Second hand tarot decks

A lot of people have hang-ups around using second-hand tarot decks, and I’d like to work through some of those, cuz’ I think a lot of people are missing out on great stuff like savings, meeting new tarot reading friends, and protecting the planet.

This perfectly good deck was going to be tossed out with the garbage. Not anymore!

A common argument (maybe the most common argument) against using second-hand decks is related to the energy of the deck being ‘tainted’, or too closely aligned with someone else’s energy. Of course, not all people believe that tarot cards can be tainted or ever need to be energetically ‘cleansed’. But, but if you do, and if that bothers you so much that it prevents you from buying second-hand cards, consider this:

A brand new tarot deck isn’t ‘sterile’ – it’s sealed in plastic, and smells of fresh ink, yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s energetically clean. You probably already know this – most people who care about the energy of their cards cleanse brand new decks when they get them because they’re not perfectly clean. But that new ink and plastic wrap can trick you into thinking they’re cleaner than they might be.

A shiny new deck is made from trees that were once growing, somewhere in the world. People may have camped under them. Children may have climbed them. Those trees were cut down, transported to a mill, where they were made into pulp. That pulp was processed, mixed with chemicals, run through machines and turned into paper. Already, the paper has been exposed to and handled by potentially hundreds of people. Every step of the manufacturing process just to make the paper requires workers to man the machines, supervisors to watch out for safety hazards, drivers to move heavy stacks of wood, pulp and chemicals, and so many others.

This deck had been opened, but was never used by it’s original owner.

That paper stock is transported to a printer, where it’s fed into machines that print tarot card images on the paper. Those cards are cut from their sheets and packaged. You’d think that’s mostly by machine, but my personal experience of factory work suggests that it’s far more hands on than we’d like to think. After all that, the decks are finally shipped out to stores. Those cards might then sit in a store for weeks or months before being purchased, where they’re slowly absorbing a great deal of energy from the people that frequent the store.

There’s absolutely no way that those cards get to you in an energetically pure state. There are too many people involved in production, too many people handle the deck through the manufacturing process, and not all those people would have been happy, kind, spiritually balanced people.

In perspective, it’s not that different from a second-hand deck. If you can cleanse a new deck, then a second hand deck won’t be that much harder to cleanse.

Many second-hand decks are being sold or given away because they didn’t get much use. People don’t usually part with the decks they use all the time. Often, the smell of fresh ink is still on the cards because of how infrequently they were used. It’s pretty normal for tarot readers to purchase a few different decks before they find a deck they really like, and there’s no reason for those unloved decks to just be thrown into landfill. Those decks can be passed on, and find owners that connect with them – they can have a purpose.

If those decks are just left to go to waste, then what was the point of cutting down the trees that made them? Just to pass money through the economy? That feels soulless and cruel to me. I’d much prefer to honour the memory of the tree, and buy the occasional second-hand deck.

In buying a second hand deck, not only do you honour the tree the decks was made from, you reduce the impact you have on the environment. Tarot decks are pretty labour and resource intensive, and many are made in less than ethical conditions, then shipped half way across the world before they get to the consumer. It costs the earth a lot.

Obviously, you save a few dollars on the price you could have got the deck for new, and you can get some gorgeous out of print decks… but there are also community benefits. When you buy second hand decks, you support your fellow tarot readers by helping them pass on the decks they don’t need. You might even make new friends – I mean, the person you buy your deck from is guaranteed to have at least one shared interest with you.

If you’re still bothered by the idea of using second hand cards – that’s totally fine. I’m not saying nobody should ever buy a new deck. That’s silly. People who buy new decks are needed to make sure decks keep being made. You support artists and authors who wouldn’t otherwise have an industry to work in. That’s important. One day, I’d like to publish a deck. Obviously that couldn’t happen if nobody ever bought new decks.

But, maybe, one day, you might consider browsing craigslist, or a facebook buy/swap/sell page. And maybe you’ll see a deck you like. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll trade with that person.

That’d be pretty rad.


May the cards fall in your favour,


Ps. Decks featured here are the Sharman-Caselli Tarot and the Paulina Tarot

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