Stepping Out of Sacred Space

closed priestessLast week, I looked into the topic of Sacred Space.

Not everybody uses sacred space when they work with the tarot. I understand that not everyone has the luxury of a separate place to work and study. However, as I explored the concept in my writing, I suggested that the main objective of sacred space in our physical realm is to inspire our work with the cards on an inner level; the real space we seek can be found within our intention, openness and desire to use the cards for the purpose of good. When we learn how to link into that special, sacred and personal head space, we are then able to open up those metaphorical doors within a multitude of different physical places.

You may have heard tarot commenters suggest that the real power of tarot is within the reader and that the cards are merely a tool to help access that, made from simple cardboard and ink. Of course, this is true. Similarly, a reading space is a statement of our desire to open up and become receptive to energies within the universe and around our client. When I begin my readings, I ask my client to join me in that space; to hold the deck, close their eyes and become receptive to a power higher than their own. It’s a bit like how an athlete stretches and flexes before a race. Or maybe, you might liken this to the motivational speech a football team receives from their manager before a game. It helps to connect them to the zone and prepare them for the work which needs to be done.

So, to run with the sports analogy just a little longer, what does the team do after the football game? Do they walk right off the pitch and go straight home. Of course they don’t. They return to the dressing room and receive a post-match debrief of some kind. Like that football manager, a tarot reader must bring closure to every reading – in both their physical and spiritual space. I do this with gratitude, by thanking my own unconscious, the collective unconscious, and Spirit. Do I always say that out loud? No, not always. Once again, it is a matter of intention.

Why is this important? If you are a tarot reader, you may have had readings which you have found incredibly difficult to move on from afterwards. This could be for a multitude of reasons: the subject of the reading might have been emotionally draining, a querent may have been resistant and hard to read for, or you may have found it difficult to translate the messages you received. For whatever reason, it is extremely important to release this energy afterwards because you do not want to carry it with you. Closing down a reading properly means that while we learn from the difficult aspects of it, we wipe the slate clean for either our next session or so that we can enjoy other aspects of our life without feeling encumbered by these energies.

One good reason for opening and closing readings properly is to remind us that the space we are entering is different to that which we usually inhabit. When we are in the zone, we are receiving messages through the tarot cards and we interpret them for our self or someone else. Our own beliefs, ego, and judgement should be left at the door of our metaphorical sacred space when reading. Closing down is the psychic equivalent of a doctor washing his hands after an examination, before going off to wholly engage in his personal life.

I have looked about online and in books for closing-down rituals and prayers, but I believe that the best closing-down routine you can use is the one you create yourself. It must come from your heart. If you don’t feel it, you won’t believe it. Think about who or what you wish to thank for the session you have just performed? It might be your guides, your ancestors, or the world around you, in all of its elemental forms. If you have had a hard reading, think about who you can ask to take those energies away and cleanse you? Could it be God, a Goddess, an angel, or Jesus Christ? Maybe you will ask nature to absorb it. If so, then show gratitude – thank these energies for their assistance and allow them to take away any worry, stress or grief brought about during the tarot session.

Creating and closing down sacred space is a personal operation. Many years ago, I worked with the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot by Sallie-Ann Glassman for a prolonged amount of time. Being aware that I was working with some heavy-duty spirits, I wanted to respect the loa in the best way I could. Voodoo is a nature-based religion. The act of sacrifice is integral to the practice of Voodoo, so as a way of offering thanks to these natural energies (which lurk within the earth and its landscape), I would water the plants in my garden or light an incense stick afterwards. On other occasions, I would release the energies of my time with the loa by dropping a few coins into a charity box or by feeding the birds outside. Once done, I felt as though the process was complete and I’d paid thanks to the energies which had assisted me when reading. A line was drawn between my time in the space and out of it. I was thanking the universe.

Closing down a reading will be different for all practitioners. Many tarot readers will simply reorder a deck to cleanse it after a reading and remove the energies of their previous client. This could be used as a way of closing a session for the both of you on a spiritual level, but if you are reading for many clients in one go, you might want to simply shuffle the deck a number of times. Decide on how many shuffles feels right for you. Some readers knock on the deck to clear it with their knuckles. Others will use crystals, prayer, and ritual. I have seen people ask the angels to help release them from their time in sacred space.

How do you close down your spiritual space and prevent its more difficult elements from leaking out into other parts of your life and routine? If you have a personal practice you’d care to share, I’d love to hear about it!

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Illustration from Mountain Dream Tarot by Bea Nettles

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11 thoughts on “Stepping Out of Sacred Space

  1. Brilliant! I completely agree with you. Personally, closing down a reading for me is as simple as shuffling a few times, but I think it’s important to do something to mentally mark off the end.

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  2. I found this really interesting!! I have a ritual at the beginning but not at the end and have naively realised that this is lacking I always washed my hands afterwards but if course I need to make time to be grateful (although I express thanks at the beginning, for what I’m about to receive). Anyway, the opening and closing rituals need tweaking so thank you for that.
    Love the idea of feeding the birds afterwards – really giving back 🙂

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    • Thanks for your thoughts Colleen. It took me a long time to establish a routine of any kind. I think the most important thing is that it works for you, simple or complex. The hand washing is a good tip. I have one of those gels in my bag, since my cards are handled by a lot of people.

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  3. I always admire your gentle eloquence in expressing and explaining these things, Steven. Truly.

    Before a reading, I ask those who guide me to let the cards speak with absolute truth and clarity, and to free me from ego so that I interpret them in the same spirit. Then I talk to the cards as well 🙂 I give them a basic rundown of what we’re trying to do today, who we’re reading for and what the spread is all about. At the end, I thank them, tell them the reading is over and to rest well until we meet again. If I’m reading face-to-face, this all happens silently of course!

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    • Thanks for your kind words. I try to explain things as clearly as possible .. and try to keep my writing fresh and interesting too.

      Your process sounds lovely and from the heart. It’s interesting because I talk to the cards too. However, when I think about it, I am talking through them to something wider.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences and routine 😀

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  4. This is an excellent post! I don’t always remember to consciously express gratitude and close things down. However, like Carla, I do have a little “putting away” ritual (my decks mostly have bags rather than boxes). The reading is definitely closed once the deck has been put away (I often keep the cards I’m reading out on the side until I’m fully happy with the reading). Still, a good reminder to express gratitude…

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