Christian Tarot: Oxymoron or Paradox?

Guest Blog by Cheri Gaudet
 
I am a Catholic tarot reader. At first glance, this might seem like an oxymoron. Everyone knows Church doctrine condemns divination. How do I reconcile that with my personal tarot practice?
 
This is a serious question that has implications for both Christians and tarot readers, who in my experience typically do not think of themselves as having anything in common. At their worst, such thoughts can result in


painful animosity and alienation among families and friends. The question of how to reconcile "church" and "tarot" is not just about me, but I will attempt to answer from my limited perspective.

First, how do I reconcile tarot with Catholicism in particular? I love my Church, but Church doctrine is supposed to be rooted in Scripture, so right away, I know that if I have questions about doctrine, I can search for clarification in the Bible. Unfortunately, the Bible is also riddled with condemnations of divination, so it might seem impossible to reconcile tarot with Christianity in general.

RW5ofpent

For all its emphasis on personal relationship with God, religious orthodoxy seems to have confused people into following a 5 of Pentacles path: a cold, crippled walk just outside the perimeter of Divine Light and Love, which is guarded by door-less church walls. But if we would just raise our eyes, we could see how easy it would be to break the window with our crutches and let the Light shine down on us…perhaps even gain enough strength to hop in. This is what I dare to do as a Catholic tarot reader.

Although I consider myself Catholic, I totally reject all fear-based doctrine (e.g., Satan, the traditional concepts of sin and hell, etc.) that stands between God and me. I accept instead the freedom to decide for myself whether tarot is “from God” – that is, the God I know, which is nothing but pure Love. With this freedom, I explored alternative views, finding that others have intelligently pointed out the ways in which many Christian denominations have selective attention when it comes to what the Bible says about divination. But rather than repeat their points, I'd like to focus on how I personally believe I am following the example of Christ by using tarot for personal divine revelation.

RWPope

 First, let's consider the proper role of "church" when it comes to divination, or divine revelation. ("Divination," to my mind, is just a mash-up of the words "divine revelation.") Church as an institution is useful because it shows a paved path to the Divine. We do not have to struggle to unfold the mysteries of the universe as our predecessors did, because church, like the Hierophant/Pope, unfolds them for us, having codified the mysteries into doctrine over the centuries. Church holds a body of spiritual knowledge that it passes down to its members. As I've written on my blog, people rely on church for guidance on broad universal principles, such as the greatest commandments and the Golden Rule. But even one of the most orthodox churches of all, my beloved Catholic Church, permits its members to rely on their individual consciences when it comes to certain matters. Codes and doctrine can't help us discern our individual life purpose, for example, or help us understand what it is about a work situation that is making us so unhappy. What a person needs in these instances is to take a cue from the Ace of Cups and seek guidance from God Source directly.
 
In keeping with its characteristic abundance, the universe is rich with tools for personal divine revelation: prayer, meditation, runes and yes, tarot. Divination tools work the same way as any other tool – they facilitate – they help us get the job done. Since in divination, we seek "divine revelation," we know that tarot facilitates divine revelation in the very instances where church seems to fail us, but is actually providing us with an opportunity to experience on a micro level what "church" has collectively experienced at the macro level: the utter joy of receiving God Source's messages straight from the Divine Heart to ours. Church shows us the way: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

 
For Christians, Christ is the ultimate way-shower. Obviously, Christ didn't have access to tarot, but he did use another divination tool: prayer. By his use of prayer, Christ showed us how to exercise independence in relationship. Christ was a Jew who was notoriously knowledgeable and in love with Jewish Scripture – but the ways in which he interpreted Scripture were guided by his direct connection with the Father. Christ spent hours each day in deep prayer seeking guidance directly from the Father, even though he was the Father, who supposedly inspired all of Jewish Scripture! Ostensibly, Christ would have all of Jewish Scripture and the depths of its meanings at his fingertips, but he still sought personal divine revelation. How much more do we need to do so?

RWAceCups

 

Christ’s role as a way-shower is also evident if we draw a parallel between him and the Ace of Cups. As I said earlier, even orthodox churches encourage their followers to follow an Ace of Cups path (perhaps not in so many words!) by seeking guidance from God Source directly in certain matters. Christ, to me, is the embodiment of the Ace of Cups energy: the dove of peace (the Holy Spirit), the bread of life, the overflowing wellspring of spiritual renewal, offered to us by the very hand of God.
 
