Tarot as Religion?

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 .

"Faith" from the Legacy of the Divine Tarot

“Faith” from the Legacy of the Divine Tarot

 

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?

         

AngeloNasios

AngeloNasios

The recipient of Tarosophist of the Year 2011, Angelo Nasios is a rising voice in the tarot community. Angelo is known for his popular YouTube channel in which he produces educational tarot videos. Tarot: Unlocking the Arcana, Angelo’s first book will be released by Schiffer Publishing.

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  • http://TarotCounseling.org Katrina Wynne

    Dear Angelo,

    I’m excited to hear of your studies in religion and not surprised that you were able to easily see the connection between Tarot and its qualifications for being a religion.

    I could write volumes on this subject to support this premise, but suffice it to say, absolutely “Yes.”

    The key difference at this point in time between Tarot and other religions, is that the recognized major traditions have state and legal support, where Tarot does not. This is a slippery slop for what is required is a critical mass of support before a democratic or supportive government will recognize and protect a religion. So you and I can know and practice this religion, but the time is not ripe to promote it to the world as such for the world is not ready and will erect the cross or the hanging noose, if you know what I mean.

    If you thought it was difficult to get gay marriage approval state by state, imagine trying to get approval for Tarot as a religion. Most people would view such a movement only as a cult. The only difference between a cult and a protected religion is whether the majority of people approve its existence. It is a matter of public opinion and political/police force.

    I have been closely watching the mass media to observe the turning tide on public opinion. It is getting closer and I am hopeful that some day, hopefully in my lifetime, Tarot will be widely accepted and better understood. That is where most of my focus is these days.

    Hope to read more about your ongoing studies and feel free to post on these sites:

    http://TarotSpirituality.org

    Facebook community – Tarot Spirituality
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tarot-Spirituality/187619151269778?ref=ts&fref=ts

    In Spirit,
    Katrina

  • Jenny

    I believe that tarot as a religion makes sense. However i feel like its more of a religious belief and practice. Since there is no God in tarot and also there are no set rules to follow.Many people who already belong to a certain religion also read tarot.There are certain aspects of tarot reading and practice that do feel like religion however there is no church or other place of worship. I believe though that through tarot we connect to the divine and because of this we create a specific place to read in kind of likeva sanctuary so in a sense the tarot reading space can be seen as the church.Also most tarot readers do not allow anyone else to read or even touch their cards because to the reader his/her cards are sacred.Each individual has their own techniques thatbthey use to read and cleanse and in that sense making the whole experience very spiritul but also very personal.Reading tarot you gain deeper insight into yourself and through this you can change for the better as a person
    ~Jenny~

  • Julia

    As a Zen Buddhist, I think that the Tarot is a wonderful expression of my practice. The principle behind Buddhism is that you are responsible for what you create, and you are enjoined to eliminate suffering whether it’s your own or someone else’s (which are, in essence, the same thing). The cards show where the sticking points are and present options for you to take the path that avoids or reduces suffering. It makes it clear what the consequences of your choices are…in other words, what kind of karma you will be generating. I think that rather than being a religion on their own, they dovetail with the practices of many different religions so that you can make use of them no matter what your background. They are a supporter to religion. It’s too bad, though, that people of some religions view the tarot as a harmful religion and avoid it; they don’t understand what the real purpose of the tarot is. (Not that I’m some expert; I’m just starting to learn myself.)

    I greatly enjoy your blog and videos, thank you for all of your efforts!

    • http://www.AngeloNasios.com Angelo Nasios

      Thank you Julia for your comments and sharing with us your experience!