Tarot Tips

Incomplete decks and what to do with them

Written by Alison Cross

I was recently sent a deck for review that was missing a card and its Little White Book.  Rather than just moan about the lemons, I asked TABI members to help me make lemonade!  Next time you damage a card or discover one is missing, perhaps some of the suggestions below can spur you to a creative solution.

A big thank you to everyone who contributed, especially Tim whose comments egged on everyone else.  Thanks for that Tim 😀

Ali x

  • Bin them, you don’t know where they have been or why some cards are missing. It’s like picking food out of the gutter…. only do it if you are desperate. – Tim
  • Give the undamaged cards as sort of a ‘souvenir’ for folks I did readings for – e.g. If I had a significant card from their reading in the partial deck, I gave it to them to carry with them, or set some special place. If I didn’t have an appropriate card, I let them pick a random card from the partial deck, which I explained briefly, and they kept as food for thought. – Bev


  • Mount them to make greetings cards
  • “Skin” them to make decoupage tarot card boxes  out of plain boxes  (available from craft suppliers) or even decorate a blanket box or  chest of drawers or lacquer-work or place mats, coasters – good grief the list is endless!
  • Mount and frame them in groups or pairs, e.g. Devil with the Lovers  or a set of Courts, depending on which cards are missing
  • Fix them onto stiff card and make a Tarot jigsaw
  • Make a mobile from your favourite cards
  • Laminate them and attach to wind chimes in the garden
  • Laminate or frame them to decorate your reading area/table if you read at fayres
  • Stick them on your wheelie bin with sticky back plastic to make it less of an eyesore


  • Use them for the front of note cards, stationary – select an appropriate image to get across a point to the person you are sending the card/note too…if possible. – Rose
  • I lost two cards from my first deck and replaced them with a couple of ‘instruction’ cards that the deck came with. I found that although I had two cards missing, the deck still worked with the ones I replaced. I would be inclined to keep them and think of reasons why particular ones were missing compared/ contrasted with those retained. Perhaps the “absence” of a particular card may well present itself during a spread. – Celia
  • Use whichever COMPONENT (if any) of the deck is COMPLETE, i.e. as a  Majors ONLY, Minors only or Courts only deck. Tailor the spread for  this component to reflect… “spiritual”, “mundane”, “interpersonal” etc. aspects, respectively? 😉 Not an entirely original idea – ISTR Rachel Pollack used “categories” for the COMPLETE Haindl deck. This is also a useful possibility for Minchiate decks, which have “Zodiac” and “Element” Cards, t’boot! 🙂 – Chris


  • Bookmarks
  • Mat and framed as pictures
  • If you’re into ‘scrap-booking’ or similar paper-craft type stuff they can be  used to illustrate milestones in the subject’s life
  • Journals don’t just have to be writing, use cards to add a bit of colour or to kick start personal reflections
  • I have my ‘special box’ decoupaged it with angel pictures, some of  which were from an angel oracle deck. When it was finished I covered it with layer upon layer of lacquer until it was smooth and the edges of the separate pictures couldn’t be felt with the fingers. Now, some twelve or so years later, it has taken on the appearance and feeling of an old icon.


  • Artistically arrange them on the back wall when TABI is reading at events.
  • Alternatively distribute to querents as a memento /business card, contact details could be attached on the back via a self adhesive label.


  • The missing cards are the ones “left blank” as it were for you to design yourself in keeping with the rest of the deck. – Lucy
  • Perfect for a Coffee table – an unordered spread, some glue and a piece of glass set on top – interesting talking point. – Osmond
  • TABI members could donate partial decks, odd cards etc. and then create your own large-sized “comparative tarot”? – Helen
  • Maybe a thread should follow on how NOT to damage decks – here’s my advice: Make sure you place drinks on coasters with rims and that plastic beakers aren’t cracked.  Extra security: keep drinks away from decks, so that’s imbibe the wine, mead etc – don’t spill it . ;-).  Also, never take decks to work only protected by silk bag to read for colleague, and get caught in a rainstorm on way home. – Sharon (Ace Deck Destroyer!)

Clare [Dark Flower]

  • Make a work of art
  • If it’s a deck you really love frame the cards.
  • Make a collage.
  • Use them to illustrate your tarot journal.
  • Let your Seekers rifle through them if they’re new to tarot, you won’t be so worried about them messing things up then 🙂
  • Use them as significators with other decks for readings.
  • It depends on which cards are missing, I guess…. 🙂  But if there’s a small amount (5 or less) I’d maybe draw up ones of my own and then use the deck. 😉 – Xara


Originally published 2006 Yule quarterly e-zine

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