There’s a typical misunderstanding that Tarot cards are evil or the work of the Devil.
Let’s clarify this delusion by remembering that, fundamentally, the Tarot is a tool used for spiritual development, divination, understanding and empowering one’s inner self, and connecting to the beauty of the present moment.
The cards themselves cannot be inherently good or evil; they’re only ink and paper. The positive or negative interpretations of the various signs and symbols are subjective, depending on the knowledge of the reader, the feelings of the querent, and the general atmosphere of the reading.
We are, after all, talking about a game of cards and a wonderful spiritual process meant to offer insight on how to solve the problems of life. Considering this an evil sin is a superstition at best.
The following article can maybe help you clarify some misconceptions about the ethical duality of good vs. evil in the Tarot discourse. Furthermore, we will explain why some people criticize the Tarot and unmask these negative connotations for what they truly are: fear and ignorance.
Before we get into more details, I want to point out the Related Articles section at the bottom of this post. I’ve listed a bunch of articles related to this and others of interest.
Table of Contents
Good vs. Evil
Evil can be defined as profound immorality or the absence of good. The belief that evil is attributed to some kind of supernatural force somehow makes the human being seem like a puppet without a sense of purpose, without free will. The card of the Devil depicts this condition, among other things.
It is precisely one’s choices in life that define them as good (virtuous) or evil (immoral) by social conventions and standards. This duality, translated in many forms, can be recognized in various religious symbols and spiritual practices (related article: “Are tarot cards religious?”).
The Yin-Yang, a black and white circle composed of two opposite and equal halves, shows that there cannot be good without evil and that one side always defines and includes the other, or it would simply be pointless.
The Tarot advances beyond good and evil, which are inventions of the human mind to explain and categorize behavioral patterns. On one hand, the benevolent angelic figure of Temperance. On the other, the Devil and his minions.
But if we look at the following cards of the Major Arcana (read: How to use the Major Arcana tarot cards), this duality is revealed as another veil of the cosmic powers that be; the Sun and the Moon.
Darkness is the absence of light. In Jungian psychology, the shadow is the dark side of oneself; repressed thoughts of guilt or immorality, fears, and passions, everything that’s seemingly out of alignment with one’s socially acceptable personality, but also the unconscious tendencies, creative impulses, and innate instincts.
To integrate and accept the shadow is a difficult task indeed. The Tarot cards trigger certain responses in the unconscious mind, allowing the repressed feelings to resurface and offering a chance to face the fear in a controlled environment. You’ll find more info about the shadow in the next section.
Superstition, psychology and evil spirits
Since the Tarot is closely tied to the occult sphere and the paranormal, it is fairly easy for someone without much experience to believe that consulting the cards can lead to bad things. This is the logical fallacy of a linear, cause-and-effect consciousness that is out of balance.
If you start believing that evil exists naturally in the world, then you’ll find it everywhere, even where it doesn’t exist. The cards are not malicious; it’s the negative interpretation that invites disaster and chaos. (read, “Where do tarot cards get their power?”)
Bad luck sometimes is just that. Or it can be the ignorance of an individual that causes them to bring this so-called evil upon themselves, blaming external forces instead of seeking answers and solutions to their problems.
To think that a person, place or object is cursed certainly spices things up a bit, adding to the mystery and intrigue that shrouds the occult world (read: “Are tarot cards magic?”). An illusion that disappears the moment perception breaks free from past conditioning.
Of course, some tragedies have no simple explanation. Nevertheless, to attribute our mishaps to an evil spirit or an unknown force beyond understanding is a failure to recognize the damage and move on.
But what if you believe in the existence of spirits and you feel like there’s an ominous presence bound to you or your cards?
Well, should you dare to take a step into the realm of witchcraft, the Tarot cards can be utilized to cleanse these malevolent energies, identify their source and alter the way you perceive them, eventually freeing them or turning them into your allies.
