Is Tarot Evil?

Is Tarot Evil?  Tarot cards are cardboard and ink and do not have any supernatural power,
Gilded Tarot Royale Ltd Edition copyright Ciro Marchetti

Tarot is not evil. As I mentioned briefly in my Tarot Myths post, which you can read here, tarot cards are simply cardboard and ink and do not have any inherent powers. In fact, the power is within you.

This does not prevent people from thinking that tarot cards are evil or harmful. This is mainly due to the Bible’s view of divination which I will talk about. But the Bible is not the only reason that tarot has, arguably, gained an ill reputation with some people. In this post I am going to talk about some of the other reasons why tarot might be considered evil: fraudsters; portrayal in films; early card meanings; and some dubious marketing. Then I will talk about the Bible’s view on divination before I provide an example of how it is possible to combine faith in God with tarot. Finally, I will briefly talk about some research into the benefits of tarot.

I will warn you in advance that I have some strong opinions when it comes to the influence of the Church on tarot, divination and magic.

Tarot fraudsters

Over the years there have been numerous examples of people encountering fraudsters and scammers using tarot for their own ends. Inevitably this usually involves the tarot reader cold reading a person rather than actually reading the cards. The fake reader then says that the person is under a curse or something similar and that, for a price, this curse can be lifted. Bad, bad, bad!

No genuine, ethical tarot reader should ever ask the querent to pay more for anything, ever. If the querent wants another reading or another service from a tarot reader than that should be for them to decide. Fake tarot readers bring the whole art of tarot reading into disrepute and, personally, I don’t want anything to do with them.

However, the portrayal of tarot in films has also had an impact in how tarot is perceived.

Tarot in films

Interest in the occult and supernatural really took off in the 1960s and 1970s as can be seen in this 1972 abstract from the Sociological Quarterly which you can read here. Tarot began to be appear in a more dramatic fashion in films around this time. Two of the best known films in which tarot appears are the 1973 James Bond film Live and Let Die and the 1965 British Horror Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors:

In films tarot is portrayed as having supernatural power.
In Dr Terror's House of Horrors, tarot predicts death.

In Live and Let Die we have Jane Seymour’s character, Solitaire, use the tarot to predict Bond’s arrival on the island and the death he brings. Events, of course, play out exactly the way Solitaire predicted which presents the tarot as a supernatural tool for predictions which cannot be changed.

In the earlier Dr Terror’s House of Horrors we see an even more malignant depiction of tarot. Five strangers board a train followed by a sixth passenger, Peter Cushing’s character Dr Schreck, who pulls out his deck of tarot cards. The other passengers then ask for their futures to be read. Big mistake! Dr. Schreck uses his tarot deck to predict the wildly unusual but fatal ends of all the passengers. Which of course cannot be avoided!

Honestly, I think that if you were really into the supernatural back in the 1960s and 70s and believed that tarot could predict a future cast in stone then these films would have had quite an influence. They certainly helped solidify tarot’s reputation as a supernatural force for the general film audience.

Is it just the films that gave tarot it’s supernatural aura? If you had a tarot deck in your hands, particularly in the 1960s when there were very few tarot decks available, would you really be afraid of a tarot reading? If you believed in the power of tarot and used the little instruction book that came with certain decks you might.

Early Tarot card Meanings are scary

Tarot deck from the 1970s

Above is the Grimaud tarot deck, the same deck used in Dr Terror’s House of Horrors. This copy is from the 1970s and came with a very interesting little book of card meanings.

These days, we associate the Death card to mean a transition from something that has outlived its usefulness to something new. The transition may be planned or unexpected but we rarely, if ever, think of the Death card as meaning actual death. Not in the Grimaud tarot which was pretty much the only widely available tarot deck in the 1960s:

Just look at those card meanings and card combinations! Death by itself means actual death. Combine it with other Major Arcana and we are talking mass death on an epic scale! At the time of writing this post the world is in the grip of a major pandemic – Death followed by the World in the above instructions means disease epidemic on a vast scale. I don’t believe any modern tarot deck instructions would lead you to considering a mass disease outbreak.

I think it is with good reason that there is a lingering fear amongst some people of having a tarot reading. Tarot card meanings have clearly evolved over time but, back in the 60s and 70s, if you believed in the power of prediction, then you would likely be scared out of your wits if you received the Death card. Even now, people are still afraid of the Death card. It’s not hard to see why! From experiences like this, it’s is also not hard to see how tarot could have gained a reputation for being evil.

old Tarot marketing feeds into evil reputation

It’s not just the tarot card meanings from the 60s and 70s that make tarot appear to be frightning or evil. There was some dubious tarot marketing going on in the 1970s. Have a look at this deck published around 1975:

Sensational tarot deck packaging to tie into tarot's reputation for being evil
Royal Fez Moroccan Tarot Ca. 1975

Pretty sensational stuff and not the kind of packaging you see for tarot decks nowadays. Here we have two of the more infamous tarot cards, The Devil and Death plus the snake from the Lovers card, featured up front and centre. The packaging is clearly tapping into the tarot’s reputation for scary predictions to create sales. It’s a long way from the current view of tarot as a spiritual tool and source of guidance.

