Tarot, Witchcraft, and Divination Are not Board Games | Feedback

A “shift in tone” in a recent Great Books piece prompted a reader’s response. “I don’t think these targeted communities need more stress,” she writes.

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I read the recommended article on Tarot, Witchcraft, and Divination, and wanted to provide some feedback on what was a well-meant piece "Tarot, Witchcraft, and Divination: Teens and tweens seek reassurance from the universe | Great Books". I really appreciated the opening history lesson on why people from marginalized spaces turn to Tarot and other spiritual practices to seek answers, have more control over their lives, and seek self-improvement. Looking to my friends from an array of Pagan traditions, these practices are a way to reconnect with their lost traditions (many of which were violently suppressed) and find community. Tarot is one of their modern spiritual tools, and I’ve learned how they utilize it and why.

That being said, to acknowledge the legitimate spiritual practice that comes with Tarot and witchcraft and then recommend: “providing or lending tarot decks, Ouija boards, and divination books in communal areas and makerspaces, or anywhere kids hang out at lunch and after school, and where board games and Dungeons & Dragons are popular” seems a stark shift in tone. Are we suggesting that Tarot, witchcraft, and various traditions of divination are like board games?

After asking my friends, students, and colleagues their perspectives, the notion was met with two responses. First was utter incredulity at the idea of loaning Ouija boards to children as just another game in the library, especially in proximity with DnD which already struggles to separate itself from accusations of devilry. It’s such a wild picture: some kids are building LEGO dragons, one is 3D printing, and there’s Jimmy in the corner trying to talk to grandma through a planchette. It could be rather unsettling! But in all seriousness, the idea of promoting Tarot and divination in the midst of patrons already attacking the library for “sexually explicit,” often BIPOC and LGBTQIOA+ materials was not met well. I have some wonderfully rebellious, bright hearts in my life, and even they were wary of building more controversy in that direction. I don’t think these targeted communities need more stress.

The second reaction was towards the misunderstanding of how this all works. Tarot decks are very personal tools that you build a relationship with and have to be ritually cleansed if given to another person. They are, by their nature, not borrowable or interchangeable. Serious practitioners would likely not borrow from a library and wouldn’t want kids/teens getting a hold of a public deck. Others suggested perhaps hosting classes on how to perform readings, where patrons bring their own tools. We need to make sure we actually understand the traditions and talk to people before offering what we’d see as support.

Overall, I think hosting a diverse print collection for these communities is a wonderful thing. Honoring people’s spiritual traditions and their journey to understanding themselves is beautiful. We really need to be careful, though: we can't honor the spiritual, sacred spaces/tools of marginalized people and treat them as games or fun curiosities at the same time. I do want to say thank you for the thought-provoking article, the conversations it has inspired, and hope this conversation continues to grow in a truly supportive direction!

Devon Cozad
Research and Instruction Librarian
Daemen University
Amherst, NY

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