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Should I Teach Tarot?

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

I've been asked by a couple of people, recently, to teach Tarot. It's a confronting prospect, for a number of reasons. But, I've decided to put those feelings and thoughts aside, to see if I could design a course that is inclusive, without being prescriptive.

I would need to set a number of objectives. Those would include:

  1. What are our intentions/questions (teacher and student)?

  2. Who is answering those questions - God/Higher Self/Other Spirit?

  3. What are negative energies, and how do you protect yourself from them (spiritually and intellectually)?

  4. What are the similarities and differences between fortune-telling, divination, prophesising and entertainment?

I would need to consider outcomes too. A person wanting to learn tarot would probably want to tune in to their intuition, but a course on tarot might not offer that. That's because there are levels of understanding tarot. So, those levels of understanding (outcomes) might include:

  1. Learning spiritual reflection;

  2. Deciding what you believe, spiritually;

  3. Practising spiritual mindfulness;

  4. Understanding the historical context of tarot;

  5. Knowing where you are on The Fool's Journey.

Additionally, I might like to guide participants in making their own decks of reflection cards.

So, let's examine those objectives, and see what comes up for us!

What are our intentions/questions (teacher and student)?

Just as people who are Catholic would have different intentions in going to mass, and a person who enrols to study medicine would have motivations that differ from their classmates, people who are drawn to tarot are inspired by their own set of circumstances.

My first objective, would be to ascertain the intentions of my students, as opposed to my own intentions. What do you want to learn? What are you hoping to find? What questions do you bring? What if I only wanted to teach you how I use tarot for reflection, would that be okay?

Often, a person finds tarot because they walk into an eclectic store with lovely welcoming fabrics, warms scents, shiny stones, and pretty cards. There will be a nice quiet shop assistant there, who will allow the person to roam freely, to touch and smell, to pick up a book and read. It's a sensory experience, much like High Mass is a sensory experience: there's singing, and incense, prayers and connection with others at mass, and this all contributes to the participant's desire to return again.

The person in the spiritual gift store will test a box of cards, by shuffling and asking a question. The answer might be a validation of what they were already thinking, or a total surprise that somehow makes sense. The purchase is made.

It's similar with prayer. Often, we want some thing or for something to happen, and will ask God to grant our wishes. Sometimes, it's a heartfelt plea (I remember my father going for a full-body scan after he was diagnosed with cancer, and I begged God for Dad to have zero tumours). God is not a genie. It's hard to keep that in mind, especially when we feel desperate!

I think that the greatest motivation for someone to pick up tarot or oracle cards, is because they're wishing for something, and want reassurance about it. They have a crush on someone, and want to know if it's reciprocated. They wish their boss would be kinder to them, and want to know how to make that happen. It's often about wish-fulfilment; but more than anything, it's about hope. So, I have to ask,

"Who are you hoping will give you hope?"

The one thing we're not taught to do in the major religions, is to listen to God and act on what we discover. We're taught to listen to the readings and gospels, which are not a complete picture of God, but just a hint. We're taught that we should choose a career that benefits others. How do we know what to choose? We seek answers!

Those of us who meditate, know about stilling our minds. By making the noise inside our heads become quiet, we allow something else inside.

Objective #2: When you ask your questions, who is answering them? God/Higher Self/Other Spirit?

If you ask God questions, do you wait for God to answer?

Do you listen? Do you think about what the situation is really teaching you?

What if you are not asking your questions to God? Who else is there, in the spirit realm? This then leads you to ponder what you truly believe. Ahh!! Now we're getting somewhere!

So often, we believe what our parents and teachers lead us to believe. We grow up with a doctrine (whether that's a formal religion, agnosticism, atheism, or not even talking about faith). Our primary belief system is what our parents give us, and it is then supplemented by our extended families and school communities. We're often taught (whether overtly or by example) not to question. I remember Mum saying, "Because I'm your mother, that's why".

