Animism and Tarot

Most of my friends who practice tarot treat their decks like their best friends. They name them, ask their birth dates, give them personalities, place them in pretty pouches and boxes, and even chitchat with them. When I first got into tarot, I found this rather unbelievable, but then I understood that this is one way to “bond” with the decks, to integrate the cards with us and our spiritual energy, and therefore make reading and interpretation easier as the cards naturally become extension of our subconscious mind.

I have had my doubts though. A couple of weeks ago I had a friend used my new tarot cards, and for some reasons the cards got sticky and felt disconnected when I tried to use it afterwards. It reeked of my friend’s perfume and got soaked in her energy. I asked for advices and did whatever I could to cleanse the cards: slipped them in-between the pages of my published translations, fanned them under the sun, compressed them under thick dictionaries to restore their shapes, and so on. I even “talked” with them to restore the energy bond with me. The method worked, and I began to be able to read them again, but then the deck suddenly went berserk and threw me ominous-looking cards after two days.

My friends told me the deck has not recovered from the ordeal that changed her (she was being used multiple times that day for heavy readings) and the best way is to leave her alone in her usual storage place until the upsetting energy evaporates, while talking and humoring her. I followed the advice, yet at the same time I suddenly got reminded of ‘animism’, a word that has not crossed my mind since I encountered it in religion subject in high school. For the uninitiated, it means treating dead objects as if they were alive and had souls. I felt ridiculous for humoring the cards, wondering if I have gone a step too far in treating them like a person. After further discussions with my tarotier friends and some mulling of my own, I came to the conclusion that, while naming the decks and treating them like our favorite dolls does help in familiarizing ourselves with the cards, we also need to draw the line and establish that we are the mistress in the house of cards, not the other way around.

So I did a tête-à-tête with the cards, confirming that I am the mistress of the house who serves the Lord as the highest command and that my deck is a mere assistant whose job is to translate our communication. Please be aware that I was actually talking to myself, establishing that thought in my mind to clear the confusion. It worked: I regained my peace once I made it clear about my position in relation to the cards, and my beloved deck again becomes my lovely assistant.

There is indeed a fine line between appropriate and inappropriate use of tarot decks, and every tarot reader must use their discretion and listen to their conscience to know the correct ways of using the cards. I am thankful of my God-fearing spiritualist friends who have been there and done that and able to share their experiences.

Finding God’s Call through Tarot

I used to be very scared of Tarot.

Like many orthodox Christians, I believed that tarot is a form of occult and divination that is shunned by God and a tool for the Devil to deceive and mislead people who crave instant answers to everything. I never even thought of going near tarot cards until a couple of spiritualist friends who share similar belief system as I do began to show interest in it.

At first I was only a fascinated spectator, then I thought perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to buy a deck just for fun. After all, I didn’t mean to take the whole thing too seriously, just like I read astrology without even believing in it. So I bought a used deck online, and my first introduction to tarot was a disaster. I suffered several minor misfortunes after buying the deck, and I was frightened that God was angry with me for even considering it. So I gave the deck to another spiritualist friend…and stayed away from tarot until I read my Christian friend sharing about how she became more in tune with God’s messages after using tarot to support her devotionals.

I had a lengthy discussion with her and finally decided to buy another deck, this time a new, fantasy-themed one that does not seem to be as imposing and scary as the first. I learned from my friend that tarot cards themselves are harmless objects, that they were originally just playing cards with Christian symbols and archetypes on them until some people began to use them for divination and occult. From Internet research, I also learned that a lot of tarot practitioners do not use these cards for fortune telling, instead they use them in very much scientific way, like psychologists who probe into their clients’ subconsciousness to unearth and underline internal issues they are probably not aware of. So I tried to learn tarot with this new perspective…and the universe seemed to side with me. I experienced no more strange incidents, and began to enjoy the way tarot showed me aspects of myself and my personal issues that I failed to notice or recognize otherwise. Soon I bought my second and third decks, two for daily readings and one for more in-depth, philosophical reading, and joined tarot challenges in Instagram to sharpen my intuitive and interpretation skills.

After a while I got addicted to tarot, and I joined one challenge after another. I could do like 11 challenges in a day and played tarot for hours daily. But after a while things got tedious, my new hobby started to feel draining instead of invigorating, and I still felt alone and demotivated most of the time. Then by God’s grace, my attention was shifted to other issues and new projects, and I abandoned tarot reading for the second time as I got busy and excited with other things.

Eventually I ditched my decks for the second time after stumbling upon this article. Since the guy himself used to be a seasoned tarot reader, he most probably did not write it out of blind speculation. And what he said did make sense to some extent. After all, the Devil is a master of disguise, and who can tell who is really behind the answers we got in tarot cards? So I told God that I will get rid of my decks right away if He would keep me happily busy and productive, and that’s what happened.

Apparently though, my journey with tarot did not end there. Even though I have ditched my decks, I still joined the private discussion group with my fellow professionals cum tarotiers and still enjoyed their exchanges. And of course, with time, my interest in tarot resurfaced. Just mere months after giving out my decks, I had a strange feeling as if God, in fact, was not against this practice at all. Partly because of that feeling and because of the way my Christian tarotier friend sails forward in her relationship with God, I decided to give tarot a third chance.

And this time, I finally know how to use it properly.

Now, I am not discrediting what Alec Satin said. After all, we share the same faith in God and I am sure God has spoken to both of us. But I now begin to realize the main issue with tarot, and I have to admit there is a fine line between using and abusing tarot cards. Before, I used tarot cards for everything: to delve into my psyche, probe into just about any issue, even predict the future sometimes. Instead of feeling enlightened, I actually felt myself getting confused and overwhelmed with all the information. Tarot is indeed a powerful tool, and it can be easily used both ways. The power of tarot as analytical tool may easily induce people with sharp intuition AND desire for power to use these cards to play God, to tell things they shouldn’t tell and open doors they shouldn’t open. The cards themselves are indeed harmless: what they end up as depend on the psyche and intent of people who use them. In my third attempt with the tarot, with the guide of my God-fearing spiritualist friends, I try to look at it not as a key to answer everything but as an ASSISTANT, a way to visualize what God is trying to tell me through my subconscious. Sometimes, God’s nudge or advice or warning can be drowned in our skeptic and noisy mind, and the cards is one way to bring those messages out clearly. Through the symbols, we can interpret what our conscience and instinct have been trying to tell us while we ignore them in our daily lives because of fear, stubbornness and self-denials.

Now I use tarot more sparsely and wisely, only to back up my daily devotionals and to cut through confusion by affirming the answers I have already known deep inside. The key is to keep ourselves close to God and seek His answers in the Word first and foremost before using the Tarot to confirm and clarify. I believe now that tarot can actually be used by God to communicate with people who are spiritually insensitive or just plain dull through  vivid symbols and colors. In this sense, it is important also to choose tarot decks from artists who are NOT involved in dangerous occults or dark magic, as the images may reflect their darkness and instill some of their ideologies in us.

My discovery of the tarot is in no way final and I am still learning about this fascinating tool in my walk with God. So far though, it has been my wonderful assistant in confirming the messages God has first put into my heart before I pick the cards. I hope to share more of my knowledge here in this blog as I go along.