There’s a tradition in the tarot community of cleansing and clearing new, and old, tarot cards.
Here’s the good news: it’s both easy and optional.
Many readers don’t cleanse their tarot decks –which is totally okay. I know a few who don’t cleanse their cards and they’re amazing readers. But a lot of people do feel that their tarot cards can get energetic gunk stuck on them.
So, why would you want to cleanse or bless your tarot cards?
If they’re used – Who knows who owned the deck. Was there negative, anxious, or obsessive energy surrounding their usage? It’s better to freshen them up, plus get them attuned to you as the new owner.
If someone else touched them – this is a bit of polarizing tarot folklore. Some tarot practitioners don’t let anyone touch their cards.
Despite what your tarot teacher insisted, or what you read in a book, adherence to this belief is optional.
If you feel that your cards read differently after someone touches them, then don’t let folks touch them. Otherwise, it’s a personal preference –not a hard-fast rule. Do practice good tarot etiquette: ask first before touching someone else’s tarot deck.
If your readings are consistently negative or confusing – Maybe there’s weird energetic gunk attached to your cards that’s mucking up the reading. Reading on a negative situation may produce negative card outcomes. But sometimes you do get a funky, unexplainably negative vibe that needs clearing.
Reading too often on a subject can cause the readings to become confused. In that case, the common practice is to let the deck “rest” or restart by cleansing it.
You feel the need to reconnect with a deck – If your cards were stored away for a while, cleansing or clearing them is a great way to reconnect. The same goes for an older deck that you want to revisit.
How to Cleanse and Bless Your Tarot Cards
One of the most popular methods for cleansing tarot cards is with incense.
Many religious traditions burn incense in purification rituals. In the West, the more popular incenses used for cleansing are white sage, sweet grass or palo santo. Palo santo is my favorite with its woodsy and bright scent.
You can also use stick, cone, or loose incense. Choose an incense that has blessing or cleansing properties associated with it.
Some readers cleanse each card in their deck one at a time. But if you want to have one go at it with the whole deck, do that.
It’s also a good idea to cleanse yourself or your reading space to clear out any energy around you. Smudging yourself before and after readings (especially when reading for someone else) is a common practice with tarot readers.
If you like incense, but have terrible allergies and/or an intolerance to smoke, use cleansing sprays made from essential oils instead. Cleansing sprays work great.
You can find sprays in a variety of base oils –sage, palo santo, etc. Just spritz your space and yourself for that aura-cleansing-goodness to work. Be careful not to spray your cards directly or you’ll risk damaging them.
Side note: a popular term for cleansing with incense is smudging. I highly recommend you read Asali Earthworks article, Language Has Power, on the issues surrounding this term and its appropriation.
2. Under the Full Moon
Place your tarot decks in a window sill, or on a table, where the light of a full moon will hit them.
The moon is full every 29-ish days. You can get apps that will alert you a couple of days before the full moon. I use Deluxe Moon Pro and Briana Saussy’s Astro Rx calendar that can be exported to your phone.
As the moon changes phases, it also moves through the twelve positions of the zodiac wheel. If you want to amp up the energy, you can also use the zodiac sign of the full moon to charge up your deck with an intention.
For example, Capricorn has an affinity with business, career, and authority. For example, let’s say it’s a full moon in Capricorn. You could cleanse and charge your deck under that moon to imbue it with properties related to business and career. That night, or the next day, you could read on business or career related matters for yourself or clients. Your deck would have a little extra oomph on subject matters ruled by Capricorn.
But if that’s too complicated, plain old moonlight works fine too!
3. A Sun Bath
Like a moon bath, you can leave your cards out during a sunny day, or in a spot where they will receive ample sunlight.
I wouldn’t recommend this if you live in a humid environment – unless warped or bent cards don’t bother you. I’ve had cards warp from exposure to the late-afternoon sun, even indoors on my reading table. Granted, I live in a hot and humid locale. Your mileage may vary! Still, this is a great method to use if you want to charge your cards with positive, radiant energy.
4. Singing bowl
If you have one, try it out. Some folks believe that the sound of the bowls can cleanse and attune people or objects. Place your deck in the bowl, or in the presence of the bowl, as you ring it.
Reiki is an energy healing system that uses energy channeled through the hands. Traditionally, practitioners are certified in the system by a teacher or institution. If you know Reiki, try it as a way of cleansing your cards. If you’re not certified in Reiki, try meditating with an intention while holding the cards in your hands.
Many readers swear by the salt method. Wrap your cards in plastic and bury the deck in a container of salt. If that idea resonates with you, try it. Personally, it seems too messy, along with risking damage to the cards (can you tell yet how picky I am about my cards?). But, again, many tarot practitioners love this method.
Here’s a less messy suggestion: placing your cards on top of a Himalayan salt slab. You can find them in most large grocery stores.
Crystals go with tarot like peanut butter and jelly. Using crystals to recharge and cleanse a deck is one of my favorite methods. Place a clear quartz point on top of your deck when not in use. Easy.
Some ideas for crystals that work well with cleansing tarot cards:
Clear quartz – Cleanses the deck. It also amplifies the energy of the cards.
Selenite – Cleansing and connecting with spirit guides.
Black tourmaline – Grounding. Absorbs negative energy.
Amethyst – Same properties of quartz plus enhance psychic senses and intuition.
You can place crystals under, between, or on top of your cards.
8. Knocking on the deck
That’s right. Knock three times on your tarot deck, as you would a door.
I’ve had it explained to me that it both clears the cards and “wakes them up”. My inner animist loves this idea. This is definitely the quickest and easiest clearing method to use in a pinch.
9. Blowing on the cards
There are readers who clear their cards by fanning out the deck and blowing on it.
Using your breath for cleansing is an intriguing method. I don’t know the origin of this practice, but it reminds me of gambling folklore. There’s a tradition in the card game Baccarat where players will blow on the cards to remove bad luck. You’ll also see this practice in dice-based games where players blow on dice for good luck.
Maybe this is a lingering tradition from tarot’s early history as a card game? Either way, it works for a lot of people!
10. Visualization and meditation
Visualization or meditation techniques work well for cleansing tarot cards. Imagine a ball of light cleansing the cards or wind blowing away the residual energy. This can be done while shuffling or holding the deck in your hands.
Similarity, some readers recite prayers to cleanse and charge their cards. When developing a meditation or prayer for your cards, ask yourself what you want your deck to help you with. Some examples include: guidance from spirit or your higher self, to serve your clients, help with healing or shadow work, etc.
11. Reordering the deck and shuffling
This is one of my favorite methods to either get reacquainted to a deck that’s been in storage a while or meet a new deck.
To do this, reorder a shuffled deck with the Major Arcana first, followed by the Minor Arcana. So, for me, I start with the Fool at 0 and the World last at 22. Then I stack the suits from Ace to 10 with the court cards in order from Page, Knight, Queen to King. I put them all back in a stack (no preference on which suit comes first).
For me, this is like hitting the restart button on a tarot deck. It also refreshes my memory on the imagery of decks that I haven’t used in a while. Sometimes in this process, new insights on the imagery of a card will pop up.
All of the methods above can be mixed and matched. Try one out and see if it works for your readings.
Hopefully, you’ve found a cleansing method that resonates with you. If not, don’t worry! There are many amazing, talented readers who don’t use any of these cleansing methods.
If you’ve read my How and Why Tarot Works post, you’ll see that a metaphysical approach isn’t necessary to read and experience tarot. It’s all up to you and what feels best for you.
Do you have another system or technique of cleansing? Do you use any of the methods above? Let us know in the comments section below.