Some years ago I was browsing the New Age section of a bookstore. I bumped into someone I had gone to school with but did not know quite well. We started pointing out books on the shelves that we had read, briefly reviewing & recommending. I gestured at a couple of Tarot books. "These are pretty good. Are you into Tarot?"
My acquaintance blanched, "You should be careful," she warned, "You can be attacked by demons if you mess with the Tarot." This pretty much stopped me short. She had seemed more sophisticated and knowledgeable about other metaphysical topics. Not wishing to challenge her personal beliefs, I merely raised my eyebrows and stammered something like, "Oh, demons, yeah."
I have been reading the cards off and on for almost ten years now--to be honest, more "off" than on, it depends on what is going on in my life and how I'm feeling, time constraints and so forth, but for me, the Tarot is more of a friendly tool than an "ooga booga" scary thing.
This little article is partially my attempt to kickstart myself into getting involved in the cards again, and partially an offering to the Tarot newbies I meet on message boards and online communities. My approach is simple: If it feels good, do it. If it doesn't feel right for you, skip it.
CHOOSING A DECK: One of the best ways is to go to a metaphysical bookstore, because they will usually have several "demo" decks that are open that you can look at. Choose one that feels good to you, you should feel comfortable with the pictures. A word about the pictures: the pictures are what determine the usefulness of a deck. It is important, at least when you are just starting out, to make sure your deck has full pictures on every card. Some decks omit pictures on the pip cards--cards one to ten of the minor arcana suits (wands, cups, swords, coins, or however they are labeled.) Save these decks for later when you are starting a Tarot art deck collection.
Choose a book to go with it--those little booklets that come with the deck are ok but they don't have enough information. The book should be fairly simple and be keyed to your deck--if you have a Rider-Waite deck, a book designed to go with the Crowley deck will not work! Check the pictures in the book, or if there aren't any, check the book's introduction and it will either tell you this is ok to use with all decks or whatever. You can also go with a deck/book set if you have the dough.
BONDING WITH YOUR DECK: This is very important to being able to key into your deck and have it absorb your energy--it sounds weird, but you have to "bond" with your deck like it was a person. The way I personally do this is by putting it under my pillow at night. Also, handling them as much as possible & playing with them is a good thing. A special meditation you can do with your cards is to sit in a comfortable spot where you won't be disturbed for a few minutes. Sit with your legs uncrossed & your cards in your hand, resting on your lap or out in front of you. Close your eyes, and visualize a golden ball of brilliant light starting at your feet. Move it slowly up, and imagine that as it passes, it leaves relaxation, health, & vitality throughout your entire body. When it reaches your shoulders, imagine the energy from the golden ball spilling down your arms, into your hands, and directly into your Tarot deck. Then allow it to move up to your shoulders, neck & head. As it reaches your head, imagine your brain being illuminated with intuition and wisdom. End by taking 3 deep breaths & coming out of it. This can be done in a couple of minutes, and it would be a good practice to do every time you sit down to do readings.
Another way to meditate with your deck is to just pull cards, maybe one a day, and just look at it for about five minutes. How do the pictures make you feel? What do the symbols mean to you? This will be valuable later when you are interpreting cards in readings.
TAKING CARE OF YOUR CARDS: Wrap your cards in a piece of cloth to protect them. Some say that the best cloth is a piece of black silk, but I say the best thing to do is go to a fabric store and choose whatever kind of fabric feels right to you. Purchase enough yardage to make a square, and you can also use this wrap cloth as a layout cloth, also a good thing to have. Another good thing is either a bag or a box to keep your cards in.
It is a good idea to keep your deck away from prying eyes when not in use. As far as allowing others to handle it goes, use your judgment on this. I generally wouldn't let anyone with really hostile energy touch my deck, or read for them. Ditto people that tend to have disdain for the Tarot like it was some kind of superstition. Ultimately, anyone you read for will be touching the cards, so go with your intuition on this issue.
Other accessories for readings include crystals, either raw, unpolished ones or the kind that are polished that you find in nature stores. Good ones to choose are rose quartz, amethyst, and sodalite. Do the same "energy" meditation that you do with your cards, then set them out on your layout cloth during a reading, where it will help balance the energy in the room.
Music, incense, and special jewelry or clothing can also help set the mood here, once again, go with what you feel is best.
Just to clarify my position on the whole fat bands issue, I had kind of an outburst this weekend when I saw these two fat chicks, I think they called themselves "Floetic" or something like that, on the MTV.
It brought to mind this band (long before my nieces' day, back in the grunge era) called Screaming Trees. They were formed by the portly brother duo, Van & Clive Conner. Two unkempt looking fat guys in lumberjack shirts, playing rip roarin' grunge metal, good times. Mr. Adam Duritz also carries some extra poundage.
All I'm sayin' is, fat people need to get out there in the music world, and represent. Fat people are not seen on MTV enough, and the few times they are, they are the fricken' coolest thing going!
I also like a man with a little meat on his bones. But that's another issue.