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Re: Is tarot a woman's domain?


Quote:
Originally posted by ferrous
Is tarot a woman's domain?
Let us say that we had a group of people who all wore little crosses around their necks, and who could regularly be seen carting around and even reading Bibles. And let us say you were not one of those people, but were observing them. You would be inclined to say that these people belonged, at least in some way expressed through the crosses and the Bibles, to a similar domain, correct? Perhaps they would be correctly identified as "Christians". But then, what if I said to you that "being a Christian" included the following expressions of faith:

1. Devoting one's life to helping the poor, and to avoiding making any value judgments about the spiritual worth of another human being, no matter what they actually do in their lives, leaving such judgments up to God. Indeed, following the Bible, you treat your enemies as loved ones.

2. Imagining that God has chosen you to be President, wherein vengeance is the driving force of your decision-making, and all enemies are demons to be destroyed by the will of God---with you as the chosen instrument of that destructive will. Your enemies are quite literally less than human.

Would you find that contradictory, odd, or just par for the course of the complexities of human beliefs and self-justifications?

I bring this up because your question invites consideration of this problem. You ask, "Is tarot a woman's domain?", which implies that there is good reason to think that it is. Otherwise, why raise the question? But in asking it in the way you did, you are also assuming that women's "domain" with respect to Tarot is in some way common ground, that their interest in Tarot shares some common features. And that this interest is so alien from that of men that whatever ground men, as a class, share in Tarot, is impertinent to determining a domain.

In fact, one might just as well ask: "Are men really necessary or desirable in Tarot?"

Indeed, that is a question that has been asked and often answered in the negative. The present condition of Tarot, or the popular manifestations of it, as a domain of practices and beliefs, has been shaped with the assumption that men are obstacles to "progress", especially the progress of selling lots of Tarot decks and books (mainly) to women. This is no accident, but rather the product of a conscious movement among the people who have contributed to making the "feminized" modern product of Tarot. It was done partly for politics and partly with the hopes of making a lot of money.

Why didn't they think men would have offered a good opportunity in this fashion? Because the men attracted to Tarot are mainly interested in its more esoteric aspects. They tend to be few in number because the number of people in general attracted to esoteria, or the occult, are few in number. They also tend to join organizations devoted to giving exclusive dispensations of the "truth" or occult knowledge, or they act independently, seeking out these things in private and without much concern to join forces in the search with some community (otherwise they would likely be attracted to the secret organizations).

The brand of Tarot that has been marketed, mainly to women, is therefore very much a de-occulted version. From a political standpoint this has been thought wise since occult Tarot dogma was largely developed by men and with a view of things that was disturbingly Victorian with respect to gender issues. Nevertheless, this very Victorian thinking seems in a way to have been validated by the marketing of popular Tarot. In other words, the Victorians who made occult Tarot, the Waite and Thoth decks being the two most popular examples, assumed for women a secondary and supportive role, even when they claimed otherwise. This was more because in the experience of men, such as Aleister Crowley, women tended not to be very interested in esoteria. Crowley determined this was because women possessed a quality, by virtue of their "natural role" in life, as baby-hatchers, that men both lacked and nevertheless required in some artificial way. In other words, women, according to this view, had no natural need to think or to look at anything very deeply because the surface of life kept them rightly occupied and fulfilled.

Now, you might say "how sexist"!! But think for a moment about the current political situation in the United States, where a whole new class of voters, something called "security moms", has been created, who supposedly care more for the perception of themselves and their children as being protected (mainly by men) from threats (real or imagined), than whether or not the alleged lead protector is a liar and a religious fanatic.

Is there really such a thing as a domain of "security moms"? Or Tarot for women only (or mainly)? And if so, are there domains for men called "esoteric", both in politics and Tarot, where the intellectual underpinnings of surface assumptions are worked out in smoke-filled rooms? Or are all these metaphors and these assumptions misleading and even dishonestly promoted?

My point here is that the very same assumptions that occultists such as Crowley and Papus and Waite had, that women are really neither interested in, nor intellectually capable of, handling the deeper aspects of Tarot occultism, has in fact been the guiding principle that has forged modern Tarot. It is why Stuart Kaplan abandoned any effort to write about or publish serious Tarot books and decks and instead opened the doors to publishing a continuous stream of pop card decks which seem often only nominally to have anything whatsoever to do with Tarot. One way this has manifested is that the occult dogma of decks such as Crowley's Thoth Tarot has been nearly negated in promotion of "intuitive" alternatives, which basically seek to validate individual readers' feelings as superior to insights one could gain from actually studying the ideas of the occultists.

This has certainly afforded more and more people the opportunity to make money in a subject where they would have otherwise been hopelessly challenged to discuss occultism, but it has led the Tarot-buying and -reading public to think they know something (and some particular things) about Tarot, when instead they have simply been sold a bill of very superficial goods.

So, one reason you ask this question "Is tarot a woman's domain?" is because the plan to make you think it is worth asking has worked so very well.
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