Are there Prohibitions against the Tarot in the Bible?
What does the Bible say about Tarot cards? The Bible actually has many verses that concern the morality of sorcery and divination. In pretty much every context, the Bible seems to say these things are evil and should be avoided. But things are never quite that simple. Consider the following verses, a small selection:
6 If any turn to mediums and wizards, prostituting themselves to them, I will set my face against them, and will cut them off from the people.
31 Do not turn to mediums or wizards; do not seek them out, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.
27 A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall be put to death; they shall be stoned to death, their blood is upon them.
18 You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live.
Open and shut case, right?
Just because you can find Bible verses prohibiting divination does not mean that it’s wrong to read Tarot cards.
Let me say that again: Just because you can single a verse in the Bible prohibiting sorcery and divination does not make it wrong.
Why? Well, the reason is that if you actually read the Old Testament you can find all kind of crazy “laws” and prohibitions that seem, frankly, insane to modern people living under a modern understanding of morality.
The Morality of the Old Testament Does Not Apply to Modern Gentiles (non-Jews)
In order to understand the Biblical prohibitions against the Tarot, it is important to understand the historical context of why the Old Testament is filled with so many seemingly crazy rules in the first place. Just consider the following “laws” found in the Old Testament:
If you curse your parents, you shall be put to death
9 All who curse father or mother shall be put to death; having cursed father or mother, their blood is upon them.
If you work on the Sabbath, you shall be put to death
15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death.
A man who picked up sticks on Sabbath was stoned to death
32 When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron, and to the whole congregation. 34 They put him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. 35 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp.” 36 The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
If you blaspheme against God, you shall be put to death
14 Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands on his head, and let the whole congregation stone him.
If you commit adultery, you shall be put to death
10 If a man commits adultery with the wife of[a] his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.
Charging interest on a loan is punishable by death
13 takes advance or accrued interest; shall he then live? He shall not. He has done all these abominable things; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself.
If a man is fighting another man, and the wife intervenes and touches his genitals, her hand is to cut off
11 If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes to rescue her husband from the grip of his opponent by reaching out and seizing his genitals, 12 you shall cut off her hand; show no pity.
Touching or sitting where a menstruating woman sits is unclean
19 When a woman has a discharge of blood that is her regular discharge from her body, she shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. 20 Everything upon which she lies during her impurity shall be unclean; everything also upon which she sits shall be unclean.
But the New Testament also speaks about magic!
Yes, this is absolutely true. The New Testament does speak about magic, sorcery, and divination. And it speaks of them in a mostly negative light. But there are several points to consider here:
- Our modern moral intuition and reason still supercedes.
- The New Testament writers were interested in downplaying pagan magic in favor of Christian magic.
Yes, that’s right. Christian magic.
You see, Christianity is not an alternative to “magic” – it is a form of magic.
If you have any doubt, consider the Christian ritual practice of partaking in the Eucharist.
The Christian sacrament is, at its heart, a necromantic practice of ceremonial ritual magic whereby a Christian priest uses invocations to bless bread and wine, transforming them into the literal blood and flesh of a god who has been raised from the dead, all while burning candles, incense, chanting, and reading from sacred texts.
If that is not sorcery, I don’t know what is!
And as I argue in my post about whether it’s possible for Christians to also be pagans, Jesus himself is best understood as a magician in his own right.
One of the earliest artistic depictions of Jesus shows him holding a magic wand:
During Jesus’ time in the Greco-Roman era, magic was widely practiced. If we reexamine the Gospels in light of this historical fact, we can begin to see Jesus’ “miracles” as acts of magic.
In fact, the New Testament does not dispute that non-Christian magicians were effective in magic; it just sees them as “competition” essentially. Consider the famous Simon the Magus:
9 Now a certain man named Simon had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great. 10 All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic.
So, the Bible does not dispute the reality of magic. It just says that THEIR prophet was a more powerful magician. Consider the “miracles” of Jesus as successful acts of magic:
Miracles of Jesus
Jesus manipulates nature with magic
- Calming the storm
- Feeding 5,000
- Walking on water
- Feeding 4,000
- Fish with coin
- Fig tree withers
Mark 11:12-14, 20-25
- Huge catch of fish
- Water into wine
Jesus performs healing magic
- Man with leprosy
- Roman centurion’s servant
- Peter’s mother-in-law
- Two men possessed with devils
- Man with palsy
- Woman with bleeding
- Two blind men
- Dumb, devil-possessed man
- Canaanite woman’s daughter
- Boy with devil
- Two blind men – including Bartimaeus
- Demon-possessed man in synagogue
- Blind man at Bethsaida
- Crippled woman
- Man with dropsy
- Ten men with leprosy
- The high priest’s servant
- Nobleman’s son at Capernaum
- Sick man at the pool of Bethsaida
- Man born blind
Raising the Dead
- Jairus’ daughter
- Widow’s son at Nain
Manipulating nature, performing healing spells, engaging in necromancy – that sounds like magic to me.
As we can see, the question is not “Does Christianity prohibit magic?” but “Does Christianity have an exclusive right to perform magic and disparage the magic of non-Christians?”
In my opinion, no it does not. Magic is the birthright of all humans and Christianity does not have exclusive jurisdiction on it.
The same thing applies to Tarot.
With that said, I also want to acknowledge that not everyone sees Tarot as “magical.” There are many Tarot readers who take a secular approach to the Tarot and would not consider it an example of sorcery or divination. Instead, they would see it as just a kind of archetypal Rorschach inkblot that allows you to better practice introspection and inspire creativity.
And there’s nothing wrong with that view. I am sympathetic to it myself.
But I want to explicitly make room for the Christians out there who do think of Tarot as “magical” in some way and are concerned that their Holy Book outlaws the practice of Tarot and magic.
Let me be clear: the Bible only prohibits the Tarot if you choose to interpret it that way, but that is not the only valid interpretation of the Bible.
Indeed, one might think Christianity and the occult are not mutually exclusive belief systems. There are many occultists who consider themselves Christians and vice versa.
Do not let anyone tell you how to define your own religious or spiritual practice. Not your pastor. Not your priest. Not your parents. Not your Sunday school teacher. Not me.
Think for yourself.
If you want to read Tarot, read Tarot. Experiment. See for yourself whether it improves your life or not. I can guarantee a portal to hell won’t open. At the end of the day, they’re just cardboard cards with pictures on them.