Clearing and Charging a Tarot Deck
To clear a deck or any other magical tool is to remove or neutralize the energy that exists in it. To charge a magical tool is to imbue it or fill it with your own energy and with a special purpose or intention. Although you can successfully read with a deck that has not been cleared or charged, if you take the time to do these things you will find that the tool has become much more personalized and powerful since it is sharing your energy. It's like the difference between a toy you had when you were a kid that just sat on a shelf ignored and one you dragged with you everywhere you went. You want your cards to have the energy of your favorite toy (but maybe not the greasy kid finger residue).
The first step in the charging process is to clear or neutralize the existing energy in the deck. If the deck was purchased used, this is a step you will want to pay special attention to. A new deck out of the box will be fairly neutral in energy, although there might be some static build-up due to the manufacturing process and the plastic packaging materials. A used deck will probably have accumulated some energy that may need to be discharged. Even if you feel that the energy in it is positive, you might choose to zero it out before you impart your own energy to the deck. On the other hand, there may be times when you prefer specifically not to clear a deck. For instance, if the deck has been blessed or was used by a mentor, you might not want to remove that energy but only to add yours to what is already there. Ways to clear a deck include directing energy through it, using salt or saltwater, smudging it with incense that has purification as a property, placing it in sunlight or moonlight, placing it in a wooden box or burying it in the earth.
Another time you might want to clear a deck, even if you’ve previously cleared and charged it, is if there has been some disruption to its energy. The only time the energy of my cards was disturbed was a time that I used them when I had been drinking. Bad move. This happened shortly after I learned to read the cards, and I can only say that I was young and stupid. I did a reading for a friend who had also been drinking, then left the cards where we had used them in a corner of the room. A few days later I walked over to that corner and immediately felt hung over. I had felt fine a moment before and it had been several days since the drinking episode. I walked away, then walked back and felt it again. I realized it was my cards. I took the deck outside and put them on a rock in the sun, fanned out so that at least an edge of every card showed, then left them for a few hours. The cards felt much better after that and I learned my lesson not to drink and read.
There are many reasons to charge your deck. It provides an opportunity to formally set an intention for the deck. The intention is the specific purpose or goal for that deck. You might set goals around your personal development, such as developing your intuition or doing daily tarot meditations. Maybe the purpose for a deck will be to give the best advice with the most compassion when reading for yourself and others. Perhaps your goals are about learning, such as applying yourself to studying the mythology the deck is based on or researching how astrology is used in the cards. Charging a deck also makes it more personal. By performing the charging ritual, you are establishing a link with your cards. You have made a commitment to the deck and in return it will speak more clearly to you. You might find that it gets to the point faster. You will also find that you reach for it more readily when you need advice, like a good friend whom you can always call for help. More than just aligning it with your goals and establishing a rapport with it, charging a deck can raise its energy to a more spiritual vibration. By deliberately dedicating the deck to a higher power, you will find that you are able to understand the cards on a more profound level. It is here that the cards can guide you in your highest purpose.
One way to charge something is to direct energy into it, such as holding it in your hands or holding your hands over it. Some people will always carry a new deck with them or sleep with it under their pillows to establish a rapport. To increase the amount of energy or focus a certain wavelength of energy into the deck, you can utilize Reiki or other spiritual and personal symbols in the charging process or direct energy through a crystal or stone with the properties you wish to impart. To increase the concentration of chi, place the deck in or under a pyramid or on an orgone generating grid.
Placing a deck in the sunlight or moonlight will fill the deck with those energies as well as clear away other energies. Also, you can smudge the deck with incense associated with a particular purpose or deity, such as using incense associated with Mercury, who rules divination.
Why do your clearing and charging in a ritual format? Ritual takes your conscious intention and conveys it to the subconscious. The ritual designed below also allows for your subconscious to communicate back to you what intention it has for the deck. By making this connection on the subconscious level with the deck, you have strengthened your ability to communicate with the deck. The symbol you choose for the subconscious intention will become an important word in your deck's vocabulary. When this symbol comes up in readings, it is like a secret password that opens doors to new levels of meaning. For instance, during the ritual I performed to charge my Druidcraft deck, I selected as my subconscious symbol the three-masted ship. I took the symbol from the three of Wands card, which interestingly in this deck shows three planted saplings (rooted in space) on the left, while a man looks down a road beside them; the card seems to speak of being unsure how to progress, whether to stay where you have put down roots or follow your wanderlust to new adventures. I chose the ship, a common symbol for the three of Wands, as my unconscious intention, showing how the rooted nature of the wood can become, when in the form of the ship, a way to satisfy that wanderlust.
