Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Tarot Girl in a Catholic World

As the date of Psychic Tarot's debut approaches (February 8th!), I find myself both excited and terrified.

I am excited because I love this book, because I love what it teaches, and because I am excited to see it take flight in the big, wide world.

I am also terrified. I'm not afraid of the book not doing well. I'm not afraid, as one of its mommies, that people are going to call it names once it gets to school. It's a strong book built on strong ideals. I do not fear for it.

No, I'm a selfish parent. I fear for me. Psychic Tarot being "out" also means that I am "out." And while that might not mean a lot if I lived in, say, Minneapolis, I live in an isolated, south-metro, conservative, quiet, Catholic community. I say Catholic not because other religions aren't represented, but because if you were to do a cross section, it would look something like 50% Catholic - 49% every other (Christian) religion. I leave room for a 1% "other," and "other" might actually have a stronger following than that, but certainly not a public one. If you ask people now, they say most put themselves down as "spiritual" rather than "religious." This spirit is not exactly well-reflected in my community. You might privately say you are more spiritual, but you publicly say you are Catholic. Or Lutheran. Or Presbyterian.

Now, in my albeit somewhat limited experience, if you ask a room full of Taroists if they are or were at one time Catholic, at least half the room is going to raise their hands. So it's hardly surprising that I come from a Catholic heritage as well. Catholics teach people to believe in mystery, to have more faith than they have information, and then proceed to spend a lifetime telling you how you are doing it wrong. I think most jump ship out of pure frustration. You want me to believe in manifestations of saints whose hands bleed but then call me a heathen when I say I believe I can speak directly to God without an intermediary. The only thing that surprises me is that there hasn't been a mass exodus, especially in the current climate. As it is, I can't stop being Catholic any more than a non-practicing Jew can stop being Jewish. At this point, it's a heritage thing, as deep in me as being Irish or German. Am I Catholic? Yes. Do I read cards? Yes. Do I see a conflict? Not really. But you're also not going to see me in church anytime soon, either, because I know there are quite a few people who do see a conflict. Especially where I live.

I'll tell just about anyone who asks that I read Tarot cards. I've taught it at the Blessings and Breathings Center, our local baby and great hope for the future of non-denominational spirituality in my hometown. I've read at the local fair & for a charity walk. I'm on the web. It's not as though I'm cowering in the Tarot Closet by any stretch of the imagination.

But I'm also not "loud and proud." Depending on the situation, I've actually caught myself almost apologizing for being a reader. Which doesn't just make me angry at myself, it makes me angry at my environment. How can I continue to live in a climate where I feel people expect me to apologize for my way of life? Why do I cling to this place where if I am sitting at a table reading cards, at least a third of the people passing by are going to pass my booth on the other side of the walkway just to make sure what I'm doing doesn't taint them? I've had people I've known all my life turn tail and almost run when they saw I was reading cards.

Other members of the BBC (as we affectionately call it) have suffered a higher cost, though thank God none of us have been a victim of a hate crime - something we have worried over on occasion. I like to say we were "loosely excommunicated" by our local Ministerial Association. Yes, you saw it here first, my town is big enough and small enough that the local Christian churches have banded together to promote inter-Christian cooperation. Apparently, this includes the very Christian act of forbidding Suzi, BBC co-founder, and her dancers (one of which is me) from liturgical dance at the ecumenical services the Christian churches have. Suzi choreographed and danced at those services for somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen years. The reason they gave for the sudden drop? "There might be witches dancing."

Let us just say we are not particularly well-liked, then. Privately, I still get a little giggle over the reasoning just because the 4 co-founders at the time were religiously affiliated something like this - 2 Catholic, 2 Interfaith. I'm not even sure we had one pagan or Wiccan member at the time, though I rarely ask. In any case, Suzi, one of the most spiritually connected people I know who does praise and worship dance that could make you cry, was suddenly persona non grata for being affiliated with the BBC.

It was a blow, but one Suzi recovered from beautifully. What I wish for most is her strength if and when Psychic Tarot gains enough notariety to put me under the sword. I love my community. I have been both surprised by the easy acceptance I have gotten from some unexpected people and shocked by the coldness I've met with from others I thought differently of. I continue to try to help those who need it, educate those who will listen, and ignore those who would throw stones. I tell myself it is enough if I make one lamp brighter because I stayed.

Still, I am afraid sometimes. Nancy says you can serve either Love or Fear, but you cannot serve both. Now if only my brain would get the memo...


