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?

9 Tarot Myths – False…or True?

Tarot Myths: False... or True?
Bohemian Gothic Tarot copyright Alex Ukolov and Karen Mahony

Here we are in the 21st century with tarot accepted in the mainstream and yet certain tarot myths surrounding the cards seem to persist. Or, at least, I keep hearing them come up again and again. These days, stories and ‘facts’ about tarot circulate in social media and spread; even now on tarot forums I see tarot newbies asking about these tarot myths. Hmm. I’ve picked up on some of the tarot myths that I keep hearing about and I want to talk about them from my own experience. After all, if the myths were true, then shouldn’t I have discovered this over the years?

On this blog I want to encourage people to pick up and use tarot; some of these myths might put the tarot curious off so i’m going to talk about them from my personal perspective.

Lets dive in!

1. You need to be gifted Your first Deck

This old chestnut is still around. I have absolutely no idea where this comes from, probably from the dim and distant past. Lets put this one to rest.

If I had waited to be gifted my first tarot deck all those years ago, I would never have got into tarot in the first place. I suppose I could have asked to have a deck as a Christmas or Birthday present but what if I received a deck I didn’t like? Nope, I bought my first deck. Hated the deck. Lesson learnt there, research your deck before you buy it.

Back in 2004/2005 when I was looking for suitable learning decks, Amazon was incredibly useful as was the tarot database which has many, many decks you can get a sampling of. The Aeclectic site is still there although the excellent forums shut down several years ago; You can access the site here. These days, pictures of cards from just about any deck you’re interested in are a short click away from Google; YouTube; Pinterest: Instagram – you name it.

So yeah, you can buy your own deck – being given your first deck is nice but buying your first deck won’t affect your ability to use the tarot. You can read more on buying your first beginner tarot deck in ‘Choosing and Buying a Beginner Tarot Deck‘ which you can find here.

2. You need to be Psychic to read Tarot

Do you really need to have psychic abilities to read the tarot? I’m quite certain there are people in the world with genuine psychic abilities. They might be very rare but i’m sure they exist. I’m not one of them. I would not, in any way, describe myself as psychic yet I am able to read the tarot with no problem. Before our current coronavirus pandemic, I often attended Tarot Meetups here in London and I haven’t yet met another tarot reader who would describe themselves as psychic. I doubt genuine psychics even need to use a tarot deck. Intuition is what’s important so if you’re not psychic then don’t worry, you don’t need to be.

To learn an easy technique to help you read tarot intuitively, see the post ‘How To Do An Intuitive Tarot Reading’ which can be found here.

3. only Witches can read tarot

I’ve seen this mentioned a few times. I’m aware that many witches, whether they are Wiccan or follow some other path, read tarot as part of practicing the Craft. So, some witches are tarot readers but not all tarot tarot readers are witches. I have met some excellent tarot readers who are not witches. One works in the Civil Service, another works in the legal profession, another in television. One tarot reader I known works in the London Underground. Myself, I work mainly in the UK National Health Service and I am definitely not a witch of any kind. But I can read tarot. So there you go.

So, yep. You can read tarot without needing to be a witch.

4. Only women can read Tarot

Tarot Myths: Only women can read tarot
Ancestral Path Tarot copyright US Games Systems

Oh boy, i’ve seen this one come up pretty often. The rationale is that women are more intuitive than men and, therefore, men cannot read tarot. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I would say, browsing social media and the internet, that there appear to be more female tarot readers than male ones. However, apart from myself – male if it wasn’t obvious – I have encountered in person quite a few male tarot readers. A few of them have been some of the most skilled tarot readers I have ever encountered.

As for myself, when it comes to intuition, I will admit that when I started with tarot many years ago I found it difficult to use my intution with the cards. I had to fight against years of conditioning where I had been focused on rationality and believing that science has all the answers. The more I used tarot though and the more I was exposed to the realm of metaphysics – as well as a very frightning personal experience with the paranormal – I began to realise science does not have all the answers. This allowed me to open up and relax, allowing me to exercise my intuitive ‘muscles’. In fact, I believe that tarot has actually helped me to become more intuitive – the tail wagged the dog.

All of this is to say that men can read tarot just as well as women. Men might read tarot differently from women but, in my experience of having had readings from both male and female readers, both genders do just fine. This myth is a load of old cobblers and deserves to fade away.

5. to bond with your tarot deck – sleep with it under your pillow

I’ve heard this a lot as well. The idea is that you can attune the deck to your energies (or the other way around) by having it under your pillow when you sleep. Getting used to your tarot deck through osmosis basically.

There is only one thing guaranteed to happen if you try this. You will have a very uncomfortable night’s rest and probably wake up with a sore neck. Of course, you could try it with a very thick pillow – memory foam is probably better – but, still. You also run the risk of damaging your deck – not exactly what ‘imprinting’ your energies into the deck is supposed to mean!

If you really want to attune to your tarot deck, to get really familiar with it, then play with it regularly – every day even. Do one card readings, study the cards, whatever floats your boat.You will get used to your deck more easily this way and learn all its nuances. As with most things to do with tarot – and life – there are few shortcuts. Memory foam pillows are very comfy but keep your deck somewhere safe, not under the pillow.

6. It takes years of study to become good at tarot reading

What is true about being a tarot reader is that you will never stop learning something new. I have been reading the cards for many years and I am constantly learning new things that I add into my practice. However, constantly learning doesn’t mean you can’t read the tarot relatively quickly.

