A friend of mine, a truly beautiful human being, is Pagan. Part of my adventure to better understand it was charged by my desire to better understand her, because I appreciate her and her wise perspective. Well, just recently I was practicing with my tarot cards. As you may know, I use tarot cards not for the stereotypical fortune telling practice, but as a way to get better insight into my own thoughts and situation. (Want to learn how to use tarot in your Satanic practice? Check this out!) November is usually an important month for me by way of personal breakthroughs. It was in the month of November that I apostasized. This year I find myself feeling drained, and I found the need to find my center, and so that’s why tarot seemed like a fun way to get that new perspective.
When I discussed the reading with my friend, who is versed in tarot, I mentioned that overall I had a foreboding feeling about it, even when I reached for the deck. To me this communicates a certain reluctance to deal with whatever problem I could be facing. It makes sense to me that if I am feeling this gloom while reaching for a tool to pull me out of my rut, that my rut is probably deeper than I thought, and it might take more than just a spin of tarot to pull myself out. I read the cards, I told her. I did several spreads to see what I’d decipher about myself, and all in all it was the same thing, but that feeling. Well, I said, it bothered me. After a pause she asked, “Did you consider cleansing the deck?”
No, I hadn’t considered cleansing the deck. Cleansing the deck isn’t really a part of my system of beliefs. I look at the deck of tarot cards and I see a way of forming a story, and I recognize that I have a strong bias about my inner thoughts that help to pull that story together. For me, it isn’t supernatural whatsoever. Cleansing the deck doesn’t matter because the deck itself doesn’t have energy in my beliefs. If energy exists, it’s the emotional energy that I am reading into when I read the cards. If I were to take some quartz and put it in a beautiful little bag and set it on the windowsill to soak up the moonlight as a way to ‘cleanse the deck’ I don’t believe it would have any impact on my readings.
But then I realized something interesting. This ritualistic Pagan practice of ‘cleansing’ the deck can also be seen as…well, an element in a psychodrama. It’d depend on the person, sure, but there are things that we do in our ceremonies which have metaphorical significance. The first one that comes to my mind is the ringing of the bell during a Greater Magic ritual. The bell (or gong, I guess) is used as a way to clear the air at the beginning of the ritual and cue our minds to separate what was just happening in the moment from what is about to be happening in the next moment. After some experience and practice with this element of Greater Magic, we can feel a change flip in ourselves (think pavlov’s dog of psychology!). I can see the same sort of phenomena applied to “charging a tarot deck.”
Myself, as a Satanist, would not believe that charging the deck will actually change the mood of my reading because it’s something that I know I am biased toward. But, let’s say I include it as a part of my own ritual. Let’s say I begin to use tarot as a way to learn more about myself and to grow as an individual. As soon as I start using tarot a way to better myself and live a happier life, I can say that for me, it has become something I do for my religion. A ritual is something that is done for religious reasons (with parameters.) Cutting to the chase here, using tarot could become for a Satanist a type of ritual, and cleansing the deck could be comparable to the sounding of the bell. Maybe if I were to use this deck as a tool to better know myself on a consistent basis, that by ‘cleansing the deck’ in whatever which way would allow me to say, “Okay. I was feeling THAT emotion on that day, and now we’ve got a clean slate.” It doesn’t mean that I think that the moon is actually doing anything, much like how I don’t believe that the patriarchs of Hell (who don’t literally exist btw) are going to be like, ‘hey! The bell! Let’s go line up, Ave’s about to do an invocation!’
So in the end, I think her suggestion wasn’t so far off the mark. If my gloomy attitude had come from some frustration that the tarot deck hadn’t helped me find that third perspective in my last play with them, it stands to reason that it could be helpful to have some sort of symbolic ‘that was then, this is now’ element to ritualistically separate the reading from one to another, just like the bell in the Greater Magic ritual. Of course, she wasn’t considering this depth of symbolism when she made the suggestion (I don’t think), but this is also a good reason for us Satanists to research other belief systems (or “paths”). Had I not cultivated a decent enough understanding of the elements of her own belief system, there’s no way I’d be able to adapt it usefully into my own on my own terms.
Many religions over the years have borrowed practices from one another and have adapted them to better suit their needs. Satanism is no different. If you open the Satanic Bible and ponder why certain elements are included in a psychodrama, you will recognize some of them influenced from other schools of thought (or belief systems). This allows us to feel that they are “authentic” for our psychodrama, I think. Greater Magic is all about the subconscious, about our emotions, and not about our logical mind. While the definition of Greater Magic is already established and where ‘charging a tarot deck’ is not included in that, I could see an argument that it could possibly be implemented as a piece of a ritual (though not as magic, like I said) in Satanism, depending on the practitioner. We must never delude ourselves, only indulge in our fantasies in a safe and responsible way. I don’t see the harm in being playful with these sorts of things in our lives: if it helps us to get into the right mindset, it’s helpful to us as a whole, regardless of what words are.