Your new tarot deck is finally here, and you can’t wait to start tuning into your intuition. There’s just one problem, though: you can’t seem to shuffle the cards correctly!
Why is that?
The cards are larger than the regular cards and your best attempt and shuffling sends them flying all over the place!
It is normal for shuffling to feel a bit awkward since most tarot cards are larger than normal playing cards. It is also okay to feel a little disappointment or even frustration for not being able to wield them gracefully. It takes practice to get there.
But in the meantime, you have a couple of nagging questions: How do you shuffle tarot cards? How do you ruffle up the larger-than-normal beautiful work of art without getting all willy-nilly with the cards?
To help you out, I’ve pieced together some of the common techniques for shuffling tarot cards. You can use any of the tarot shuffling methods in this quick guide, regardless of whether you’ve been reading tarot for a while or are completely new to the practice.
Before You Shuffle
Let’s take a quick look at a few important things to do when you get your new tarot deck and during the shuffling process.
Cleanse Your New Deck
It is a good practice to energetically cleanse your tarot deck before first use, whether it is brand new or you just received it second-hand from someone. Cleansing removes heavy, negative, or distractive energies from the deck and makes it uniquely yours. It also helps you get more accurate readings.
Cleansing is not an elaborate process. Simply meditate, burn sage, and pass each card through the smoke.
Contemplate and Meditate
If you are new to reading tarot cards, chances are, you tend to get hung up on doing everything the “right way” only to end up making mistakes. But not to worry; even the experienced readers started this way!
However, instead of spending time focusing on the fear of getting it wrong, a better approach is to think beyond a regimented shuffling approach. Understand that there is no wrong way or one correct way to shuffle tarot cards. In fact, shuffling is more about connecting and energetically imprinting yourself into the deck.
With the tarot deck in your hand, you want to contemplate your topic or question. As you shuffle the cards, use the short period to meditate, feel, and shift into the energetic space of the cards.
How Long Should You Shuffle Your Tarot Cards?
When should you stop shuffling and start drawing or dealing out your tarot cards? After one, four, or seven shuffles?
While there might be a specific number of times to shuffle standard playing or poker cards, there is no definite number of shuffles to make tarot cards truly random. The most important thing to focus on when you shuffle your tarot cards is getting clear on why you want a tarot reading. When you do this, you will know when to stop shuffling.
You may feel prompted to stop shuffling or a couple of jumping cards may indicate it is time to stop. How long you should shuffle your tarot cards is entirely up to you. Just listen to your intuition.
What about Jumping Tarot Cards?
Sometimes, cards can fall or “jump” out of the deck as you shuffle. This is known as “jumping tarot cards” in tarot slang.
Does this happen because you were sloppy or is it some sort of answer to your question? What should you do with jumping tarot cards?
Put the card back in the deck and continue shuffling, set it aside, take note of it and see if it reappears – whatever you do with a jumping card depends entirely on what feels right to you. Again, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this. Simply trust your intuition.
Which Hand Should You Use: The Left or Right?
There is no hard and fast rule about which hand to use. However, many card readers often use their left hand to shuffle and deal out tarot cards – at least, this is the traditional practice.
The practice is not unconnected to the fact that the intuitive or feminine energy is associated with the left side of the body.
Whether or not you share in this belief system, a middle ground would be to use your non-dominant hand to shuffle and deal out the cards. If you are like most people, your right hand is the dominant one. Meaning, you will likely have to practice controlling the shuffle with your left hand.
Again, this is not a rule.
The Purpose of Shuffling Tarot Cards
With standard playing cards, shuffling keeps the deck random to reduce the likelihood of players guessing the cards.
In a tarot reading, the purpose of shuffling is not merely about randomizing the card picking process. Instead, it is more about imprinting your energy on each of the cards. Energy transfer is crucial to the entire reading process, which is why it is important to lean into your intuition or meditation while you shuffle the cards.
Tarot Card Shuffling Methods
Now that we have all that out of the way, let’s get to the mechanics. Note that a shuffling method can be called different things, depending on who you ask. The most important thing is to know how to use the technique.
The Messy Shuffle
How to shuffle tarot cards if you absolutely suck at shuffling? Go with the messy shuffle. Anyone can do this shuffle because it is, by far, the least technical method. Plus, it is one of the most fun ways to shuffle tarot cards without worrying about getting anything right.
You need a decent-sized surface, such as a wide tabletop, the floor, your bed, or wherever. Here’s how to do it:
- Lay the cards on the wide surface, making sure they are all faced down.
