Tarot readers have turned to divination for advice for centuries, so it makes sense why you’d lean on this mystical practice to guide you through life’s twists and turns. Whether you’re confused about a new relationship or at a crossroads in your career, tarot can help you gain clarity and give you insight into a situation. But before you can get into the juicy details of this practice, like each tarot card’s meanings or which tarot spreads to use, you need to first understand how to shuffle tarot cards in the first place.
In the same way that tarot readings may vary in their interpretation depending on the person interpreting them, the manner in which you shuffle the cards can be just as personal. “Every tarot reader has a different method for shuffling the cards,” Mariah Oller, creator of the Tarot of Life deck and owner of modern tarot resource Harvest and Moon tells Bustle. “[The] reader's chosen shuffling technique is often dependent on the thickness and material of the card stock, the size of their hands, and the dexterity of their fingers.”
Shuffling preference also depends on the size of the deck, too. If you’re working with a deck that’s larger than traditional playing cards, for example, overhand shuffling may work best. But ultimately, the purpose of shuffling is to bridge your material world with the divine, and ground yourself. The most important thing is to find a groove that supports a focused, meditative state. So it doesn’t matter if you prefer to cut your deck or if you gravitate more toward a classic casino shuffle — there’s no right or wrong way to shuffle your tarot cards. It all really boils down to what feels right to you.
Oller gives the scoop on how to shuffle tarot cards and the methods she uses in her own practice.
How To Shuffle Tarot Cards
Like most mystical practices, the very first step of shuffling tarot cards is making sure your deck is cleansed. “I say a protective prayer, riffle shuffle to clear the energy, and begin asking my questions individually,” explains Oller. You can purify the energy by using an affirmation like, “I cleanse this deck of any negative energy it may hold.”
Once you’ve sanctified your deck from any unwanted energy, you’re ready to shuffle! “The most common techniques that tarot readers use are overhand shuffling, riffle shuffling, mixing everything into a big pile on the table, or spreading the cards out in a line,” she says.
As you start to mix up your deck, think about the intention of your question. Focus on bringing clarity and opening yourself up to the guidance of your cards. When the moment feels right, choose a card. Pay attention to the cards that fall out of the shuffle or stand out.
“I read the cards that flip or jump out of the deck while shuffling,” explains Oller. Some tarot readers believe there’s an important message when a card jumps out while shuffling, almost as if your guides are shouting at you to read the card.
And you don’t necessarily have to pick out several cards for a single question. “One question may have a one-card answer, the next question may have a five-card answer,” says Oller. “I usually ask around three questions and get all of my cards on the table before I start interpreting them. I find this gives me a clearer picture of what needs to be shared.”
You can shuffle your deck once at the start of your reading and pick out your chosen number of cards, or you can do so between each card pull. Whatever helps center you so you can focus on your question.
Types Of Shuffling Methods For Tarot Cards
The overhand shuffling method has different techniques within it and gives you tons of control. A simple way to overhand shuffle is to grip the deck of cards in your dominant hand. Take a few cards from the deck using your non-dominant hand. Then, riffle the cards from your dominant hand to your non-dominant hand, using your thumb and index finger to hold a firm grip as you move them. Continue shuffling the cards from right to left, and mix them in random order, cutting them with the few cards from your non-dominant hand.
Riffle Shuffling or Casino Shuffle
One of the classic techniques is the riffle shuffle, but you’ve probably seen this method used by dealers at the casino. The riffle shuffling method is when you break or “cut” the deck in half. Once you have the two halves separated, take one of the piles in each hand. Then, you align the top corners of the cards, sort of like a bridge, and shuffle them into each other.
Pile shuffling is low-maintenance and is perfect for beginners or when you’re using a large-sized deck of cards. All you need to do is mix up your cards in a messy pile on the floor. When you have focused on and asked your question, bring the cards back into one pile, then pick a card. Or you can allow your intuition to choose a card that calls to you while the cards are all laid out in a messy pile.
Unlike other shuffling styles, the jumper method is unique in that it’s not deliberate. Rather than cutting the deck or choosing one of your own volition, this method is when you pull cards that seem to fall or “jump” out while you’re shuffling.
“When I started reading cards professionally, the cards began jumping out of my deck,” she says. “At first, it felt confusing because I was used to only reading one card at a time. Once I started leaning into the jumper method I found my readings had much more depth and nuance.”
Mariah Oller, creator of the Tarot of Life deck and owner of Harvest and Moon