Magical Tools and the Culture of Waste

207141_tarot_2I once read an online conversation where Pagans were discussing the necessity of cleansing magical tools when they’ve been handled by someone. One person posted that if someone has touched your Tarot deck, or if it’s a used deck, you’re better off throwing the old deck away and going to the store to buy a new one.

I wonder where the Pagan insistence on “new” tools comes from.

I wonder if it has any magical basis at all, or if it’s more of a construct of the same “buy more buy more buy more” media engine that tells us that we can’t possibly be happy with used furniture or used clothes, that there’s something somehow unclean in using used items.

I certainly want to support local Pagan bookstores selling books and magical items, but at the same time, many of those gew gaws aren’t necessary to practice my spirituality. Where does the imperative come to buy more stuff to make yourself more Pagan?

I believe that the marketing engine telling us we need to buy more is part of that larger media engine of consume, consume, consume. When we need to buy more stuff, we need to work more, which means we’re tired and need more coffee and don’t have time to prepare our meals so we eat at fast food, which is expensive also bad for us, so we need more money for that food, and to hit the gym so we aren’t fat, because we’re judged if we’re fat. You can see how this cycle self-perpetuates.

It’s a vicious cycle. It’s always good to stop and ask, do we need that. Do we really need that?

I tend on the pragmatic side of things. Honestly, the energy “trace” of someone else handling a deck isn’t enough to do anything that a quick shuffling can’t dissipate. I look at my energetic investment and connection with my cards–or with one of my crystals or other tools–and a few minutes of someone else handling something of mine doesn’t really affect things.

That being said, if someone who “feels” icky has touched my tools, or if I’m picking up a new/used tool, I definitely want to familiarize myself with the tool and connect it to my energy. An energetic cleansing doesn’t have to be anything more complicated than forming an intention and washing the tool in water, or blowing air over it, singing over it, or smudging it, or perhaps leaving it out in the moonlight or sunlight, whatever works for you.

It’s the intention that matters, not the specific action.

Ecological Sustainability
The other pragmatic side is that we live in a culture of waste. The idea of going and buying another set of the same deck wastes money (yours). Every Tarot deck print run uses trees, and is printed with inks and UV coatings that are pollute the environment, and in many cases are petroleum based so that contributes to the use of oil, a nonrenewable resource. The printing of the cards, like anything else, uses electricity which means that somewhere coal is probably being burned or natural gas is being fracked to create the electricity, causing more carbon to go into the atmosphere or more pollution to mess up our ecosystems.

Thusly, I buy very little and try to reduce my consumption as much as possible. And if I do buy something, I try to get it used, or if I have something, I try to give it away or sell it on Freecycle,  Craigslist, or Ebay it so that it doesn’t go to waste.

I consider part of my path as an Earth-Centered spiritualist to steward the Earth, and everything I do has an impact. The insistence on new tools is, I think, a product of a consumerist culture that abhors used things.

In my case, using used items is a part of my spiritual practice to honor my relationship to the divine, and the divine that is our ecosystem, our planet.

Really–working with Tarot cards (or any magical tool) doesn’t have to be all that dramatic. If you’re really worried that someone touched them and energetically polluted them, then take responsibility to do a little cleansing on them. By using your tools and connecting your energy to them, I’m sure you’ll find you have no problems. Most of this stuff is in our head anyways.

Memory and Energy
The only caveat I’d offer is in the form of objects that are reminders of people when the memories cause us pain. What I mean by that is, when I’ve gone through a breakup with someone, there’s always things left behind. Gifts, or just things they left behind from Tarot cards to engagement rings. As much as I might love those things, they remind me of the person. Depending on the situation, many different emotions might come up. Heartbreak, sadness, anger. It depends. This can also be a factor in family and friendship dynamics too, or even things you acquired while at a particular job that you were let go from.

I have found that I have a pretty long memory and I have very strong visual associations. So that jewelry, that stuffed animal, that dress or book or yes, even a Tarot deck can remind me of someone that I’d really rather not think about.

In cases like this, we’re not really talking about something that energetic cleansing can help with, we’re talking about human memory and hurt.

What I’ve done in cases like this is pretty simple; I get rid of anything that reminds me of that person. What has worked well for me is to sell items like that (or, in some cases, give them away or donate them to a thrift store or Pagan event) as an energetic cleansing. There’s no “bad energy” associated with the items, except through my own memory association.

When someone buys the item, I’ve just been given “free” life force. Money = energy. Plus, that item is now cleansed in the sense of, the only negative energy associated with the item was through my own memory. Its new owner doesn’t have a negative memory of the item, and so it’s clean. It really is about our own intentions and associations.

Then, I can then spend that money, that energy, on something that no longer has the memory association with the person I’m trying to emotionally separate from. If a former coven leader, former friend, or former lover bought you a deck of Tarot cards, or even perhaps helped you to pick out a deck of cards and now every time you look at those cards you think of that person and how angry/hurt/sad you are, it’s time to sell that deck to someone who will love it, and go buy a new one that won’t cause you grief from the memories.

The process of shedding old things with memory associations can, of course, take some time, but is usually pretty effective and fairly cathartic in my experience.


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