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Catholic Versus Tarot?

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

Last week, I was contacted by two people, whom I hold very dear. I received an email, from someone who felt compelled to send me an article about a person who researched the world of psychics. The article was an interesting piece written by a sceptic, who came to an unexpected conclusion about women who read tarots and their capacity (as well as lack of opportunity) for ministry.

Soon after I read that email and the article enclosed, the other beloved person called me. This person also felt compelled to contact me, and to relay an experience which went totally in the opposite direction. She had been in a store looking for a gift, something relating to the Archangel Raphael. This Archangel is mentioned in the Old Testament, and is said to be one to pray to, for help in healing, physical health, and for finding your soulmate. Saint Raphael's feast day is shared on September 29th, with fellow Archangels Michael and Gabriel.

While speaking with the shop assistant, another lady was moved to warn of the dangers of getting involved with angels.

Three different people felt compelled to speak up.

I affirm that each had something very important to say. But where they came from, was their own experience. As I've mentioned in a previous post, our experiences will colour the way we interpret something; but until our interpretation has some kind of validation, it could be open to scrutiny.

So let's unpack this, backwards. The unknown person in the shop gave an unsolicited warning about getting involved with angels. I'm relaying this story indirectly, so please forgive me if I get details askew. She had apparently overheard the conversation about gifts, and was compelled to come over and say, that she'd gone into a world of angels only to find herself tormented, and she attributed that to an evil which I'm not going to name.

In the phone call, my dear informant told me of this stranger in the store. There was no mention of the lady's background, so we couldn't tell if she was a Christian, a Baptist, a drug addict, someone struggling with a severe mental illness ... We knew nothing about her or her background. All we knew was what she said, and it was coloured by her own interpretation of her experience. My mental health research experience (and tertiary education) would lead me to want to uncover the lady's background before making any assumptions about her; but alas, that's not possible.

But, I'll give you an example from my own past, before we move on. When I was a small child, I awoke one night, unable to move. All I could see was the black of dark night, and I was terrified that some evil was holding me down. No matter how hard I tried, I could not move or make a sound! I was trapped, alone, and afraid!! My Catholic experience explained what was happening inside my brain as something evil, and it absolutely terrified me.

Fast-forward to my Psychology undergraduate years, when I discovered a completely natural phenomenon that happens to practically everyone: hypnopompic and hypnogogic hallucinations!

Did you know that we all are susceptible to hallucinations when we go to sleep (hypnogogic), and when we're just waking up (hypnopompic)? What I experienced, all those years ago, was an hallucination, and a common one at that! If I had known that, instead of the fire and brimstone stories of evil, I would not have been scared (out of my wits).

So, let's come back to last week, and the phone call. I had anticipated this call, from the time I decided to go public with reading tarots for others, over WhatsApp and similar platforms. This is because I know this dear one to be what many might call a traditional type of Catholic, and a very devout person who lives their faith every day.

I had a similar talk with my Mum, also a very devout and traditional type of Catholic, many years ago. I knew what the Catholic Church had to say about tarots and psychics and such. But, I had already started to feel disenfranchised by the Catholic Church because I wanted to be a priest (when I was 6), and discovered that I'd never be allowed to because I wasn't male. So, I looked for other ways to find my own type of ministry, and that included other denominations of Christianity, as well as Psychology.

At every roadblock in my life, I prayed for guidance. But how do you hear God's reply, if you don't give God your number, and then listen for the call-back?

I felt compelled to learn discernment. To do this, I needed to broaden my outlook. As a teen, I learned in high school (St Aloysius') that just because all the other faiths are not Catholic, doesn't make them wrong or evil. This point was reiterated in senior high school (St Anne's), when we explored other faiths as part of our all-girls school curriculum.

All this time, I was privileged to become friends with girls from all over the world, and with different religious backgrounds to mine. It opens your mind, and broadens your horizons (especially if you can't travel!).

So, at about the age of 19-20, when I moved to Sydney, I picked up my first pack of tarots, and began teaching myself, with books. Mum found out, and made me dispose of those cards. But, the idea of them came back to me when I started studying at uni.

You see, in Psychology, images are often used to help people who can't find the words for their trauma, to express what they're feeling. Art is evocative in a similar way. When I look at Auguste Renoir's paintings, something stirs in my heart. I feel his love and his gentleness. I feel a warmth between his son Jean, and Jean's nanny (and Renoir's model) Gabrielle. This painting, which hangs in Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris, is one of my favourites, and it fills me with love and happiness! Look at the softness in his brush-strokes ...