Practicing tarot as a Christian allows me to follow the example of Christ and exercise independence in relationship. We can be in relationship with church by seeking its counsel on broad spiritual principles. We can exercise appropriate independence from church by using tarot to facilitate personal revelation directly from God Source.
 
This is exactly how I use tarot as a Catholic Christian. From this perspective, "Christian tarot" is less an oxymoron than a beautiful paradox.

Visit Cheri's blog–The Catholic Druid.

 © December 2010 Cheri Gaudet

16 thoughts on “Christian Tarot: Oxymoron or Paradox?

  1. Theresa

    Thank you for this post, Cheri. I grew up Catholic and was one of the lucky few who didn’t have a bad Catholic experience other than thinking it was boring and the parishioners were hypocrites. I had a lovely priest who one time said that “many of the great saints were mystics” and this always stuck with me so I had never had a conflict with tarot reading and Catholicism.
    My parents were both extremely religious but my mother and her side of the family were also very psychic – so there was never any issue with psychic stuff or any occult things in my family either. It was an odd way to grow up. I was lucky that none of this stuff was ever treated in a negative manner or as “devilish”. The first time I encountered a person who thought the tarot was the work of the devil was when I went professional. I was truly shocked that anyone could think that way. It just never crossed my mind because this was not part of my upbringing.
    I find it fascinating that there are so many viewpoints on tarot and spirituality. Thanks for this post,
    Theresa

    Reply
  2. Toney

    For my part, the term divination is not useful at all. It implies an ontological existence of a Big Guy in the Sky who has his nose in just about everything. Discernment seems far more appropriate: what choices embrace the narrative of my personal myth?
    The Bible is full of divination and sundry spookiness. Did Saul not conjure up Samuel? Did the disciples not draw straws to replace Judas? What is prophecy if it’s not divination/discernment?
    Frankly, Tarot provides far more useful spiritual direction (when used properly) than does fundamentalist religious doctrine, which leads to far more mischief and human misery.

    Reply
  3. Cheri Gaudet

    Thanks Theresa and Toney for your comments!
    Theresa – Yes, there is a long tradition of mysticism in the Catholic Church. Tarot and Catholicism have another thing in common, which you alluded to – although many people perceive them each as single spiritual viewpoints, they are both multidimensional and beautifully complex!
    Toney – Discernment is a great word, and I use it myself to describe what I’m doing with tarot.

    Reply
  4. Redpsychicjosephmolina

    Here is something I learned a long time ago. Limited individuals who read what they want out of spiritual text, only see what is written on the pages in front of them. We who discern that which is invisible, see between the lines, what is behind the words, and know how to challenge outside opinions. So many, who interpret the text, known as the Bible, neglect to accept that this discussion refers to charlatans and thieves, not authentic psychics and prophets. I think it is a common trend to accept palmistry as divine because it is of the body. Astrology is obviously connected with the Christian Bible, as is evident in the Twelve tribes of Israel. The Tarot is the bible in pictorial form. Look at it is as a Nemonic devices for teaching the ideologies, lessons, and myths associated with the Christian tradition. It is so much so, in decks like the Waite-Smith imagery, that people thought it was making fun of the Christian religion. Sad, you know, Christianly truly has a great deal of power in it, at least all the parts they decided to remove.
    Personally, my mother bought me my first deck of Tarot. I was very young, not even ten. She had not yet found her religo-spiritual path yet and happen to read cards and study Astrology, at the time. Now she is a born again fundamentalist Christian, who wishes she never bought me the most significant tool of my life. It is her refusal to open up her mind, see how powerful the imagery in Tarot is, totally in synch with every spirituality all over the world, least the Christian one, that a wedge has become forced between us.
    I think combining ones spiritual practice with the reading of Tarot simply empowers it. It adds to the entire practice of the connection to God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Once you see how the cards emulate them, you can actually become one with them. It is always better to read cards with the hand of divine to assist you. This truly makes for more accurate, remarkable, and detailed readings.
    Also, remember when it comes to interpretations of the Bible, it is just one persons interpretations. I have become inclined to study hebrew, so that I could translate the bible for myself. King James was considered a Woman Hater, Witch Hater, and a Homosexual Hater, even though that degree of hatred often represents repressed issues. If your going to read the bible word for word and take it for face value, why read cards? Of course, I know you are not like this.
    When it comes to the 5 of Pentacles, please remember the Christian religion is one of scarifice and the path of least resistance, as the middle pillar of the tree of life. It is the charity of your soul that gets you the coveted spot on the throne God sits on. And remember the Catholic view is one of the repeated versions of the old sacrificed God myths like Tammuz, Osiris, Buddha, and Christ. It is often thought you can find God by giving up your attachments to the material world. Hey if you want to, its your prerogative to give all of your material possession away and become a popper.
    I do love the Hierophant. It certainly does represent the tenets of Christianity and is Exodus in pictorial form. I would like to say I just recently began to read the bible. When I began reading it, I was blown away! It is the best story I have ever read. I immediately recognize the Fool in Genesis, along with the High Priestess, The Empress, and the Emperor, as well in Exodus, the Empress and the Emperor again, and the Tower of Babel. So many cards, so much valuable information. No wonder they don’t want you to study such a system. It tells you everything they left out.
    If anything the Tarot proves God is real, in the way in which it works. By the way Christ did have the Tarot, he had the Hebrew alphabet. And never forget the Ace of Cups, is the womb in which Christ took physical form in the Virgin Mary. In essence he became the go between, God on one side, the Virgin Mary on the other, with himself in the Middle.
    Stimulating Conversation!

