Why I am Still Reading Tarot (but you can’t pay me to do it.)
I should start by explaining that I have been a student and practitioner of Tarot even longer than I have been a witch. I have been in a relationship with the cards for more than 35 years. I have read professionally, taught workshops professionally, and have researched as much as I can about the history of the deck and its use.
I have always been aware of a relationship between the Romani people and Tarot. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion around the idea that non-Romani people should stop using Tarot decks for divination, because Tarot-reading is a closed practice belonging to the Romani people and any non-Romani use of Tarot is cultural appropriation. Some are responding to this by shredding their decks and “canceling” everyone who publicly practices Tarot. Others are being dismissive, claiming that there is nothing in the history of Tarot that suggests it has anything to do with the Romani.
I want to unpack all of this, and explain how I am choosing as a longtime Tarot practitioner and witch to respond to this issue. I am not going to claim that I know better than anyone else what is right. But as a teacher and a writer, I hope that shedding light on my thinking and my decisions around this issue can help others as they make their choices.
I want to begin with the most important and undeniable truth: the Romani people have been subjected to an unconscionable amount of inhumane treatment over the course of centuries, and are still being subjected to harassment, abuse and discrimination even today. I have witnessed first hand the negativity that Europeans direct at the Romani people, as casually as if they are noticing the weather. They were among the peoples the Nazis hoped to extinguish from the earth with their genocidal concentration camps. They are still treated as unwelcome in much of Eastern and Southern Europe, and still subjected to discrimination, both socially and legally. Romani have spent centuries living on the margins of European society, often enslaved, economically shut out, verbally berated and chased out of communities. Romani culture is a distinct culture, one that has developed over centuries, and has often been appropriated from. If you are decorating and dressing in “boho chic” you are likely borrowing from Romani aesthetic. And you do…