There are some key approaches to learning the tarot. One, you learn the meanings of the cards first – we are talking about the Rider Waite Smith system here – and then learn how these meanings apply to your reading with intuition guiding you. With this approach, it can take a long time to become familiar with reading the cards and personally I don’t recommend it. Why? Because this is the approach I took when I started learning to read and it wasn’t easy. I wouldn’t try this if I was a tarot newbie now.

A much better way is option two: you don’t worry about what the cards are supposed to mean, instead you become familiar with your deck by studying the pictures on the cards and figuring out what they mean to you. Some tarot readers are purely intuitive, they never learned what the cards are supposed to mean. Instead they let the pictures guide them in the context of the question. This approach doesn’t have to take that long but, again, you will need to practice, practice, practice.

This approach will get you off the ground and reading the cards fairly quickly but I still encourage learning the card meanings and suit elemental energies later on. It is good to have the knowledge to hand to flavour the readings and, if you get stuck during a reading, you can fall back on the meanings to help you. However, don’t be put off picking up tarot reading because it looks like years of study lie ahead, it doesn’t have to be that way.

7. Tarot Cards are Evil

Devil Card from Bohemian Gothic tarot
Bohemian Gothic Tarot Copyright Alex Ukolov and Karen Mahony

I fully respect the religious and spiritual views of other people. However, I do have to take this myth down. Hard. The myth is that reading tarot cards will unleash demons – or something similar in tone. Any truth to this? Have I ever experienced this in my many, many years of tarot reading?

The Devil card above, from the fantastic Bohemian Gothic Tarot, probably shows one of the most evil depictions of the Tarot Devil i’ve ever seen – seductive evil, intoxicating, addictive. But, it’s just a card. Tarot decks, whether they are published by large publishers or by independent deck creators, all come off printing presses (mainly, it is possible to get them printed on demand) in their thousands in the case of many mass market decks. They are cardboard and ink and they are no more inherently evil or capable – in and of themselves – of summoning evil spirits as anything else made of cardboard and ink.

So, no, tarot cards are most definitely not evil. In all my years of reading tarot, whether for myself or for others, I have not once summoned evil entities. I’m sure I would have noticed.

A better question to ask is whether tarot cards can be dangerous. In my personal experience they can be but not because of unleashing evil spirits. Tarot, as with all things in which people believe strongly, can create problems. This is a worthy topic for another post so I will leave this for now.

8. you must not read tarot for yourself

Another tarot myth that still appears regularly. One version of this myth i’ve heard is that reading tarot for yourself will result in bad luck. Really? I think the many thousands of people who read tarot for themselves would beg to disagree and so do I. Have I experienced bad luck from reading tarot for myself for 16 years (as of writing this post). Well, i’ve certainly experienced bad luck over the years but then so does everyone else!

It’s inevitable that unfortunate circumstances will happen to people, that’s just the law of averages. On the other hand, reading tarot for oneself can bring many benefits – understanding where you stand in a situation, reflecting on circumstances, helping to creatively think about where and what to do next and the list goes on.

Is reading tarot for yourself difficult? Yes, it can be. The problem with reading tarot for yourself is that you can bring bias to your reading – you can see in the reading what you want to see. It is difficult to be objective about your own readings but it can be done.

This is worth expanding on in a post of it’s own but there are two things you can try to be objective. First, learn when not to read tarot. Yes, that’s right, you heard me! A definite no-no is reading tarot when you are experiencing intense emotion, for example when you are upset or angry at someone or a situation. If you want to read about this situation then wait until you calm down or practice meditation to calm yourself. Another simple technique is to imagine you are reading for someone else; it takes practice but this really works at helping you be objective.

So, let’s put a stake through this myth and burn it. You aren’t going to experience bad luck reading tarot for yourself – that will happen any way because of Life. However, reading tarot for yourself can certainly help you deal with this bad luck in a positive manner. You see, it’s all good!

You can learn more about the problems of reading tarot for yourself – and how to deal with them – in the post ‘Reading Tarot For Yourself – 7 Things to Avoid‘ which is here.

9. Avoid second hand tarot decks

The final tarot myth I want to cover here is this one. The myth goes like this: if you use a second hand tarot deck then you will not be able to get an accurate reading because the energy of the previous owner will create interference. This is mostly untrue in my personal experience.

I am not a collector of tarot decks but I do own quite a few old and vintage decks, mainly for their aesthetic qualities rather than their financial value. These old decks have wonderful papery card stock, more interesting colouration, or just simply resonate with me. Many tarot decks are out of print – if you happen to really like one then you don’t have any choice except to buy it second hand.

I use these old decks quite regularly and with one exception I have never encountered anything out of the ordinary with any of them. The one exception is an old deck that was last published in the 1970s. What makes this deck different is one simple, tiny thing. A previous owner and, for all I know, the only previous owner, marked the back of the 5 of Pentacles with a blue dot in felt tip. If you are familiar with the Rider Waite Smith 5 of Pentacles then you know this card depicts poverty, illness and just sheer material worry.

That tiny blue dot on the back of the card tells me how anxious this previous owner was about that card and I can feel this person’s energy in the deck. However, it is a warm energy, this owner obviously cared for this deck as a valuable divination tool – it is in pretty good condition for a decades old deck. This energy doesn’t interfere with my readings but I am aware of it.

In conclusion

So there you have it, tarot tall tales that have absolutely no truth in them at all – except for one. So don’t let them put you off picking up a tarot deck and beginning a wonderful journey down this metaphysical path. I don’t know why these myths continue to appear, they probably circulate by word of mouth. Ignore them, they are (mostly) a load of BS.