You Do What?–Addressing Skeptics as a Tarot Practitioner

My friends and family are a pretty tolerant lot.  Wanna spend your twenties compulsively switching jobs with European sojourns in between? Go for it.  Got a thing for drag shows in dive bars? Totally understandable.  Wanna consult a spread of cards to help you make life decisions? Sur–wait.  You do what?  You’re not serious, are you?

I’m very serious.  And since I’ve surrounded myself with ambassadors of the hyper-logical for the past decade or so, the reaction I received was generally anticipated.  What I didn’t expect, however, was my comrades’ resistance to hearing me out.  So far, they’ve relied on the stereotypical image of the gypsy cradling a crystal ball to inform them of what I do rather than considering the current tarot climate.  No matter how many times I insist otherwise, they still can’t believe that “I think cards can predict the future”.  Despite having zero awareness of the online tarot community and being out of touch with the ways in which tarot is practiced, they believe “there’s no market for that sort of thing” and can’t understand why “anyone would let cards tell them how to live their lives.”  It is this reaction that incenses me–the insistence that I’m a New Age foo foo who has no idea what she’s talking about, who’s overly idealistic about the nature of things and who’s abandoning science for the paranormal.  I may be a New Age “foo foo” and I may be idealistic, but I’m certainly not throwing science out the window, nor am I making any claims that tarot predicts the future.  When I was a Critical Theory student studying Jung, that was totally okay.  Now that I’m a tarot student studying Jung, I’m a delusional looney.

They’ve been kind enough to pepper affirmative dismissals into our dialogues–“as long as you’re happy, I’m happy”.  Somehow, though, this passive acceptance leaves me cold.  I understand that this journey is ultimately my own, and that the opinions of others should hold no bearing on how I feel or conduct myself.  Still, these are people that I love and/or respect a great deal, and how they regard me does, in fact, matter.  I want them to understand that I’m not going off of the deep end.  I want them to see the literary elements of tarot that first drew me to it, and how I regard tarot as a tool for identifying what we actually want and need from the giant, tangled webs of our lives.  I want them to comprehend that tarot is not a means of engaging with the supernatural, but a means of engaging with the natural.  I cannot force them, however, to be an audience to my diatribes.  What I can do, however, is fully embrace the path of tarot and integrate it into my life.  Over time, they will begin to see that I’m still the same logical, rational, philosophically-minded weirdo that I’ve always been.  That embracing tarot did not inspire me to join a cult, abandon my practice of teaching, cause me to suspend conversation because a long dead relative crossed over from the spirit realm to use me as a medium (not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Lucky for them, that’s not my brand of occult).

Time–time will solve my current dilemma. And patience.  And understanding.  Anything that is different or misrepresented is threatening, and sometimes it takes some time for a person to warm up to it.  After all, my comrades don’t love me any less for this relatively new development, and even if they don’t come around, I’m sure they’ll at least see the positive effects that tarot is having on my life, and will appreciate it for that alone.  In the meantime, I will redouble my efforts, and as I learn more, maybe I’ll be able to explain what I do in a way that they’ll be more willing to listen to.  After all, tarot teaches us to always look to the self for answers.  I believe I will continue to do just that.

Did any of my fellow cardslingers experience pushback when they first “came out” as tarot enthusiasts?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Peace Be With My Tarot Geeks,


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11 Replies to “You Do What?–Addressing Skeptics as a Tarot Practitioner”

  1. Yes! I was just having a conversation with my sister (who is exceptionally supportive) about this. I believe I would have gotten deep into the tarot realm in my adolescents, but my mother was “afraid” of it and said off handed comments that kept me at a distance. Although I didn’t let her fear keep me from oracle cards or astrology! There is just something about tarot that people have preconceptions about…

  2. This is very much the case for me. I’m a harcore atheist (to the dismay of my New Agey friends) and an equally hardcore Tarot reader (to the chagrin of my Cartesian rationalist friends). I’ve really found that people who willingly accept one of the two traits will almost never greet its counterpart with anything other than suspicion and distaste. And to be honest, I still haven’t quite figured out how to explain to my atheistic friends how I read Tarot and why I think it’s valuable; the best I can hope for is to make them aware that it’s something I do and then point out that because I’m a reasoned, aware-of-basic-science individual I must have some reason for doing it, even if it’s not a reason they’ll respect or agree with.

    1. Honestly, I was an atheist for years, and although I’ve somewhat recently adopted the label of “pantheist”, my core belief system hasn’t changed. Particles interact with particles. There’s something to the idea of the collective unconscious. Science is limited in what it can explain, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be able to explain the unexplainable someday. I’m all for logic and rationality, and I’ve used logical and rational means to come to all of my conclusions. Tarot is a means of unpacking the unconscious. It’s almost like a form of psychotherapy. I honestly don’t see anything illogical or unreasonable about it.

    2. If you ever want to offer up an explanation, I’ll tell you what I told my husband.

      So there’s a term in the software community called “rubber duck debugging”, and it came about thusly: there’s this guy bashing his head over a bug in his code. He can’t figure out what’s wrong and he’s tried EVERYTHING. He goes to his biss and explains the problem, and his boss hands him a toy rubber duck and says, “Explain your code out loud, line by line, to this little rubber duck, as if the duck didn’t understand the first thing about programming. Then come back to me.” So the guy humors his boss and does exactly that, and while explaining his code he figures out how to fix his code.

      This is what tarot is to me: a form of creative problem solving.

  3. The only person I’m out to is my husband. You can’t really hide your hobbies from the dude that you live with, especially when it’s his paycheck that pay for your decks. After I explained to him my personal views on Tarot using a software analogy (he’s got a degree in computer science, so he’s as obnoxiously logical as they come), he nodded and said “I can dig that”, more or less.

    My family and in-laws, on the other hand? Bringing it up would be suicide. My in-laws are hardcover conservatives, if that says anything. They barely tolerate my husband being an atheist and who knows what they’ll think if they find out his wife “plays” with tarot cards and is considering adopting a pagan religion.

    1. I’m hoping that tarot’s growing popularity will somewhat lessen its stigma among the more religiously conservative. People make such assumptions; at the end of the day, it’s a deck of cards (that’s what we’ll tell them, right? We can just keep the more mystical aspects of tarot to ourselves, hee hee)

      1. I think one day even the mystical elements will be explainable and acceptable. Magnetism used to be considered magic at one point!

      2. I absolutely agree. I seriously think that quantum theory will progress to a point where “the law of attraction” will be able to be explained scientifically.

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