Divination, Tarot and the Bible
by Angelo Nasios
[Note from author – This article was written for people who find Tarot reading conflicting with their Jewish or Christian faith. I present my arguments and opinions for why you can follow your faith and use Tarot with no confliction. I use the term “him” in reference to God, I do not mean to say God is male. God has no gender so “he” and “him” is used for simplicity.]
Time is an amazing invention; it is a human concept and illusion. There is no time only the illusion of time passing. The sun rises and sets creating day and night. We are born, age and die. Clocks measure seconds, minutes & hours. Calendars measure days, weeks, months and years. These are the many ways we see time pass. Our memories link us to the past events that have happened. We think we live in the present and that there is a future ahead of us. This future is what many seek to know and have revealed. This is where Tarot comes in along with other methods of divination.
Before we get into Tarot let us define and explore divination. Divination comes from the Latin divinare "to foresee, to be inspired by a god", related to divinus, divine. Divination is the attempt to foretell future events by ways of omens, reading of signs or events.(1) The root of the word is “divine” which implies commutation with the divine, god or higher power or other positive entity. There are many methods and tools often used in divination. Some are Tarot cards, Palmistry, astrology, scrying, Ouija boards and dream interpretation. Divination is practically in every culture. The Greeks, Egyptians, Sumerians, Romans, and Chinese everyone had some form of it. Divination has many references in the Bible; mainly that it is an “abomination”. Let us explore the reasons why divination might have been banned, and find a way to use divination in a proper Judeo-Christian way.
Off limits: God’s banning of Divination
There are religious objections to the use of divination. For this article I will be using the Judeo-Christian theology, as it is my background and is the place where the most objections come from. It is the opinion of people that divination is condemned by God. Let’s take a deep look at where this belief comes from.
“There are many biblical passages that described some prohibited types of occult activity by the ancient Israelites. These include Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 19:26-26; 19:31; 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-11; Isaiah 8:19 and Malachai 3:5. Of these, Deuteronomy 18 is perhaps the most important. They forbade the Israelites from engaging in human sacrifice and in eight specific practices which some have been regarded as occultic. The King James translation is:
“There shall not be found among you anyone that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.”
Various other translations of the Bible use the following terms or phrases here: augur, black magic, calls up the dead, charm, consults with spirits, fortune teller, interpret omens, look for omens, magician, medium, sorcerer, soothsayer, spiritist, weaves or casts spells, witchcraft, and wizard.
Clearly, translators have had a great deal of difficulty selecting unique English words or short phrases to match the 8 original Hebrew words:
1. yid'oni Making contact with spirits (not of God)
2. sho'el 'ov Making contact with the dead
3. qosem q'samim Foretelling the future by using lots or a similar system
4. m'onen Predicting the future by interpreting signs in nature
5. m'nachesh Enchanting (perhaps related to nachash, a snake)
6. chover chavar Casting spells by magical knot tying
7. m'khaseph evil sorcery; using spoken spells to harm other people
8. doresh 'el hametim "One who asks the dead", probably via another method than sho'el 'ov.
Interpreting Deuteronomy 18 in terms of modern-day practice, it is apparent that the following are prohibited:
1. yid'oni The New Age practice of channeling in which a person attempts to contact a spirit in order to gain knowledge.
2. sho'el 'ov Spiritualism, in which a medium contacts the dead.
3. qosem q'samim Casting stones or sticks and predicting the future by their position (e.g. I Ching, and perhaps runes, or Tarot cards).
4. m'onen Foretelling the future by looking for signs in nature (e.g. predicting the harshness of a winter by looking at moss on trees, or fur thickness on animals in the wild, or whether the groundhog sees his shadow on FEB-2.).
5. m'nachesh Snake charming.
6. chover chavar Casting (presumably evil) spells while tying knots.
7. m'khaseph Reciting evil spoken spells to injure others.
8. doresh 'el hametim Any other method of contacting the dead.
Other currently used methods of foretelling the future, such as tea cup reading, astrology, palm reading, tarot cards, runes etc. are not mentioned. It is thus not obvious whether they are forbidden (as in snake charming) or whether they are acceptable to God (as in scrying).” (2).
Now you understand where the belief comes from let’s understand why these rules may have been put into place. The Bible is open to interpretation, my view may be different from yours or another person’s which is fine. You must ask questions to better understand a situation. The Bible also needs to be read and understood as historical literature. It allows us to understand the minds of the people of the time were written in. It gives us a glimpse of their rules, fears, beliefs and traditions as a people. We must understand that the Old Testament (Torah) is the holy book of the Jewish people, which the rules and laws were given by God to the people of Israel not the Christians that’s an important factor to remember for later.
Understanding the ban: Inside the mind of God
We need to understand that the Israelites where surrounded by pagan religions and that they needed to keep people in their faith to allow the nation to grow. Keeping the faith meant believing in the one God and having total faith in God for guidance. Having faith in the same God, meant that everyone followed the High Priests of the Temple which would bring unity to the nation. I don’t see divination as evil because God banned it. I will give an example that most people are familiar with that we can compare to. In Genesis there were two Trees, the Tree of life and the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. God lets Adam and Eve eat from the tree of Life; the Tree of knowledge was off limits however, not because the tree is “evil”. It was off limits because if man could live forever and have the wisdom that came from the tree of knowledge they would be too much like God. So this example is a good comparison to why God would ban something, not because it is inheritably evil but because he does not want us becoming like him too much. It is a common theme in the Bible and many other cultures.
