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spreading the cardsI have my own way of shuffling tarot cards before a reading, which has developed over the years. I read somewhere that a deck is randomized if shuffled about seven times. Now seven is a magical number, and I immediately took to the notion of seven shuffles before cutting the deck and laying out the cards.

Next, I made the connection with the seven planets of classical astrology: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. With each shuffle, I think of the energy of the particular planetary deity, speak or bring to mind his or her Latin name, and make a related affirmation, silently to myself.

  1. Luna – to open my intuition
  2. Mercurius – to articulate my insights
  3. Venus – to work with empathy and compassion
  4. Sol – to focus on the central message
  5. Mars – to be direct and honest, even if it hurts
  6. Iupiter – to be generous with my time and thoughts
  7. Saturnus – to know my boundaries, to be objective

After a reading, the cards are shuffled a final time, honoring the sphere of the fixed stars beyond the planets, to clear the energy of the reading.

I came up with a further variation on this ritual. Mary Greer had written that a reversed tarot card is something like a planet in retrograde.

I seldom use reversals when I read tarot. I keep my decks with all their cards upright. I find I respond to the images better if they are in the position the artist intended, and I also think the cards carry enough symbolic richness in themselves that the additional permutations resulting from reversals aren’t generally needed. I also dislike the prospect of a reading where most of the cards are reversed, which dilutes the impact of a reversed card almost to meaninglessness, it seems.

However, Mary’s remark gave me an idea. What if I reversed a segment of the deck for each planet that is in retrograde at the time of the reading? This will not yield many reversals, and there will be times with no reversals at all. It also infused the reading with some of the astrological energies available at the moment, which has some appeal to me. Initially, I tried reversing about a seventh of the cards before the shuffle that is dedicated to the retrograde planet. This works fine if it is one of the planets early in the shuffling sequence, Mercury say, but if it is one of the later ones, then the reversed cards do not get mixed in very well, and remain as a clump. So my preferred way of doing this is to separate the deck into seven roughly equal piles and reverse those corresponding to retrograde planets, then recombine the piles, all before the first shuffle.

If you’d like to try this, the only planet retrograde at the moment is Saturn, so you would reverse the last of the seven piles before shuffling.


March 2008
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