Tarot Cards Are Against My Religion


Recently I was talking to a new acquaintance who was going into detail about some truly thorny life challenges that she needed clarity on. When I mentioned how the cards could likely bring insight and help her find some inner guidance, she immediately responded with: “Can’t! It’s against my religion!”

This is a tough argument to counter. I have no interest in trying to either “convert” people to the cards, much less trying to convince a person to do something they claim goes against their religion.

But when I smiled and said, “No, they aren’t,” she looked at me as if being woken up from sleep and said, “Oh? They aren’t?” and seemed interested. It was as if, just by my saying that her statement wasn’t true, she now felt comfortable enough to learn more, ask more, explore.

The question out there was: in the end, does either of us really know if this is a true statement or not? Neither she nor I have enough of a theological background to say with certainty, without further research.

How much of our behavior and choices are shaped by beliefs that we carry around because we’ve simply been told to think them?

The statement “tarot is against my religion” brings up a point that I want to make about critical thinking and the way cards are used. There are stereotypes and common beliefs that often cloud judgement or “scare people away” when it comes to what have traditionally been considered occult (which simply means “hidden,” but is typically read as “black magic” or dangerous) practices, such as tarot cards.

I was raised Catholic and have no other religious frame of reference. Today the Catholic Church observes the Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels and I decided to pray a novena.

And yes, I also read tarot cards.

Strictly based on institutional Catholic doctrine, it very well may be that using cards “goes against my religion.” I can say with 100% certainty, however, that the way I use cards doesn’t. This is discernment.

If I were to replace the oft-maligned cards with a different tool of visual language for achieving insights and understandings with my clients, would it not be the same?

The Church as an institution may say it’s an occult practice, and therefore inherently sinful. In fact, I once heard a priest speak against cartomancy during Mass, using that exact word – cartomancy – and lumping it together with other evil/devilish practices. I understand that declaration, when “cartomancy” is used as a word to define a practice that defrauds individuals, tries to rob them of their free will, or makes superstitious claims of channeling nebulous powers and the like. If you’re handing over your decision-making agency to images on cardboard, I would question that practice as well.

However, it seems to me that the purpose of religion should ultimately be to help us live our lives with love and compassion, as well as grow in deeper understanding of ourselves (as well as everyone and everything in the Universe that we are invisibly connected to), so we can make heart-centered choices that bring us closer to our Higher Selves/Souls (synonymous also with God, if you wish) and our higher purpose here on Earth.

Since I use tarot as a vehicle to achieve this type of understanding, frankly I don’t see a conflict. That doesn’t mean everyone will agree with me, nor should they. But I refuse to dismiss a practice outright without knowing anything about it simply because someone tells me to, whether that’s a priest, a friend, a teacher, or anyone. There must be room for critical thinking, questioning, dialogue, curiosity, learning, and free choice, when possible.

When we adhere to strict dogma without questioning why it exists, we run the risk of taking action (or inaction) blindly, without knowing why we’re doing (or not doing) something.

What do the cards have to say about this?

How can tarot cards peacefully co-exist with religion and religious practices?

Jean Noblet Tarot de Marseille, c. 1650, restored by Jean-Claude Flornoy

Le Soleil – Le Monde – Le Diable

At the heart is your fulfillment as a spiritual individual. When you are free to interact with another, reaching out to the other as well as receiving them, there is warmth and enlightenment. When you are forced to obey a master, hands behind your back, there is restriction and loss of freedom. Coexistence comes when the individual is left to choose freely. (Also note the direction of the world dancer’s glance.)



  1. Dear Shelley,

    I so agree with your words and sentiment in this important blogpost. Moving beyond the pedagogy of fear and going to the spiritual heart of our favorite oracle transcends dogma and inspires us to be much more alive!!

    Having the courage to speak out and face these old fearful and unsubstantiated messages opens the door for real and intimate conversations to emerge, listening to each other’s thoughts and concerns, and hopefully, raising our consciousness together, the real and spiritual purpose of Tarot.

    This has been a central theme in my work with Tarot and I thought you and your readers might be interested in my newest webinars, “Spiritual Roots of Tarot” and “Biblical Roots of Tarot”, both next month (live in November 2017, recorded and available after that date) on Global Spiritual Studies: https://globalspiritualstudies.com/product/spiritual-roots-of-tarot/

    Many blessings upon your journey!
    Katrina Wynne

  2. Thank you Shelley for posting this blog— and thanks to Katrina for drawing it to our attention. Deepak Chopra suggest that religion is folllowing someone else’s reality while spirituality is experiencing reality for oneself. In order to live authentically, at some stage, when we are ready, we hear the call and are willing to courageous step out into the unknown with trust and faith, questioning for ourselves and following the intutive call for wholeness. In the questioning process we hone our own truth and discard the illusions that keep us bound the ideas of others. Understanding the deeper meaning of the story of the biblical Eve exemplifies this truth, offering her story as one of the heroine rather than the villain.

    L’shalom, Heather Mendel, author of Dancing In The Footsteps of Eve, http://www.sacredfemininekabbalah.com

  3. I’ve always found most Christians to not be very deep thinkers, unless we’re talking about those who study Christian Hermeticism. For the most part, most put their pagan fertility symbols on their lawns at Easter and think we occultists are evil and headed for fire and brimstone. Sad.

    • I discovered the book “Meditations on the Tarot” this summer – in reality it had been on my radar for years but I hadn’t ever picked it up – and it is a study in Christian Hermeticism. It is quite dense and slow-going but absolutely worthwhile.

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