  1. Just because your heritage is Catholic, doesn't mean you are or have to be. Just because the better half of our town is, doesn't mean you have to be. According to Catholic belief one major factor is the whole church thing on a regular basis. I know from past experience and well... have you met my in-laws? Hence wouldn't you be "breaking" a "major" Catholic "rule"? I haven't seen you as Catholic for a long time, although I'll except you no matter what you proclaim yourself as. I'm not saying you "aren't Catholic" because of reading, certainly not. After knowing you as long as I have, through the ups, downs, and Turn arounds... you just don't seem to fit inside the definition as I understand it to be.
    With that said, I'm taking World Religion I. In the syllabus it states how important it is to be objective as possible, and certainly show respect toward other students of different "religions". Heh.... So one of last weeks discussions was about personal religions of past and present and why or why not. In my answer I explained the whole Catholic religion teacher telling me I was going to hell at 12 because I was not baptized, and how it was the spark that started my spiritual journey. I was respectful of the depiction of my experiences both in and out of the Catholic faith. I explained that this journey has taken me to a place where I (at best) question the existence of a higher deity. Want to guess what kind of responses I got from not only some fellow students but also my instructor?! Scripture passages with a "that experience could have scared you for life." Really?! Ya, think? You know me, and often I welcome various opinions even from those I outwardly disagree with... but what part of being respectful and objective to other students religious beliefs is slamming me with scripture passages? I would have been offended if I wasn't so used to it already.

    Maybe it's just me, and I don't get it. I've tried very hard to remain objective, not only in this class but also in life of other people's belief systems. In fact I've respected others and their beliefs so much so, I lost what my own were for a while.

    What makes it even funnier.... I additionally wrote, "If all religions realized no one is superior to another, stopped trying to convert others, respected differences in opinion, stopped fighting, and killing for the better of the whole. Anything less than this is a death sentence for the world, and all it's people. Religion will be the self undoing of us all regardless of what we do or do not believe."

    So, I whole heartily understand what it is like to live in this community and not believe the same as the majority. My favorite quote to date about how this country was founded on the right to practice any religion, "You can believe whatever you want, as long as it's Christianity." -Rob Halberg

  2. What an interesting blog, Melanie. Hope you don't mind if I comment. Please read it to the end so you see that I am not judging. :) Many Christian churches throught out the centuries believe fortunetelling is a sin. Specifically, the Catechism of the Catholic Church in section No. 2116 says it contradicts the honor, respect and loving fear that we owe to God alone. When we trying to use a power that belongs to God, we are defying God himself and are breaking the 1st Commandment. When Paul met a slave girl at Philippi who had a clairvoyant spirit and made money by fortune telling, he exorcized her of that spirit (Acts 16:16). In Leviticus, it says that a man or woman who acts as a medium or fortune teller shall be put to death by stoning. It's also addressed in Deuteronom 18 and Revelations 21. So why do people avoid you? Because they believe that Evil and Good are in constant battle for our souls. Satan is looking for any small opportunity to corrupt us. For some that starts with something presumably innocent like tarot or ouiji boards. So rather than take any chances, even it it's just for fun or to look at things differently, they just don't put themselves in that position.

    I know Tarot cards help you focus your questions. But the real question you have to ask yourself is simply this...do you know where the answers are coming from? Good luck, Melanie. Lynn Schoen (sorry, I've got Tom's email on.

  3. Mel, thank you for sharing. Please, ignore the the death threats as posted above. Fortunately, we are able to avoid "stoning" as that crazy Constitution provides for freedom of religion.

    You are a bright and beautiful soul. The answers you receive come from a divine source and I applaud your willingness to actually speak to your God.

  4. The one thing that I learned from my Catholic upbringing is to follow one's conscience under all circumstances. I will always honor that religion for the door that opened for me to follow Love as I hear it.

  5. This is a great post and only makes me want to get my clammy paws on your book MORE.

    I also grew up Catholic with a lovely priest who said that many saints were mystics. I never had a conflict with being Catholic and being psychically sensitive. I still think fondly of that priest and how accepting and kind he was.

  6. @ Ember- Love it!
    @Nucc- Definitely a good rule to live by no matter what ones faith is.
    @The Tarot Lady- I know, I'm DYING to get my copy too!!

    oh yeah @ Mel- Love you, no matter what!!! Who cares if people walk across the isle from you.... they don't know you or know what your beliefs are instead they ASS U ME. If they don't have an open mind that is on them, not on you. It is possible to have an open mind, and still be strong in your own beliefs/religion. So, many people have horrible misconceptions of other belief systems and religions different from their own. Even those in the same belief system have that problem. All that matters is what works for you! If you can help guide those with an open mind by reading I think that is absolutely fantastic!

    I'm soooooo proud of you! The best thing about being friends this long, is that I get to witness the fantastic hurdles you've had to climb, and how you have overcome them!! It is so refreshing to see all the good and bad has brought you to the point you are at today. Someone you are proud to be! That my friend, is absolutely priceless.

    Have a good trip... wish I could go with! Hugs to Gram and the fam!