Painting by Renoir, of Gabrielle and Jean as a little boy
Gabrielle et Jean, Renoir, 1890s

Art is meant to be evocative. It could be to elicit memories of childhood, of happy times, of terror; or it could be to challenge and offend. Art is also expressive. It expresses the sentiments held in the heart of the artist. Often, the colours used will have significance. You know, there was a time when flowers held significance (yellow roses for friendship, red for passionate love ...). Don't you just love daisies?

Pictures of flowers and their meanings
From the Old Farmers' Almanac

This is also true in iconography. Icons are intended to inspire the viewer to contemplate the glory of God, and how to live a life worthy of their creation. I grew up under the gaze of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. This is a sorrowful picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus. It's sorrowful, because she knows what is to become of her beloved son, and it breaks her heart. But she also knows that Jesus has a job to do, and it's not a job for some faint-hearted mere mortal. The icon is venerated all over the world, and by "venerated" I mean worshipped.

I had a lot of trouble, as a child, with my mother's devotion to Mary. This was because I was being educated to pray only to God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit, which left no room for praying to Mary or to angels and the tens of thousands of saints. If you believe in God, and that God will answer your prayers, why would you pray to anyone else?

Despite the first commandment, I was still being encouraged to pray to Mary and the saints. Afterall, my name IS Mary-Claire!!! And, I have developed my own deep love for Our Blessed Lady, Mary.

When I was a kid, Mum would pull me aside at church, to teach me about the symbols being used in Mass, Novena and other Catholic proceedings. When we attend a funeral, we place the symbols of a person's life upon their coffin, which include a white cloth to represent their Baptism, and a Bible to represent their life of faith.

So, you could say that my mother was the first person to introduce me to the world of symbolism, and at a very young age. She never intended it to include reading tarots!

I loved my mother's faith. In her last years, I was blessed to spend many hours talking about faith and spirituality with her. It's my most wonderful memory of her, and her greatest gift to me. My eyes are tearing up at the thought, and my heart is bursting with both the blessing of the love and the grief of the loss. Mum knew that I sought God's Divine Guidance in all I would do. I still continue this now. She and Dad are smiling down on me, spiritually, and in my current favourite photo of them!!

So, how do I reconcile my Catholic upbringing, my deep belief in God and Divine Guidance, and reading tarots?

To start with, I never went into it blindly!!

I prayed for guidance and protection, first and foremost. I then studied the cards (in their many iterations by thousands of artists) and their various interpretations (again, by many varied tarot aficionados). Did you know that there is a gummy bear tarot?

I then learned to reflect upon the images and their meanings for me, specifically. This process is iterative, in that I will go back and do it over and over when I feel the need to do so. I'm doing it currently, starting with the suit of swords (which, for me, is the most challenging because it is the most cerebral of the suits).

I've also looked into the history of tarot, which makes me wonder about all the occult witchy-woo stuff. I say "wonder", because the minor arcana actually comprises a deck of regular playing cards. Literally. A deck of regular playing cards! The major arcana reflects something a little different, but again, it was originally a deck of playing cards!

When you look at the tarots, from the perspective of someone with a background in Psychology and an early experience of religious symbolism, you start to see how I might reconcile all these seemingly opposing forces. Believe me, they can be opposing forces! But they don't have to be.

Much of the symbolism in tarots reflects old Jewish traditions. Did you you know that prophets were important in both the Old and New Testaments (my favourite has always been Isaiah)? Even women were prophets. St Paul, in the New Testament, encouraged prophesying (or prophesising).

We, in today's world, like to act on our vibes. We learn to trust our intuition. But, where does it come from? How do we know that we can trust it???

So, let's get back to the story that started all this. There was a woman with a story of torment attributed to an evil force I will not name, who was compelled to speak. There was a phone call from someone who, with deep love for me, wanted to protect me. And there was an email from another, who - again with deep love for me - wanted to help me on my quest to be the best person I can be, in a world where many are struggling.

Three people who felt compelled to communicate something important.

The email included a link to an article, and mentioned a book by an anonymous author, which interested us both. I then received another email with a link to a podcast with the author mentioned in the article, and a PDF summary of the book, attached, called, 'Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism" .. It's over 600 pages long, so it's not for the non-readers!

The idea of a Christian Hermeticist was intriguing, especially regarding tarots and meditation. I began reading the first part, on the Magician. It was dense, in the sense that there was a lot of information that I needed to mentally unpack. I'll keep trying to plough through it though!

It got me thinking about who we are, as reflected by individual tarots. If you read my first book, you'll see that we can be reflected by all of them at some points in our lives. But, once we learn to understand them, we might feel that one resonates more than others. For me, that is the High Priestess card. This is not because of failed aspirations to become a priest, nor is it some egotistical desire to be seen as higher than anyone else. The High Priestess is a learned woman who keeps on learning, who has discovered how to bring all she has learned into harmony. She wants you to come to her, so she can reassure you that you're loved by a force greater than all of us. She wants to show you that you are not alone, and that all of Heaven walks with you.

