ASK FATHER: “What’s the deal with tarot cards?” 

From a reader…

Father, what’s the deal with tarot cards.  I saw something about them being dangerous for the soul.  I don’t get why.  They’re just pieces of paper with art on them.  What’s the story here.

If you are “playing” with or using tarot cards or a ouija board …


From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

Tarot cards and ouija boards, and other methods of divination, are extremely dangerous avenues by which demons are given, by you for using them, permission to attach themselves to you and places where you use them.    Different demons are “assigned” to each sort of thing, action.

Demons are extremely “legalistic”.  Once they perceive an invitation, explicit or through a sinful act, they will latch on and claim a right to be there until that bond is broken.

This is not to say that such demonic attachment must or will occur with each use of these foul objects.

Much depends on various contingencies, for example, the moral life of the user, the vocation of the user, the sacramental life of the user, the involvement and resultant layers of other activities that open doors (sins against the 6th and 9th Commandments, in particular), who introduced the person to it, what she did with it, how often, with how much attachment to it, their relatives involvement (people who pray for him or contribute to the disorder), etc.

There are so many contingencies that no two cases are exactly alike.

But I put it to you…. if you happened to know that a guy over there had Hemorrhagic Fever, like Ebola, would you invite him for a wrestling match?   If you happened to know that a particular door was wired with Semtex and a trigger, would you run over and open turn the doorknob?   If you saw a barrier fence with huge signs saying, “DANGER – LAND MINES”, would you choose that field for your daily jog?

Maybe you’ll be fine… the first time.   Maybe even the second.   If you keep doing it, the odds may not be in your favor.

It’s Russian Roulette… with your soul.

This ouija board, tarot card “game” thing is really dangerous.

Fortune telling, any manner of divination, trying to discern the future, trying to contact spirits… ALL. VERY. BAD. AND. DANGEROUS.

BE AWARE.  Even the stupid newspaper horoscope of the day rubbish can be dangerous if you put your trust in them.   An exorcist friend told me that one of his cases had FOUR demons because he had put his trust in a Magic 8 Ball.  Mostly these things are stupid jokes.  But if you really fall for them, put yourself into them, give yourself over to trust them, they because the sort of divination activity that invites demons.

Sound good you?

Demons lie.  They deceive people and then attach to oppress or even possess.   That’s not something that you want to happen.  Or at least it better not be.

It was through a true life use of a ouija board to contact a deceased aunt that a demon possessed the child that gave the inspiration for the (sensationalistic) movie The Exorcist.

Look at it is this way:

Anyone who, knowing them to be a) forbidden by the Church for use and b) spiritually perilous, uses them anyway commits a mortal sin.   Anyone who, knowing their qualities, uses them and involves someone else, commits yet another terrible abusive sin by involving another.  Anyone who, aware of the Church’s teaching, etc., who uses them and is open about it or tries to get others to use them commits the additional sin of scandal, by inducing others to commit sins.

If you have any of these things,

  • break them,
  • burn them,
  • put the pieces or ashes into running water.


GO TO CONFESSION and confess their use.  Make a good Holy Communion.   If strange things manifest themselves in your life, stick to the sacraments and good devotions and find a priest who can bless you and perhaps, if there are enough indications, use a minor exorcism.


Additional points about yoga and so forth have come up.   I’ve also consulted my tame exorcist, highly experienced.  He says, “Yoga is always incompatible with the Christianity.”

Here’s the book.

