Tarot is Dangerous

The Tarot is dangerous and like any tool must be used correctly to avoid harm, writes Marcus Katz, author of Tarosophy, co-author of Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot & Around the Tarot in 78 Days.

The danger of tarot is not that it contacts evil spirits, not that it shows your imminent doom in the Death card, and not that it attracts the curses of the dead upon you, but something far more common and even worse than any curse – the danger of laziness.

We know that generally, half of people think that tarot is negative in some way. However, the reason they give is not because of the aforementioned idiocies but actually for a very good reason.

They know, as some tarot enthusiasts online may seem to be forgetting, exactly why the tarot is dangerous.

In 2001, a public survey was conducted in the UK on behalf of the Independent Television Commission (ITC) and the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC). It aimed to survey public attitudes to subjects such as astrology, tarot, and psychic phenomena and its results were used to establish all regulation on the broadcasting of such subjects in the UK.

Whilst I looked at this survey in detail in Tarot in Culture Vol. I (ed. Auger, 2014) I would like to return to it briefly, in that it showed one thing; tarot was seen by the audience as positive when it offered “positive, comforting information and generic advice,” but negative when it produced personal information that “delved into a person’s consciousness” (Katz, 2014).

Whilst experienced readers saw the immediate misunderstanding of Tarot here, I would argue that many actual tarot readers are falling under this same spell.

There is a growing trend amongst tarot enthusiasts to simply put across their own thoughts using a tarot card or spread as illustration of the message they wish to convey.

I would argue they do this to give implied authority to their words, which otherwise would be more simply, “their opinion” or “their belief”. The danger is that they may even believe that this is the case, that the tarot is supporting their belief, their opinion.

This is self-hypnosis of the worst possible kind, in that it appears benign and supportive. Whilst at times we may all do so, whilst at times it may be difficult to be courageously responsive to our cards, we should at the very least not fall into the laziness of turning our tarot into a deck of confirmation.

When people create a meme, an inspirational message with a tarot theme, or add text to a set of tarot cards, they are often using the tool of tarot to convey their own message – a message that is independent of the cards and to which the cards are forced into servicing.

This arises in two ways, and both are dangerous.

The first is that the archetypes behind the tarot images have simply swallowed the conscious considerations of the user. They have allowed themselves to become overwhelmed by their unconscious (and often shadow) content, by opening up to that content through the cards. Their conscious and reasonable mind – common-sense – has surrendered to the uncommon power and energy of the unconscious, which is comparatively all-powerful in this context.

The second way is that the person has shut down any communication from the tarot to themselves, denies it and projects it outwards. This causes mental instability (or arises from it, as the person seeks to protect themselves) and results in the cards being used in increasingly strident ways to the point of obsession.

Whilst this may manifest in seemingly gentle, apparently positive, and generally harmless ways; everyone sharing the meme, everyone “liking” the post, or most just scrolling by it, there is a growing danger that the tarot is being diluted, even entirely uprooted from its own source of power.

At least this will protect it, if not the users. It is like unplugging a toaster – no-one will be able to electrocute themselves with it, or set fire to anything, but they may smash their toes by trying to use it as a hammer. The toaster may still survive until it gets back into the hands of someone who knows it needs plugging in and wants to make toast for themselves – or their family and friends.

The Kabbalists understood this process, too, much earlier. They said of gematria, the numerology of Kabbalah, that one should never use gematria to prove something that one already knew.

As an example, I saw someone recently go through quite a significant downfall, which was made public by them – as the situation unfolded from their happy launch to their eventual loss. They were expecting the project to go very well, and it failed. They then “pulled” (I suspect ‘chose’) and posted online the “Wheel of Fortune” card for the event, to explain it away, with appropriately soft-focus image of the Wheel and a friendly font.

Most importantly, they wrote something that they could have more easily written without the card. They wrote what they wanted to write about having to now be patient, their time was not yet, one day they would succeed, karma, etc.

The card indeed provided them a lot of comforting advice. It was advice they wanted to hear.

However, if you “plugged in” that card, it would be actually and truly dangerous – it might tell you, perhaps, that what was actually required of you was a revolution.

A revolution of your thinking; what you thought was up should be down, and what you dropped down should now go up. The card might tell you to push harder, go round the wheel again, get off your bottom and head back to the top, to do the opposite of what you just done, swallow your pride, realise that we are all on a cycle, grab somebody else’s hand to help lift you up, etc., etc.

It is a card – like all the tarot cards – of a major turning-point, in this case the point of the Fool’s journey where everything is seen in one whole – ahead of a final realisation at the World.

It is not a pretty picture to tell yourself what you want to tell yourself. It is a tarot card. It means business.

It is dangerous. It will delve into your consciousness and tell you to change it – and tell you how.

Tarot is dangerous – and you should let it be so, but not by telling yourself what you already know.


Extract from Tarosophy Squared by Marcus Katz [Forthcoming, 2015].