Defacing of reading decks is one of those habits akin to certain behaviors in the Victorian era: Some people avoid it; some do it a little; and some do it so often that they start their own clubs. But it isn’t discussed, at least not in polite society.

Being compulsive about keeping my card collection in pristine condition, I’m not the sort to write on my tarot or Lenormand decks. I’ve also generally considered that the best way to learn items associated with cards is by memorization, rather than noting them on the cards.

For example, I learned the astrological associations for the tarot majors through memorization. This was fairly easy, and I can readily apply them to any deck. In contrast, I never bothered to memorize the astrological associations of the tarot minor arcana — and while this was partly because it didn’t interest me despite my Golden Dawn leanings, it’s also because memorizing those seemed like too much hard work!

Authors have varying opinions on whether it’s acceptable to write on cards when learning them. This is usually referring to card meanings rather than associations. I’ve always felt the best way to learn meanings was without writing, but I can see how having just a keyword on the cards might help as a crutch. Unless the reader can’t get beyond having the crutch. Then again, the Thoth tarot deck includes astrological associations and titled meanings on its cards, and there are plenty of talented Thoth readers.

The point of this post is that I’m considering defacing my first tarot deck. 🙂 Part of the inspiration to do this comes from the fact that I want to rethink my approach to tarot, and change the way I do things, so words or symbols on the cards may assist me as I evolve my thoughts of the cards. A small part is because I think it would be fun, and I’d like to ensure that the tarot continues to be fun for me.

The last portion of inspiration is from readers I know who have all spoken of writing on their decks: a friend who is talented with playing cards and Lenormand (and claims he’ll be defacing his Lenormand any day now!); Phoenix in New Zealand who puts personal symbols on all of her Lenormand decks; and Storm Cestavani who made defacing the tarot deck sound deliciously wicked on his radio show.

This is where I’d really like to hear from my readers:

  • What do you think about writing on decks?
  • Do you do it?
  • If so, what do you like to put on your cards?
  • Do you find you are restricted to decks that are marked up?
  • What tools do you use? Maybe pencil, Sharpie, gold ink, puffy paint?
  • Does your writing wear off and stain your hands or card faces?
  • Have you ever put stickers on your deck? (Hey, do they still sell scratch-n-sniff stickers?!)
  • Do you think it’s sacrilegious to put anything on a deck, and if so why?

Please, share your thoughts in the comments. I look forward to reading them.