Today, interest in the occult is on the rise as toy companies making significant profits push these toys online and in big box stores, mostly to a public wholly unaware of the danger.
Are Tarot cards really dangerous? Well, the tarot (/ˈtæroʊ/; trionfi, tarocchi, tarock) are simply playing cards, used from the mid-15th century for games such as Italian tarocchini and — and they are still used throughout Europe for this.
Harmless enough, right?
Most English-speaking people don’t know this because in their cultures, tarot cards are used primarily for occult attempts to see the future. This stems from the late 18th century, about the time of the Enlightenment. Tarotology/cartomancy is traced by some occult writers to ancient Egypt or the Kabbalah but there is no documented evidence of such origins or of the usage of tarot for divination before the 18th century.
So, is the Tarot cool? Alex*, age 34, is a former occultist who has become a fervent Catholic, in part because of what he experienced as a reader of the Tarot. Today, he is a husband and father keenly interested in the Faith. But that was not always the case. REGINA sat down with Alex recently to listen to his incredible story.
REGINA: Who introduced you to reading the Tarot?
ALEX: Nobody needed to introduce me; the culture did that. Big box bookstores make it a point to sell occult books and other related paraphernalia. Introducing myself to the occult, to tarot cards, was as simple as buying a deck. I think the cost was about fifteen or twenty dollars. And that's all that it took.
REGINA: How old were you?
ALEX: I bought my first deck when I was sixteen, the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg. It wasn't a good choice for a beginner, but I began to learn. I did readings for my friends by flipping through the bundled set of instructions.
REGINA: Why were you interested in the Tarot?
ALEX: I believe it was the film, Live and Let Die which I saw at eight years old, which prominently featured a tarot reader. I remember wanting to see the pictures on the cards, and to understand their meaning. That was all it took; I saw something mysterious and I wanted to have a better understanding of it.
REGINA: You say you felt somewhat conflicted at times.
ALEX: I began to feel conflicted almost immediately. I can maybe best describe it as an inconsistent feeling of wrongness.
REGINA: Morally wrong?
ALEX: It isn't so much that it's morally wrong, though it is; it's that people put an astonishing level of trust a series of cardboard rectangles with pictures on them.
One of the things that eventually scared me straight was when an old woman asked me for extensive financial advice. It wasn't long after the 2008 financial crisis, and she wanted to know what to do with her investments. And here she was putting her financial well-being into the hands of cardboard rectangles with exceptionally vague pictures on them.
At the time, I thought that this was about the craziest thing I'd ever seen. Here was someone asking me to do something I more or less considered wildly irresponsible. I ended by badly muddling the reading without giving much of an answer, because this was a responsibility I knew I did not want. It's one thing to blame her for mistrusting hedge-fund managers, and mutual-fund administrators, yet here I was doing these readings.
REGINA: So this made you stop reading the Tarot?
ALEX: That particular anecdote happened years after I started, just a few months after I began to break away from that lifestyle. But the other thing that made me stop concerns the endless questions a reader starts to have about looking into the future.
ALEX: Solid priests tell us that demons cannot see the future, but they're very good at guessing, at making extremely educated guesses. Demons will show you what they think is going to happen in the future through tarot cards, but they'll always also suggest that the very act of looking at the future has changed it. A reader will endlessly begin to tug on that question without being able to find a satisfactory answer.
REGINA: So, for example?
ALEX: If for example a medium perceives a disaster in someone's future, do they tell the person about it? The loving person will quickly answer, yes of course! Then the demon will cause confusion by rhetorically asking if the act of informing the person is what triggers the disaster in the first place. It's very easy to become confused very quickly in thinking about these questions, because the demon isn't necessarily incorrect, to ask the question, what if telling the person about a tragic event to come is what triggers it?
REGINA: Seems like a quick way down a moral rabbit hole.
ALEX: This is, I think partially why God doesn't want us trying to divine the future through morally evil means like divination, because it is not proper to our infinitesimal existence to be trying to learn how God's plan is going to play out.
REGINA: And then there’s the horrible confusion that a person must live with.
ALEX: Of course, the demons want to sow confusion, because by causing confusion for all concerned, they can move unseen through the chaos and using virtually no effort set off the chain reaction that destroys the lives of many people.
That's not a rhetorical device; that almost happened to me. It was an astonishingly sophisticated gambit on the part of the enemy. But by then a chance encounter with an old woman asking for extensive financial advice let me see that this was becoming far too dangerous.
REGINA: Were you ever concerned about the doors that you were opening to the occult?
ALEX: Oh no. No, I never worried about that. I went whole hog, I jumped in with both feet. Tarot was not the only skill I acquired; I did far more troubling things. And I risked much.
REGINA: But were you ever worried…?
