Twisted Tales of Tarot: The Ritual Trap


The longer you hang around metaphysical circles, the more you’re going to hear about this ritual or that practice. Most readers have their own specific routines, habits, and preferences. If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll begin to notice your own.

Do you have a certain bag you simply have to use to store your cards?

Are there crystals or stones you keep with your cards or at the table during readings?

Any pre-reading prayers or chants or meditations you do every single time you pull out your cards?

A Habit or a Ritual?

Like everyone else, I have things that I do in order to prepare myself for readings. I keep my deck wrapped in cloth, inside a silk bag my wife gave me. The whole thing goes into a dilapidated old bag covered in rainbow-colored tropical fish that I’ve had since the early 90s. Before each reading, I close my eyes and think, “Through me, not from me.”

That’s my ritual. It’s what I do to get into the right space. But if that fishie bag were to fall to shreds (which it is likely to do any day now), I’d still be able to do a reading.

Compare this to my “ritual” for climbing the stairs in my childhood home. Our house was three stories on a sprawling twelve acres flanked by two bayous. The stairs from the first to second floors had a heavy wooden banister and a 90-degree turn half-way up. At that turn, there was a square post with a wooden sphere atop it. There was another post, also with a wooden sphere at the end, hanging down.

Every time I went up the stairs, I’d tap the wooden sphere on the bottom and the wooden sphere at the top. At first…

Blame it on youth, blame it on undiagnosed/untreated anxiety, but eventually, my ritual got more involved. I’d touched all four flat surfaces of the post, then pat the sphere. It got to the point that, even if I was burdened with laundry or books or bags, I’d still have to touch all four sides and pat the sphere on the top and bottom posts before I could resume my journey up the steps. If I was in a hurry and missed one of the four sides, I’d have to start all over.

When A Ritual Becomes A Burden

I include this (highly embarrassing) example to make a point. What starts as a habit, or ritual, can eventually become a burden that does the exact opposite of what you want it to do. We can become so wrapped up in our rituals that they start to interfere with our performance as readers, just as my banister ritual interrupted my ability to climb the stairs stress-free.

How do you know if your ritual has become a detriment to your readings? Here’s a simple test: Don’t do it.

Leave the stones in the bag. Don’t light the candle. Don’t burn the incense. Whatever it is that you have to do in order to do your readings, just…don’t. At least once.

How do you feel? Are you anxious? Do you have a hard time focusing on the cards?

Now. Try it again.

How do you feel now? Still anxious? Still having a hard time focusing on the cards? Probably not. Maybe so.

The truth is, most of the rituals we use in our readings are merely habits. We did them once, had a great reading, and decided to continue doing them. Eventually, we repeated the actions enough that they became part of the routine. And then, just maybe, you started to invest these habits with a little more power than they actually have.

The Guru in the Bus Station

Everybody has rituals and habits. But the danger in placing too much value in the habits of reading is that you forget something very important: the rituals do not affect the reading. They only affect your state of mind. They only have as much power as you give them.

Once you’ve become comfortable with the cards, you don’t need any bells and whistles. In fact, placing too much faith in the theatrics of reading may actually weaken your confidence as a reader. After all, if that incense or crystal is really necessary for you to do a good reading, what happens if you lose it?

The truth is, a reading comes through you, not from you. The fewer things you place between you and that receptivity, the easier that communication can be. When you are receptive, you can do a brilliant reading just as easily in a crowded Greyhound bus station as in a darkened room, surrounded by incense and candles.

So burn the incense. Light the candles. Play the awesomely mellow New Age music as you place your stones strategically on your silk cloth.

But never forget that these are just the bells and whistles. The real magic only requires you, your cards, and your connection to the eternal wisdom.

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Peace and Love,


Image by Jen Theodore at Unsplash.


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