The card that might represent someone who is a devout believer? That would be the Hierophant. This card usually depicts a pope blessing the union of a young couple in marriage. The pope is male, and old, and he represents Tradition - with that capital T! He is all about the rules, and the ways things have always been done. He would probably have trouble dealing with COVID closing churches, but he'd keep everything ticking along perfectly for when restrictions ease. People would return to church, and nothing would have changed. This person lives their life, deep in a religious faith, with religious observances, and profound reverence.

There is an old Italian deck of trionfi (the Italian word for trumps, tarots in French), that depicts a woman as "la papess", the woman pope. There's a thought!

The card that reflects the Christian Hermeticist? This would probably be the Hermit. This card typically depicts someone like Obe-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars. The Hermit walks their own path, illuminating it during night walks in the forest. They are the person who seeks a contemplative existence, that is all about understanding God's will, and their place in this world. It is not deep thought that they crave, but resonating clarity within their very being.

These are simple versions of some of the cards. But, what do I do?

First, I pray. I pray for God's Divine Guidance, that I do the right thing by you, and not the wrong thing. I pray for protection for us both.

Then, I meditate for just over 10 minutes. I recorded a meditation on my phone a few months back, and I play it in my headphones. It is like hearing my higher self; my soul has a chance to speak directly to me, and to nourish me with God's Holy Protection. It is an active meditation, in that I do breathing exercises (which remind me of the exercises Mum did after she came out of hospital with heart problems). They're like easy stretches, which energise my body with blood flow. The meditation is a visualisation, but so much more!

So, I have invoked the protection of God, I have stilled my mind, and I have encouraged good blood flow before I sit down in front of my phone, which I place on a tripod on my dining table.

Then, I send you a text, to say, "Go get your cuppa, get comfy, and make sure you have privacy." And you are my only focus. Then I video-call you using WhatsApp (or another common platform like Zoom).

Behind me, you'll see a big picture of a Spanish conquistador, which used to hang in the loungeroom of the house where I grew up. I don't have a knight in shining armour: my knight is grimy from searching through the fire in the background, and saving lives. In this context, for me, he represents St Michael, the Archangel.

Grimy Spanish knight, in front of a fire
el Conquistador, by Reynaldo

In our video-call, I'll show you a picture, and ask you to tell me what you see. It lets me know where you're at in life, at that moment, and helps me start the conversation. We get talking, while I shuffle the cards for you.

As each card pops out, I place it on the table. I'll read as I go (this is called a "cold read"). This will all take about an hour. After this, we hang up. I'll take some time, and then meditate on your spread. It's important to really feel my way through the process. Then, I'll send you a summary email with my impressions.

At no point do I claim to be "psychic". I do believe I have intuition, but I believe that about all of us. You have intuition. Intuition is both something intrinsic within you, and something you've developed with experience. When you feel compelled to call me, are you not acting on intuition? Intuition could be Divine Guidance. Our lexicon may differ, but our feelings are the same.

What I do, is a bit different to other people who read tarots. I've been to a few over the years. I can't say how they prepare, but they've often been in the back room of shops; sometimes in churches. There are line-ups to see them. No-one has ever taken that time, afterwards, to meditate and send me what comes of that contemplation. I've often had to write my own notes, or press record on my phone (only to find 30 minutes of noise).

I'm finding that the method I use of giving readings for people, is a beautiful experience for me, just as much as it is for them. It makes my heart sing when they respond to my summary email, and when they fill in the survey I send out (thank you, you lovely people!).

I'm also learning many wonderful things about myself, and about all the people who come into my life because of this. There is beauty in the world. Life goes on, stronger than ever. Millennials are gorgeous people, whom I completely trust to look after the world. I not only have faith in God, but I have faith in humanity.

Hopefully, this post has reassured you, if you needed it. Feel free to contact me if you need more clarity. If you would like a reading for yourself, please use this link to book a time. And, if you would like to purchase a gift certificate, please use this link.


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The article mentioned in the first paragraph:

More on the painting by Renoir:


Ellen Hazelton
Ellen Hazelton
Nov 03, 2021

Interesting story, your experience and misgivings/ love of Church and faith mirrors mine to some extent. I could see Tarot would help with thoughts and reflection for many people- there is great value in symbolism and our response to it can be revealing.

Mary-Claire Hanlon
Mary-Claire Hanlon
Nov 05, 2021
Replying to

So true, Ellen ... when we're raised to recognise symbolism, we are able to see it anywhere. Our response can be totally unexpected; it can be guttural and raw, and it can lead us to a new way of living! The thought of God being everywhere and in all things, can take on an even greater meaning ...

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