I am not a witch

Anyone who knows anything about Evangelical teachings knows that witchcraft is bad.  So bad.  I was raised to be wary of fortune-telling, palm reading, Ouija boards, magic tricks (even though they were tricks), any stories with wizards, wizards, or spells in them (never saw “The Wizard of Oz,” though “The Little Mermaid” was warily permitted despite the witch Ursula).  We were not allowed to make-believe or play anything even remotely related to the occult.

And even though the Bible teaches that witchcraft is real in 1 Samuel 28, as a child, I wasn’t really clear on whether witchcraft is bad because it works— i.e., there are real powers there that we shouldn’t use as Christians– or because it was rebellion against God to try to get something without Him.  I imagine that’s a difficult theology point for parents, since you don’t want to be saying that shit actually works, but if it doesn’t, then why is it such a big deal to forbid it?  This could also get awkward if kids start wondering why prayer is supposed to work but casting a spell isn’t.  Either way, it’s irrelevant, since I don’t believe in gods or magical powers anymore.

So I did something a little weird.  I bought a pack of Tarot cards.

They are beautiful cards.  I got the Rider-Waite Tarot, since that’s kindof the traditional standard– the King James Version of Tarot, if you will– and I think I’m going to have some fun with them.  I am interested in symbols and mythology, so after I figure out what everything means (I got a book from the library), I’m really gonna start practicing and playing with them.

What I’m really looking forward to is using them for my writing.  One of the ways I write is to just make characters and start telling stories: no planning the plot, no story arc, no character development… not really anything, just telling little stories for fun.  Of course the downside to this is that I get stuck when I don’t know what happens next.  So what I’ll do is read the character’s cards and get an idea for the lesson or event or person that should be happening next.

Fun idea, yeah?

As for using them for myself: reading my cards, or for someone else… I’m not sure how I want to do this.  I want them to be for fun, but I also want to be cautious and work out some sort of rules for myself because I can see how this could get addicting.  Side note: a friend (who is an atheist) divorced her husband in part because he was obsessed with reading Tarot and really starting to creep her out.  Thing is, even if I don’t believe there is anything magic about them (and I don’t), and the person whose cards I’m reading believes the same, there’s still a strange pull of the attention, a drawing of curiosity… and that weird feeling when the cards say something useful or dead-on-accurate is a powerful feeling.  I’m going to assume it’s simply a human phenomenon.  Otherwise there’d be no religion, right?

And you know how if you read your horoscope, it’s basically just advice, like, “watch out for pride,” or maybe, “today is a good day to ask for a raise.”  Harmless advice, and probably even good advice.  I’m thinking I’ll use the cards like that if someone ever says, “do me, do me!”  There are general meanings of each card, and of course ways to interpret the cards for relationship or financial questions. 

Seems to me that this will end up being a lot of self-fulfilling prophecy.  I remember playing with “Chinese fortune sticks” (no idea) with a friend, and we took turns telling each other’s fortunes by pulling out a stick from the jar and looking up the number in the book.  On one of his fortunes, I zinged him– because I knew him pretty well and I linked the fortune to his personality.  But his eyes got really big and he got nervous and put them away, saying he’d never play with them again.  (Superstitious Catholic?)  But it was me who knew him, not the fortune sticks, they were just a tool.  But what I said really scared him.

So this has the potential to be at least somewhat useful, a little fun, and a little scary… and I can see how I’d have been burned at the stake for seeing into someone’s soul or “knowing” something I have no business knowing.  Fortune-tellers obviously don’t have magic: they have insight into human nature and psychology, and they know enough about their clients to make meaningful statements.  I just hope I can give reasonable advice if it ever comes up, and maybe get some good insight into myself using the cards as a sort of mirror.

Looking back over what I’ve written, I think I get it, now.  Tarot and other divination and occult practices give power to individuals, not to gods.  Practicing Tarot might seem like accessing the beyond, or tapping into some spirit world, but really it’s simple human insight and making it mysterious– or perhaps it is the reverse: it takes the mystery of humanity and sorts it into symbols and myths and stories so that we can understand ourselves.

I’ll let you know how it goes.  I’m kindof excited.

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5 Responses to “I am not a witch”

  1. Laura Says:

    Timely! Your post showed up in my reader 2 or 3 items after this: http://notalwaysright.com/likely-not-a-fan-of-spell-checking/8474 🙂

    I like your idea. We weren’t allowed to watch Fantasia because of the sorcery, but Little Mermaid was okay. Harry Potter = Satan, Chronicles of Narnia = Jesus. Pretty random, really. I still haven’t ever used anything of the “occult”. 🙂

  2. Alice Says:

    Well, I’ll do a reading for you if you want! 😀 Let me know.

    I should totally offer free readings for ex-Evangelicals who were too scared to do occult stuff but think it might be fun now that they know it’s all bullshit… hmmm…

  3. Laura Says:

    Yes, I had fun! 🙂

  4. Kat Says:

    Your last paragraph nailed it! Tarot, tessomancy (reading tea leaves), palmistry, runes, and all other forms of divination provide insight into human nature and offer possibilities and sometimes advice on particular subjects or situations. It is simply a matter of knowing what the symbols mean and having the capacity for creativity to apply the meanings to one’s life. I think most fortune tellers who use these things are aware of that. The good ones will explain this and offer their services as a guide, and the bad ones will market themselves as having some sort of special magical ability, or worse, actually come to believe their own hype and think they ARE psychic.

  5. NFQ Says:

    I used to “read” tarot cards for fun, to amuse my friends. (It was great when I asked my super-shy, quiet friend to draw a card that would represent her, and she drew Death.) My deck came with a little pamphlet that explained the “meanings” of all the cards, and I was surprised by how many of them “meant” a messenger or a message. It’s so vague, it really is like a mirror as you say — the cards lay out a bunch of words and concepts, and you can arrange them in almost any way you like in order to tell a story that matches your own intuition and the feedback the person is giving you while you do their reading. Like horoscopes in the paper, tarot cards give you the meaning that’s already in your head.

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