I came out of the broom closet about 2 years ago. It started as a want to connect and find community. I was lucky that at the time of discovering tarot I was living in Seoul, South Korea - a country that despite being heavily influenced by Christianity, still remains open in practicing the spiritual arts of astrology, numerology and tarot. My Korean friends were all cool with it, had been to readers and encouraged my new hobby. My western friends were a mixed bag of bohemian artists, yoga teachers and energy healers who welcomed my passion with open arms.
Then I moved back to the UK.
Though the response wasn't negative, there was less of an automatic acceptance. Instead of "Oh everyone has tarot readings so rock on." It was more of an awkward "Oh...right... cool...so... you charge for that?"
It can be exhausting taking the time to explain and advocate for tarot. There are times I have just chosen not to tell people because I just don't want the hassle, especially if I get the judgement/ego vibe.
One of the things I've struggles with the most is when people ask questions with the air of judgement, ridicule and a frankly overtly patronising tone. I'm happy to answer questions but there are times I think - If I were a jewellery designer or an accountant you wouldn't be this snotty, so how about you think before dismissing my career choices.
Generally, when I tell people I'm a Tarot Reader there tends to be three main reactions;
1: Curiosity - "Really? how interesting, tell me more!"
2: Judgement - "People actually pay you for that?"
3: Uncomfortable silence.... followed by a swift change of subject
I'm lucky that, though the judgement irritates me at times, I remind myself that it's their stuff coming up and not mine and though annoying, not actually harmful unless I let it get to me.
There are however, people in the community to stay in the broom closet. Some choose to stay quiet because to them this is a personal, spiritual practice they like to keep private. Others fear family influences and judgements if they are more open and sadly there are those who have been greeted with ignorance, abuse and even violence.
I posted in several online community to groups to find out why some people aren't open about their tarot practices below are some of the responses I received:
Hi Tarot peeps,
I'm writing a blog about why some tarot readers don't openly practice and I would love your thoughts/input.
What I want to know is:
What stops you from being open about your tarot reading?
Is it a choice to keep things private or a fear of repercussions if you are more open?
Does anyone know?
Do you wish you could be more open?
IF you did hide/keep private your tarot reading but NOW you are open - what changed? Any advice?
Family and partners were a big factor for a lot of people.
“All of my friends and my husband know that I practice tarot, as do my parents and my sister. It is a complete no-big-deal for them, and indeed my mother is happy that I'm currently taking a tarot course. However, I do not tell my husband's family and he has made it clear that he is incredibly against me publicly reading tarot. So I am more-or-less publicly silent about it.
My husband's feelings come from his background – he grew up in a very religious family, and learned that tarot is forbidden by the bible. I believe that more than anything else, he would feel really embarrassed in front of his family if they knew about my interest in tarot, or if I started reading publicly.
This is a dilemma with which I have not yet come to terms. On the one hand, it is very important for me to respect my husband's wishes, for I love him and I understand from where he is coming and I want him to feel comfortable (for him to tell me not to do something is extremely rare for him so I take note when it occurs), and I really appreciate that he is being as open-minded as he can considering his background (indeed, I'm currently taking a tarot course and he's living with it). On the other hand, I believe it is wrong for someone to tell me what to do with my life and I have little to no tolerance for such sort of thing, plus I believe that I would ultimately like to read publicly. So I'm not sure where the cards will ultimately fall on this matter. Not telling his family - no big deal. I don't need to prove anything to anyone. But not reading publically if this is what I want to do - a huge issue for me.”
“I always wanted to practice tarot but was put off by parents. Went to college and started teaching myself. When I came home after graduating my mom stumbled across my personal deck. She called me because I wasn't home and yelled at me. Get that devil mess out of my house. Blah blah blah. So now I hide them. Only out to my sister and brother.
Also I live in the Bible Belt. It's either Christianity and their ways or they come after you with a vengeance. It's a little scary.”
"My husband knows I use tarot for my personal work and sees it similar him praying. My mother knows but she is a product of the 60s. And it doesn't hurt that daily interactions with the spirits in her home and business have kept her mind open. My family is fairly "woo" anyway. My husband's family on the other hand...nope.”
"I am out or at least not hiding it to everyone except my husband's dad and his step-mom. And that's because those too are judgmental assholes. When I post things on my Facebook, it goes to all my friends EXCEPT them. They saw one of my tarot posts once and made snide remarks to my husband. These people hate me though. I just don't want to subject me husband to their stupidity bc he is the one who will have to deal with it. They don't talk to me. Just trying to keep the peace those. I do wish I didn't have to keep my post settings set that way but again, I do it because I love my husband, not because of them. (He's never asked me to hide it btw, he's perfectly fine with my tarot.) With some of my family, like my dad, I don't necessarily hide it from him but I don't talk about it with him either. He's seen glances here and there. He thinks it's all fake. But then again, this is the man who thinks I didn't need to be on psychiatric drugs for my PTSD, anxiety, and depression bc he thinks are psych drugs are bullshit. With some people, like my mom, I can be totally open and talk to them about it. Mom likes to see my cards and readings and such.”
The misunderstandings, judgements and opinions of others keeps other readers silent.
“I've been practicing for about two years now, and I think the main thing that holds me back is feeling like I need to scope the person out a bit. I usually hesitate before suggesting it or mentioning it because I don't know how the other person will take it. From my experience most people are excited and interested, and those that aren't have been very polite in their decline. I realize I have been very lucky in that respect. I wish I was more open as I feel like it's something that could benefit a lot of people. I used to keep it fairly private, but recently I've been trying to just ignore the fear of repercussions because I truly believe it is here to help people."