ALEX: …that the occult would release demons who would begin to cause havoc and mayhem throughout my entire life and the lives of the people I cared about?
No, because the frame of reference for someone who's into the occult is that demons don't really exist. Insofar as malevolent spirits or entities may be acknowledged, well, you're in the occult aren't you? You can handle them. Just talk to them, you can get them to leave you alone, or contain them, or redirect them as necessary. In fact, as a force for good in the world, it's your job to deal with these things, so don't worry about that.
REGINA: How about your professional life?
ALEX: Yes, I was concerned about the fear of discovery, or ridicule, there. I told very few people what I was doing. If certain people were to ask me, I might to this day deny my involvement, even in the face of hard evidence to the contrary.
Willing to deal with “malevolent spirits” but not other human beings… seems rather counter-intuitive no? But that's the fuel on which the occult runs. At first it’s subtle inversions of reality, but eventually they get far more overt.
REGINA: What did you ‘feel' or ‘see' during a Tarot reading?
ALEX: What I saw most of the time was the face of my client, as well as the cards themselves. But that's not what this question is about. The deck with which I acquired the most rapport and proficiency had some truly excellent artwork. Vivid bright colors, bold shapes, and well-designed cards. I could still get astonishing results out of that deck today, if I ever took leave of my senses enough to actually read again, God forbid.
REGINA: And so…?
ALEX: When I laid the cards on the table, it wasn't every reading, though I think it probably was growing more and more common by the time I got out, there were times when it was like the cards themselves became three-dimensional. It was as though they became like windows, like I was looking down through the table. The art didn't really change, but it seemed deeper somehow.
If you've ever used a toy from the 1980's called a View-Master, I would compare it a little bit like looking at the reels from one of those. It felt at times, that when I would move my head to the side, the art would shift in a sense to match my new position. The images were two-dimensional and yet, I couldn't shake the perception that they had become something more extensive. It is in that sense, that I would say that it was like peering through a series of windows into another world. Or, a series of other worlds.
REGINA: Did this experience affect your reading?
ALEX: Whenever that happened, the reading always proceeded with astonishing accuracy. The whole thing became more intuitive, more instinctual, and my client was always stunned by what I would seem to know. It would easily give them the impression that the cards had communicated something to me that I had no way of knowing, because there's a sense in which that was accurate.
Part of that was just being a little bit vague, but part of that was something that is difficult to put into words. There was this sense that if you just let it happen, meaning that if you didn't think about it too much and let the demonic suggestions speak, that the reading would be accurate. Indeed, that was the case. When you define the success of a reading by accuracy, then that becomes the goal.
REGINA: Did you or your clients ever experience anything of a demonic nature that alerted you to the dangers of the occult?
ALEX: I didn't keep touch with any of my clients really, and so I can't poll them. I never got the sense that anything I did triggered the knowledge in them that there was anything demonic about what I was doing. In fact, I went out of my way often to suggest that these items were just cards. I regularly would stress with certain people that this shouldn't actually work, and then I'd proceed to make it work.
Nobody ever ran away from me, nobody ever became very frightened or to my knowledge heard mysterious voices. Nothing ever flew around the room, or bothered anyone so badly that they would refuse to come back, at least not so far as I know.
I guess when it comes to tarot, the enemy doesn't actually need to do anything particularly elaborate. If the reader is skilled, that reader will do almost all the work for him in that regard.
REGINA: Blessed Bartolo Longo, now on the path to canonization, was raised Catholic; he pulled away from the Church, going as far as to become a Satanic Priest. After hitting rock bottom, however, he turned back to God, even turning his town’s (Pompeii) devotion to the Rosary. What would you say to someone who is involved in the occult and thinks that there's no way to stop, no forgiveness from God, no way back?
ALEX: The question is predicated on a belief in God the way that the Catholic Church, and mainstream Christianity in general understand. The occult does not accept this paradigm, and for that reason simply saying to true occult believer person, “Come back, there's enough forgiveness for you!” is counter-productive as a first step.
REGINA: Why do you say that?
ALEX: For one thing, they reject the God vs. the enemy narrative which we believe. They typically reject the need for forgiveness because to them, they aren't doing anything wrong. Few, if any occult practitioners think, or believe that they are truly doing the work of the devil, of the enemy. Maybe this is reality for them buried deep in their subconscious, but I certainly had no conscious regard for either God or the enemy when I was practicing that life.
REGINA: So, if they don’t believe they’re doing anything wrong, what can you say?
ALEX: First you have to break the substitute paradigm which the occult presents. I still know at least one person who is a hard polytheist. Said peron believes with all of their being that the God which we worship is just one option on a menu of deities. Said person has deliberately distanced themselves from God, whom they refer to as Yahweh because to them, Yahweh did not meet their needs. To get that person to return is impossible for me. In fact, they have admitted to me that God is incessant in assuring them that He loves them.
