Tarot is a powerful spiritual tool, but there are some that are hesitant to give tarot a try because of some misconceptions that are out there. The organizations that oversee the Abrahamic faiths have spoken out against the use of tools like tarot for a long time, but their claims aren’t necessarily based in fact. They have made claims that the tarot is evil, black magic, connected to the devil, and some have claimed that the cards summon demons. Where do these claims come from? We have to get into a little bit of history in order to answer this and what I’m about to say in the next few sentences is in no way meant to put down the Abrahamic faiths it’s just what happened. There are some passages in their religious texts that say their adherents are not to engage in any kind of prophecy. While tarot cards aren’t an ancient practice, they are part of a category of practices that preceded the Abrahamic faiths that the governing organizations of these faiths felt they needed to discourage in their adherents and part of the way they discouraged the practices was through fear. Let’s face it, fear is a pretty good way to get someone or a group of someones to be compliant. The Christian church in particular (probably starting with the Catholic Church) started telling their followers that tarot was a gateway to the Devil and demons and that it was a form of black magic. They also cited the Bible passages that speak against prophecy as proof of this.
What is tarot really and where did it come from? Again we have to get into a little bit of history to explain this. First we must acknowledge that the tarot’s history has a bit of mystery to it and we don’t know exactly who or when it was very first created but there are some things we do know. Romani gypsies have used cards for divination for centuries, but they most likely have nothing really to do with what we know as tarot today. There have been claims that the tarot originated in Egypt but scholars consider these claims to be baseless and from my reading I have to agree. Where we find the first historical evidence of something that resembles tarot is in 15th century Italy with the Tarocchi card game. It is believed that this game and deck was created by adherents of the Christian faith. There came a point where Tarocchi ruffled the feathers of the church and the organization started to condemn it.
Tarot took a leap forward in the 18th century when it was given a boost by French psychics. Unfortunately, while they were propelling tarot forward it appears that the myth that the deck was of Egyptian origin came from them. The ceremonial magicians (Masons, The Grand Order of the Rose, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) of the 19th century brought the deck even closer to what we know today. Which is a 78 card deck, consisting of 22 cards in the major arcana and 56 cards in the minor arcana.
We see the rise of the Marseille tarot in France and other parts of Europe in the mid 1800’s. This type of deck has full artwork for the trump (major arcana) cards and uses pips for the minors. I do see Americans that use Marseille decks but I don’t think that they are as widely used as decks done in the next style I will talk about.
After the Marseille, in 1909 we have the first publishing of the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck and it is arguably the most well know tarot deck out there and many modern decks are clones of that deck or at the very least follow its system. While the RWS deck does utilize a lot of occult symbolism, perhaps picked up from the work that the ceremonial magicians mentioned above did with tarot, it also uses a great deal of Christian symbolism.
When you boil it all down, what is tarot really? Really, tarot is a bunch of pieces of paper with symbols artistically portrayed on them that are meant to be a tool to communicate with our unconscious, our higher self, and what Jung called the collective unconscious. Here is what Arthur Waite had to say himself on tarot, “The Tarot embodies symbolical presentations of universal ideas, behind which lie all the implicits of the human mind, and it is in this sense that they contain secret doctrine, which is the realization by the few of truths embedded in the consciousness of all.” There are also tarot readers who believe the cards operate on the principal of synchronicity.
You can never truly make generalizations because there’s always an exception to the rule, but overall tarot readers don’t regard their cards as magic. Yes, tarot readers do tend to say different decks have different energies about them, but everything has an energy and that isn’t really magic per se. While most modern tarot decks do contain a trump card called The Devil, the card is not literal just like the Death card isn’t literal. The card actually speaks of things like the abdication of power, self-esteem issues, drug/alcohol addiction, a person’s downfall or hubris. While the card does usually contain some Christian symbology, it’s more of a loose reference to the Abrahamic figure and more about a universal archetype that transcends any specific religion. When tarot readers use the cards they do not summon, call upon, or appeal to the Devil or demons to aid them. The cards do not by nature attract any negative entities.
Tarot cards are a tool and in and of themselves do not bring any negative forces to you. Can some crack pot out there get out a deck of tarot cards and call out to the Devil? Sure, people have the free will to make ill-advised and foolish choices but that’s the cracked nut not the vast majority of those who use tarot. What about the Bible passages that forbid prophecy? If you follow the Bible then you are going to have to decide for yourself the validity of those passages. I can offer this food for thought...there are contradicting passages in the Bible where adherents do engage in prophecy. Why is it okay for some adherents and not others? There are also those who follow an Abrahamic faith that just find those passages to be antiquated or not applicable. Again, if you follow the Bible, or other Abrahamic text (which all have the Old Testament in common) you will have to search within yourself to find the answer if tarot is or is not against your faith. Just remember that whether you decide tarot is for you or not that it is not about black magic, the Devil, or demons. There is also something else to consider here, it is possible to read tarot cards without any sort of prophecy going on. You can keep your readings to the here and now by asking things like, “What should I know about as I make this decision about (fill in the blank)?” You can ask for insight instead of outcomes.
Since I am a spirit medium who uses tarot cards I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss this. The cards themselves do not attract or call out to any spirits. I, and others, do however work with tarot in conjunction with ancestor spirits, spirit guides, and the spirits of departed loved ones. You may say, “Rin, if the cards don’t attract spirits then how do you use the cards to work with them?” I attract the spirits, not the cards. When I begin the reading I let the spirits know that they are permitted to communicate with me through the cards (mostly by guiding me in my interpretations of them) or with me directly as I do the reading. When I do this I am specific about what types of sprits may do this and that only those with messages that are for the client’s greater good my step forward and communicate with me in this way. That is kind of a distinction fit for a lawyer but I wanted to explain how I work with tarot and spirits but yet the cards are not what are drawing the spirits in.
The point of this post is not to sway anyone into deciding if tarot is or is not against their religious/spiritual path, but it hopefully will help those with questions to understand that tarot is not evil, black magic, a tool of the Devil, or an attractant for demons. The tarot cards are pieces of paper containing pleasing images with symbols for the reader to interpret as a spiritual tool.