In our teenage years, though, we start to question everything. That's our brain's frontal lobes developing! It's meant to happen, and if it doesn't, we don't reach our full potential. We need to be curious, to learn, and to master skills and knowledge. We need to counter arguments, to be able to stand up for ourselves and to become innovative. We need evidence for everything! We sometimes get surly, lazy, and oppositional; we might even feel that nobody loves us. These are some negative energies!

Objective #3: What are negative energies, and how do you protect yourself from them (spiritually and intellectually)? Because I wrote a book with the word "tarot" in the title, I have found that some people are extremely uncomfortable with even a mention of the word. That's what we call "fear-based energy". It might be because they have been taught that "it's the devil's work", and have absorbed that as a fact. My Mum wouldn't let us watch Countdown when I was a kid, because she said that rock music was, "the devil's music". I hate those expressions. They make me uncomfortable. They give negative energy, a personage. They also make out that God has an adversary who is just as powerful. That's not my jam.

Whatever you decide to believe, I think we all need to supplement our early belief systems with extra-curricular knowledge. This is because the biggest fear-based negative energy of all is ignorance. The more we know, the more we realise that there's even more to know: it can be daunting, or it can be liberating and exciting! The less we know, the less we realise our own potential: it is limiting in every way, and can be very scary.

What is negative energy? Well, when someone tailgates your car, that's a negative energy (impatience). When someone tries to make you feel small and insignificant by talking down to you, yelling at you or demeaning you in other ways, that's more negative energy (bullying). Think of the feelings that these experiences cause - those feelings are negative energies too (fear, insignificance, helplessness, hopelessness, avolition, apathy ...).

How do you protect yourself from negative feelings? You need to find ways of bolstering your self-confidence, and your belief that there are other people (and those in spirit) who will believe in you and help you, and that your world can be safe.

How do you protect yourself from negative energies with regard to tarot, intellectually? First, if you've ever played "Go Fish" or any other card game, you've played with cards that date back to the 1370s. Those cards - with four suits, pips, and court cards - are what's known as the Minor Arcana of the current tarot. So, if you've played cards, you've played tarot! They are just pieces of cardboard. The games are games of chance.

The Major Arcana cards came into existence in the 1440s, and were made for entertainment too - they were trump cards - and were only designed for card games. Imagine you're at a table with friends, playing poker. One of you wins, because that person has the "best hand". Well, it's the same principle with Major Arcana cards. They are just pieces of cardboard. The games are games of chance.

So, how did they come to be associated with "the occult"? In the 1700s, the world was changing, and rapidly. Universities allowed for philosophical pursuits, discussions, debates and new ideals. Amidst the backdrop of the Enlightenment, there were those who were interested in more esoteric questions. Context, I think, is important: what was once thought of as natural magic, has produced some of the sciences; just as superstitions, through rituals, have led to some religions!

There were some people who just started using the cards to make money, like Jean-Baptiste Alliette, a seed merchant who called himself Eteilla (1738 – 1791), and the first known professional cartomancer (he used cards, to tell fortunes). He produced a couple of books about entertaining oneself using tarot.

There were also people who believed the cards represented something more spiritual and magical. One was Antoine Court de Gébelin, who, in 1781, connected the 22 cards of the Major Arcana and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. He also saw a connection between this deck and the Jewish Kabbalah. Hence, the esoteric relationship came into being. Personally, I've considered how these cards reflect some books from the Old Testament. The more one reads, and learns, the more one finds to read and learn!

As I was researching the occult side of things for this post, I came upon a site about the Traditional Martinist Order. Have you ever heard of them? Maybe you've heard of another group, the Rosicrucians? You've probably heard of Wicca, or the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (founded by 3 freemasons) ... I've been seeing freemasons in a lot of these societies, and I wonder why. Is it because they're into symbolism? Is it because they like to be in a secret society? Maybe they prefer a certain order to their life? It could be that they want a connection to other humans, as well as with the Divine, and this secret society stuff gives them a chance to have "Deep & Meaningful" conversations.

