As many of you may know I love studying religions. I have recently decided I wanted my Bachelors Degree to be in Religion. I am currently taking a intro to World Religions class online and so far so good. Tarot is an amazing system of symbols, philosophical insights, mythologies and archetypes all spun together. Many see tarot as a spiritual endeavor or is a spiritual practice. But can Tarot be religious?
According to the textbook I am reading there are Seven Dimensions of Religion. Funny how it so happens to be seven, seven is a deeply spiritual number. But any way so there are seven dimensions .
1) Ritual (Private and or Public)
2) Narrative and Mythic (Stories, accounts of the universe)
3) Experiential and emotional (feelings of guilt, dread, devotion, peace, love)
4) Social and institutional (group dimensions involving shared beliefs, identity and membership)
5) Ethical and legal (Rules concerning human behavior)
6) Doctrinal and Philosophical (systematic belief structure and intellectual framework)
7) Material (things and places representing or manifesting the sacred)
I feel that Tarot fits into almost all of these classifications.
The ritual aspect is easy, there are many types of rituals associated with tarot. Cleaning rituals, pre-reading rituals, post reading rituals, shuffling and cutting rituals and so forth. However these rituals are not directed towards a deity directly some view tarot as a means to commun with a deity which is a component of worship.
Narrative and Mythic, the tarot has the Fool’s Journey a tale of the Fool’s journey through the major arcana, like that of the Hero’s journey. The journey unravels new experiences, adventures and lessons to the Fool. This type of story is mythic and accounts Truths.
Experiential and emotional, the cards themselves embodied a spectrum of emotions and experiences. The cards also cause a reaction inside ourselves that stir emotions. Tarot is purely an experience you engage in.
Social and institutional, we do not have any central authority or authoritative body (thank god) however we do unite together and call ourselves a “tarot community” or “tribe”. Some organizations do emerge to prominence and act as authority or as a guide (Heirophant or Hermit?). We often see our tarot practice as a huge part of our identity as some see their religion as a factor of their identity (for me at least). ” I am a Tarotist” = “I am a Pagan” or “I am a Jew” to me.
Ethical and legal, does the tarot teach ethics? Hard question, tarot does teach you how to become a better person through transformation, I feel is more akin to Buddhism than the ethics of Christianity or the legality of Judaism’s The Law. The tarot does represent human behaviors but does not say which are right or which are wrong.
Doctrinal and Philosophical, most definite the tarot fits this. I can see a creation myth in the first pairings of the Major Arcana with the Fool representing the abyss or state before creation proceeding with the Magician as manifestation and creation paired with High Priestess as God and Goddess. The whole Major Arcana teachings a system of philosophical framework on the nature of the cosmos and human development and spiritual Truth. Spiritual beliefs vary across readers however a common thread can be connected to most which leads us to a common shared belief in deity(s). Most readers lean towards universalism, where they believe all faiths sare speaking about the same thing in essence and are trying to achieve the same goals.
Material, though we do not have temples, churches or any sort of buildings or any place we call Mecca or the holy land we do have our decks which to some is sacred. The deck represents the sacred and can manifest the sacred. The reading space is a personal place of where the sacred is met. Many reader go out of their way to create a special room just for tarot readings. This is a clear attempt to sperate the Profane from the Sacred (mundane from divine).
Even if tarot is not “religious” based on these classifications a religion could be created based on the tarot. What are your thoughts on this?