I’ve been thinking about reasons you might remove cards from your tarot deck.
A few days ago, I wrote about taking out the ‘scary’ cards when reading at parties and events. This is about protecting the people you’re supposed to be entertaining from fearsome moments. Even though experienced tarot readers know that all cards are a balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and that perceived ‘scary’ cards often turn up for empowering readers, it’s hard to get into that when you’re powering through five-minute party reading after reading, and you might end up worrying or scaring your clients.
What about you, the tarot reader?
What if there are cards that hurt or upset you?
I’m thinking about cards – whichever those may be – that end up acting as triggers for re-experiencing trauma, revisiting dark emotions, unhealthy places, scary feelings? What if a card represents a situation you’ve worked hard to overcome, are working through at your own pace, or aren’t yet ready to deal with? Or a perpetrator of abuse?
NB – there are things that make us uncomfortable, and then there’s being ‘triggered’, which is a whole other thing. Here’s a helpful description of what a ‘trigger warning’ is and why they are used, if you’re not sure.
So many of us use tarot as a tool to work through our *stuff*, it’s likely that a large number of survivors will associate cards with traumatic events in their lives. If that’s you, what do you do when this card comes up in a reading and triggers you?
As most survivors of trauma/abuse are aware, it’s an important act of self-care to protect yourself from being triggered. So if that includes removing tarot cards from your deck, so be it.
It’s your deck and you get to decide how you use it.
The King of Pentacles showed up in the very first reading I ever did, but as I was so new to tarot, I didn’t really have a lot of feelings about it. The second time he showed up, my notes say, I just was “not sure of this card.” Over the course of my (somewhat brief) history with tarot, he kept showing up, over and over and over again, and each time my reaction was pretty much just like: “this asshole again.”
I didn’t really bother to unpack my feelings about it until recently, though, when he showed up – not for the first time – in a position that seemed to reference my childhood abuser. Suddenly all my antipathy towards the card made sense. Shortly after that, I was talking to Beth about it and she suggested removing the card from the deck entirely. If I remember correctly, I probably shrugged off this suggestion – until I was doing another reading, and he showed up, and I was filled with a kind of immediate rage, such that I removed the card and immediately drew a new one.
Not having to worry about that card showing up has only improved my readings (for myself, anyway, I’ll put the card back in if I’m reading for someone else).
For so many of us, tarot is a tool for self-care, self-exploration. For healing and growing. Simply ‘feeling uncomfortable’ about a card or having a difficult response to it does not in itself mean you should remove it – it could be that that you should look deeper into it, do some work on your feelings.
But if you’ve survived trauma or abuse, running the risk of being triggered every time you shuffle your cards doesn’t have to be part of that experience, it’s not ‘just part of tarot’ and you don’t have to deal with that stuff when you work with your cards.
It is 100% okay to remove triggering cards from your deck. Your emotional health is infinitely more important than the ‘system’ of tarot or having a full deck. And if you know a certain card is triggering for a friend, you can take that card out before you read for them.
Cards in this post are from the Collective Tarot (out of print).
I’m a 30-something writer, artist, tarot reader, and perpetual explorer of the space between thought, feeling, and action.
I believe that spirituality and ritual are for everybody. I’m about the journey, in all of its messy, non-linear, chaotic iterations. I am excited by anticapitalist business and living with my whole entire self present. I use tarot cards to bring forth hidden truth, and ritual to affirm my commitment, over and over, to my ever-shifting path.