What ‘sacred’ means to me

Confession: I cut up tarot cards

To make art! I have a couple of ‘spare’ tarot decks which I keep so I can a) give querents a special card if a reading is particularly wonderful or b) make tarot art for my friends.

As I was chopping away at the Queen of Swords the other day, it occurred to me that not everyone would be okay with this.

There’s a whole load of myths, a lot of shoulds and shouldn’ts and plenty of superstition around tarot which you are free to take or to leave.

Like…

You should be gifted your first tarot deck. What a load of nonsense.

You should keep your cards wrapped in silk. Silk is nice, but so is cotton, cardboard, tin and wood. Or any place where you keep your cards. I promise you they won’t mind.

You should never let anyone else touch your cards. Super-personal choice methinks.

You should cleanse your deck after or before readings. A lovely ritual, but not for everyone. I don’t cleanse mine. Am I bad?

Many tarot superstitions come from the idea that tarot cards are sacred, so must be treated with reverence. So what does ‘sacred’ actually mean?

According to Wikipedia:

Sacred means revered due to association with holiness. Holiness, or sanctity, is in general the state of being holy (perceived by religious individuals as associated with divinity) or sacred (considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion; or inspiring awe or reverence among believers).

Firstly let’s just remove the ‘religious’ bit since a large number of the people reading this do not consider themselves religious. Let’s instead focus on the term ‘spirituality’, agreeing that ‘holiness’ for us means that a sacred thing is associated with spiritual development, feeling closer to our higher selves, the Universe, God or whatever else you might believe exists ‘above’ us.

mentor-of-keys-collective-tarot

The Mentor of Keys, from The Collective Tarot

Are tarot cards sacred?

Hmm. Not really! Not out of the box, not mass-produced in a factory, not packed and shipped from an Amazon warehouse, as so many are.

The cards themselves are… just cards.

It’s what you do with them that makes them sacred.

Focusing your energy on yourself or your querent as you shuffle them. Using them to access your intuition. Bringing their messages to others and helping them find direction or comfort or encouragement. Writing about them. Learning about them. Meditating on them.

You make your cards sacred by using them as part of your spiritual practice. And it doesn’t matter if that’s an emotional, drunken reading with a friend at the end of the night or a crystal-meditation-reading-after-yoga on a beach in Bali. It’s the asking, the questing, that makes your tarot cards sacred.

six-of-swords-wild-unknown-tarot

I’ve quoted this before, but I want to share the genius of Dori Midnight – it’s from the introduction to her Dirty Tarot Cardsan oracle deck with cards such as ‘Slutty’, ‘Pie’, ‘Lucky Penny’ and ‘Hairdye’.

I call this deck dirty because it is not in any way ethereal or pure; instead it is a collection of symbols of things that we have, touch, desire, or tend to in our messy lives.

I believe that we can gain insight and request guidance from anything, anytime. Insight is abundant because the stuff of our lives is sacred.

Read more about Dori Midnight’s Dirty Tarot Cards here.

garden-dori-midnight

She’s said it. The stuff of our lives. Your tarot cards aren’t sacred until you go to them with your questions.

You make them sacred in the asking.

 

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15 comments

  1. Monika says:

    This is exactly what I think. Love this post! I´ve found that it is possible to communicate with any cards, not only those originally intended for tarot reading – ideas, thoughts and symbolism are most important, not cards themselves.

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      Yes! It’s that openness to the signs you need to see. This fits perfectly with my feeling that you already have all of the answers you seek within yourself before you ask your cards. The cards, or any other arbitrary things, give you the signs you’re looking for to tease out those answers which may be buried under… denial, day-to-day worries, all kinds of things.

  2. Ellen says:

    I agree a tarot deck is just a pile of cardboard images but when I hold a deck in my hands I see a key to unlock my intuition and a guide to me show around there.
    Sacred maybe… just like a cross is for a lot of people so much more than just two pieces of wood. I think sacredness is in the eye of the beholder….
    P.S. I think I could cut up a deck for making art if I had bought is especially for that purpose

  3. Ooooooh, I so love this! I have been wanting to follow all of the ‘traditional’ rules and be super careful with the cards, but they are just cards, until I use them. Geez, I love this so much.

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      Hey Ashley! I’ve been pretty strong with my views here, but of course you must go with your own instincts about how to treat your cards. If handling them carefully or with reverence feels right for you, then that’s coming from somewhere important. I’m still pretty careful with mine if I’m honest (apart from the art ones which get the scissor-treatment ;)

  4. Sarah Dawn says:

    Hey Beth,
    Very interesting article. I definitely believe that we increase the sacredness of our decks by spending time with them and bringing our energy and intention to them. My opinion on whether the tarot in of itself is sacred dances in that misty miasma between more “traditional” ideas of sacredness and the more pragmatic view that you describe. That being said, I TOTALLY cut up tarot cards and use them for art too! I’m glad I’m not the only one. :) I feel like creating art is sacred and that art itself is sacred, so even if a tarot deck is sacred all on its own, by incorporating it into a sacred work like art, I am not disrespecting it at all, I am honoring it even more. :)
    -Sarah Dawn

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      Hey Sarah! Wow, this is all so well put – I absolutely agree that the process of creating art from tarot cards is a sacred thing in itself, for me in focusing on the person I’m creating for and and using the card in this way I am honouring the card, all of the work that went into creating it, and the person I’m creating for and the qualities I’m celebrating. That for me very much fits with the description of sacred above.

      I love what you say about working with cards making them more ‘sacred’. Each time we work with our cards, each time we shuffle with intent, each time we lay them down and read their messages for ourselves of for others, we’re adding to the spirituality that surrounds and elevates them.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!! x

  5. Yes this!

    And to add to what you said: Sacred comes from a Latin root that means “set aside”. There’s a related word that (much like escrow in English) means funds held by a third party until a transaction is complete, then released.

    Things are not sacred until we make them sacred by setting them aside, setting them apart from the every day.

    So what you’re saying is not only true in a concrete and practical sense, it is backed up by the etymology and literally millenia of usage, which is always a nice cherry on top.

  6. angharadlois says:

    I love this! I let myself fall prey to the “you should be gifted your first deck” superstition and stifled my curiosity as a result, thinking it was not for me. Luckily I have some wonderful and intuitive friends who gifted a deck after all… but in the meantime, I had explored other forms of divination, and made oracles, and learned my own way what you express so perfectly here: it’s what we do with them that makes them sacred.

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