There are so many secret societies out there, and some of them delve into pretty dark and nefarious stuff.

So, I'm saying that it all goes back to intention. What's your intention in all of this?

It also goes back to what you believe, and to whom you address your questions. I'm not into phoning anyone I don't know, so why would I do so in a spiritual sense? I wouldn't use someone else's phone or computer to send an email, so why would I contact the dead through someone else? And, I simply loathe getting scam calls and spam emails, so why oh why would I welcome anything I didn't invite?

What I can relate to, is the idea that we can reflect on certain aspects of life and find a new state of awareness, and that then helps us be better persons.

Objective #4: What are the similarities and differences between fortune-telling, divination, prophesising and entertainment? Let's rephrase that to: Prophets, Prophecy, and Prophesising.

The Old Testament has a few entries from people who were thought of as "prophets", but what is a prophet? When I was a teenager, the nuns at my high school would say that a prophet is a person who changes the world. So, if I take that definition literally, and find evidence that COVID was made by a human, then that human would be a prophet!! So far, there's no evidence to support that assertion, so the point is mute ...

Think of a prophet as an inspired teacher, or the proclaimer of the will of God (as per an internet search using "define prophet"). An inspired teacher could be anyone. They could be an educator, a parent, a friend; they could be a poet or composer. I immediately think of Marianne Williamson. But they could also be a neighbour, or someone on the bus. An inspired teacher doesn't have to change the whole world, because they have a positive influence inside their own world. Cleaners have a positive influence! But, do they have to knowingly teach someone? Couldn't their life or actions be inspiring and influential enough to be prophetic?

An inspired teacher could also be you. By self-educating, you teach yourself. Are you inspired to learn? Then you are both, inspired and inspiring!

A proclaimer of the will of God is a bit trickier. I've known people who have been diagnosed with psychotic illnesses, because they believe they are God (or more specifically, Jesus; sometimes Buddha, sometimes Mary). God's proclaimers need to be brave, but they need to be ultra-discerning!

How do you know if the voice you're hearing is God's? To find out, I tried out a course that was taught by a Christian minister. She started by reading excerpts from the bible, from both Old and New Testaments, which suggested that prophets and prophecy were a part of our religious heritage. Saint Paul's epistles especially mention prophesising. Those excerpts were used as evidence that, not only would God be okay with us prophesising, God expected us to do it! Participants were then paired up, by the minister, to say something to each other that they believed was Divinely-inspired.

Now, if I were that minister, I would have started and ended those classes with a prayer. After all, if prophesising is okay with God, we should be thankful for that gift! I would also have given participants a chance to debrief with each other about what they heard.

But the questions remain, how is what the Christian minister taught any different to what people do at the Spiritualist Church, or the spiritual gift shops? How do we know what is entertainment, and what is Divinely-inspired? I think it all goes back to two things: intention, and invitation. What do you seek, and to whom are you addressing your questions?

So, finally, we turn to the possible outcomes of my hypothetical tarot course:

  1. Learning spiritual reflection;

  2. Deciding what you believe, spiritually;

  3. Practising spiritual mindfulness;

  4. Understanding the historical context of tarot;

  5. Knowing where you are on The Fool's Journey.

I have used tarot for reflection, and learned important lessons about myself and the situations I'm in. Those lessons have served me well for many years.

But, did the tarot teach me? No, of course not.

The spiritual invitations I make are grounded in my faith, and I know that sometimes I need to let God work in me, as well as through me. I need to stop the constant chatter in my brain, and allow God into my heart. In that way, I'm constantly on "The Fool's Journey", and it's a cycle that never ends (ever tried walking in a meditation labyrinth?).

I need to quiet my body and allow the Divine to permeate every cell of me, to stop my ego from getting in the way of a reminder of my confirmation: the gifts of wisdom, understanding, good counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and the awe of God.

And often, it's the awe of God, in the sound of the smallest birds or the breeze blowing through my bamboo, that brings me to tears of wonder.

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