I grew up in a religious rural community where the Christian church was how almost everyone I knew spent a majority of their time. It was the late ‘80s-‘90s. Satanic Panic was in full swing. News media and sewing circle gossip spread baseless conspiracy theories about Satanic cults. Think Season 4 of Stranger Things — which is eerily accurate in its depiction of how strong and influential this fear mongering was (and still is).
Satanic panic extended far beyond nerdy Dungeons & Dragons clubs, however. Church pastors often held Bible-flailing sermons on the evils of any type of secular music, scary movies and even Saturday morning cartoons. Of course, anything occult related — especially Tarot cards — topped the perceived list of demonic devices.
However, there has been a shift in how Tarot is perceived today. The 78 cards have evolved from cheap fortune telling to a helpful tool used in psychotherapy, business analysis and personal development. Thanks to social media platforms like TikTok, Tarot also is experiencing a renaissance. According to Christianity Today, not many Christians think about Tarot. They cite a survey that says 24% of millennials in the United Kingdom are positive toward Tarot.
Why some Christians fear Tarot
I have always had one foot in and one foot out of Christianity. From a cultural standpoint, I’m familiar with the philosophy and the customs. From a spiritual standpoint, I am neither fulfilled nor inspired by patriarchal religious institutions. From a political standpoint, I believe there are too many Christian members who do not stand by their own principles, resulting in an epidemic of societal harm.
There are some religious zealots who believe Tarot can “attract attention from demons,” according to this Catholic-based blog, which goes on to say that Tarot “represents a desire for power and a rejection of God’s providential care over creation.” I find the turn of phrase “desire for power” particularly revealing for why institutional religions purposely misunderstand Tarot.
Such Christian influencers fear Tarot (and any other esoteric spiritual practice for that matter) because Tarot practitioners are reconnecting with themselves. They are asking, “What do I want?” instead of “What is expected of me?” Like many cults, corporate-structured institutions of the religious variety have a long history of using fear to disconnect the individual from themselves in order to control and to manipulate.
It’s no secret that the right wing brand of Christianity has become synonymous with systemizing child sexual abuse and stripping women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community from their human rights. Most likely, this is why more people are walking away from the Christian identity. According to Pew Research Center the number of Americans who identify as Christian has decreased in the last 10 years and the amount of people who are unaffiliated with any religion has increased by nearly the same amount. What greater motivator for spreading false information than the mass exodus of membership?
How Tarot seeks to empower the self
The truth is Tarot is meant to empower the individual by encouraging people to have agency in their lives. Tarot unlocks the subconscious, asks tough questions, uncovers how fear might be in your way and leads you on a path that is in alignment with your Highest Good. Recent events have led many of the younger generation toward alternative spirituality like Tarot because it is a self-care practice that helps people cope in stressful times.
Two things can exist at the same time, however. Why can’t a Christian also read Tarot? I love many of the Christian principles — especially those centered on loving others. I also love how Tarot has helped me be a better person.
Like the Bible, Tarot can be mistranslated if you are viewing it through a lens of fear. If Christians believe a water baptism makes them spiritually clean, why can’t people who practice Tarot feel the same after a Tarot reading? Some Christians believe that ritual communion wine literally becomes Jesus Christ’s blood and in the same breath refer to witchcraft and magic as demonic. Purposeful ignorance and fear are a thin disguise for control and manipulation.
I really tried to be a good Christian. I attended Sunday service, and youth group services. I read the Bible and Christian books. Yet, there was always a pastor, youth leader or elder who was quick to tell me that I was sinning. “You’re going to hell, Heather, because you aren’t Catholic.” “You’re a sinner, Heather, because women shouldn’t go to college.”
After years of trying to change myself based on the nebulous expectations of religion, I sought Tarot to help define my core values, set personal goals and bring balance in my life. I finally found peace and harmony when I stopped searching for answers from brick-and-mortar religious bureaucracies and started searching for answers from within myself.
That’s far from demonic.
(Photo courtesy of Netflix)