    Reply
  5. Redpsychicjosephmolina

    You know I have a strong belief the HigherPower created everything. 2000 years ago, ideology and the current condition of man were synonyms. At some point, one must recognize how far the two have diverged. If the extremes of thought are not reconciled, then war occurs. I am still reading all of these hateful, biased, unbalanced and deceitful quotes. I always remember the bible was translated from Greek, I think. I am no bible scholar but I do live the Tarot and utilize all religious system simultaneously. I know the true creator, created everything, even the Tarot, inspiring men and women, just as it did the bible. Demons and Devil, are the flip side of the coin, as well as mans fears and intimidations. There are no literal devils in Tarot, unless of course you put them there. It is a neutral tool, just as the Bible is and can be use in a similar manner, such as reading the Lords Prayer Backwards is used. Narrow mindness comes out everywhere with different teacher of Tarot, as well as translations of the Bible. I do not even entertain the obvious fears interjected in some of these quotes. We are simple and real, the prophets of our modern age.
    Still reading Links, when I have a break. Love the Banter!!!

    Reply
  6. Cheri Gaudet

    Redpsychic, I like your perspective on the Ace of Cups representing the Virgin Mary’s womb. Just lovely. The complexity and richness of Tarot imagery really captures me, and that’s just the Rider Waite deck!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The selective use of Biblical (or any other Scriptural) passages to condemn divination disturbs me as well, as does any other practice that oppresses people. Churches do not need to fear the empowerment of its flock to directly connect with the Divine without them to mediate.

    Reply
  7. Toney Brooks

    Above, Theresa wrote: “I had a lovely priest who one time said that ‘many of the great saints were mystics’ and this always stuck with me so I had never had a conflict with tarot reading and Catholicism.”
    Nor should anyone. We’re all called to mysticism and instructed by the Holy Spirit, however one prefers to contextualize this mystical guide and teacher. The command “Be holy because I am holy,” found in Leviticus and 1 Peter), is itself a clarion call to mysticism and Oneness, not necessarily to church bells.
    The Western church seems much more concerned with “correct beliefs;” is now and ever shall be terrified of mystics. Mystics often were condemned as heretics; burned for their own ‘good,’ as was Joan of Arc. Today, mystics are expelled, as was Matthew Fox.
    Tarot is a mystical path to Oneness par excellence. While still feared and and marginalized by the Church, tarot will unshackle the soul and free it for a heroic voyage of self-discovery, truth and formation of a higher interpretation of the Unseen World, a world within us, among us and eternally is Us.
    [Shameless plug] Artist Holly Sierra and I hope to translate this as well as other tried and true spiritual concepts into our new deck, which will be published by U.S. Games in 2012. We are making good progress.
    Thanks for your post, Cheri.

