So you’re reading some tarot textbooks to get better at this tarot reading/consulting thing. Every author suggests that it’s good to mix the cards before laying them out. Whew! They agree. So far, so good. Author A’s advice is, “Only you, the reader, should mix the cards and you should do it with an overhand shuffle that keeps all cards upright.” Author B writes, “Both the reader and the readee should shuffle the cards in such a way that both upright and reversed cards will turn up. Do this until they ‘feel done’.” Author C tells you, “The reader cuts and riffles while the querent picks the cards from the fanned out pack” Author D warns, “Under no circumstances should any other person touch or handle your precious tarot cards.” Author E says, “Since it’s the querent’s session, only he or she should mix the pack.” Uh-oh! Who’s right?
The simple answer — but not a glib one — is that they’re all correct. Each person who uses the tarot has hir own rituals to help cue hirself that s/he’s entering “tarot time”. Some readers say that having the readee mix the cards puts their energy into the deck to help with the reading, so they prefer that the other person do it. For this same reason, other practitioners don’t let anyone else touch their cards, simply shuffling and laying them out themselves with the intention that the consultation is for the sitter who’s with them. Some of the same people are also concerned about the transmission of germs. There are tarot consultants who like the sense of partnership that’s symbolised by both reader and readee mixing the pack, either one after the other or even at the same time. [article continues below image]
How do I deal with this? First, I mix the cards however I feel like doing it in the moment. Then I invite the other person to mix the cards too. I don’t tell hir how to do it, so s/he can do something as simple as slowly stir them on the tabletop, do an overhand shuffle, move them around in piles and restack them, riffle them (if it’s not an expensive deck!), or any combination of these. In my sessions, I prefer to let people experience as many of the senses as possible; touching and mixing the cards brings in the tactile sense. It grounds them by allowing the tarot to be a bodily experience, not just a conceptual one. The act of mixing the cards reminds a person, “Yes, you really are here. You really are engaging in a tarot consultation and it’s OK.” Also, there are people who are kinesthetic learners; the experience of mixing the cards helps them to remember more of the tarot encounter after the session is done.
If you’re someone who uses the tarot, I encourage you to check in with yourself about this ritual of mixing the cards. What is your comfort level around other people touching, handling, and mixing your tarot pack? Very comfortable? Freaked out? Somewhere in between? What makes sense to you? What doesn’t make sense to you? Keep what’s useful, discard the rest. It’s OK to be in charge of the reading enough to decide who does what.
Image: XIV, Temperance, from the Morgan-Greer tarot deck by Bill Greer and Lloyd Morgan.