Earning Tarot a Place at the Table

A Tarot ReadingI saw something disturbing on a social networking website recently.  A gifted tarot reader and teacher posted that she wanted to burn her tarot cards.  It was simply a joke - her way of expressing frustration, possibly with her clients, or with what she saw in her own cards.

The follow-up comments from her friends and students were what got me.  They included the suggestion that it was “liberating” to get rid of your tarot cards, and that we should find truth from ourselves, not from our cards.

These statements indicate a basic lack of understanding of what tarot is, how it works, and how it is best used.

That, in itself, is neither surprising nor disturbing.  Many people don’t get tarot.

But these people are teachers and students from the spiritual community of which tarot is a part.  I feel they should have known better.

The sad fact is, tarot is the red-headed stepchild of the modern spiritual community.  Enlightened clients try to compliment me by telling me it is clear to them that I don’t “need” the cards to give a great reading.  It is as if they think the cards are training wheels on the psychic bicycle of life.

Professional intuitives and mediums try to imply their skills are somehow better than mine are, because they don’t “rely on cards.”

Even people who identify themselves as “lightworkers,” those involved with Reiki and energy work, often spread terrible misinformation about tarot.

I am afraid some of the fault lies with us - readers and teacher of tarot.

In the example that inspired this rant, the teacher may have served herself, and tarot, best by teaching tarot as a tool of introspection, rather than as a fortune-telling device.  Her students, and all tarot students, need to understand the many uses of tarot.  They, and we, should grok the distinct difference between divination and fortune telling.

So, what are the many uses of tarot?  Tarot is a tool of introspection, and meditation.  Each card teaches a spiritual lesson.  When drawn at random, the cards can give us gentle reminders of the lessons we are embracing, the goals we are achieving, and the challenges we are facing.

Tarot is a tool of magick and manifestation.  Since each card holds a specific energy, we can use the cards to attract and remove specific energies in our own lives.

Tarot is a tool of divination.  Fortune telling suggests that there is only one path or possibility for the future.  Divination suggests that we can access divine wisdom that will help us learn from our past, enjoy our present, and prepare for our future.  There’s a big difference.

Tarot is a tool of creativity.  We can use it to inspire art, poetry, music and other projects.

Tarot is a tool of psychic development.  Its images are designed to make us more psychic, and to help us tap in to universal consciousness and wisdom.

Tarot is a tool of communication.  It helps us understand each other.  It allows us to communicate with our high selves, with our subconscious mind and with the spirit world around us.

I like to compare tarot with sacred texts such as the Holy Bible.  You will never hear one Christian telling another that they are relying on their Bible too much.

Amongst professional readers, there are those who use tarot to take advantage of clients by making dire predictions and charging money to avert those very possibilities.  This style of reading is as ancient as it is heinous.  We can do very little to stop it, but we can educate the public, making sure potential clients know they have a choice.  We can’t let con artists in neon-lit storefronts define our craft for us in the eyes of the public.

There are readers who use tarot without any particular training or any understanding of tarot traditions or tarot history.  They are primarily intuitives who have formulated their own uses for the cards.  Some of these readers are quite gifted, but they are not, by definition, tarot readers. 

There are also tarot students who promote themselves to the professional position at a time when their skills and training aren’t equal to the task of professional reading. 

Even great readers can give tarot a bad name.  I once had a tarot student come in for a reading.  During the reading, it was clear that her marriage was failing, and there was little to be done to save it.  Her reaction was “I am not going to let cards dictate my life.”  Obviously, I had failed to teach her that the cards don’t dictate life, they reflect it.  Otherwise, I could take a photo of myself and say “I am fat in this picture and I don’t want to be fat, so if I don’t look at the picture, I won’t be fat.”  It’s the same thing.

So between the fraudsters, the untrained, the inexperienced, and those in denial, there’s plenty out there to give us all a bad name.

That’s why I get so angry when one of us has the opportunity to lead and teach in a way that honors tarot and instead chooses to dishonor it, and us.

What are the things we can do to honor tarot in the spiritual community, as well as the community at large?  What can we do to earn tarot a place at the grown-up table?

First, our own conduct needs to be above reproach.  As much as is humanly possible, we must operate from a place of integrity and compassion.  We need to recognize that people can take what we say about tarot, even in jest, quite seriously.  We are tarot’s representatives, and need to act with that in mind.

Second, we must be educators.  We must find ways to inform people about what tarot is, and what it isn’t.  We can do that formally, by teaching classes, or informally, by talking to friends.  We can publish books, blogs and websites.  We can appear on radio and television.  Each time we do, we make a difference.

When compared to many other psychic modalities, tarot is quite young.  As with any youth, it is still forming, still finding itself. 

Tarot readers, students, teachers and artists must never forget the sacred privilege that is ours.  We are defining what tarot is and will be for the next generation.

Let’s be phenomenal, as tarot is phenomenal.