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EXCERPT: Tarot for Christians

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Tarot for Christians: Lessons from Christ’s Fool


Introduction

Tarot for Christians
“I WANT TO do a book about tarot,” I told my agent.

Silence.

“Hello?” I said into the phone. “You still there?”

She hung up on me.

“You hung up on me,” I said to her when I called back.

“No,” she said. “I hung up on a crazy person who needs supervision.”

“You don’t want the book?”

“I don’t know what to do with a book for Christians about tarot.”

That’s the reaction so many of us have. Tarot is a set of 78 pieces of rectangle cardstock and ink. You have 78 cartoon-like drawings, and we fear them like each one is done with some kind of material that is corrosive to the soul. If you’re a proper Christian, you don’t like the images or what they represent (regardless of what that might be).

The most popular deck in use today was drawn by a woman who specialized in illustrations for children’s books. But we pack all kinds of overtones and innuendos and power and angst into these 78 sketches.

There was a time when I hated tarot. I was afraid of it because my family told me that hating the cards is what all good little Christians would do.

I was a good little Christian. Being a good boy is what made me want to live. It made me a solid member of the Christian community because I bound myself to the same rules and attitudes of everyone else.

When I questioned the order of things, my parents reminded me that I was just a kid. They said there were experts who denounced things like tarot. When I asked why, they told me it was obvious. They said that I was trying to “know better” than the really smart people who went to great schools and universities and had their names festooned with letters of honor: Reverend and Doctor and PhD and ThD and MA.

Nobody can know everything about everything. We had too many topics to master, and I should leave “fortune telling” alone because the experts said it was the devil’s work. When I asked them were tarot was mentioned in the Bible, they got angry. They said I was inviting Satan into my soul.

They’d start quoting the Old Testament: “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” Leviticus is always the Go To Book for bigots and scalawags.

They warned me not to give tarot and astrology the time of day.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.
[Matthew 2:1-2]

Wait. What? The stars told the three wise men to come visit Jesus in the manger. They came to visit from the East. Holy men from the East. If I add up those numbers, carry the one, scrunch my eyes just so… the three wise men were actually astrologers, and they were coming from Persia (now Iran).

Mommy slapped me when I suggested that, of course. You can’t “un-think” something like that. I knew the Magi were into astrology. Those sly Iranian geezers on camels were plotting the stars.

Mommy said it was better to accept their teaching on satanic things like tarot. They didn’t want me to stir the pot.

“The best way to turn muddy water into clear water,” she said, “is to leave it alone.”

My ears always turn that kind of admonition into a dare.

—– 

Jesus founded two churches. Most people today know about the second one, but the original group is more fun.

Our Master hung out with all the wrong kinds of people during His earthly ministry.

He was a party guy. The first miracle passed down to us in the gospels was changing water into wine at a wedding celebration.

“Dude!” I imagine myself saying at that wedding party in Cana.[1]

Jesus hung with scoundrels and the sick and the scum of society. He cared about prisoners and kept crowds of bullies away from the disenfranchised.

Society hated them because they weren’t up to society’s standards. Followers of Jesus weren’t proper people. They were riffraff, uneducated herds of ruffians. The hoi polloi.

I love rabble rousers. Jesus apparently fit in nicely. He was such an outsider that his own people had him murdered, killed by the upstanding citizens. They said he was such a criminal that he didn’t deserve to live.

[1] Cana doesn’t exist today. It was probably a village in what is Northern Israel. A few think it was in the southern part of modern Lebanon.

—– 

Constantine (272-337) started the second Christian church. He was the Roman emperor who first said Christianity was proper. He did it for political reasons more than anything.

Constantine told Roman society that it was okay to be a Christian. Citizens who wanted to suck up to the emperor left their non-Christian religions as fast as their brown-nosing chariots could race.

After politicians and middle-managers got their hands on the dogma, everything changed. The cross — Christianity’s central symbol — went from a crude depiction of a dying man to a stylized figure in vestments and jewels.

—– 

I have lots of non-Christian friend. Many of them don’t like “the church.” It’s like two camps, and they can’t stand each other. What my non-Christian friends don’t like is the second church of Constantine. I think lots of them would find our Master an absolute hoot. They’d like the liberal / pacifist / activist who partied with society’s riffraff.