This is called shadow work, and it is a process meant to recognize negative patterns and destructive behaviors. The cards then become signifiers of what we dare not face, exposing the roots of these patterns.
In this way, the Tarot is similar to psychotherapy; its purpose is to illuminate the darkness within, surpass obstacles and allow the individual to live the life they want without fear or doubt.
There’s always the occasional wrong-doer, scam-artist, or energy vampire. Any tool can be applied to evil ends in the wrong hands. Those people tarnish the nature of the Tarot and other spiritual endeavors. (read: “How do I read tarot cards, a complete guide”)
It’s no wonder that conservative and religious people deem this elaborate game of cards as evil. There’s a common belief that, if you receive knowledge that doesn’t originate from God then it must be from evil spirits. I think it’s because of a general tendency to categorize and diminish what people fear and don’t understand.
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Many religions condemn divination and fortune-telling, because that would be a power greater than God, and therefore a hubris against the order of nature. If one attains such a power, a kind of knowledge that defies the divine, then they simply must be an abomination, right?
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Well, no! This is mere superstition. The Tarot is not just a means to predict future events (“Will tarot tell my future?”) and it certainly possesses no otherworldly or dark powers.
Anxiety about the future
Most people who ask for Tarot readings have questions concerning their future. They do not seek ways to improve; they simply wish for a temporary affirmation that everything’s going to be alright, a yes or no answer (“How to us Tarot for Yes or No Answers”) to a superficial inquiry, or a magic trick that will make all their troubles go away.
And when a card like Death or The Tower (“Can the Tower Tarot card be positive?”)appears in a reading, their minds are taken over by the dread that something terrible will happen and the role of the reader is reduced to that of a soothsayer.
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That’s why we need to be cautious with the questions we’re asking. The cards can point out the evil influence that has caused trouble in the past; however, they cannot make the destructive behavior disappear or prevent it from worsening, if one is not ready to make the necessary changes in their life.
Let’s consider the Law of Attraction. (“How to unlock your hidden powers and manifest your desires?”) If, for example, a neurotic and anxious person asks for a reading and they are shocked by what they see and hear, their negative mindset will produce a ripple effect that will greatly influence their future.
They will attract the same predicaments they always have because they refuse to live in the present moment and to be liberated from worrying about the future. So, like fools, they will blame the Tarot or even the reader who tried to help them, in their attempt to give up responsibility and find a scapegoat.
Believing in a predetermined fate, preaching morality and judging all that is obscure or unknown constitute the roadblocks on the path of spiritual awakening.
There’s another reason why the Tarot and other subcultures might be mistaken as an evil craft, namely the unorthodox or macabre artwork they contain.
From Goth fashion and horror movies to the punk and surrealist movements, the purpose of this peculiar imagery and attitude is to shock the moral eye and make a statement that daring to be different or revolutionary should be acceptable and, in fact, necessary to progress in an ever-evolving and complex society.
Why should a pack of cards be accused of being evil, while obscene images and rituals are an integral part of religion for thousands of years?
The gargoyles of catholic churches and the Mexican festival of Santa Muerte are such examples. In this way, the macabre serves a purpose more complicated than to just strike fear in the hearts of men; it encourages facing and accepting mortality, it offers a palpable image of fear to be finally liberated from it.
And there are a lot of Tarot decks that diverge from traditional artwork and delve into the darkness of the psyche, like H.R. Giger’s Baphomet Tarot, the Santa Muerte: Book of the Dead and the Flux Arcana. Check these gems out if you got a taste for the dark and scary!
It’s OK to feel confused and scared. Everyone reaches that point in their lives someday. To face your fear and recognize the evil that men do is no easy task.
All in all, the Tarot is a tool for spiritual awakening. The cards offer insight into the human soul, into both light and darkness. However, the belief that a pack of cards can be evil is judgmental, naïve, and arbitrary. It’s simply paper and ink, manufactured in a factory or a print shop.
The images and insights might be shocking sometimes, but that’s just another part of the divine game of Tarot!
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