Growing up in a really strict Christian home I was always taught that tarot was a tool of the Devil. However, I really started to learn more about it ironically when I started therapy. I started to also learn about the history of why Tarot is considered to be evil rather than helpful and I found that it has less to do with the spiritual world and more to do with how we think and see ourselves.
I grew up in the church. My parents both worked at the church and we basically spent so much time there it was like a second home. I have always loved spiritual things. I loved learning about other religions as well as my own. However, things of the occult were labeled absolutely evil and I never really ventured into asking the question of why.
I want to preface this with saying that I am a Christian, that thinks Tarot has more to do with your mental state than the spiritual plane and can’t really be used to tell you the future, even if you wanted it to because the future is an ever-changing thing created by your choices in the moment. This post is to talk about how I came to this conclusion.
In 2018 I decided to seek some help for my anxiety, depression, and OCD thinking that I dealt with since childhood. While there my therapist and I started talking about religion and my curiosity as well as my fear of things like Tarot. I decided to go a studious route and learn about the Tarot without really touching those things. I know maybe some of you are laughing at me right now, and that’s okay, but when you are raised to believe something is bad or scary or evil, it can be a really hard metal thing to break.
I started to first read up on the power of suggestion. I read about a “Man Who Dies of Hypothermia in an Unplugged Freezer” or a witch doctor killing people by just pointing his staff at them because they were raised to believe that he could kill someone by doing that. I had to wonder the same about these cards. They are in all reality, paper, and ink. So why was all this evil being contributed to them and was it because they were honestly objects of evil, or was it because we interpreted what they showed us TO BE EVIL?
From a place of neutrality, I decided to ask the question. Is Tarot really Evil and Why.
1.) They are linked to playing cards. So this is the first thing that might make them “evil”. Growing up my mother often played solitaire and card games, so I wasn’t really raised to think that cards were evil. HOWEVER, I was raised to think that betting was (despite my parents shelling out $20 every time the lottery got high). In this respect, while I personally don’t think betting is bad (“Only bet what you feel like losing.” as my mother would say) I do know that gambling can actually be a biological problem that science is only now beginning to understand. However, just like if you had a parent who was an alcoholic, having a parent who loses all their money to gambling can be just as harmful and can thus make things like “playing cards” evil.
2.) They have upsetting and often misinterpreted cards. Classically, cards like The Devil, The Tower, The Hanged Man, The Ten of Swords and Death, have all been fear-laden cards. If you didn’t understand the symbolism of these cards (which I will be discussing in this post) then you might be absolutely terrified if they came up during a reading. However, these cards are often about change and how YOU are perceiving a situation.
3.) People Believe They can Tell the Future. This is not only incorrect but absolutely impossible. In fact, if you ever see someone to do a tarot reading and they tell you it can tell you your future you might want to just walk away.
The future is ever-changing based on not just YOUR choices but how the choices of those around you affect you! While you can reflect easily on the past the future has yet to be made and there are too many factors that make it near impossible to tell what’s going to happen next and if you could tell what was going to happen next now you’re messing with people’s free will and that’s an entirely different problem.
The very best a Tarot reading can do is show you about the future is about how you’ve acted in the past towards similar situations and from there the choice is YOURS if you wish to do something different.
So what’s the link between Tarot and the Psyche? I want us to first look at what is known as the Rorschach Test. You might also know it as the “Ink Blot Test”. This is when a blot of ink is placed on a paper and then the paper is folded. The image left behind is open for interpretation. Often Psychologists will use it to see look at how you see the world around you or what the first thing your mind perceives is. There really is no right or wrong answer to a Rorschach test the question is really why did you see what you saw.
I like to think of Tarot in much the same way. This makes it really not spiritual at all and more about giving you a way of seeing your issue or thoughts differently.
So for example, let’s briefly talk about some of those “Scary” Cards. I personally use the Rider Waite deck so those will be the cards I’ll be discussing here.
1.) The Devil: This card isn’t as scary as it looks. Ironically, the Devil in this card DOES NOT represent the actual devil in the Christian belief system, but OUR OWN UNHEALTHY, DARK, and NEGATIVE SIDE that keeps us from what we want or what’s best for us. Traditionally, the card is about addiction, restriction, attachment, sexuality, and the shadow self (the parts of one’s self that we are either unconscious of or don’t wish to acknowledge). The interpretation of this card is brought about through the symbolism that is shown in it. The two people in this card are bound (bound to a negative way of thinking or action), There are chains about their necks, but they are loose enough to be removed which is a symbol of hope that there is a possibility fo being free. Though this is a dark card, there is also a torch being held by the devil at the level of the two people meaning that in some way through the darkness they see a way out of their situation. This card is about what your negative self is doing to keep your positive self from living it’s best life.
2.) The Tower: This card can also look pretty scary. The tower is on fire, there’s lightning, two people are seemingly falling to their deaths with looks of terror on their faces. Out of all the cards, this is possibly the least fun to see in a reading. It represents sudden change, chaos, upheaval but also awakening. This card symbolizes those sudden moments of realization in our lives. The sudden understanding that you’re not happy at work, or perhaps a sudden negative event that has helped us realize that we are not as happy as we would like to be. Life is full of sudden and unpleasant changes, however, with the tearing down of one’s life, as usual, this card is a reminder that now there is material to build new and better structures. Being suddenly fired or let go from your job is never fun, but now there is a chance to ask yourself if you were truly happy at that job, or if there is anything else you’d like to do. I must stress again, that the cards can not tell the future, but it might be good if you haven’t had a tower moment to keep your eyes open. Sometimes tower moments aren’t in the physical, but a sudden realization that how you are even thinking isn’t helpful to you being happy and it’s good to pay attention to that.
