“People around here think tarot is Satanic.”
“A lot of folks will look at you like you have two heads if you tell them you read tarot.”
“Not too many people around here are interested in tarot reading.”
I hear statements like these from tarot readers, tarot teachers and serious tarot students from all parts of the United States. Every time I do, I cringe.
I am sure it is easier to start a tarot club, teach an Adult Ed tarot class or run a tarot business in some towns than others.
But I have also heard tarotists say these things about the very towns where I was successful as a tarot reader and teacher.
When folks speak this way, it is often with the nod, hushed tones and conspiratorial smile that racists use. They assume you understand, and agree.
Members of certain religions have harassed me during my career. Other tarot readers, who saw me as competition, have also harassed me.
In neither case did I take this as a sign that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, be gloriously out of the broom closet as a tarotist.
There will always be narrow-minded people in the world. To assume that everyone is narrow-minded because of a few is a disservice to all.
Over the course of my career, I have read for Catholic priests, Born Again Christians, rabbis, Muslims, elected officials, doctors, lawyers, teachers, psychologists and Native American tribal elders.
At the same time, I am sure there are members of each of those groups who wouldn’t be caught dead at my table.
In my book, Fortune Stellar, I mention that I cultivate my diverse audience by assuming their support.
If it becomes clear the support isn’t there, I am polite and compassionate. I don’t engage with those who harass me. I simply shake my head with pity, and do what I need to make them go away, peacefully and quietly.
Is it possible that some tarot readers retain secret guilt and uncertainty about their work with tarot? Could that be why some of us give our detractors the power to anger us, scare us or make us feel unwelcome in our own towns, or unable to conduct business, or participate in acts of charity?
At the end of the day, it all comes down to what we choose to make our focus.
If I work a booth at a street fair, I will get a number of reactions over the course of the day.
Some people will laugh at me as they walk by. I laugh with them.
Some people will refuse to walk by my booth for fear I might curse them. I smile and wave.
A few may harass those who are waiting in line for readings, or interrupt readings to quote Bible verses. The fair management will deal with them quickly.
Many will stand in line for a chance to sit with me for a reading. Some will become friends, tarot students and clients for life.
So what should be my take-away from the experience? Attitude is everything.
As tarot readers, we understand the power each person has to shape their own reality. Why do we so often shape ours with negativity from a vocal minority? Why do we minimize our own contributions and abilities, and give so much weight to the protests of those ruled by fear and misinformation?
Often we fear the judgment of the unenlightened. Sometimes the unenlightened are our families, or our coworkers. Then, it is our job to hold our truth, calmly and patiently.
If our behavior is gracious, we will eventually win the respect of those who misunderstand us.
Often, that looks a lot like the racist who has a black friend, but it’s a start.
As the dust settles on World Tarot Day, I am reminded that we are all ambassadors for tarot, in a world that doesn’t always understand tarot.
When I was a little girl in Sunday School, we sang a beautiful, modern-for-the-time song entitled “They’ll Know We are Christians by our Love.”
By contrast, when I was a student at a Born Again Christian high school, a school administrator said that it was sometimes good to “smash a face with Christian love.”
We need to show our true love to those who want to smash our faces with their love.
Then, we are part of the ongoing process of making tarot accessible and acceptable everywhere.
As we work to shape our reality, let’s present our towns as fertile grounds for spiritual growth, even when we feel isolated.
Let’s present tarot as a growing interest, and a new opportunity.
There are plenty of people willing to give us bad press. Let’s not make it easy for them.