—– 

My cousins fit into the second incarnation of the Christian church. I don’t and never did.

I can see my cousins wince at the idea that their cousin would write a book suggesting that such a devil’s tool as tarot could be useful, a set of meritorious flash cards with useful lessons to help us grow and flourish.

My cousins will be calling me a sorcerer over this book. If that’s what they think, I will just turn the other cheek (or turn the other adverb, or whatever one turns in this situation). It isn’t true. If I were a sorcerer, my cousins would be covered in warts by now. I won’t correct them because I think it’s cute. Also, it’s a distinction that gives me the edge at family picnics and the invariable “discussions” at those outings.

Those of us who fit into the Master’s original church group don’t fit neatly into the second group.

“Don’t talk to that heathen, Johnny,” I can hear my cousins say. “He’s evil.”

—– 

The truth is far less dramatic. I use tarot as flash cards. They challenge my noggin without dragging words into the discussion. They are so jam-packed with imagery and symbols that there’s an almost inexhaustible supply of novel facets that attack my preconceived assumptions about the spiritual world.

They’re great, and they annoy my cousins, which makes them even more valuable.

Tarot speaks to the right side of my brain.

My left-brain gets assaulted with words and ideas from all kinds of places, but my artistic right-brain is ignored in my modern, internet-savvy daily life.

The left-brain is where engineers live. It’s analytical and precise. It’s so busy being accurate with the botany that it forgets to notice that a red rose is one of God’s creations that deserves a standing ovation.

Tarot presents images — archetypes — to my right brain. It communicates with images instead of words. I see and recognize, without having to parse and translate.

The rose is just the rose.

The people who design tarot decks add titles at the bottom of each card: magician, devil, moon, and temperance. It sends those of us with left-brain afflictions into tailspins. Words on so many of the cards are just a ruse. We can get a hint about the meanings, but the minute we start taking those letters too seriously, the whole thing goes south.

I’ve more insights by staring at the images and letting my brain wander. When I see something that is in contradistinction to some expert’s reality, the expert loses. Sorry, experts.

—– 

I’ve used tarot cards as flash cards since I was a little kid.

For years, I’d cut my tarot deck to select one card in the morning. It was my card of the day. I’d carry that card with me and stare at it when I had some downtime.

Some days I’d look at the card. Some days the card would look back at me. It was a dance.

When I’m writing one of my fictional novels, I get into a rut from time to time. My secret for writer’s block: cut the tarot deck and select a card. It isn’t that there is some kind of cosmic something-or-other going on. Maybe there is; maybe not. The point is that the image on the random card mounts an assault on my writer’s block. The symbolism, the archetype, in the image shakes whatever was causing my mental constipation. It has worked over and over.

—– 

I did an actual tarot reading one time too. Once. It was sort of a reading. I laid out the cards and consulted a big book to see what each position was supposed to tell me. It was awful. I am the most inept prognosticator in the history of tarot. Every time I tried to take that reading seriously, I burst into laughter.

My guardian angel was laughing at me. Hosts of cherubim and seraphim were laughing so hard that they started passing gas, and that isn’t a pretty thing to happen.

As a result of that reading, I swore off the practice.

If you want to learn how to “read” the cards and tell the future, I’m not the one to come to. I haven’t any advice.

What’s more, I don’t think the future is any of my business.

The past is the past. It doesn’t even exist. The only way we can interact with the past is to think about it, and that thinking is happening NOW. Bad thoughts about the past include shame and regret. Those are just thoughts, and they can ruin the present.

Same thing for the future. It doesn’t exist. We can only think about it, and our thinking happens NOW. Bad thoughts of the future can be dread and fear, but they’re just thought patters. The future doesn’t exist, and our bad thought only muck up the present.

If you want to get your head off into the future, that’s all up to you. I have enough trouble with NOW. Adding time-shifts to my NOW complicates things beyond pleasure.



You can get a copy of Tarot for Christians at several online and brick-and-mortar sites. It is available as paperback and e-book.

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