Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back Away from the Tarot Cards!

If you’re a qadish, a practitioner of the Natib Qadish Canaanite religion, you may want to think twice before bothering with Tarot cards and other prevalent Western European forms of divination.

In other communities which use divination (such as the New Age and Pagan communities), tarot has become ubiquitous. Choosing only tarot when there are many cultural specific options available demonstrates a need for further exploration of our ways. If you are devoted to the tarot so that the thought of divorcing them causes you to feel faint, then of course you can use them as a part of an informal practice. Just keep in mind that they are not Canaanite in symbolism, and they can be an obstacle to learning Canaanite symbolism and practices in depth.

In the not-so-hazy past, I used tarot cards for divination, but I found myself increasingly dissatisfied with them. I would try another deck for a while, one that was shinier and newer than the previous, but my dissatisfaction would inevitably return. I would try an older deck, just to see if I could reacquaint myself with it, but again apathy would strike. Oh, yes, I love the art; and oh, yes, I enjoy the stories that tarot can tell. I still keep a couple of decks around for the art—but I got rid of most of my divination decks. Every time I used them I felt my readings lacked luster and bordered on clichéd, and that the readings were I haven’t used tarot in over two years.

Tarot and Canaanite symbolism speak different languages. Cups mean blessing in Canaanite thought--not “emotions” and certainly not the “element of water” since that system of four elements is absent in Canaanite culture and religion. Wands in Canaanite culture represent personal charisma and leadership, not creativity. And swords would represent martial prowess and strength, not intellect and thought. Depending on the art and the theme of the deck, symbolism can become skewed even further.

Now when someone comes to me for a reading, I use divination systems that pertain to Canaanite culture and symbolism: I would not use tarot or Norse runes. After all, you don’t go to a babalawo for a tarot reading or a look at your Western astrology chart; no, you’d go to him for an ifá reading. And trying to read Canaanite/Phoenician letters laid out in a Celtic Cross tarot spread is also awkward. It may work, but it will not work as well as it could and it hinders a deepening into Canaanite thought.

Canaanite tools with Canaanite symbolism will yield better results. Anything after that is watered down, beings to lose its potency, and sometimes it gets downright awkward. The nuance changes and you can lose information by using cultural oracles interchangeably (i.e. a Near Eastern Canaanite system with a Western European divination tool).

Think of using Norse runes without knowing Norse culture: you can memorize pat answers from a pamphlet or you can become truly proficient by having a deeper understanding of what each Norse rune truly means in a broader cultural context. Anyone can parrot back an answer, but it takes cultural understanding and depth to go further and the deities of the culture are better able and more comfortable communicating in an oracle compatible with their cultural metaphors.

Natib Qadish has its own options for divining. Some of those methods, such as teratomancy and hepatomancy, were used mainly by the priesthood in particular situations; situations which most of us do not have today. This leaves a qadish with categories such as oneiromancy, necromancy (as in seeking counsel from the ancestors, not as in reanimating the dead), claromancy (lots), lunamancy (moon omens), and possibly scrying. Of all of these methods, I suggest that oneiromancy, lunamancy, and claromancy are the techniques best suited to the layperson. But as far as oneiromancy (dream interpretation) I would suggest avoiding Jungian interpretations and looking towards Canaanite, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean symbolism.

If it’s necessary, use spreads and tools you have, but remember that this is a crutch and you can learn much more if you put in the effort to learn about Canaanite divination tools. And for best results, use a Canaanite-based divination tool with a Canaanite-style method or spread.

I will cover different divination methods at a later date. Until then, The Horned Altar explores this subject in depth, including methods of dream interpretation, casting lots, reading Phoenician letters, and lunar symbolism, and includes notes on when to use divination.

Today is
25 Ra'shu Yeni, Shanatu 85
It is the 25th day of the lunar month of Ra'shu Yeni (the month of new wine), and it has been 85 years since the rediscovery of the Canaanite city-state of Ugarit.  Our next holiday is 'Ashuru Mothabati, the Festival of Dwellings, on the evening prior to the coming new moon--Wednesday, September 24 this year.

Image Notes
An original card from the tarot deck of Jean Dodal of en:Lyon, a classic "Marseilles" deck. The deck dates from 1701-1715. Public Domain. 


  1. Just keep in mind that they are not Canaanite in symbolism, and they can be an obstacle to learning Canaanite symbolism and practices in depth.

    What do you mean by that, exactly? The human mind has proven quite capable of storing a great deal of information. Just because you have studied one language, that doesn't mean that you now suddenly are next to incapable of learning another language. And you're not suddenly going to mix up your cultures, history and the depth of meaning behind words and intonation just because you speak several languages.

    Unless, possibly, you start learning both at the same time, in which case the mind can have trouble separating them if they are sufficiently similar (tarot cups and Canaanite cups, for example).

    1. I believe I was fairly clear in what I was stating, but I will try to clarify. If one's goal is to learn Canaanite religion, one must learn Canaanite symbolism and Canaanite culture. To rely chiefly on tarot is to rob oneself of that opportunity. One robs oneself of the opportunity and the practice to deepen one's understanding of that culture and the deities. To rely on tarot is to use a travel-phrase book when visiting a foreign land instead of learning the language, then settling and living in that "foreign land" and making it your home.

    2. Thank you for clarifying!

      From your article I never got the impression that you were speaking about people who somehow thought tarot was a replacement for learning about Canaanite symbolism and culture. If that was your intent, it was definitely lost on me. You did say "Choosing only tarot when there are many cultural specific options available", but you also carried on to speak about how learning Tarot is "an obstacle" to learning Canaanite symbolism, which implied that you were also talking about people who were willing to learn both, as if though practitioners of Canaanite divination and culture are ruined by also trying to understand other systems and cultures.

  2. I would be interested in what you arrive at. As a Roman polytheist, I balk at using Tarot cards and have been exploring more traditional Roman methods. I agree with your statement about using the divination methods of the particular religion you are practising. Roman sense of divination is different from Tarot, which is from my understanding a Western Ceremonial Magick construct (at least the Tarot used today).

  3. I like your post very much. I used Tarot cards for years but became increasingly dissatisfied for the same reasons. Personally, I also felt the Tarot has a very strong bias towards Ceremonial Magic, a system I've never been interested in.

    I have used runes to some extent, but only after learning a very great deal about Germanic mythology. I cannot imagine using runes without knowing such mythology.

    I am reading your book The Horned Altar now and am looking forward to learning more about the divination systems you recommend.