Whenever I go to my friend’s apartment for rosé and a tarot-card reading (mostly for rosé, but as long as the deck is there…), I get embarrassed about not knowing how to shuffle tarot cards. See, if you’re getting your cards read by someone, your literal only job is to pick cards, and shuffle the deck, and maybe channel your energy toward the process. But whenever I try to shuffle the deck, I feel as though the cards are splaying about randomly and un-artfully and that I’m just doing it wrong. But why do we shuffle our tarot decks, anyway?
Well, beyond the fact that you don’t simply want to draw the same cards over and over and over again, shuffling the deck is really important on an energetic level, according to Alexis Alvarez, an intuitive energy worker and spiritual advisor.
“Shuffling serves a kind of meditative purpose in which we can ask for assistance, guidance and protection from our Divine Support System—our chosen belief system—during the card reading,” Alvarez tells me. “We can also use this shuffle time to ask, out loud or in our mind, the particular question we are trying to get advice on. This helps us ground and center our energy so we can be in the best state possible to connect with and retrieve the information we are seeking.”
So when we mix up the cards, sloppily and with a Knight of Pentacles about to jump ship (or, y’know, fall to the floor) in the process, we’re essentially shuffling a piece of ourselves in there. That way, when we draw a card, it’ll give us a clear and accurate read of what may be to come. It’s really about injecting a sort of intuitive spirit into your deck by trusting the divine power of entrusting it to guide you. It’s why, at least in part, the hand that you use to shuffle your deck may matter when it comes to connecting with that higher power.
“Traditionally, card readers used their left hand to shuffle because the left side is associated with feminine, intuitive, and receptive energy. This allowed them to receive true, accurate cosmic wisdom.” —Alexis Alvarez, spiritual advisor
“Traditionally, card readers would use their left hand to control the shuffle and deal the cards because the left side of the body is associated with feminine, intuitive, and receptive energy,” Alvarez says. “They agreed this allowed them to receive true and accurate cosmic wisdom. Others believe you should shuffle and deal with your non-dominant hand. Most people are right-hand dominant, so that still means using the left hand to shuffle. But if you’re left-handed, then your right hand would be your non-dominant one.”
Maybe that partially explains why I, a right-handed person shuffling and drawing with my left hand, am all willy-nilly with the cards. Or maybe I’m just very shaky when it comes to being intuitive and trusting my inner feelings. But even if I’m injecting my trademark nervous energy into the deck, what matters is that I try—and that, I definitely do. At least that energy will hold firm in the cards because, as Alvarez says, “we use the shuffling process to ground, center, and connect to Source energy so we can trust the information and guidance we receive during the reading.” Basically, be authentically you when shuffling to get the most accurate and valuable tarot-card reading.
Let’s get back to how to shuffle tarot cards, which is actually really simple:
Before we start, you may be interested to know that there isn’t one singular way to properly shuffle the cards. “Whatever way you are comfortable with is the best way, Alvarez says. “There is no one ‘right’ way, in my opinion.” Still, there are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Open your tarot card deck, and cleanse it if it’s brand new
When someone receives a new tarot deck or a secondhand deck that’s only new to them, it’s important to get all the energetic gunk off it by cleansing it. This generally involves meditating with your deck while passing each card through the smoke of palo santo or sage. This practice helps for getting the more accurate readings, but if you’re just a tarot card tourist and picking from someone else’s deck, obviously don’t worry about it.
2. Hold the cards and ruminate on a question you’d love guidance in answering
This step, in particular, explains how you imprint yourself into the deck to get the answer you seek. Take a meditative moment to ask the cards if right now is the right time to leave your job, if your latest Bumble match is the one, or anything else that might be weighing on your mind.
3. Then focus on that question and shuffle the cards in whatever way you see fit
Think about how tarot is all about intuition and really feeling what’s right, because that’s the only rule to keep in mind for shuffling your cards: to do it in a way that feels right to you. That could include dividing the pile in two and flipping them into each other, or you could divide the cards into little sections and pile them up on top of each other, or you could do what I do and divide the cards in half and then forcefully shove the halves into one another. It’s dealers choice, baby! Just make sure they’re mixed.
4. Once shuffled, you’re ready to draw your cards
I’m used to doing a three-card-method reading, which means you cut the deck into three piles. The first pile is supposed to be emblematic of your past and what you’ve gone through, the second pile is emblematic of your present dilemma, and the third forecasts what awaits you in the future and how you’re supposed to approach it. But that’s just one method, and, as Alvarez says about shuffling, with drawing too, there’s no right way.
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