“Is Tarot evil? Am I opening myself up to negative energy or demons if I have a Tarot reading or even look at Tarot cards??”
It’s a question I’ve been asked a number of times as a Tarot reader. Maybe you’ve even wondered or asked the question yourself.
If you were raised with a religious upbringing it’s possible you have heard that Tarot is evil. Or you may otherwise have been told that Tarot is somehow bad.
It’s likely you heard these ideas from fear-based people who weren’t actually versed in the history and framework of Tarot.
What we’ll discuss
Let’s dive into some of the history and context of Tarot. In the next blog post, we’ll also take a look at some commonly misunderstood cards (some of which cause people to jump to conclusions).
But know that as we discuss this, the answer is no, Tarot is not objectively evil.
And you should have a good understanding of some of the history and context so that you can make informed choices for yourself when it comes to Tarot – either learning it yourself, or getting a reading.
When assessing Tarot, we must look at both Tarot itself and the reader. The reader is just as important an aspect of any reading as the cards are.
Tarot is a particular system of card reading that includes the major arcana and minor arcana.
Think of the major arcana as the focal story arch and significant events that happen to the characters in your favourite movie.
And then think of the minor arcana as all the elements that feed into that story arch – the side dramas, the conversations, the emotions, the arguments, the careers, the day-to-day lived experience of all the characters.
The major arcana is made up of 22 numbered cards (some decks have a couple more). The minor arcana have suits and numbers similar to regular playing cards. The suits represent different elements.
The major arcana is the consecutive journey of the main character (you as the person getting the reading!). And each suit of the minor arcana is also a consecutive development of that element.
There are literally hundreds of Tarot deck variations. The two most traditional are the Rider-Smith-Waite (or variations thereof) based decks and the Thoth based decks.
Most variations are based on one of these foundational decks.
In my personal experience, the Rider-Smith-Waite based decks are the most reflective of human nature, which makes them very relatable.
The Rider-Smith-Waite deck was based on the Marseille deck (which is estimated to have originated in the 15th or 16th century). The Marseille deck was a Tarot card game with cards very similar to what we think of as regular playing cards.
Artist and mystic Pamela Colman Smith illustrated the Rider-Smith-Waite deck under the direction of esoteric and qabalistic scholar Dr. Edward Waite. The deck was published by Rider and Co. in London in the early 1900s.
And yes, even though Smith was the illustrator, the publisher’s name was still placed first. Discussion of how gender, diversity and other biases are reflected in decks is perhaps the topic of a future post.
In contrast, the Thoth deck was created by Aleister Crowley.
While Crowley made some useful and substantive contributions to esoteric and mystical thought, in my opinion he was not well grounded and was very narcissistic (based on what I have read and studied of his works).
I think this affected how Crowley created his deck, because of the kind of energy that anyone with those characteristics makes present in their life.
Having said that, Crowley did make some useful contributions and some people will really resonate with his art.
Overall there are fewer Thoth-based decks, and I believe it’s because they are less relatable to most people.
There are also some decks that combine Rider-Smith-Waite and Thoth principles and those can be insightful for advanced readers.
I have one deck in that style to date. However, I find that style less useful for providing readings for others.
Its art is intricate and the combination of both sets of principles results in art with myriad layers of information that lend themselves more to personal reflection than relatable readings for clients.
Significance of art
Some people are concerned about Tarot being evil because they feel the art of some decks is ‘creepy’.
Well, some art⸺whether it’s on a card or a wall or a tshirt⸺is creepy.
The resonance of art is the purview of the creator of the art, not the medium the art is on. If you don’t like certain art, then don’t look at it or buy it. Tarot cards relay archetypes based on their art. So choose art that resonates with you.Acorn + Burdock
Centering on the cause of discomfort
Another thought to consider is WHY a particular piece of art makes you feel uncomfortable, whether a Tarot card, a work hanging in a gallery, or an outdoor mural.
- Are you uncomfortable because the art itself carries inherently negative energy? That can happen. If an artist is in a very low frequency place when the art is created, that energy is imbued into the art.
- Or, are you uncomfortable because the art is revealing to you an emotion within yourself that you haven’t yet become present with?
- Another possibility is that the art represents an archetype that is socially negative or otherwise commonly uncomfortable.
Why does the reader matter when it comes to the question of whether Tarot is evil?
Tarot is a tool like any other tool. How it is used and the outcomes of that are determined by the person using them.
Character and energetic grounding
A person with a growth mindset will be focused in a positive, grounded and constructive place.
- Someone who genuinely cares for people and has maturity will know how to coach others to reach *their* highest potential.
- Somebody with strong character will live by their values because those values are the foundation to how they go about their lives.
In contrast, someone who is narcissistic or not interested in their own growth will not have the tools to be present with you or to guide you in your growth.
- Someone who is ungrounded may not use their energy wisely, and may not keep themselves in an energetically healthy place.
- A person with values that do not align with yours will, like their counterpart who has strong character, also live by their values. Because those values are the foundation to how they go about their lives.
Beyond the trustworthiness, energetic grounding and character of the reader, is also the question of personality and fit.
Let’s face it. Just because a relationship (with a romantic partner, a job, or a service provider) looks good on paper doesn’t mean it’s a good fit.
You’ll jive well with some high quality readers and not with others. Part of that is personality fit. And another part is their approach to reading.
A personal example
For example, my approach to reading is choice-based. Regardless of whether past, current or future issues or events come up in a client’s reading, I believe that we always have choice as to how we manage our core elements (thoughts, emotions, materiality and spiritual side).
I believe that the future is not set in stone and that the choices we make can change our future.
What this means as far as readings go is that I am not the person to come to if you don’t want to change anything about yourself. And that is not remotely a judgement!
It’s just how I work. I’ve had occasional clients who had entrenched beliefs of disempowerment and simply wanted to know that other people in their lives were to blame for their circumstances.
It’s only ever happened twice, but makes for a difficult reading because my whole modus operandi is that we can’t always control our circumstances, but we can absolutely control our decisions.
This is to say that having a good fit of reader for what you want to get out of a reading is important. You don’t need to know specifically what to expect in a reading, but you should know whether you’re genuinely interested in advice. Just knowing that you do want some advice is a great starting point.
Another reason the reader is an important aspect of Tarot
Although all the cards have general archetypes, there are layers of multidimensional complexity built into the cards of every deck.
Each reader also develops a way of understanding the cards that adds nuance to the archetypal meaning of the cards.
This means that a three-card spread may be interpreted with variations depending on who is reading.
Which conversely means that for your given situation, three different readers will end up drawing different cards that get at the same interpretation.
Other factors in Tarot readings
There is one more element involved in Tarot readings that can give people a moment of pause.
Next week we’ll look at that remaining factor that’s equally as involved in Tarot readings.
That post will also look at some of the cards that tend to be misunderstood, and I will also share some thoughts on learning to read Tarot yourself, with some advice on where to begin.