Tarot Cards and Satanism: What You Need to Know

Tarot reading is a form of divination, and part of a broader set of activities known as occult practices, witchcraft, or magic. Christianity has demonized these things for centuries. People tell stories about Tarot being gateways for demons to enter your house, or worse, your mind. They cast divination as a contract with the devil. But why? How could something as seemingly innocent as Tarot reading be evil? Or is there a spiritual danger involved? Are Tarot cards really Satanic? Here’s what you need to know.

Introducing Satan

Satan is a character from Christendom. In fact, he only exists in Christianity. This simple point changes the conversation around Satanism, because to be a Satanist, one must first believe in Satan. And to believe in Satan, one must be a Christian. So a “Satanist” is really just a rebellious Christian.

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The Old Testament word “Satan” is a phonetic pronunciation of the Hebrew Ha-Satan, which means “the enemy” or “the adversary.” It was not a name. It could have meant “the enemy” Philistines, “the enemy” tax collectors, or “the enemy” neighbor dog who keeps waking you up. So Satan is not an individual being. It’s a translation issue. In fact, the same translation issue gave us the word Apache, which is a Zuni word, not an Apache one. It means—you guessed it—enemy, because the Zuni were enemies of the Apache tribe.

The idea of Satan as an individual didn’t arise until Christianity. They gave him a personality and a backstory, some of which was pulled from pagan Europe. They even confused him with different beings, like Lucifer and Beelzebub. Other religions and mystical traditions acknowledge evil spirits, but a supreme evil spirit is primarily a Judeo-Christian-Islamic convention, and Satan is distinctly Christian.

So for a Christian, it is possible to view Tarot reading as Satanic. Many do, because of instances in the Bible warning against witchcraft and divination. But there are also supportive stories of biblical heroes visiting witches and consulting the oracle. Magic has a complicated relationship with Christianity.

Outside of Christianity and the major monotheistic religions, the question of Satanism is moot, because Satan doesn’t exist. Hell, even the Church of Satan doesn’t believe in Satan.

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Satan bored AF in his frozen man cave. Illustration for Inferno, 1861, by Gustav Doré

So What is Evil?

Let’s assume for a moment that there are no such things as good and evil. If that were the case, there would still be things like pain, death, rot, sorrow, sickness and ignorance. That which encourages us toward health, fullness and vibrance we could call good. That which prohibits this, or which drags us into disease and ignorance, we can call evil. This is not the same as morally right and morally wrong; it’s more like constructive and destructive. Or perhaps, even better: helpful and adversarial. There’s our old pal Ha-Satan again, the adversary!

Are there “evil” adversarial forces that seek to drag us into darkness, suffering and ignorance? Certainly! Advertising comes to mind. And if you acknowledge a diversity of nonvisible living entities, or spirits, it’s more likely than not that some are adversarial instead of helpful. But often these labels are more circumstantial than essential. A barking dog is helpful if it’s protecting your house, but adversarial if it’s keeping you awake.

Tarot and Evil

So here’s the real question: is Tarot evil? Does it, as Christian culture claims, open a doorway for evil spirits to come into your life and wreck havoc? To answer the first question, we have to understand that the Tarot is a tool. Like any tool, it can be used in helpful ways that promote health and goodness, or adversarial ways that corrupt and disempower. So whether Tarot is evil depends on the person holding the cards. Evil intent is not always necessary for a diseased result. Sometimes darkness creeps in when we’re not looking.

As for the second question, the answer is a qualified yes. Tarot can and does open some doors, and there’s a hazard there. Working in spirituality is not a walk in the park. It’s like entering a jungle. It’s a natural place, and beautiful, but if you’re not smart and prepared, you could get lost. Even hurt. And it’s likely that you will encounter some scary things along the way. This might be a deal breaker for you. But if you’re up for the challenge and you’re ready to go through the looking glass, do so and use caution. You don’t always know what kinds of tigers and snakes are going to jump out at you in the dark, but if you don’t lose your cool and you keep a sharp mind, you’ll be alright. Many have been down these paths before.

But I Thought Tarot Was Just a Fun Thing to do Between Yoga and Brunch

My dear, you had better buy a lot of sage and rose quartz.

But take heart! A friendly caution is no reason to deter from your interest in the wonderful and fascinating world of the cards. There are certain points-of-no-return along the spiritual path, but dabbling in Tarot is probably not one of them. And don’t worry about Satan. He’s like the economy. He can only hurt you if you believe in him.

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