Tarot cards have been around for centuries. A quick Amazon search returns pages of tarot decks for sale, indicating tarot is firmly in the mainstream. But why would Unity produce its own tarot deck? How does it fit with the spiritual teachings of Unity?
We put the question to people who are deeply ensconced in Unity and who also love tarot, including the creator of the Unity deck.
“For a long time I saw a connection—how tarot cards could be reduced to a single word or concept and how that could be an affirmation. I thought it would be a really great way to bring in people who aren’t typically a Unity audience but have similar viewpoints and don’t know it,” said Laura Carl, design team manager for Unity World Headquarters (UWH) who is taking classes toward ministry.
We named the Unity tarot deck Inner Voice with the intention that each reader may use the 78 cards to connect with inner guidance or the Divine within. Each card includes an affirmation on the card itself, in addition to the usual identifiers such as number and title. The tone set by the affirmations and bold imagery is lighter and brighter than many tarot card decks.
Tarot is not a niche market for people on the fringe. Oracle cards are hugely popular, like the affirmation card decks Unity has produced in recent years, and they are to be used in the same way—for reassurance, insight, and clarity.
Said Rev. Teresa Burton, editor of Daily Word® and a tarot aficionado, “If you think of things like meditation or even prayer as a door you can open into your own consciousness, this is another door in that same house. This is another way to know yourself and understand yourself and, in many ways, to heal yourself. You’re not asking anything outside of you to give you something or tell you something you are not capable of discerning yourself. Tarot is another way to get there.”
Tarot cards are based on ancient archetypes, which are symbols representing patterns of human behavior. The original tarot cards were used for parlor games in 15th century Europe. Their use has varied over the centuries and has included divination, but many people now use them for spiritual insight or prompts to self-exploration. In that sense, pulling a tarot card is not much different than flipping open a Bible or other sacred text and contemplating the verse where your finger lands, hoping the words carry a helpful message.
What Are the Objections?
Admittedly, some people in Unity are resistant to tarot. They may associate it with the occult or believe its use amounts to looking outside ourselves for wisdom and guidance, whereas Unity teaches we are to turn to the Divine within.
“We always have free will and the ability to direct our lives,” Burton said. “This is not an abdication of responsibility. It’s a way of perhaps sensing something at a subconscious level and bringing it into fuller awareness.”
For example, she said, if she has a health challenge and pulls the Magician card, she might consider seeking professional help. If she is feeling some job-related deadline stress and pulls the 8 of Cups, it might prompt her to think about taking time off.
“I use my tarot cards to deepen my connection with Spirit,” said Carmela Garone, an executive and leadership coach who serves on the board of directors for Unity World Headquarters. “I don’t use them to predict the future but to ask Spirit what I need to know at any one time. When I ask questions that invite Spirit in, I get astonishing answers. Typically, the answers I get empower me and help me see the situation differently.”
Would the Fillmores Approve?
Other objectors note that Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore eventually excluded mediums, crystals, astrology, and so on—what we would call New Age—as he honed the message of Unity. But the earliest Unity magazines were full of such things, and Fillmore first wrote under the pen name Leo Virgo because his August 22 birthday was on the cusp of those two signs. He always maintained an interest in dream interpretation.
None of us at UWH, including our researchers in the Unity Archives, could find any condemnation of New Age practices from Fillmore. Nor could we find any references to tarot cards specifically. Fillmore did say he wanted Unity to be based on reason. He didn’t want students to be expected to believe anything they could not demonstrate to be logically true.
Carl, Burton, and Garone all said tarot cards are simply a tool for spiritual practice. “Just as we call Silent Unity [the prayer ministry] to have someone affirm the Truth with us, we can use tarot cards to connect with the Divine,” Garone said. “The language of the tarot can easily be mapped to concepts, teachings, and affirmations in Unity. They speak a universal spiritual language.”
One need not be a tarot expert to work with the Unity tarot card deck. Some of the names were changed to require less explanation, designer Carl said. The cards represent universal life experiences. The Major Arcana depicts big life events or life roles, the different masks we wear, she said. The Minor Acana depicts life’s more transient rhythms, everyday situations, divided into four suits.
Here’s how the suit names were changed for clarity:
- Swords to mind: what we are thinking, beliefs, ideals
- Cups to emotions: relationships, feelings
- Wands to spirit: your passion, calling
- Pentacles to body: the physical body; can also be career, health, financial
The artwork is deliberately peaceful, Carl said. “Some decks are menacing-looking at times. I’m really proud that ours is definitely more vibrant. There isn’t that fear factor.”
None of our three experts were quite sure how many tarot decks they own. They appreciate the variety. There’s a tarot deck with cats. A deck with cartoon ghosts. One deck has baseball players. A 1950s homemaker deck substitutes devil’s food cake for the Devil card.
Tarot is not a niche market for people on the fringe. Oracle cards are hugely popular, like the affirmation card decks Unity has produced in recent years, and these are to be used in the same way—for reassurance, insight, and clarity.
“Tarot feels like an immediate connection with my higher knowing,” Garone said. “I find they provide clear guidance from Spirit when I am having a moment of doubt. I see it as a way to partner with the Divine.”