Yoga, Tai Chi and Reiki: A Guide for Christians


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Gaby Carmel says:

    Father, didn’t Hans Urs von Balthasar write a preface to a book called ‘Meditations on the Tarot’? Link:

    Having an adult son who loves his Tarot (which he did NOT learn about at home!), a few years ago I passed on this book to him, hoping to wake him up to the Faith, by means of it. I thought that if Balthasar wrote about it, then it might be a way to re-awaken the faith in my poor lost son…

  2. GregB says:

    There is a video on YouTube where Demonologist Adam Blai goes into a real world case of tarot card reading leading to demonic possession. The video is from the EWTN show “On Location.” It is titled: “Exorcism in the Modern Church and How to Keep the Doors to the Demonic Closed.” The URL is:
    The tarot card story starts around the 35 minute mark. Adam Blai has a mental health background. His presentation backs up the points made in this article. He says that divination is a violation of the First Commandment. Near the end of the presentation he says that the Blessed Virgin Mary has a role in exorcism.

  3. I remember in the early 1960s, when Ouija was promoted by Hasbro as a popular board game. In fact, not only is “Ouija” a trademark owned by Hasbro, but the game is still sold today, for “ages 8 and up.”

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  5. David Spaulding says:

    I enlisted in the Navy at 17 and briefly dated a girl who was into the occult. I liked playing with the tarot cards and foks said I had a knack for it. She gave me a set that I took out to see with me and practiced fortune telling. One day, a close friend and son of a Baptist minister asked me if I believed in them. I told him that I didn’t and that it was just fun to be the center of attention while reading them. I told him that I’d developed some skill at guessing what people were thinking and interpreting the cards in ways that made me seem like a fortune teller, to which he replied “God doesn’t work that way so, if the power doesn’t come from Him, it can only come from the devil.” I laughed it off but it kinda preyed on my mind so I tossed them overboard a few days later… I suppose the Atlantic counts as running water, right?

  6. iamlucky13 says:

    I suppose in a literal sense, the physical tarot cards themselves are are not the real problem. “They’re just pieces of paper.” It’s the intended use that is the real problem.

    Which is not to say the physical tarot cards should be viewed lightly. In a literal sense, a contract is just a piece of paper, too. Besides, at best, possessing a set of tarot cards seems comparable to keeping a suggestive magazine. It makes sense just to destroy the illicit material and not have to worry about it.

    My father has said that when he found a set of tarot cards while cleaning out an abandoned storage unit he had responsibility for, they screamed when he burned them.

  7. GHP says:

    I can vouch that ouija boards are supernatural.

    I was 15 years old in January 1968; I and my next-door neighbor and were playing with his ouiji board one day. I asked the ouija board if we would be assigned to Germany, where I really wanted to live (my father was an officer in the Special Forces) and it said “NO.” Next, I asked if would we get an overseas assignment, and it said “YES.” Happily, I asked where we would go. It spelled out T-H-I-L-A-N-D. Thiland … Thiland …. I never heard of a country called “thigh-land”. I asked my mom if she ever heard of “thigh-land” and she said no. So I let it drop — it was just a stupid game anyway.

    A few weeks later my father received orders to Thailand; we were there from April 1968~July 1970. I had never ever heard of Thailand and had to find it on the map.

    That ouija-thing is beyond natural, if you ask me!!

    — Guy

  8. If someone goes to a psychic, or to astrology, or tarot cards, or a ouija board or similar things, in order to learn something, I ask: “Why didn’t you ask God to give you this answer?”

    Presumably the response is, “God won’t tell me.”

    So, then, who are you talking to, if not God? And do you really think you can cast some sort of magic spell on God?

    Of course I realize people aren’t thinking it through; thus my questions.

  9. JesusFreak84 says:

    “They’re just paper” presumes that whoever made them isn’t hexing them ahead of time…

  10. TRW says:

    I have a friend who played with a ouija board at a friend’s house when he was in high school. I don’t believe that anything of note took place at his friend’s house, but when he returned home later that evening, his mother came out of her room and confronted him. She asked him pointedly ” What did you bring in with you”. She is a very religious woman and came from the Caribbean, where they are not strangers to the occult. Apparently, she sensed a presence of some kind.

