Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tool of the Devil or the Divine

A "Chick Tract" was shoved into my door yesterday.  I rolled my eyes and showed it to Mike.  "What is that?" he asked.
    "A Chick Tract, " I said. He looked at me quizzically.
    "What is that?" he asked again.
    "It's a Christian proselytizing cartoon that usually attempts to scare one into church.  I hate them because they're really dumb and if one thinks fear is the basis for anything resembling faith, they are sorely mistaken.  Plus, they're insulting.  I dunno, these things have always bothered me, even when I was a fundamentalist Christian.  I've always thought they were wrong."  Mike took a look at the cartoon.  It featured a guy in a car talking to a preacher saying, "Listen Preacher! I've got lots of time before accepting Christ as my Saviour, I'm gonna have  good time first!"  The second frame shows the car wrecked on the side of the highway with the warning: "Death Strikes Without Warning."  Whatever.  It irked me.  I know I should just let little irritations like this go, and I do eventually, but I feel a need to spout a bit about it first.

Lately, several of my friends have felt the need to chide me in some way for my current faith status or what they perceive as my lack thereof.  I've had people ask me what has happened to me, don't I love God anymore? I've had others tell me to contact them when I want back in the light.  Still another said she felt "so sorry" for me because my children self-identify as "agnostic."  Most of the comments are related in some way to my tarot practice.  I am told the cards have power but not the right kind of power.  It's clear these folks believe I'm dabbling in the dangerous and need to change my ways.    What is also clear to me is that they attribute a whole lot more influence and power to these cardboard images than I do.  I don't think they are the only ones to do that.  Not only fundamentalist Christians think these cards are more powerful than they really are.  Some tarot practitioners do, too.

While my friends comments may be well intentioned, they are in fact, ignorant on many levels.  For one, they are not privy to my spiritual beliefs, my ongoing relationship with the Divine, nor my thoughts on the subject.  They make assumptions based on very superficial observations.  They also display ignorance about tarot.  Though they disappoint me on the first, I don't blame them for the latter.  There is a lot of myth and mystery surrounding tarot both in the religious and secular realms.  A lot of authority is granted these cards than is truly warranted.  They are but a tool and their use depends on the one in whose hands they lie.

For me, they are a tool first and foremost of strengthening my intuition.  Secondly, they are a divination tool.  My reading style does not invoke deity but relies instead on tapping into a shared consciousness of all human beings.  I'm not even sure I believe in a universal unconscious, but I don't really know what else to call it.  I do believe in energy and connectivity of such, so I know that we are all connected to one another and to the planet and even into the universe.  I don't think we know what to do with all of that energy but I know it exists.  So when I divine with the cards, I believe I am connecting subconsciously into that network via my intuitive process.  But sometimes, particularly when I am reading for myself, I am simply connecting to my own subconscious and dredging up useful information there.  Hence the title of my blog: 78 Notes To Self.  These cards help my self exploration and also remind me of things I already know but have forgotten. 

The way I use the cards is in no way the only way or the proper way or the recommended way.  Others incorporate the cards in their religious faith, in spellwork, in ritual, in communing with deity they worship or work with.  Candles, too, are used in many religions.  Lighting a candle while saying a prayer or casting a spell is common.  They are but a tool, an expression of one's faith.  Candles, likewise, can be used in completely non-religious ways to light a room, scent a room, warm a dinner table.  Tarot cards can be used in such ways as well.  They can be used in religious and non-religious ways, it depends on who is using them.

Perhaps the cards make my friends nervous because they've been told they are tools of the devil or some variation of that.  They seem to believe that some kind of power is naturally inherent in the cards themselves or that because they have been used for religious purposes that don't align with their own, they are natural "gateways" or "stepping stones" toward demonic or other dealings with entities not sanctioned by their God.  To me, that belief seems immature and foolish.  It would be like saying candles, too, because of their use in non-Christian ritual, are inherently evil, or because Wiccans use athames, all knives are tainted.  It's as if they think the cards are inhabited by spiritual beings just waiting for some hapless dummy like myself to open the gates to hell.

Christians will often point to the story of Saul who consulted a medium and was corrected by God for doing so as reason enough to condemn divination.  And yet, in order to decide who would serve tables, Jesus' apostles drew straws to see who got the short end of the stick, believing that it was God who controlled the choice.  Besides, Christians like to intuit all the time only they call it relying on the Holy Spirit.  Honestly, I have no quarrel with those who have concluded for themselves that tarot cards represent too much of a temptation and would personally steer clear of them, but their own dear Apostle Paul made it clear that no item in and of itself is clean or unclean and one should have no fear of spiritual contamination by their use.  He only cautioned that we should bear with the weaknesses of others who aren't as confident in their faith and feel they must abstain.  So I'm finding it difficult not to roll my eyes, but it is I that needs to chill.  I wouldn't expect my Christian friends to participate in a tarot reading but it still irks me when they express that I'm dabbling in darkness because of it.

But what about those who actually use tarot cards and still think they are uber-powerful?  I must admit I'm confused about the statement that "the cards never lie" and how they always know best.   Personally, I've seen the cards lie and every reading I've done has not resonated with wisdom.  Those folks would say the fault lies with the reader, not the cards.  Well, no shit. I can find no fault in an inanimate object that is merely the tool of the user.   But the cards are also random and sometimes come up with wildly random readings.  I've tested the cards and asked them if I was wearing blue when I am clearly not wearing blue and the cards have affirmed that I am indeed wearing blue.  To this we hear, "Don't test the cards."  I'm sorry, but that's akin to elevating them to divine intelligence and much like saying, "Thou shalt not test the Lord your God."  Go ahead, test the cards and I bet you will find what I found:  they're just cards.  They can't tell you anything in and of themselves.  They need you, a reader, an intelligent, intuitive human being to decipher the messages.

Tarot cards are a tool.  How you use them depends entirely on how you use them, to what purpose, to what end.  I wouldn't recommend ascribing any more authority to them than to any other useful item.  It would be like saying my pen has a mind of its own and what I write is not sourced from my own mind but from some other divine source. My writing may be inspired by the divine or it may not, but it certainly comes from me.  The same is true for tarot reading.  The cards are the tool through which a reader can express intuition and wisdom, divinely inspired or not.


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