February 1, 2008 § 6 Comments
Yesterday morning I read a post on The Tarot Channel which linked to this news story from Canada:
Beauty queen rejected as pageant judge
Miss Toronto Tourism officials reject reigning Miss Canada Plus because she reads tarot cards
The tarot card reader in question is Stephanie Conover, who was apparently invited to be a judge at the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant after she was crowned winner of the Miss Canada Plus pageant last year. Here’s what happened:
“Then, last week, on Monday, they asked me for a biography. I told them everything I do, how I’m an entertainer and a singer and a dancer. I talked about my charity work and I said I also have hobbies, including songwriting, knitting, painting, yoga, reiki and tarot cards.”
Apparently, that last part didn’t go down too well.
My favourite part of this story comes from a letter written by the Miss Toronto Tourism officials, explaining why they were kicking Stephanie Conover off the judges panel:
“Our board of directors has eliminated her as a judge as tarot card reading and reiki are the occult and is not acceptable by God, Jews, Muslims or Christians. Tarot card reading is witchcraft and is used by witches, spiritists and mediums to consult the dark world.”
Clearly, they’re wrong (and their grammar is questionable), but this just tickles me. It’s all so deliciously dramatic, you can almost smell the brimstone. (For those of you who are wondering – as I just did – what exactly brimstone is, it’s sulphur. I looked it up in my Dictionary of the Dark World.)
Now, should we tarot readers (you know, the non-devil-worshipping among us) be upset by this blatant display of ignorance? Maybe. Certainly Stephanie Conover has every right to be. After all, it’s fair enough to be hurt when someone misrepresents you. But should we be surprised that this sort of attitude towards tarot still exists? Honestly, I think not.
It’s difficult when you’re immersed in the world of tarot (the decks! the spreads! the silky shiny bags!) to see it as an outsider does, but let’s look at it objectively for a moment. We shuffle cards with strange pictures on them, lay them out in elaborate patterns and tell people we’ve never met what’s happened to them in the past, what’s happening now, and what’s likely to happen in the future. You’ve got to admit, that’s a little bit freaky.
And that’s not all. Time was, you couldn’t walk into a darkened backroom without some wizened crone or another pointing her claw-like nail at the Death card and clutching her throat in horror. Then there were those weirdos who performed magickal rituals by candlelight, with a tarot card or three scattered around for effect. More recently of course, we have delightful 100% accurate tarot readers who will very kindly remove all number of evil curses while thoughtfully clearing your bank account of all that burdensome cash. It’s not really surprising tarot cards are treated with suspicion.
Still, it’s a bit harsh to say all tarot readers are communing with the dark side. I’ve been reading tarot for going on five years now and I’ve never once used the cards to have a chat with Darth Vader or any one of his hellish minions. But I don’t think there’s any point getting defensive when faced with this kind of opposition. One reason why people still associate tarot with the occult is because it still lurks in the shadows of mainstream culture. Slowly, ever so slowly, it is emerging into the light but given the length of time that tarot cards have been viewed as “the devil’s picture book”, we shouldn’t expect people’s attitudes towards it to change over night. We certainly shouldn’t expect to force them to change.
The article mentions that Stephanie Conover is considering taking legal action. I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not, but I do think she did a good thing by taking her story to the press (what the Miss Toronto Tourism officials referred to as “stirring up trouble”). This one little news story won’t make much difference on its own, but the more real tarotists can stand up and be seen as normal people instead of witches, occultists and scam artists, the more tarot will move out of the shadows. And that’s where we can all do our bit. We all have the opportunity to change attitudes, simply by being the best tarot readers we can be. And I don’t mean by aiming for 100% accuracy. I mean, we can all be ambassadors, and show by example that people who read tarot are more likely to be caring, thoughtful, ethical individuals than heartless fraudsters who prey on the vulnerable. I’m thinking of getting some badges printed to say I READ TAROT AND I’M NICE.
Of course, this means we can’t sacrifice any more goats but I think you’ll agree that’s a small price to pay.