Cleansing your deck: The six methods you need to refresh your readings

Liz Dean
Like any other spiritual tool, your tarot cards absorb energy. This may be from you – your thoughts and emotions – or from your querent (the person you’re reading for), along with vibes from the environment in which you work with your cards. When old energy accumulates, readings don’t flow, you feel less connected to your deck and the cards may feel physically heavy, too. Sound familiar? If so, it’s time to release that residual energy with a thorough card-cleanse. Before you dive in, though, don’t underestimate the power of the shuffle. The physical momentum of the cards shifts energy, beginning a process of cleansing that you can continue using one of the methods below.
  1. The knock
The ‘knock’ is my rapid go-to method. I use it as a standalone technique between readings to support a strong card connection, and after other purification methods such as smoke or breath (see below). The reason for the knock is that you’re knocking residual energy out of the deck. What I also love about the knock is that it echoes the luck-bringing practice of knocking on wood – when our ancestors knocked on a tree trunk to awaken the tree spirit within to request good fortune and protection. In the same way, when we knock on our cards, we’re affirming that they are protected from negative energy. * To knock your cards, hold the deck in your left hand (or non-dominant hand) so it’s face down. With your free hand, knock on the top of the deck firmly as if you’re rapping on a door. Do this once. (Some readers knock three times, but I prefer one sharp rap to declare that the cards are ready to read). These next cleansing methods align with the elements of Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Spirit. See which one(s) resonate with you most, remembering (if you prefer) to finish the process with a firm knock.
  1. The exhalation
Element of Air Using your breath is another simple and rapid cleansing technique. First, set the intention that your breath will purify the cards. * When you are ready, hold the deck before you, mouth-level, and inhale deeply. Exhale as you gently flick through the deck (use your thumb, as if you’re flicking through the pages of a book). Return to natural breathing. If it feels right to do so, repeat one or two more times until you sense the deck feels lighter. An additional benefit to this method is that a deep breath in and out relaxes the nervous system, helping you feel calm and centred before you begin your card interpretations.
  1. Herbal smoke
Element of Fire Dried sage is traditionally used to purify spaces as the herb’s smoke removes old energy; opt for a sage wand (or one that includes sage and other purifying herbs such as sweetgrass, lavender, mugwort and rosemary). You can also work with sage-infused incense sticks, too, to cleanse your tarot cards. * Light your wand or incense, place in a bowl or shell while it’s still smoking (or an incense holder) and move your fanned-out cards over the smoke so it circulates over and between the cards. If you have a feather, use it to waft the smoke onto the cards’ surfaces. Alternatively, hold the fanned-out deck in one hand and hold the lit wand or incense in the other hand, moving the wand or stick around the cards so the smoke reaches as many cards as possible. This need only take a minute or so, and don’t worry if you can’t immerse each card in smoke – what counts, along with the technique, is the intention to cleanse; your intention works powerfully alongside the sage.
  1. Essential oil mist
Element of Water Choose a cleansing essential that resonates with you: rosemary, lemongrass and lavender are popular choices. My favourite, lavender essential oil, rebalances energy and neutralises negative vibes. It’s often used to make a room spray to clear the air, and you can use it to cleanse your tarot cards, too. * Add a few drops of your essential oil to a mister bottle filled with water. Shake the bottle gently, then spray four or five times into the space in front of you. Quickly pass your fanned-out cards through the spray-mist, then set them to one side, still fanned out, to breathe a little. (Don’t spray directly onto your cards in case the water damages the cards’ surfaces.) After around 30 minutes, you can restack the deck.
  1. A quartz crystal
Element of Earth As clear quartz is renowned for its cleansing properties, many readers store their decks with a clear quartz crystal to protect it from negative energy it when it’s out of use. * Take a small piece of clear quartz, cleanse it in running water or with your breath (see 1, above) and place it on top of the deck. Bind the crystal to the deck by wrapping the two together in your reading cloth and store in a box or bag until ready for use. Tip – The overnighter: Another Earth-element purifier is salt. Like sage, it’s a traditionally powerful cleansing agent. All you need do is fill a bowl with salt crystals and immerse your deck overnight.
  1. White light
Element of Spirit Some readers cleanse their cards with white light, which banishes old energy imprints. To cleanse this way, visualise white light coming into the palms of your hands and into the cards. See your cards bathed in white light and glowing with energy. When to cleanse your cards * Before you begin a reading for yourself or others * When anyone has handled your cards * Before reading with a new deck * Before selling or giving away a deck. In practice I cleanse first with the breath and then knock on the deck, which takes just a few moments (and ideal when I have consecutive readings). If you’re working with sage smoke and/or essential oil mist, you can take the opportunity to cleanse your aura and well as your cards. Tip – Let your cards tell you: The Ten of Wands as a jumping card (a card that jumps out of the deck while you’re shuffling) can be a reminder to you that it’s time to cleanse or ‘clear down’ your deck. This Ten says there’s too much going on – so the first thing to do in this instance is to cleanse the cards before you read.