  11. mysticalrose says:

    I came across the von Balthasar book on those cards in my twenties and presumed that if a Catholic theologian wrote a whole book on them, they must not be bad. I was wrong. And this is why I do not trust a single word of what von Balthasar has written — between the “visions” of von Speyr and his book on tarot, he definitely seems to have occult/gnostic leanings.

  12. GregB says:

    In the video that I referenced in my comment Adam Blai has a portion of the presentation where he goes into the cursing of objects, and the like. Blessing objects and things like houses and food is to counteract whatever curses that may have been placed on them. The drug cartels are involved in Satanic practices, and they will place curses on drugs before they are shipped to earn brownie points with the demons.

  13. MichaelS says:

    Question regarding ownership: suppose you come across an ouija board that’s not yours, (for example on the game shelf in a cabin that you’re renting). Would it still be right to destroy it, given that you don’t have ownership? Is it right to “steal” something evil to destroy it?

  14. Sue in soCal says:

    My son, several years ago, had to take one more general ed class for his associate degree. The only thing available that fit into his work schedule was a health class so he enrolled.
    This “health” class turned out to be an exploration of all things occult. My son did not and does not follow anything occult but he did check with a priest to see if it would be OK to take the class to get this last general ed requirement. The priest assured him that it was fine and there was nothing to worry about so he stayed in the class.
    Tarot cards and Ouija boards were only two things presented in the class. Crystals, auras, color and types of rocks, harmonics of energy, and others were presented. Some of my son’s exposés of the fraud involved in some of these methods are hilarious in the telling. Others were more “interesting”.
    While he did not participate in the Tarot cards, Ouija board, etc., others “read” him. From picking a rock of a certain type or color to having his aura read, he was told repeatedly that he had great spiritual strength and was “dangerous”. This even came from “experts” who had been invited to the class by the teacher because of their “specialty” and had never seen him before.
    My son is an affable guy who is generally well-liked. His Catholic faith is very strong. He found it interesting that all the “readings” came to similar conclusions. He has a strong suspicion that his solid faith is was what made him “dangerous”.
    The class did bother him and he kept checking with the first priest and with others, all of whom told him it was OK and not to worry. At the end of the class he did find a priest to talk to about his experience who had spoken about the occult in a sermon. The priest was alarmed that my son had taken the class, had had priests tell him it was OK, and this priest did do a minor exorcism rite. My son has avoided any other occult associations whether it be well-meaning people suggesting something they think is helpful or movies, books, and games that have occult symbology or storylines, and warns others to stay away.
    “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.”

  15. I will add a personal experience for what it’s worth…

    When I was in my 20s, I was living in the ferment of a recent conversion experience and, alas, had wandered from my Catholic faith into Evangelical and Pentecostal circles; and I had a voracious appetite at the time for the Bible and for spiritual topics in general. Along the way — like many earnest Christians — I was interested in understanding more about the dark forces that oppose God. I don’t recall now what they were, but I picked up some books on these subjects and I was reading them, with the best of intentions: know the enemy, that sort of thing. I really do think, however, they were mainstream sort of books, not anything spooky or dubious. But who knows?

    At a certain point, I felt a terrible presence, and at the same moment, I became clear on some part of me that was — while repulsed — also fascinated. It was a terrifying moment, as quick as a flash. And just as quickly, I called out to the Lord in prayer, I slammed the book shut and took it and whatever else I had on the subject back to the library, and resolved at that point not to indulge that particular curiosity. I don’t even like to talk about it, but ever since, I have taken this lesson away with me: there is a part of (at least some of) us that simply be dazzled by these evil forces and we do well to take that seriously.

  16. MichaelS: Is it right to “steal” something evil to destroy it?

    An exorcist to me on this question:

    “I would destroy it and leave money that corresponds to the price of a new one. … I doubt St. Boniface left the Germans a check, but that’s what I’d do.”

  17. preacherman says:

    I’ve heard the rule about disposing of evil items in running water many times. (For example the Amazonian idol thrown into the Tiber, but should have been ideally burned first.)

