A wicked pack of cards…?

Over time, I’ve come to understand that when it comes to Tarot, many people often have a rather dark view of what the cards represent.  I’d like to say it’s “a surprisingly dark view,” but these things are subjective, and just because I don’t personally find Tarot to be ominous, that doesn’t mean other people can’t or don’t or shouldn’t find it to be so…but yes, from my highly pro-Tarot viewpoint, I do admittedly find this take to be a bit surprising, myself…

I’ve already done one post in this space about some of the specific myths you’ll encounter about Tarot as you start to explore the cards: here I’m talking about the more practical, daily use of them kinds of myths, though, such as “You can’t buy a Tarot deck for yourself, or it won’t work — it has to be given to you by someone else!”  I hope I made it clear in that earlier post that I don’t personally believe in such sweeping maxims.

This post, though, is more about this general take that a lot of people seem to have: that Tarot is somehow…”evil…”

Is this how you see Tarot -- this dark, menacing landscape...?  ("The Triumph of Death," by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1562)
Is this how you see Tarot — this dark, menacing landscape…? (“The Triumph of Death,” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1562)

So, it’s one thing to meet people through channels that already come with a built-in slant toward favorable perceptions of the Occult…people with that kind of bent are pretty much either already actively on board with Tarot, or they’re at least open to the idea that Tarot could be a cool realm of exploration with much to offer…  On the other hand, when I have chances to read the cards for people at larger events — events where some of the attendees may be people with no such Occult-ish inclinations whatsoever — I’ve noticed that it’s pretty common for a very large percentage of these people to sidle warily up to my table, curious, but also visibly apprehensive, to nervously inquire about maybe, you know, seeing about possibly getting a reading, and to kind of then brace themselves and wince at my forthcoming response before I’ve even had a chance to take a first breath…

I do my level best to be warm, welcoming, inviting, reassuring…and some of them will then take that next step and actually sit, although it seems fairly obvious that they’re doing so as an act of will, kind of forcing themselves to take a plunge of some sort (it’s the same kind of demeanor I imagine you might find on a first-time skydiver whose turn has come to take up their position next to the wind-screaming, open cabin door…).

Does the prospect of getting a Tarot reading make you feel like this...?
Does the prospect of getting a Tarot reading make you feel like this…?

And I do recognize that for all of these people, this is a very real concern — I can’t say I ever felt the same apprehension around this particular subject matter, so in that sense I don’t specifically identify, but I’ve of course felt apprehension around other things, and at times, even raw panic…so in the more general sense, I do totally identify, and I have much empathy around this issue.  Mostly, I’d love to be able to soothe any fears around Tarot, which I personally regard as an incredibly positive, benevolent, empowering proposition.

I get the impression that certain people may be bringing in some vaguely formed notions about “the Devil” or “witchcraft” that spring from childhood associations…?  Most of the people I’ve asked have confirmed that this is so, and that their own individual reservations about what Tarot may be are derived from early, early phases in the religious components of their upbringings.  Then again, the people I’ve asked are also just the people I’ve asked — no more and no less — and they’re certainly not all people who have questions or misgivings or even outright fears about Tarot, so I don’t want to just apply my findings in a relatively small sample size to the wider universe of people with such uncertainties or suspicions.  People are complex, and an almost infinite supply of very different source causes might conceivably drive multitudes of people to the same ultimate place.

I suppose that more helpful than trying to suss out the vast array of reasons why people might hold a gloomy preconception about what Tarot is, would be me simply trying to provide a view from the brighter side of it — one that makes a case for its positivity.

Does this truly seem that scary...?
Does this truly seem that scary…?

At its root, Tarot can be seen as any of the following: it’s a tool, a doctrine, a worldview.  Are such things inherently evil?  I don’t think so.  They can be misused, sure, and even misused for evil purposes by evil people.

Then again, the same could be said for other tools, doctrines, and worldviews.  Think about something like a sharp blade: in the wrong hands, it’s a weapon…a bringer of pain, and injury, and even death.  Then again, in the right hands…it’s a scalpel, a life-saving instrument.  Is the blade itself “good” or “bad?”  Does the answer change depending on who’s holding it?  Or is the blade itself neither intrinsically good nor intrinsically bad?

Me, I tend to hold with that latter stance: the person holding the blade can be good or bad, and their intention can be positive or negative, but the blade itself is an inert thing with no will of its own.  It may be sharp, yes, but it’s not malevolent

Is this blade "good" or "bad"...?  Or do those characterizations only apply to the surgeon or the torturer who's wielding it...?
Is this blade “good” or “bad”…? Or do those characterizations only apply to the surgeon (on the one hand) or the torturer (on the other) who’s wielding it…?

What about something like Christianity itself?  Horrible things have undeniably been done by some humans to other humans in the name of Christianity…but is Christianity itself therefore “evil?”  I don’t think so — it simply is what it is, and the use to which something is put is not the same as the something itself.

And so it is with Tarot…

As I said in an earlier post, in my own view, Tarot is a device of sorts through which I believe we can get a sort of “weather report” with respect to what may be swirling about us at any given time in terms of things like our luck, our karma, and various other forces that color our worlds.  This should, in theory, enable us to make wiser, more well-informed, and more positive decisions about how to then move through those worlds.  Ideally, this will all be done, not with any evil intent, but hopefully with an exact absence of evil intent.  Tarot will hopefully be exercised with fine, spiritual, compassionate intent, if anything, with an eye toward helping those who appear with questions or problems or pain of any kind.  I don’t believe that either Tarot itself, or even the overwhelming majority of people who read Tarot, are mixed up with “the Devil” or with storybook witches or with maleficent influences of any other sort.  A good reader should leave you feeling happy and secure and like you’re better off after a reading than you were when you came in.  If that doesn’t happen, you may be better off finding a different reader, but it’s not Tarot itself that’s somehow “evil.”

I try hard to get this across to people whenever I bump up against this kind of presumed suspicion about Tarot, and I hope this post can also help to push back the territories claimed by the darker take.  I’ve found Tarot to hold nothing but joy, light, and wonder, and spreading its benefits is something I hope to do on a pretty much daily basis!  Please feel invited to direct any questions or misgivings to me by public comment or by private note, and if I can help to alleviate any discomfort around this particular passion of mine, I’d be delighted to do so!

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