- Use your hands to spread them out in a messy pile and swirl them around randomly.
- Gather up the cards together when you feel that you’ve mixed them up enough.
Just because this method doesn’t require any technicality doesn’t mean it is less effective. Remember, it is helpful to be in a meditative mood when you move the cards around randomly.
I suggest using this method only at the beginning of your reading instead of between questions of the same reading. That’s because the process can be time-consuming.
Also, since there is no way to know which way the cards will face because you are swirling them around randomly, this shuffling method will result in reverse cards. Consider using another method if you prefer to have upright cards.
The Pile Shuffle
Perhaps the pile shuffle will work for you if the previous method is too basic for your liking. Like the messy shuffle, there is nothing complex about this technique, but it is a good way to get into the real art of shuffling cards.
To do the pile shuffle:
- Split the deck into small piles. The number of piles and the number of cards in each pile is entirely up to you.
- Recombine the cards into a single deck.
- Repeat until you feel satisfied.
You can tweak the pile shuffle a little to make the shuffling process longer. This is particularly useful when you need to spend more time centering your energy and contemplating your intention.
To do this:
- Slowly deal the cards into several piles. Take as much time as you need to randomly deal out the cards. There are 72 cards, so that should give you plenty of time for meditation.
- Follow steps 2 and 3 above.
The Overhand Shuffle
This is the most common card shuffle method among mystics, especially those who want something really quick.
The overhand shuffle involves placing the deck in your dominant hand and dropping a small portion at a time onto the other hand until you get a good mix.
To do the overhand shuffle:
- Hold the tarot deck vertically or horizontally in your non-dominant hand. The orientation you choose will depend on the size of the deck and your hand.
- Cut from the back of the deck using your dominant hand.
- Randomly drop a few cards at a time onto the front and back of the deck in your dominant hand.
- Repeat the process until you are happy with the shuffle.
The overhand is an ideal way to shuffle tarot cards if you are not reading upside-down cards (reversals) because it keeps all the cards facing the same direction. It is also a great method to use between questions since it is quick and simple.
The Fan Shuffle
The fan shuffle technique is a good way to shuffle the deck between cuts. Technically speaking, you are not doing any real shuffling with this method, but it still gets the cards mixed up and allows you to transfer your energy onto the cards.
To do the fan shuffle:
- Spread the cards face-down on the reading surface. You can make them into a rainbow shape or even an “S” pattern if you want to get fancy.
- Pick out one or two cards in random order.
- When you are done reading, gather up the cards into a neat pile and recombine them.
- Repeat the process for as long as you want.
The Riffle Shuffle
Lastly, there is the riffle shuffle, which is the fanciest way to shuffle tarot cards. I wouldn’t recommend this method for beginners, though.
First, it is the most difficult shuffling method, so you want to practice the technique over and over again when you are not doing any reading until you get the hang of it before using it during your readings.
Also, consider practicing with a standard playing card. These are smaller and have only 52 cards in a deck as opposed to 72 cards in a tarot deck. When you eventually switch to tarot cards, it can be more convenient to use the riffle shuffle technique on a table.
Here’s how to do the riffle shuffle:
- Cut the deck in two halves (they don’t have to be exactly equal).
- Hold each pile faced-down in one hand and bring the cards closer, making sure to apply slight pressure to cause a bend in the cards.
- Slowly release the cards using both thumbs so that they fall between each other and interlace in the process.
- Push the interwoven piles into each and your deck is shuffled.
The process appears simple on paper but it can be really tricky in real life. Here’s something else you should keep in mind. While this method looks pretty impressive, you should be aware that riffling your tarot cards regularly can make them wear out very quickly.
Of course, the riffle shuffle can be your go-to method if you don’t mind buying a new deck every now and then.
However, it is best to use another shuffling technique with a tarot deck that you cherish and would want to continue using for a long time in excellent condition. After all, you are not looking to impress anyone with your tarot shuffling skills.
You would have noticed one recurring phrase in this article: there is no one “right” way to shuffle tarot cards! The correct way is the way that feels right for you.
I strongly recommend you experiment with the methods mentioned above, and if they don’t feel right, go ahead and invent your own. Every process in a tarot reading, including how to shuffle tarot cards, boils down to leaning into your intuition to sense what feels right or not.
And remember that it is perfectly okay for cards to fly or jump out during the shuffling process. Of course, this could be because you’re still learning how to handle the slightly larger cards. On the other hand, it could hold a deeper meaning.
Bottom line: listen to your intuition not just when cutting and drawing the cards, but also when shuffling them.