A subsequent reading regarding a possible new job turned up the two of Pentacles, showing a woman in the foreground juggling the two disks with an apathetic look on her face. In the background was a shipwreck. My attention was repeatedly drawn to the destruction. At first I feared it symbolized that taking the job would wreck my dreams of becoming successful in my chosen vocation: I had been working in performing arts production and arts administration for many years, a career path I was passionate about but which had steadily refused to provide an adequate income. But as I was continuously drawn into the stormy seas in the card, I found that I was not feeling fear, but a brave sense of adventure. I saw the shipwreck as containing buried treasure, and this woman, who only had two cents to rub together, was oblivious to this amazing wealth just under the surface. I realized that taking the job, mundane as it appeared to me, would provide the necessary rootedness in the material world—like the three planted wands—for me to embark on the adventure of discovery that would satisfy the wanderlust in my heart: following my lifelong passion of writing, which I did not have time to pursue when I was engaged in the artistically demanding—and draining—career path. This is not the kind of insight you can gain from reading books or applying memorized meanings to the cards. This is the kind of insight that arises from immersion in the language of the cards—an immersion that, when undertaken intentionally through the medium of ritual, reveals a powerful and eloquent communication tool.
Part I: The Reading
Use this spread and the corresponding ceremony to set your intention for a deck, to purify the deck, and to charge it.
- Write a sentence that describes your conscious intention for the deck.
- Prepare as you normally would and perform a reading with the spread shown below. You don't have to ask a question, but you will want to concentrate on the intention you wrote above.
- For each card, write a short sentence that begins with the word "I." Record those sentences here:
Card 1, East:
Card 2, South:
Card 3, West:
Card 4, North:
Card 5, Spirit:
- Pick a simple symbol based on the fifth card, Spirit. It can be an image from the card or from the sentence you wrote. If you drew a Major Arcana card here, you might wish to consider using the meaning of the Hebrew letter associated with the card. Make sure your symbol is relevant to you. Draw the symbol on an index card. This is your unconscious intention for the deck.
Part II: The Ceremony
Copy your sentences onto the appropriate lines below. It's okay to modify them slightly to fit the sentence structure.
Read through this whole script and make any changes or additions to the words to best suit your beliefs and intentions.
Set up your altar, light the charcoal in the east and the candle in the south. A chalice of water should be in the west and a dish of salt in the north. You will sit or stand on the west side of the altar facing east. Place the cards from your reading at the corresponding directions on the altar.
Put a pinch of salt into the water and stir it up. Then take your deck and, while holding it, fan it out so that at least an edge of every card is showing. Lightly flick saltwater from your fingertips onto the cards (or hold the deck over the chalice if you are afraid of water damage to your deck; I lightly sprinkle my decks with saltwater and am unable to see any deleterious effect). Say, "I purify this deck by water and earth."
Place some incense on the charcoal. Carefully hold the fanned out cards in the incense smoke. Say, "I purify this deck by air and fire."
Reassemble the cards into a deck and hold it face up in your left hand. Pick up the Air card from the east side of the altar, touch it to the chalice, and then hold it in the incense smoke. Say, "If I choose, (Air phrase)."
Now place the card on top of the deck in your left hand. Repeat this process for each of the five cards.
"When I succeed, (Fire phrase)."
"In my dreams, (Water phrase)."
"I am rich because (Earth phrase)."
"My soul reveals that (Spirit phrase)."
Now all the cards are in the deck in your left hand. Place the deck in the center of the altar. Place the index card on top of the deck and say, "I charge this deck with the symbol of my soul's intent: (The name of the symbol)."
Direct energy through your wand into the deck (or hold your hands over the deck) and say the following:
"With this ceremony I dedicate these cards to the highest good for all. They counsel us in our decisions; they inspire us toward our ambitions; they awaken us to our dreams; they ground us in our abundance. They speak the symbol of our soul and we understand. (State your conscious intention.) By (The name of your spiritual source), this deck is charged with my intention. So mote it be. Blessed Be."
This completes the ritual.