Tarot, Fear and Faith
When I posted my outrage at marketing decisions made by Doreen Virtue and Hay House for her new tarot deck I had no idea there was also a great deal of controversy in the tarot community about the deck itself. As I said in my prior post, I personally don’t find anything troubling or offensive about the deck – it is not very original in its concepts, but it looks lovely.
The conversation that has arisen out of this controversy is worth tackling as a topic of its own. The question is “Is tarot scary?”
A few clients tell me that they are a little afraid to have a reading. That is not because they are afraid of the cards, per se. It is because they are afraid of what I might tell them. Sometimes, for new clients, it is because they have heard stories of other readers who said very negative things. Sometimes it is because they suspect something to be true that they don’t want to be true – and they know that a reading may confirm their suspicions.
Some people are afraid of tarot readings because of the Gypsies who use tarot to defraud people. We should all fear and avoid fraudulent business people.
Some people are afraid because they have been taught by particular religious dogma that tarot is evil. Sadly, religion can sometimes narrow our thinking instead of broadening our horizons.
People often fear what they do not understand, and tarot takes some time and effort to understand.
Some people find the actual cards scary because of the harsh images and words on cards like Death and Devil, for instance, or the upsetting images on cards like the Ten of Swords.
As a reader, I find that fear of the words and images creates a good teachable moment. It is an opportunity to teach something about tarot, and an opportunity to teach something about fear.
For instance, in the Waite Ten of Swords image a person is laid prone and bleeding with ten swords in his back. It is not a pleasant image by any account. But when I explain to the client that those swords represent their own thoughts or their own reaction to unkind words, the client is empowered to change their thinking, or to take control of their reaction.
Sometimes it is helpful for us to see graphic images that represent our pain. These images both validate us and give us clues to help us heal.
Sometimes people fear tarot, and tarot reading, because they fear all things unpleasant. Once at my tarot table I asked a client what she wanted to know and she responded with “I just want to hear that my life is going to be happy and everything is going to be wonderful.” She wasn’t kidding.
Another potential client told me she didn’t want to have a reading because the last time she had a reading she was told that someone around her was going to die within two years. Within two years, someone around her did in fact die. The question I countered with was this. Can you remember any two year period in your life when someone around you didn’t die? The reader might have just as well predicted that you would breathe air.
From those two stories I take away two ideas. One is that people may fear readings because readings generally don’t confirm unrealistic expectations. Two is that people are not always in touch with the basic realities of life.
The reason people are not always in touch with the basic realities of life is – you guessed it – fear.
Fear can be disabling in many ways.
Perhaps some people fear tarot because tarot is a reflection of life, and of truth.
Well-placed fear can protect us and keep us alive. Fear of failure, success, change and growth can keep us from living.
When we walk in fear we lose so many opportunities for joy. That may be the ultimate goal of the spiritual journey, no matter what the culture or belief set may be. We all need to learn to walk in faith, rather than in fear.
Many of our modern philosophers, from great presidents to the Grateful Dead, have had wise words to say about fear.
My beloved Desiderata by Max Erhmann says something about fear.
"Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.”
I wrote about fear in my poem about the Ace of Swords. Its final lines read:
But do not take this Sword of Air
Without the strength the truth to bear.
And remember with faith, when truth is clear
It's never as dark as what you fear.
For me, that is the truth about tarot, and about tarot reading. Tarot is a reflection of life, in which some things are more pleasant than others. But if we can face life from a perspective of love and faith, we never have anything to fear.
Tarot is a tool that can help us find the love, faith and strength of spirit we need to move forward boldly, and with joy. And that’s not scary at all.