Tarot ‘out of the box’ is a perfect system – in my opinion at least.
78 cards, four suits, four elements, numerological correspondences, four ‘ages’ in the courts, the Fool’s journey… it just works.
So what about removing cards from your deck? Why would someone choose to do this?
Two reasons I’ve been thinking about:
- Removing the ‘scary’ cards for reading at parties
- Removing personally triggering cards as an act of self-care (which I’ll write about in a couple of days).
This post is about no.1. If you’re interested in no.2, you’ll find that post over here!
1. Removing the ‘scary’ tarot cards for reading at parties
The first is pretty simple, though divisive, and personally I’m on the ‘don’t do this’ side of the fence.
At the NW Tarot Symposium there was a really interesting discussion about removing cards non-tarot folks find scary – Death, The Devil, The Tower, the Ten of Swords, for example – before entertainment gigs at parties. Two of the four panelists were in favour, two were against.
Those who were for were straightforward about it: you’re there to entertain, not to give ‘deep and meaningful’ readings.
People want to have fun and be intrigued and entertained, not scared or worried, and there just isn’t time in these scenarios to get into the deeper meanings of those initially terrifying-looking cards.
For me, the deck is what it is and I would rather have some lighthearted interpretations up my sleeve and be prepared to have a little fun with the querent rather than remove them completely. Besides, chances are the occasional person will sit down at your table who is familiar with tarot…not having a full deck would feel fraudulent to me (reading at a charity event last year I was approached by a chap who actually asked if I leave those cards in – he was testing me to see if I understood the complexities of those cards.)
That said I’ve had occasional hairy moments with ‘scary’ cards turning up in ‘tarot as entertainment’ scenarios.
The images speak for themselves. Many people who don’t know tarot will take it very seriously when they sit down at your table. They may understand the cards as something mystical, occultish, otherworldly – and you need to have a proper respect for this when they do.
At the same charity event I just mentioned a woman sat down and asked about her pregnancy. The Three of Swords came up, and there was no getting away from the fear in the woman’s eyes when she looked at the unsettling image on the card. I did my best to work up the ‘strong heart’ angle, but the brief five-minute, three-card reading felt tinged with sadness.
A week later, she emailed to tell me she had miscarried, and she and her partner had found strength and encouragement in the ideas I had shared around the Three of Swords.
I get that tarot at parties is entertainment, but not everyone you ‘entertain’ is going to see it that way – and tarot is rarely ‘just’ entertainment. In itself this is an argument both for and against removing the ‘bad cards’ – but as someone who is very attached to the complete system of tarot and who enjoys finding the positive and negative in all cards, I prefer to take my chances and leave them in.
What about you? Any strong feelings on this? If you read tarot as an ‘entertainer’, do you remove certain cards or not?
Cards shown in this post are from the Dreaming Way Tarot.
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.