    What is the reason, or background for this? Is it scriptural? Tradition and experience speaking together informing us? I presume it’s the traditional teaching of the church on these matters but I’m curious where that teaching stems from.

    I only ask here as to avoid a trip down a Google rabbit hole dealing with exorcisms and the devil. Not excited about delving too deep into dark things.

    The Preacherman

  18. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Z mentions above a helpful book by Max Sculley DLS critiquing Yoga, Tai Chi and Reiki from a Christian perspective.

    That book has to be a worthy read because here’s what an Amazon reviewer, who gave the book one star, had to say about it: “close-minded” “whacko” “akin to radical terrorists’ thinking.” The reviewer also wrote: “The Harvard Medical School books on the health benefits of yoga and tai chi, for example, present a much more balanced assessment than the broad negative brush of this author.”

    Ah, that lofty seat of Wisdom, Harvard Medical School, has spoken. Well, here’s a news item from last week:

    “Two professors at Harvard Medical School, Drs. Bram Wispelwey and Michelle Morse, have published an open call for racial discrimination in the delivery of medical services in the name of remedying “structural racism.” The article, titled “An Antiracist Agenda for Medicine,” has attracted criticism from conservatives, but so far no rebuke from Harvard Medical School or Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Harvard-affiliated hospital, where they practice.”

    The one-star reviewer inadvertently provided a five-star review of Max Sculley’s book.

  19. Semper Gumby says:

    A few years ago Prada launched a new perfume with a short film directed by Jordan Scott in which the actress narrates the Gnostic poem “Thunder Perfect Mind” while making her way by day and night through the Big City. Three months ago Dior launched their Spring-Summer 2021 fashion line with the short film “Le Chateau du Tarot” in which an actress at a tarot reading encounters the characters depicted on the tarot cards. This short film was soon followed by “Discover the Making of Le Chateau du Tarot.”

    An excerpt from a recent article in the London fashion magazine “Vanity Teen”:

    “Christian Dior was passionate about the divinatory arts and signs of destiny. His autobiography is punctuated with often fateful encounters with visionary personalities: “It will be extraordinary. Your house will revolutionize fashion!” he recalled of a prophecy come true.”

    “A journey through an enigmatic castle with mystic characters such as the High Priestess, the Empress, Justice, and the Fool referencing the Tarot’s characters invite the viewer to look at the world from a new perspective.”

    “This quest surpasses gender boundaries, presenting a synthesis of masculine and feminine in new heraldic mythology evoking the enchanted worlds [Italian director] Matteo Garrone loves.”

    “The aesthetic of the 15th-century Visconti-Sforza tarot influenced the collection’s use of color, with many looks glinting with burnished gold accent.”

    In the last several years new Tarot decks such as “Queer Community Tarot” were designed, along with decks designed for children and specific ethnicities.

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  22. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Obviously, there is an actual card game, called tarocchi or tarot, which is very old and popular in certain parts of Europe and which has nothing to do with divination. People used to do a lot of divination with ordinary playing cards; but it’s not as “impressive” to people nowadays; so we don’t think of ordinary playing cards as evil. Tarocchi is kind of a geezer card game. There’s been a certain amount of revival through tarocchi computer apps, but I think that’s mostly a thing in Europe, too.

    It’s actually a lot harder in the US to find a standard, boring tarocchi pack of cards, than to find woo-woo occult packs of Tarot cards designed for divination.

    Tarocchi trump card designs seem to have been originally created by Renaissance Catholics, for a sort of philosophical “game of life” type card game, where the object was to get to “heaven.” But nobody seems to have the complete rules for that game, which is forgotten; and tarocchi is just a standard card game with standard rules and points and such.

  23. IaninEngland says:

    @ Michael S
    Of course, you could always return the book etc. to its owner (by post?), just to get rid of it. Then, I would ask God’s blessing on both me / us and the house and maybe even have the house or place blessed.

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