do I need to know how to shuffle a tarot deck?
Why am I writing a post about how to shuffle a tarot deck? Well, you may not think this is a problem but many people seem to have issues with this task. However, before I go into these problems and explain a method to shuffle any tarot deck, I want to explain why it’s important to ensure your tarot deck is adequately shuffled in the first place. In this post I will be referring to people seeking a tarot reading as querents which is the traditional term.
As with all things I write in this blog, please take what works for you and leave the rest.
Firstly, for practical reasons, you need to shuffle your deck to make sure the cards are as randomised as possible after the previous reading. You don’t want the last reading to appear again! This may seem pretty obvious but the same cards coming up in the next reading can be really confusing as I can personally attest to. It completely disrupts the reading and, really, the only option is to shuffle the deck properly and start again which is time wasting.
Secondly, on a more metaphysical level, you need to shuffle the deck so that the energies from the previous reading (if reading for yourself) or from the previous querent’s reading (if reading for others) are properly dissapated. Again, failing to shuffle the deck can cause these lingering energies to cause interference and we don’t want that.
problems with shuffling tarot decks
So, we need to shuffle the deck properly before giving a reading. What problems do people have?
There are several that I see regularly mentioned, either on forums, Amazon deck reviews, Reddit… you name it. The first problem people complain about is that they damage their decks when shuffling because the card stock used by the deck publisher is not good quality. When people talk about damaging their cards through shuffling it’s usually because they use a bridge or riffle shuffle, treating the tarot deck as if it’s a deck of playing cards. This type of shuffling is fast if you can do it – I can’t to save my life – but it wears out cards really fast.
Many tarot decks use card stock that is very thin meaning it’s easily bent or creased or too thick meaning the cards are not very flexible. Some card stock is, frankly, completely rubbish and should not have been used in the first place. There are some tarot decks that use card stock designed to be shuffled using the bridge or riffle shuffle technique but not all of them. When you are considering buying a tarot deck try to find reviews and see what people think of the card stock. It may seem trivial but you want a deck that is going to last you a long while and not fall to pieces.
The second issue is that tarot decks come in all shapes and sizes. Some are tiny, miniature decks which would be difficult to riffle shuffle. Other decks are very large and people with small hands have difficulty handling them, let alone shuffling them. I have seen many complaints from people stating they cannot shuffle their decks because of the size. The curse of the riffle shuffle strikes again, as if this is the only way to shuffle a tarot deck! It is not.
How to shuffle a tarot deck regardless of card size or card quality
Alright, you’ve got your tarot deck in front of you. It has very large cards and you’re not certain the card stock will survive being riffle shuffled. How can you adequately shuffle this deck? Before we even get to that please make sure you cover the reading surface, whether that’s a table or something else, with a reading cloth of some description. It will protect the cards. On to Tarot deck shuffling!
The Swirly Shuffle Technique
The first technique is the one where you simply swirl the cards around on the table to mix them up with a result that looks something like this:
Well, this might do the trick but this shuffling technique is not great. Why? Three reasons: Firstly, you still risk damaging the cards. If you happen to be using an expensive, vintage or out of print deck then this is something you want to avoid. Secondly, if you read professionally then this shuffling method really doesn’t look, well, professional. Appearances matter. Finally, the method isn’t brilliant for really mixing up the cards. I don’t use this shuffling method and I don’t recommend it. I’m bringing it up here to point out you should avoid it too for the above reasons.
So what shuffling technique do I use?
The Multiple Pile Method for Shuffling Tarot Decks
This method is simplicity itself and looks like this:
All you have to do to shuffle the deck is deal the cards evenly to several piles as in the picture above. In the picture I dealt the cards into six different piles but it doesn’t have to be six. It could be two, three or more piles – as many as you want really. The number of piles is not important, I just happen to like six as I believe this means the cards are sufficiently shuffled and six is a nice even number.
After dealing the cards into these piles you then collect all the piles back together to form the whole deck once more. If you want you can then do a further hand over hand shuffle. That’s it. It’s easy, relatively quick, can be done with any type and size of tarot card and will leave your cards looking pristine.
Hang on though, what if you read for other people face to face and you want your querent to shuffle the deck?
When I hand the cards over to the querent, I ask them to do the same thing – deal the cards into several piles. They can do it at whatever speed they like and I still ask them to think about their question while they deal the cards. The end result is the same.
What happens if you want to use reversed tarot cards?
Shuffling The Tarot Deck To Ensure Reversed Cards
I’m not going to debate the merits or otherwise of using reversed tarot cards in this post; that’s for another article. Sometimes I decide not to use reversed cards. However, when I do decide to use tarot reversals what I do is still the Multiple Pile technique above but, following that, I add another step.
Once I have brought all the piles back into a single deck once more, I then divide the deck into three seperate piles like so:
To ensure I have a fair mix of both upright and reversed cards, I then turn the middle pile around:
I then bring the three piles back into one deck and do a hand over hand shuffle. I usually repeat this process – dividing the cards into three piles and turning the middle pile around – one or two times more to really make sure there is a mix of reversed and upright cards. This may seem like a hassle but it doesn’t take long and a good tarot reading shouldn’t be rushed anyway.
To learn much more about how to read reversed tarot cards, see the post ‘Read Reversed Tarot Cards With W.I.N.D‘ which you can read here.
And there you have it. I have used the Multiple Pile shuffling technique for years and, because of this, all of the tarot decks I use, even the ones I started out with 16 or so years ago, are still in pristine or very good condition. I do not ‘wear out’ decks and you don’t have to either. After all, if an artist or crafts person looks after their tools, why shouldn’t a tarot reader do the same?
For more on shuffling the deck and how to get the most from your readings, see the post ‘How to Read Tarot Cards – 10 Steps for Great Readings‘ which you can read here.