“I'm not a "witch" I'm sick of people telling me I'm dancing with the devil... I believe that god can work through Tarot too.... can't explain that to everyone---- they judge”
"So first, whereas astrology, people are a little more familiar with, and they can just roll their eyes and be all "can't believe you believe that", tarot gets some weird kind of "oooooh, you're a witch" stuff. tends to freak some people out. I tend to wait until the person has had a few minutes to drop their judgment and then I don't mind mentioning it. The second reason is that as soon as you say you read tarot, I've noticed that the other half are all "oh you have to read for me" just assuming that it's a party trick. That's the real reason I stopped saying it….adding....it's really interesting also to see how visceral some people's reactions are and the liberty they take in reacting to it. Sometimes to the point of excessive rudeness. I mean even if they don't believe in it, what on earth do they care if I do??”
“ I think most people base their opinions on stuff from movies or books where tarot readers are usually portrayed as scary and weird people who prophesize bad stuff about the future, which is not the reality, but they can be used effectively in fiction and storytelling. So I think people don't really know what tarot is or can be about.”
“ I live in a region far more religiously progressive... except that science is now their religion and they are fanatics. If double-blind studies haven't been peer-reviewed to prove it, it's snake oil. Alternative medicine is voodoo, so don't even get them started on tarot. I know that I should stand strong in defiance of this closed-mindedness, but to be judged as foolish and naïve strikes a bitter chord in my psyche, so until I conquer that, only close friends and family know. I wish I was more open, and look forward to the day where I no longer give a fock what others think.”
There are those whose past experiences were so impactful they fear talking about it.
"I moved to a very small, conservative, Southern Baptist town 2 years ago. Since moving here I've had to keep not only my tarot practice a secret, but also my religion and political affiliations because of the very real threat of violence. Even if I felt physically safe, I would have lost any job I had (working for myself since the beginning of this month thank the gods). [it's] a fear of repercussions mainly [that stops me being more open]. All of my friends and most of my family know, I just don't share with people I know locally or former work friends (since moving here). I just wish I could be regular/normal/whatever. Be able to say, yeah I read tarot for a living and have people be like, "Cool" and move on. It would also be great because before moving here I did readings in person, which I prefer."
“I usually don't tell anyone apart from friends on facebook that I am studying the occult because when I have, I get met with abuse and violence and ridicule. And that hurts so I avoid telling people to save being abused by them.”
“I'm out of the broom closet now, but until I moved out west I lived in a place that was so fundamentalist Christian that I was beaten nearly to death several times (even shot) from childhood through early 20s for not accepting Christ and violations of biblical law. Divination is one of those laws, so the prophetic dreams were silenced and never dreamed of buying tarot cards back then.
The threat of death is very real in some parts of the US for practicing things viewed as against Abrahamic religions…”
But there are also those who just want to keep it to themselves because privacy is their right and choice.
“ I used to be more open about it, but got tired of the stupid conversations. I don't really hide it, but I don't really bring it up much either. I guess it's like any kind of spiritual practice. There are times and places where it's more appropriate than others. I will also add- I was probably looking for my tribe in all the wrong places back then too.”
“I neither share nor keep my love of tarot, being pagan or anything else secret. If people don't like what I do then that's their problem not mine. I don't advertise the fact I read tarot, but if I happen to bump into people I know when I've just bought a deck I'm really excited about I'll tell them.”
Not everyone stays silent though.
“I am a cannabis activist so I've already lost the attention and support of my family. "They love me but don't like me," I tell people. I recently had a falling out with my mother about leaning away from the family religion (Southern Baptist) and toward occultism. I realized I was living a lie and couldn't do it anymore. Now I let my freak colors fly and my favorite thing to fly is tarot. I will soon be getting the Justice card tattooed on my arm as my very first tattoo as it strongly combines my two loves (and also incorporates my husband's birth sign, Libra) so I suppose I won't be hiding it from anybody. I have had people tell me that It's devil worship but I have pretty appropriate comebacks for them. I tend to avoid those people now, anyway, as they project such negative energy and I'm such a strong empath. It wears me out. I don't care what they think about me because I don't have the energy to maintain false relationships, anyway. ❤”
If you love tarot, reading for yourself and others but don't feel comfortable openly talking about it, it can be very lonely but you are not alone.
There is a huge, diverse and loving community waiting for you with open arms.
The truth is we are all different, there are Christian readers, Witch readers, those with no religion, those who pick and choose. Business people, social people, introverts, extroverts, those who believe the cards have their own personality, those who believe it is the reader who holds the knowledge. There are those who meditate first, those who use crystals, daily readers, occasional readers, those who use one deck, those with more than 50.
Within our community we don't always agree on well, how tarot works. But whatever you do, whoever you are, however you read, you won't be alone.
There are conferences around the world and readers at festivals and events. If you are near a new age store you will likely be able to find some readers, the store itself may be willing to host a meet up. For those who can't be out in their neighbourhood or with friends and family, for whatever reason, there is a thriving online community. From amazing Facebook groups like Tarot Nerds to communities run by professional readers such as Biddy Tarot Community.
If nothing else know that I love you and you're welcome to nerd out with me anytime x
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