My first port of call in any scenario with a cynic, naysayer or skeptic, is to walk away – I have much better things to do with my time. However, this question has been coming up repeatedly within the Tarot community, and so I thought I would address it in a blog post, rather than reply every single time the situation arises. I hope you find it helpful!
I am fortunate enough to be surrounded mostly by people who have a basic belief and acceptance in divination, and spirituality in general. However, I have on occasion come face to face with cynicism and skeptics who would try to call me a fraud, and who would say that Tarot is a load of bollocks. If you work with Tarot, or visit a Tarot reader you are also likely to meet with this same kind of hostility at some point down the road, so it may be helpful to have some strategies in place for how to get past this. It can be hurtful when someone tries to make you feel small because you happen to have this life enhancing tool, and I’d definitely say that it is a good idea to grow a very thick skin from the outset.
Depending upon the level of vehemence I have faced, I have on occasion adopted different strategies for dealing with skeptics. One thing I do always try to make a point of communicating is that I am not trying to convert anyone, nor am I here to be put on trial – I believe what I believe because I have had conclusive personal evidence of its existence and accuracy.
It is also worth considering that it is NOT the other persons fault that they believe certain things about the Tarot. They do not have any positive personal experiences of it, and that is a shame. Sometimes, they are afraid that it IS real, and what that would mean for them. Always approach people with compassion in the first instance (but stay armed with a heavy based frying pan in case they are simply being an ass ;)).
Along these lines it is sometimes best, when faced with someone who is seemingly inflexible to acceptance of my beliefs (I’d also speculate that it is because of something they are telling themselves) and practices, to agree to disagree and simply disengage from the conversation at the earliest opportunity: live and let live.
Sometimes though, there may be occasions where you cannot see a way out of a conversation (think of family parties – there is ALWAYS one relative who has to make themselves heard, or maybe you’re at a festival and someone comes along trying to ‘save your soul’), and in any case you might WANT to have an arsenal of comebacks to fire out at will.
Some people thoroughly enjoy a good debate, and as long as you are not forcing another person to believe what they don’t want to believe in, then I don’t see the harm in a bit of skeptic-mystic banter. Why shouldn’t we stick up for ourselves?
A: The best approach to this argument, is to keep your responses strictly factual, and try to avoid any of your personal ‘mystical’ beliefs seeping through into your argument – remember that not all Tarot readers HAVE the same spiritual beliefs, so you would be giving a very biased viewpoint of tarot by stating your beliefs as fact. Be open about your cards, and show that there is nothing to hide, or be afraid of. If they ask for an explanation, explain a brief summary of the history of Tarot.
Tell them that a Tarot deck is simply a deck of 78 cards with a different picture on each – that is an indisputable fact, and there is nothing woo-woo about it. These pictures can portray the range of human experience, and people can relate to the images they see, and apply them to their lives. This would work best with a RWS deck, you could show them a picture of the 8 of Pentacles, which depicts a person working hard at their task. Relate-able, right?
By showing that tarot can be perfectly rational, at the same time as being unexpected, produces a kind of correlation between the cards and human beings. It can start to explain on a fundamental level, why so many people gravitate and find meaning in these 78 pieces of cardboard. Whilst there are many theories about HOW tarot works, it is true to say that no-one actually knows for sure, but experiences of thousands of readings across the world tell us that there is something that warrants further investigation.
You can then include your own personal values and beliefs if you like, and if you feel you have a genuinely interested listener. It is best practice, in this case, to define that these are YOUR personal beliefs, and not strictly associated with tarot, although they may influence the way that you practice your readings.
A: In fact, Tarot can be used in ways that actually promote autonomy rather than taking away someones free will. You can use Tarot to advise on the best way to approach situations, and what you can do to get to where you WANT to be.
A: Not at all. Yes Tarot is also a fortune telling tool, however, it is common sense that other people and events in your life can change the future, and so when making future predictions, I always ask my client to bear this in mind, and that future outcomes represent the most likely course, based upon events happening now.
This is why it is harder to predict events the further you move into the future, although we may still get ‘glimpses’. In much the same way as a meteorologist can predict the weather based upon current patterns, so too can the cards be utilized in this way. We all know that the weather forecasters can be wrong on occasions, because patterns change unexpectedly, but no-one is sat calling them fraudsters 😉
A: Ah the religious naysayer! By trying to convince me that I am a sinner and going against gods will, well, quite frankly you are just coming across as a bigot – not remotely tempting! I will not pretend to know what other religious books say on the subject but I do know there are a lot of contradictory statements in the Bible, which can cause a lot of confusion and unnecessary hatred.
I know of many Christian readers, who are fantastic at what they do. When asked this question one replied that she chooses to fight fire with fire and uses 1 Corinthians 12 to argue her case:
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
You may also wish to consider Romans 12:3-8
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully
There are other similar passages in the Bible, and maybe someone would come back with ‘you are just interpreting that to suit your own whims’. To which I would reply, isn’t that what you’re doing? Isn’t that what the Bible is? Interpretations (in fact many interpretations, and even mis-translations) of what God says? And I would leave it at that. Whenever I am faced with religious opposition, I bow out at my earliest convenience – I know who I am, and what I believe, thank you. For the record – I am openly Pagan.
I do not mean to say people who make a living out of skepticism, but people who are actually tarot readers themselves, and yet try to bring other readers down for the way that they personally work with tarot. For instance, the kind of people who are shooting down predictive readers, whilst preaching about their so-called love and light philosophies.
As a minority community, I believe that readers would do better to band together in a common purpose, despite our varying differences. It is with great sadness that I see readers squabbling among themselves, but we are all fallible humans at the end of the day, and unfortunately a very confrontational species in general.
To the spiritual holier-than-thou’s I would say that there is nothing spiritual in what you are doing. Experience is all relative to the individual, which is why the majority of my post is aimed at learning to accept and move the hell on.
Woah there! Remember we are NOT trying to convert anyone to believe in what we do! They are absolutely entitled to their opinions, even if we think they could be less of an ass about how they communicate them! We are simply standing up for ourselves with some well informed arguments, many of which come from our own experiences. It is highly unlikely that at the end of a discussion, you will have convinced anyone of anything. What you will have achieved, is perhaps a sense of pride that you were able to make a stand, and maybe this can reinforce your own feelings of esteem in a public environment, without letting it go to your head, of course. When push comes to shove, you could always offer the tarot skeptic a reading (at your own discretion, of course). Never attempt to read someone who has point blank refused – that is their prerogative and we must be accepting of that. Many skeptics have softened their attitudes towards Tarot after having a reading. Many have even become students of Tarot themselves!
I am addressing the skeptic directly with this next bit. You don’t believe in Tarot, or any form of divination, and that is absolutely fine – I am happy that you feel confident and secure in your beliefs. To the aggressive skeptic – approaching me and questioning my beliefs and practices, I wonder who are you really trying to convince? Is there really need to communicate with hostility? I am already dead sure that divination is real, I have seen things that I cannot unsee, I have experienced life in a way that has made me sit up and pay attention to signs around me, and you will not sway me. I am at peace with the path I have chosen. Let us be accepting of each others beliefs and practices, so long as we are not being tyrannical in our actions there is no reason we cannot peacefully agree to disagree.
I hope whoever is reading this, has found it informative and entertaining. Tarot On!
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