationship with your new tarot deck. By this time you’re probably more than eager to actually start using it! Perhaps at some point during this introductory process you’ve pulled a card or two after asking a question. If so, good for you; who could blame you! If you haven’t actually used the deck yet, let’s get to it.

Below you’ll find a special tarot spread to use with a tarot deck for the first time. Before performing it (or any other spread you may choose), I suggest taking a few minutes to do some extra shuffling of the deck. As you’ve probably noticed, tarot decks are packaged in order. Taking the extra time to shuffle the cards as I suggest below will assure that your first reading (or two or three) does not have an awkward run of consecutive cards.

I learned this lesson the hard way once when I was new to reading cards for others. I used a new deck and performed a very large spread for her, and in a couple cases she received little runs of three cards in order, such as the 2, 3 and 4 of Pentacles. I was very embarrassed because I thought I’d shuffled the cards well enough, but if I had it would have been nearly impossible to receive even one run of three consecutive cards, much less two. I guess it shows the magic of tarot that even with these little runs, the cards she received were perfect for her situation. Although it proved to be a very good reading, I learned an important lesson anyway: shuffle the cards thoroughly before using them for the first time. It will eliminate any doubts whether the cards you receive are the right ones, as opposed to just being the result of an inadequate first shuffle.

A thorough shuffle is easy to do. Once you’ve consecrated the deck, separate the cards into ten piles on your tarot cloth. Start with the top of the deck and distribute the cards in the ten piles randomly until you’ve gone through them all. You can do this with the cards face up or face down. Once you have all the cards in the ten piles, put those piles together in random order.

Now you’re ready to do your first reading with the cards. From here on, use your normal shuffling procedure when you do a reading.

NEW DECK INTRODUCTION SPREAD

1. Warm Greetings! Please introduce yourself to me.

2. What is your initial impression of me?

3. What is a major strength you have as a deck?

4. What is the potential of our relationship together?

5. What else would you like me to know for now?

 

*  If you’re brand new to tarot and have not worked with spreads yet, you’re encouraged to read ahead and come back to perform this spread when you feel ready. The next couple chapters will walk you through how to handle the cards, and how to interpret them. But, if you don’t want to wait any longer and feel eager to get working with the cards, go for it! Shuffle your deck and then deal in the pattern you see above. Look at the cards carefully and listen for your intuition to speak to you. Record your reflections in your journal. Don’t worry about having it all figured out. Have fun!