With Divination, God puts it off limits not because it’s evil but in my opinion because he did not want man to act like God in seeing the future fully. Also that he wants to strengthen the faith of his people to make them strong and allow them to grow as strong a strong nation by having total faith in their God. Perhaps also God thought they did not fully understand divination in order to use it properly. That it may lead people astray and convert to other religions that happen to use divination. God understood that before you can use divination you need a connection, relationship, faith in God. That’s why I believe that Divination is not evil, or a sin, or that it is something that God hates. You need to understand that Divination is not to replace God; it is not separate of God. When you divine the future or ask for guidance you are really asking God for help not the tool. God will speak back through the tool. If you align yourself with the light and keep God above all things Divination can be a positive thing. In the case of tarot readings they are speaking with God and that you ask God a question and the response is given back through the cards. It’s like prayer only with response.
It can also be thought that perhaps God does not want us to know the future at all, he wants us to live in the “now” and focus on our present. Maybe we should not worry so much about the future. When you live in the future, you forget your present and that can damage your life. That may be a lesson God was trying to Teach. However it does not feel like that in the Bible. Do you remember being a child and your parents would tell you not to do something? That you did not understand why because they did not give you a reason for the logic only the classic “because I said so”. That’s God in the Old Testament. There is a reason for God’s Logic we just have to listen to him or else. It is our job to figure out then what was God’s intention.
If we let divination to overcome us that can lead to the negative side that is when you let it consume you, rule and control your life. Every action must be consulted by some sort of divination. This is unhealthy and also can be another reason why God banned divination to the Israelites. When you align yourself with the dark side and use the cards for ill intentions then you are doing something wrong and against God.
It’s about intention
Objects do not have innate powers, good or bad. To say that Tarot is evil, or that Ouija boards are evil, that anything is innately evil is wrong and in my view shows a misguided understanding of the nature of objects. Any object can be used as a force for good or evil. A knife can be used to cut and prepare food, or it can be used to kill someone. Is the knife evil? No. The person’s intentions are what matters. The same thing applies with Tarot and the intention of its use. Will you use it to help or hurt people?
How I have reconciled Tarot and my Christian upbringing
Let’s explore how I use Tarot and how I interpret scripture with my own personal philosophy.
As a Tarot reader many clients come to me seeking to know their future. A glimpse of what will happen to ease the worries. That’s why we want to know the future, because we are worried about the outcome of our problems. Will I get married, is this person the one I will marry, are they faithful, will my business flourish? These are questions on the minds of people. It is for this reason people say divination takes our attention away from God. That instead of asking for God’s help we see the local Tarot reader or psychic. However the job of a Tarot reader is not to predict the future contrary to popular belief. The job of a Tarot reader is to examine the past & present and give guidance to help the client with creating a future. When we look at Tarot in this aspect it becomes acceptable in a Christian theology, in my view. There are other ways I use Tarot that to make it Christian friendly.
Tarot goes beyond its typical use as a divinatory tool. It is a psychological tool, self help tool, introspective tool, meditational tool, creative writing tool and even a magical tool. Tarot can be used in many ways because the symbols are universal and anyone can find a meaning for each card that they relate to. There are uses for Tarot that is perfectly fine with the faith. I use Tarot for self exploration, to understanding the issues in the lives of my clients and myself. I focus on the past and present, which to me is perfectly fine with the faith. I don’t read fortunes in the stereotypical way people think. Many readers don’t use tarot like that now a days but I can’t speak for everyone. What cause this change among readers? It is a shift in spiritual beliefs.
There are two philosophies about the future, that it is predetermined and thus predictable (set in stone), or in constant change because of our free will. The majority of readers I have encountered subscribe to the constant change belief because we believe in free will. This is why we don’t predict the future because it can change. Free will is a major belief in the Christian faith. So as a reader, who empowers a client to make better choices through free will, again seems fine. If a reader does give a prediction it should also be noted to the client that it can change based on the actions a client takes. Any “prediction” is actually a “forecast” or “possible outcome” as I describe it.
Forecasting in a reading is like a weather forecast. When we check the weather it is a forecast (prediction) of future weather based on current data and computer models using the data to make a forecast. Tarot forecasting works like that to. The cards have a better ability to reveal the past and present because it has already happened. That data is used and the cards “compute” a “model” of the future. Just like with weather the further you predict out the more errors and chances of change will occur. Same thing applies with Tarot. That is why I don’t predict out more than 1 year. Even in one year things can change but I use 1 year as my limit.
Another important belief I hold is that answers to your question are not always going to be given to you. I believe I communicate with God when I read my Tarot cards, and if I ask something God feels should not be revealed then it will not. That reading will feel confusing and the cards will feel like they are not connecting, that is how you know you are not meant to get an answer.
God loves us all; if God loves us he would want to help guide us in some way to communicate with him directly for a personal relationship. The New Testament teaches of a personal God one you can have a relationship with. Tarot is a form of communication with God that allows a personal relationship. Again I see Tarot fitting fine with Christian beliefs.
In summary, the Tarot can be compatible with the Judeo-Christian theology. If you use Tarot or any other divinatory tool in the ways I mention or your own. Focus on the past and present to create the future you desire. Keep God in your heart and allow God to guide and assist you. Also seek God for answers; God will answer you if you are meant to know the answer. These tools are exactly that tools which allow you and God to communicate. Understand your intentions, are you using them for good or bad. Do not become fixated on divination; do not let it consume you or control your life. God wants us to live freely to make our choices, but will help us when we really need it. Asking which brand refrigerator to buy is not something to bother God with. Work in the Light and Live in the light and God will be with you.
© Angelo Nasios
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, Angelos first book will be released by Schiffer Publishing.