UPDATE November 5, 2011: I’ve been getting a lot of hits on “Tarot card order” so I’ll lay it out, so to speak. The Major Arcana should be fairly simple, Fool – The World (they’re numbered, after all), then it’s typically Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles, all starting with the Ace, then numerical order, and then the court cards: Page, Knight, Queen, King, or whatever the equivalent is in your deck (Pages are often Princesses, or Daughters. In the Crowley Thoth deck Kings are called “Knights” and Knights are called “Princes.” You should have gotten at least a ‘little white book’ (LWB) with your deck to refer to. If not and you still have questions, feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email at fillingspaces at gmail.com.
This post was inspired by a search string that brought someone to my blog today, specifically “put tarot cards back in order?” I assume the person wanted to know if this was a necessary act after each reading, or to somehow ‘cleanse’ the cards.
The short answer to whether or not you need or put the cards back in the original order is ‘no.’
You do not need to do anything. You don’t need to keep them wrapped in silk, you don’t need to cleanse them in moonlight, or sleep with them under your pillow, or any of the other things a lot of beginner books tell you to do. If it makes you feel good, by all means, feel free, but the only things that will make you a better reader are studying and practicing. One of the books I read when I first took up Tarot said it was necessary to put them in order after EVERY SINGLE READING to cleanse them of any leftover psychic vibrations from the previous querent. Egads, ask any professional reader if they have time for that. My money’s on ‘Pfffft.’
Now, despite that, I do think it can be a beneficial part of the learning process to reorder the cards. It’s the time spent handling them, looking at them, thinking about the order they fall in that can lead to greater insights. Every time you set the Major Arcana in order, from the Fool to the Universe, you mentally take the Fool’s Journey, beginning to end. I did this for a long time when I first started reading cards, but have long since quit doing it after every reading. I like my cards more randomized when I start shuffling for the next reading. Starting from square one again every time doesn’t allow for enough variance, unless you spend a whole lot more time shuffling than I do. I will still do it occasionally, and spend some time thinking about each card but I no longer feel it necessary to do on a regular basis.
Until you’re more familiar with the cards, it probably is a good exercise to reorder them, at least once in awhile. Knowing all cards, in order, has its benefits. For one thing, if you run across a deck that has no titles or numbers on the cards (and they’re out there), you can probably tell from the illustration which card it is. Also, if you start learning elemental dignities, knowing the order of the cards and the suits can aid interpretation. For instance, if you know the minor arcana go Wands-Cups-Swords-Pentacles, you will know that the Knight of Pentacles is Air of Earth, the Queen of Cups is Water of Water, and so on. This can be very helpful.
The main thing is, do your own thing. If it helps you to create these little rituals before reading, then go right ahead. Just know that not everyone does everything the same, and that’s ok. My methods of doing things will be different from yours, and even mine have changed over time as I’ve learned more and become more comfortable with the cards. And they still ‘work.’