There’s this superstition that you cannot buy your first (or any) tarot deck for yourself. It should be bought for you, given, or stolen but you should never buy it for yourself. If you do, the deck won’t work for you, or it’ll have negative energy, or bad luck, or whatever.
It’s not a superstition I ascribe to. In fact, I find it kind of rubbish.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m superstitious at heart. I studied major in folklore in university so it’s my thing. But, uh, I’ve tested this and I’m calling it: it’s not true.
First, let’s get to the root of this superstition. It’s not a historical superstition and I’m prone to believe it’s only a few decades old – perhaps calling back to an era where tarot cards weren’t published regularly and therefore were hard to come by. The decks would have been passed down like treasures. In this theory, it makes sense that people would believe that these decks held more power because they’re proven reliable and held sentimental value. (That doesn’t mean those decks are better than one you’d buy, by the way, just more personal.) My theory suggests that this tradition morphed into a superstition over time due to grandstanding and ignorance.
There’s a second reason why this superstition might have come to prominence. That reason is research. Back in the 90’s when the internet was still young but the New Age and Neo-Wicca movement was strong, you could buy decks fairly easily. But just because you picked up a deck didn’t mean…
A) You would know how to read it. Those little white books are infamously useless and many tarot reading books at the time were hard to get or steeped in occultism. Peer-learning was definitely a thing but you never knew if you were getting the complete education.
B) That deck or style suited you. I know many people from that area that just bought decks because they were the only ones they could find, not because they liked the art or how the deck read.
C) The resources were there for reviewing the deck before purchase. These days, if you want to buy a deck, all you need to do is hop on your social media to ask friends what they think or google up a review. That wasn’t easily available in the past and rarely did you have the time to do that before purchasing. These days, I can check multiple reviews in the store on my phone within five minutes.
So if you bought a deck and it didn’t seem to work for you, it could be for any one of those reasons and not because you simply bought the deck.
Another source is possible. It could simply be one of those things published or spoken of by one group and then taught to their readers/followers and that passed along like a terrible game of Telephone until we have the superstition as it stands today. I haven’t been able to track it back that far but it’s definitely a reasonable theory.
It’s also likely to be at least partially a corruption of other bartering myths of which there are thousands. Superstitions of these kinds generally works like this: You should not buy X for yourself but it should be given as a gift or bad luck will follow. It might also have a condition, like you shouldn’t buy it on a Thursday in October or a neighbor has to buy it for you. These sorts of superstitions typically start in a regional area and build momentum as people move into new areas of the world. It’s a pretty common style of superstition. I’ve seen this style of myth attributed to just about everything from tallow candles, to eggs, to cattle. Historically speaking, these myths are likely partially existent to circumvent community bylaws that disallow various behaviors within a small community. For example, you can keep chickens in my state’s capital city which is across the river from where I live but you cannot in my city. I can read tarot in almost any city in my state but one next door to where I live. And in the capital city, it’s illegal to throw pickle juice off the back of a trolley. The bylaws might or might not make sense but you can bet there’s some sort of history to them. These superstitions may be born from these sorts of laws.
Whatever the source, the fact is that many, many, many tarot readers including myself buy their own decks. Many readers have bought their first decks for themselves, including myself. And I’ve never heard a case of someone who suddenly cannot read their tarot cards or claims to have bad luck because they bought their own tarot cards. Continue to hold to the superstition if you like but it seems highly irrelevant to do so in this day and age of consumerism.
You do you, but be critical in what you hear and read, OK?
Heart of the Faerie Oracle by Brian Froud and Wendy Froud with Robert Gould © Harry N. Abrams
Halloween Oracle by Stacey Demarco © Blue Angel Publishing
Sacred Rebels by Alana Fairchild and Autumn Skye Morrison © Blue Angel Publishing
Sacred Creators Oracle by Chris-Anne © Chris-Anne.com