Growing up with tarot readers for parents
In my house you don’t have to look far to find a tarot deck. Two by the computer, one by the TV, another on top of the fridge, and so on. If you looked in every room you’d probably find at least one. On top of a growing collection of cards I also have a 5- and 7-year-old who like to play with them and look at them.
Note: I have seen a lot of heated debate about this recently so just a heads-up, if you are certain kids should not use tarot you might just want to stop reading now. This piece is not about changing anyone’s mind. If you are already thinking I am wrong – let’s agree to disagree and not have a conversation about it, ok?
This is where we get into what can be a very tricky topic for many people. Should kids get to interact with tarot? Is it damaging to them? Can it hurt them in some way? Or is it safe?
First, we need to understand that tarot cards are ink on paper. In this sense they are no more dangerous than the Sunday paper. In my experience cards come with no spiritual energies baked in through the manufacturing process. When someone does learn how to make ink that uploads information or experience to the person who touches it we’ll have to review this point.
I actually think that tarot can be fun and lead to discovering a child’s own knowing and even self-expression. Two years ago I made my first tarot deck. As is often the way with kids, my eldest, Claire, was inspired to do what I was doing. So while I worked away on my deck she crafted her cards too. First on post-it notes and later on little cut out pieces of paper. Her cards reflected her world and ideas. The titles showed amazing insight into life and I think convey as much emotion as any art out there. “The 9 of joy of going camping tomorrow” and “The 10 of happiness of getting the top bunk” really evoke ideas that I think most people can relate to in some way. Through this process of tarot creation, Claire made a connection and began expressing herself—rather than being frightened, or damaged, she was inspired.
Secondly, of course I know that the cards depict images that may or may not be okay for a specific child. Some decks make grown ups blush and would be wildly inappropriate. To me this is really the crux of the challenge and the question. In answering what art you feel is good for children to look at you will tell a lot about your values and morals. Which is important to respect if you want to share those values with your kids as most people do.
Lately I have started working on another deck and my Claire has started again. The art she is producing now is more fully formed and the ideas have become deeper. “The joy of being yourself” shows a person dressed as man on one side and a woman on the other. Her idea of freedom to be authentic is so much like the fool to me. Encouraging her to ‘play’ with the cards in this way allows what is important in her idea of life to start to emerge. I love getting to see into her philosophy.
So the first step is getting clear on what is important to you. Personally, I think the imagery that is great for my kids to see is body affirming, depicts genders equally, avoids violence, is life affirming, nature affirming, and reveals hope. So decks like the Gaian Tarot hit all the marks. Other decks like the Marseille and Thoth decks are good. Of course many of the more illustrated decks might work well too. The Whimsical, Gummy bear, or the Wizard’s Pets Tarot might be a good fit.
Of course there is the other side of the equation – kids are full humans with ideas, tastes and opinions of their own. Obviously giving the Cheech and Chong Oracle to a 5-year-old might not fit your sensibilities. It would not work for mine. However, I personally feel I am obliged to raise the child I have to be who they are. What are they inspired by? That is what will work for them. Maybe the Alice Tarot if they like those stories, or the Hello Kitty deck, if that inspires them.
Personally, with my kids, I trust that their taste will also lead to their connection to intuition. I also think in decisions like this kids know what they are up for. So when Irene, my 5-year-old, asked me for a Thoth deck I said, “Sure.” She loves it and has always enjoyed looking at the art and playing with our family’s copy of the deck. The artwork has already inspired so many wonderful conversations about spirit and the nature of life that reveal her wisdom.
All of that said, some of the material in the books that accompany the decks might also be worth checking into first. I am not going to let Irene read Crowley just yet.
Using the cards with Irene, tends to take a different track. Often her first question is “Is this a good card or a bad card?” To which I respond “how do you feel when you look at it?” At which point she will talk about her emotions around looking at it which often leads into a story about what she is seeing. The Five of Cups “Puddles I can jump in on a rainy day,” fits with the ‘make the best of what you have at hand’ ideas in this card. The 9 of Swords “I don’t like this one. I am going to put it back.” reveals a common sense reaction to a tense situation. Why stay if you don’t have to.
I find in watching my kids create and relate to the cards it reveals so much about them and also the cards, and further expands my ideas of what the cards are about. If you let them lead the conversation magic can really happen.
What have you learned about divination from children?
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“Garbage Pail Kids” by Jelene Morris used under creative commons license.