So, tarot card meanings and lurid packaging back in the day certainly helped to both create and feed off tarot’s fear inducing reputation. However, today, in the early 21st century, the main reason why some people believe tarot is evil is because of the Bible.

tarot is evil according to the bible

The Bible has quite a lot to say on the topic of divination, if you want you can read a large selection of quotes regarding divination here. Essentially, the Bible says that the only source of divine guidance should be from God and that all other supernatural sources of such guidance – through divination – are spirits or demons. Which of course are evil. Even the Pope, as recently as 2018, specifically called out tarot cards as a form of idol worship and that one should only commune with God for divine guidance.

In my personal experience this is a load of nonsense. I have been reading tarot for myself and others for many years and have never experienced negative outcomes or summoned evil spirits from using the tarot. I know many tarot readers who have used the tarot far longer than I have, many decades, and I know they have never experienced anything negative.

I want to make it very clear that I fully respect everyone’s religious practices but that doesn’t mean I can’t hold an opinion. It is worth noting that the Bible was written by men to interpret the word of God. Mankind is fallible with biases and prejudices. Furthermore, and more crucially, the church has a vested interest in making sure that people only worship God. If people could find spiritual guidance through divination then they would have no reason to join the church and the religion would not grow.

The Catholic Church Believes in Magic

The Church explicitly believes in magic – of which divination is a part – by celebrating Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana. This is described as a miracle but is clearly an act of magic.

However, the Church has a history of centuries of repression of the practice of magic because it is simply unacceptable to access guidance from the divine through any source other than worship. To do so was considered heresy and was a major reason for the creation of the Inquisition.

Although the Inquisition is long gone, the repression of divination and magic in general by the Catholic Church continues to this day for the same reason. Magic is considered real via the concept of miracles but only by worshipping God can you be enlightened.

And so, we hear that tarot will summon spirits and that divination is the work of devils. The truly devout will tell you that this comes directly from God. Yet, as I mentioned above, men wrote the bible, not God.

This kind of thinking belongs in the Medieval era, not the 21st century.

Problematic Aspects Of The Bible

The Bible has several problematic aspects that do not fit into modern society. Exodus tells us that: ‘You shall not allow a Sorceress to live.’ So, yep, the Bible is saying we should kill people who practice magic. That’s called murder. Not very helpful and actually illegal. Moving away from divination for the moment the Bible also tells us that women should be submissive to men. Well, that is surely down to individual choice, isn’t it? Not because the Bible says it should be so. Again this piece of biblical wisdom doesn’t fit well in the 21st century.

The point here is that sections of the Bible should be ignored because they are widely out of touch with modern society. I include the Bible’s view on divination here, especially in our multi faith and increasingly secular society.

I also feel that devout Christians telling us that tarot is evil is somewhat hypocritical. Religion itself, especially Christianity, has been the source and cover for real evil throughout the centuries and into the modern day. The Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions murdered thousands of innocent men, women and children for centuries. Accusing someone of being a heretic was also used as means for the Inquisition to acquire land and property from the accused. Abuse of power on a grand scale.

In the modern day, we have numerous examples of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and covered up by the Catholic Church. You can read about some of these in this BBC article here. The Church of England has also been found guilty of failing to protect children from sexual abuse – you can read about that here.

In other words, it is a bit rich for Christians to tell us that tarot cards are evil when the church itself is involved in acts of real evil. The church does not have the moral high ground to lecture us on what is evil and what is not.

If you live your life according to the Bible then i’m not going to change your mind. However, if you are open minded and curious about tarot then I can reassure you, there is nothing to worry about. Do not take any notice of those who say tarot is evil.

Combining Faith With Tarot

I don’t want to finish talking about the Bible’s view on divination on a negative note. If you have faith in God I want you to know that it is possible to combine your faith with reading tarot. Jada Jones is an example of someone who combines her religious faith with reading tarot in a very positive manner. You can read Jada’s story here.

Personally I find Jada’s story very uplifting; she explored tarot for herself and discovered the benefits of combining tarot with her own faith to help her overcome life’s challenges. I share her view that the tarot is not about predicting the future, it is about looking into oneself with the tarot acting as a mirror. The tarot then is not a means of communicating with evil spirits and demons. Instead, it is a psychological means to really think about what is happening in your life and how you can respond to that. I don’t believe the Bible has an issue with this.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned that the tarot cards have no power, the power is within you. This is true. A word of caution though. If we say that tarot acts as a mirror then, if evil results from a tarot reading, the evil comes from within you. In which case neither the tarot nor the Bible can help you.

The most conclusive way to see if tarot is evil or not is surely to conduct some academic research into whether tarot is beneficial or not. What does the research have to say?

Tarot Research

There is not a lot of research into tarot and its benefits but some qualitative journal articles have been published. In a 2004 article, Anne Coulter describes how tarot can be used as a tool for counselling as well as assisting in meditation and spiritual growth. You can read part of the abstract here.

In a 2006 article, Inna Semetsky discusses how tarot can be used to help individuals achieve emotional stability and well being as well as reconciling conflicting ideas and experiences. The abstract is available here.

I’ll admit that is not a lot of research but it is something and does help demonstrate that using tarot has positive outcomes. I can’t find any published research that says tarot is actually harmful.

In conclusion, my belief is that tarot is not evil. It has gained that reputation due to dodgy scammers; its presentation in media and publishing and from the Bible’s view of divination being evil. My personal experience is that tarot has only ever been beneficial, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing a blog about it!

If you want to try tarot for yourself then go for it, don’t let talk of it being evil put you off.

So, what are you waiting for?