3.) The Hanged Man: While not as scary as The Tower or The Devil, the hanged man still doesn’t look happy. He’s upside down, bound, captured, and immobile. However, the meaning of this card is actually pretty nice. It’s about taking a second to pause, have a new perspective (turning your world upside down for a moment to look at it differently), surrendering to what’s happening around you, and letting go. I’ve also heard it described as being at a crossroads where you have a choice to make but need some time to consider which way you’ll go. This card politely asks your psyche to take a moment to pause and think carefully about what’s going on in your life so you can make the most positive moves forward.
4.) The Ten of Swords: Sometimes scary cards like this one help you to name how you’re feeling about a situation. In this picture, there’s a person laying on the ground with ten swords stabbed into their back. That’s definitely gruesome, but the emotion it’s trying to portray is clear. There’s a feeling of being literally stabbed in the back, betrayal, deep wounds, and crisis. If you are feeling negative about a situation and pull this card, it’s good to ask yourself if you resonate with that image. Sometimes it can be hard to acknowledge how we feel in a time of crisis. I know in my case I like to put on a strong front and ignore when I’m actually really hurt. To pull this card is a nice reminder to myself that it’s okay to say that I felt hurt or betrayed and to just acknowledge those feelings. Acknowledging the negative feelings is the first step to healing those feelings.
5.) Death: Ah the death card is probably the most terrifying next to the Devil. Often times when it’s pulled people wonder if it means that they or someone they love is going to die. Let me reassure you that this card is probably the most lovely out of all of the scary cards. This card is about endings, change, transformation and transition. It’s similar to the Tower in that there is an ending, but it’s less chaotic and more natural. All things die, not just in the physical realm but in the mental one as well. It’s about perhaps allowing certain mindsets that no longer serve you to disappear and be replaced with better ones.
One of the very first readings I did for myself I got both the Devil and Death card. Of course, that was really upsetting to me so I went and talked about it with my therapist. She explained that the Devil was about negativity in my life (I was struggling with OCD which can be like an addictive thought process in which I obsess about something that is upsetting me rather than letting it go). She also explained that the Death card was about releasing perhaps thought process that no longer served me. The fact that I was in therapy and working on these things came up. While I had interpreted the cards at first to mean something scary, really it was just my mind’s way of saying “Hey, you’ve been really restricted with this mindset and you’re in a process of letting that mindset go”.
Some say that perhaps there’s a negative force from the spiritual side having you pick those cards out in the first place, but in all honesty, I don’t believe so. We give good and evil power to things. In church circles, I’ve heard of people randomly opening up the Bible and picking a random verse for the day to tell if their day is going to go good or bad. Just because they’re using the Bible doesn’t mean they aren’t using a form of scrying which is called Bibliomancy. I like to think that everything happens for a reason and that if your mind (or God) has a message to give you, you’ll get that message by any means necessary.
Lastly, there are things Tarot can’t answer. It can’t tell you how many kids you’re going to have. If your partner is going to marry you. If you’re going to be rich. If the illness you have is going to kill you, or if your partner is cheating on you. They can however help you understand why you’re afraid of those things. What you want and how you can start thinking to differently to impact your situation. For example, I often get pentacles in my card drawings and when someone pulls cards for me they get them too. Pentacles is often a symbol of money. So naturally, the person who has pulled the cards for me gets excited talking about how I’m going to be rich but that is not my personal focus in life. I’ve been poor most of my life growing up and so for me money wasn’t as important as happiness. So while the prospect of money is a nice thing to acknowledge, what I look for in my own interpretation is the richness of life, of my relationships, and of my happiness.
To wrap things up, the more I’ve studied spiritualism, the more I’m starting to see people like witches and warlocks as people who have a strong vested interest in their own psychology. They believe in the spiritual realm, but their focus largely focusses on understanding themselves, their thoughts, their dark sides, and doing their best to set intentions and goals for their life that are responsible and kind.
If you are like I was so many years ago, wanting to understand yourself better or even perhaps wanting to heal your mind, but are worried that things like Tarot are bad, the advice I can give to you is this. Do your research, take your time, read up, and question whether YOU think something is bad.
If you’ve made it this far, firstly, thank you. I appreciate your openness if to anything than the thoughts and perspective I have on this. Secondly, if you really like this article and would like to explore it, check out my shop! I have everything from $1 1 card readings to more complicated 10 card celtic cross readings. I’m also willing to do a private Youtube video for you, or even a Skype session! So please feel free to check my shop out HERE.
If you’d like to read more about the link of Tarot and Psychology here are some great books and articles for you to explore:
- Carl Jung: Tarot Cards Provide Doorways to the Unconscious, and Maybe a Way to Predict the Future.
- Using Tarot in Psychotherapy
- Tarot Therapy: Why some believe the cards can help with mental health
- Carl Jung and Jungian Archetypes in the Tarot: The Various Aspects of Our Selves
Fear of empowerment and understanding one’s self has been used all throughout history for people to control one another. I feel the fear that has been developed around Tarot is an example of this. If tarot does scare you, ask yourself why and really think about the answer you get. Is it really because it’s demonic, or (just like the Devil card) are you the real demon you’re afraid of? Exploring the mind can be as exciting and scary as any horror movie and yet it’s so much more rewarding. To be notified of future posts like this one be sure to SIGN UP HERE. If you wish to talk further with me drop me a line in the comments below or feel free to email me using my contact information provided on this site. I LOVE discussing anything psychological or spiritual, or theological. Thank you so much for reading this, and I hope it helped you consider the Tarot to be a tool of psychology more than a tool of the Devil. -Heather Astaneh