What would I say to that person? There is nothing to say. Instead I let my actions speak. I let my sincerity, and my genuine concern do all the talking.
REGINA: Seems there’s nothing to say.
ALEX: I don't know that there's a series of words that will cause a person to abandon that evil and return. In fact I reject the idea entirely that what good, motivated people need to do is simply convince people that forgiveness is available in the confessional. Don't get me wrong, I believe with my whole heart and soul that confession is essential, and I've come to cherish that sacrament, but, pursuing this line of conversation, in the terms and the frame of reference I normally see people use, insofar as these conversations are normal is I think counter-productive, and not helpful.
I can't stress this enough; few if any occultists think they're doing anything that is evil. They may reject the idea of evil its self as an objective truth. For a while, I did.
REGINA: What do you think you would say or do now, with an occultist?
ALEX: If I were to encounter someone like that and they wanted to know about my experience, and what dangers I saw, I would explain what ultimately drew me out. I would have to hope that this had the effect of making them connect the dots. I would hope and trust that they could begin to relate my experience to events in their life which should be understood as warning signs, and through that cognitive shift, gradually break the substitute paradigm.
Once that's broken, then one might be able to explain to them how they can get out. But until they've rejected the occult paradigm, I don't see how it can work in a way that won't also be destructive.
REGINA: So, bearing this in mind, what would you advise anyone involved in the occult?
ALEX: The enemy in these matters likes subtlety, because that's how he ultimately destroys more lives. Especially with tarot, with the occult, he's like shrapnel in a tank; he wants as many as possible for the least amount of effort, and he will start by creating a situation where he can ruin both your life and the lives of everybody you care about. More, it definitely won't be obvious at first. He will do far more damage by baiting you with something you think you want.
REGINA: And so?
ALEX: We all have our vices, and he knows them better than you probably do. It's only a matter of time before he parades that vice in front of you. Whatever it is that hooks you, he'll find a way to offer you. He will dangle tantalizingly in front of you.
If you go with him, if you take up that offer, he'll mostly leave you alone. Mostly. Mostly, at first. He will poke and prod you just enough to keep you under his control. Every now and then, he'll feed you what you think you want.
It sounds nice, but if and when he gets bored of playing with you, then he'll move to destroy you. By then, you will have no hope of preserving anything that matters to you. If you're like me, you're loath to give anyone, or anything that kind of control. That alone should be reason for you to turn back; you should be master of your life, not him.
REGINA: So, what would you ask an occultist?
ALEX: One of the things I learned when I returned was that God is infinitely simple. In fact, the closer you are to God, the more simple your spirituality becomes.
How complicated is your spirituality? Have you properly calculated the precise impact that the void-of-course moon will have on your next ritual? Have you ensured that you haven't scheduled it during a moon which is void of course? When is the moon next in Aries, is that a good time? Have you carefully ensured that Venus is in the proper house so that the next spell doesn't backfire on you? Have you made sure that it's two parts cinnamon to one part frankincense, or was it the other way around? Is the candle 51% beeswax, or do you need to have totally pure?
Have you got the right epithets to be invoking the entity that you desire? Will they respond? Have you got a treat they like to offer them, or are you presuming that your treat will please them? Have you asked them?
How complicated, how much work is it to be involved in your spirituality? Does it get in the way of perfect love and perfect trust? Have you really got that level of love and trust with the people around you? Or are you forcing yourself, pushing yourself, going through the motions?
REGINA: Wow — anything else?
ALEX: If had ever been witness to the beauty of a Mass in the Extraordinary Form, the Latin Mass BEFORE I began reading tarot, I can say this with certainty: I would never have bought those cards. I would not have started down that road. Not a chance.
REGINA: Interesting. So what would you recommend to an occultist reading this?
ALEX: Have a Catholic friend take you to a Solemn High Mass, in the extraordinary form with full chant. If you're around me, that invitation is permanently extended. I have had a foretaste of heaven, and I had it, at the moment of Consecration. I felt the weight of that moment. It was unlike anything ever before. I've never been quite the same since.
Don't worry so much about that part, about having to give something up, about having to change. There's a lot of really good people who will catch you, and they don't all wear Roman collars. What you did isn't going to bother them. Because they've done things too. Some of them, maybe just a few will have done what you've done. And if you've decided to test the waters of something different, they'll consider it both a great joy, and an honour to help you get used to the whole thing.
REGINA: Any last words?
ALEX: The thing about the enemy — and check the Rider-Waite books on this if you don't believe me — is that you can easily slip off the collar. Upon closer inspection, the chains can be easily removed. That's what what Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ did for me and for you — He made the collar bigger, He made the chains easy to slip off. We would love the opportunity to gently, to patiently show you what else He did, what He continues to do for you.
Images: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarot, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cego