    Reply
  8. USGS Staff

    Fascinating discussion. Thanks to everyone participating so far. It’s good to see such a respectful discussion unfolding.
    Toney, if you can’t plug your work on your publisher’s blog, where can you? 🙂

    Reply
  9. Jim Wickson

    If there are any mistakes in this article it is in defining “Tarot” as divination when traditionally it is a gaming system employing Christian symbolism for its trump cards. The term “Christian Tarot” is actually redundant and not an oxymoron. However one defines divination or however one views it religiously, the traditional symbolism of the Tarot is rooted strongly in 15th century Christian culture. It should also be pointed out that Tarot cards were intended for playing certain card games which are still enjoyed in many European countries. It was only after the 18th century that people began using Tarot cards for divinatory ends. However one uses the Tarot, everyone would benefit if knowledge of its Christian and gaming roots were more prevalent in our culture.

    Reply
  10. Laura Colvin Brown

    this is great, thank you! There was a guy who was asking about whether religion and tarot conflicted the other day on Yahoo answers. I’ll send him your link 🙂
    I just posted a similar-feeling article about tarot and Epiphany.
    cheers,
    Laura

    Reply
  11. Emily Porter

    People often use scripture to denounce tarot and other divination methods. But scripture mentions use of divination in godly ways. Joseph used oneiromancy through God. The disciples themselves used divination to determine who the new disciple would be after Judas had committed suicide. It is all in the process. Are you asking God specifically for guidance or insight? Are you using it prayerfully? Are you trying to understand his will for you? Are you trying to determine the future outside of God? Are you going to divination more often than going to prayer? These are all questions to ask yourself.

    I will also add a personal thought that I do not think it is inherently a sin to communicate with spiritual entities. The Bible in it’s original Hebrew and Greek is quite specific about what mystical practices you should not do, and English translations have shortened much of this to simply “witchcraft” or “magic”, etc. What it mentions specifically is divination by objects or happenings in nature (eg using clouds to divine), trying to tell the future, snake charming, using potions (presumably to poison someone) since medicinal liquids were and still are used, and the term used was “pharmakeia”. Seducing people was a no-no, as were “charms” which has been interpreted from context to mean spells to influence or change others behavior. (Also note that Rebekah used Mandrake in context of her rivalry with her sister, and it was widely used in love and fertility charms. Shortly thereafter she conceived. It makes no sense to incorporate that into the text unless it was significant in her conception). In regards to spiritual entities, you are not to channel spirits or speak with the dead. But this does not exclude other living spiritual entities that may exist who you do not channel. I would classify angels as spiritual entities personally. I don’t think it would be a sin to communicate with an angel through tarot. I don’t think we should ask them important guiding questions to make decisions, because we can and should go to God. But for lesser things I don’t think it would be a sin to, say, have a conversation with an angel inquiring about what job they do or how their day was. Tho I will say that discernment would be necessary to determine if you were actually speaking with an angel. But if you were asking questions like how their day was I don’t think that would be a sin even if it wasn’t an angel since you wouldn’t be trying to call the dead or asking them questions for guidance/putting them before God.

    I think overall, the key in all of this is doing things Through God not without God. When Moses returned to Egypt, the magician priests and him did many similar physics-bending acts. The only difference was in where they were getting their power and who they were calling on. Moses called on God and did His will. The priests called on their gods and esoteric knowledge, and thus were sinful.

    Reply
  12. Sarah

    Thank you so much for this article and the wornderful comments.
    I am Catholic & come from a very religious family but psychic gifts also run in my family (though it’s not often spoken about). I havr been learnung tarot for a year or so now but struggled internally with reading that it was looked down on, though I always felt that God GAVE me these gifts. Thank you for supporting this. It’s given me great comfort.

    Reply
  13. Jacquie

    I was born into a RC family and I am a Catholic all my life and prays everyday since I was 5. I was well vested and educated in Catholic school all my life too. I love God and because I wasn’t born again, I never had an issue with extreme. didn’t have much of a problem with tarot, as I don’t choose dark decks. I like RW based decks.
    I was ok with it till I read Joy Of Jesus by Doreen Virtue, who was once the Angels Queen and divination and now said it’s the work of Satan. After reading the book few times, I’m totally messed up in the head about being satanic and evil lurking around the corner and contemplating whether I should throw away all my yoga texts and images and all my oracle and tarot cards and books etc. Someone help me!!!

    Reply
  14. Stella Mary

    Like most, even I want to know the future activities to keep myself ready to face the challenges at any point of time. Thank you for the great post shared herewith and helping us to understand the cards. Helps a lot. Kindly keep sharing the great thoughts.

    Reply

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