Tarot Jam Blog Hop: New Deck Ritual

Thursday, January 7th, 2016


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A new year means a lot of new things here over at HQ. For starters, I recently joined a new community called “The Tarosophy Tarot Association”. A tribe of professional bloggers dedicated to the art of tarot reading, with Fiona Benjamin as the leader and organizer. Their intention is to host a monthly blog hop that is an exclusive forum for their members to share their tarot and cartomantic blogs and build community through writing on a common theme or prompt. So this month’s theme was “New Year: New Decks”. So…

Hello, my lovelies (both new and old)!

Get comfy! It’s story time with yours truly. We’re gonna talk about how I came across my first deck and what we do in my family when it comes to doing readings. Just so you know, I come from a Latin and Celtic background. Two entirely different worlds that somehow crashed together to create moi. When I was a little girl, my mother and my grandmother used to have women come over to the house all the time to do readings. The women used to tell them their problems.

“Is he playing me dirty?” one would ask or, “How do I ‘fix’ my boss at work?” another would say.

The two matriarchs would use the La Baraja Española or the Spanish playing cards as their main tarot cards of choice. These cards would be dedicated to a personal ancestor spirit (usually a gypsy) along with other tools the spirit may need. When not in use, they rest near the Eggun or boveda. The cards are covered in either a black or red cloth bag, ribbons or wooden box. They usually said their own prayers, often in Spanish, to call the spirits within and ask permission to speak to the client’s guides.

I was taught tarot cards can never be purchased. They must be given to you as a gift by either family, godparents, or passed on from generation to generation. (Things have changed over the years, I know. Each house practices their own rules. These were the ones dealt to me in mine. So you are free to take it or leave it.) Once you receive them, you must clean them with tobacco. The tobacco must come from a nicely sized cigar with no additives.

You could also use rum, rose oil, holy water or Florida Water cologne, especially after each reading, to cleanse the deck and yourself. The tobacco smoke is often used as an offering to spirits for healing and cleansing. We always had a huge glass of water on the table, an empty chair and a white candle lit before any session started to allow better communication with spirit and to absorb any negativity the client might bring in. The table was either dressed white to represent spiritual purity of God and red for La Gitana. According to my mother, it was just a clean wooden table at first (which was sufficient) many years ago.

The layout was done as a storybook style. Read from left to right horizontally (sometimes vertically and diagonally), one card after the other but seven at a time in 3-4 rows representing the past, present, future and possible paths the client could take. Just like a storybook, your job was to literally read it out loud as you see it unfold (Being an animator, I always saw it as a storyboard I had to pitch!). This is called “the gypsy spread”.


Clubs meant positive thinking or planning to put your ideas into action. Swords meant obstacles, problems or negative thoughts; or sometimes just the reverse (conquering addiction or problem solving)! Coins were obviously about money, work or pregnancy. Cups spoke of messages, hidden meanings or feelings. The court cards represented the people in the client’s life. Unlike the Rider-Waite styled tarot cards, these are a bit more tricky and take lots of practice to master.

I was told I was lucky since tarot cards can now be printed out. It was not unheard of that you had to make your own deck to work with from scratch! Thievery was very prevalent in “ye olden days.” Imagine stealing a gypsy reader’s cards that they made themselves. The very representation of their psychic abilities taken away. Powerful stuff to say the least! Hence one of many possible reasons for the superstitious tradition of tarot cards being gifted. That and to keep the family secret alive, protected and well…a secret. Remember, not a lot of people took kindly to divination not that long ago. 


Mom’s Side Note: Seriously, woe to the person that did that.
They would have nothing but misery.
The cards didn’t even belong to the living owner but the spirit it was dedicated to.
But the cards would end up coming back to the original owner.
That’s why we never give away our cards outside family.


With other decks I’ve collected over the years, I will just cleanse them the same way I do the Spanish cards. When those decks are not in use, they go with my la gitana or los arabes near my boveda for safe keeping. When we do get a new deck, me and my mother sit down to “bloody” it. In other words, it’s time to try it out in a real reading! You never know just how strong or well suited a deck can be until you start working with it.


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1 Rootweaver { 01.07.16 at 4:23 pm }

I love reading about home-grown traditions. Great post!

2 Mani C. Price { 01.08.16 at 3:24 am }

Thanks, Andi!

3 Joy Vernon { 01.07.16 at 6:44 pm }

I loved reading about your family traditions! Very interesting. And some very practical approaches!

4 Mani C. Price { 01.08.16 at 3:26 am }

Thank you, Joy! We believe in the “Kiss it” motto. Keep it simple, sweetheart. The rest will flow.

5 Loreen Muzik { 01.07.16 at 6:47 pm }

Oh I LOVE “sit down to “bloody” it”!! YES – I’m a dive in kinda gal myself. And I adore the storybook analogy and that spread – I’m going to have to try that.

6 Mani C. Price { 01.08.16 at 3:27 am }

That was exactly how I was taught as a girl to read the cards, Loreen. No fear or judgment. Just do it.

7 Mellissae Lucia { 01.07.16 at 11:20 pm }

Fabulously fascinating article. Loved getting a glimpse into your traditions and wondered what may transpire if someone stole a handmade deck…

8 Mani C. Price { 01.08.16 at 3:31 am }

We have stories passed down orally explaining why this or that. For this, we have a saying in our home, “Don’t worry! The Devil will pay for it.”

9 Tasha Erker { 01.08.16 at 12:07 am }

It was so enjoyable to read about your traditions! Thank you for a lovely post!

10 Mani C. Price { 01.08.16 at 3:32 am }

Thank you, Tasha!

11 Fiona Benjamin { 01.08.16 at 8:40 pm }

Thanks for sharing your traditions! This is BEAUTIFUL, and I always have a special place in my heart for tarot decks that are gifts.

12 Mani C. Price { 01.09.16 at 1:52 am }

(y) Thanks, Fiona! 🙂 I find it also interesting how so many have commented on the same thing lol

13 Hazellie Wong { 01.09.16 at 12:39 am }

I love hearing about your upbringing and traditions! It’s so interesting to see what kind of knowledge and wisdom has been passed down from generations. This is the first time I’m hearing about cleaning with tobacco, that’s fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing a part of your magical life with us.

14 Mani C. Price { 01.09.16 at 1:59 am }

You’re welcome, Hazellie. Yep, amongst other things. Certain herbs are used too but what I mentioned, it the usual preferred go to. Like for example: My Irish grandmother used lavender dried and bound to the decks to cleanse them after each reading.

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