Tarot Bots and AI Readers

Has tarot been outsourced to our phones? Is a “tarot reader” as antiquated as it sounds, a profession best left in the days of yore, before reason, materialism, and “trust the science”? Apparently tarot is more in demand than ever, or so I gather. More people are buying decks than ever, and rarely do I visit someone’s home without seeing a deck or two- and not just my magical friends. Of course these days I rarely visit someone’s home at all- but that’s another matter.

Do we really need tarot though? Should we just treat all of these decks like cultural curiosities, collectors’ items, etc?

How many decks do we need? How many tarot readers does the world need? It’s like yoga, everyone I know in Palm Springs who does yoga is either a yoga instructor or becoming one or thinking of becoming one. It’s a trope, and obviously an exaggeration. Lots of people do yoga and have no actual desire to become a teacher. Lots of people have tarot decks and have zero inclination of becoming a professional reader. I have done a ton of reading for people in public and have toyed with the thought of “going pro”, even setting up a website for it (100 bucks down the drain!). Then I hit a wall. Really I hit a couple of walls. Firstly the pandemic went on a good deal longer than anticipated, and a year from creating the website the world is still not safe for in-person readings. I could have done email readings, of course, but that’s not what I do, or did, rather. 

You see, the way I did readings was to get a good buzz on and read for friends and strangers at bars and parties. Man, was I good too. People would line up, especially since it was free- not that I would turn down a drink for my efforts. Now that my life is different and I don’t get that Dionysian out-of-body experience from drunk-reading anymore, I have had zero interest in picking up cards to read anyone. When I have played with a deck, or even tried to remember the meanings of cards, I have felt a disconnect. This is true with any “magical” thing I have tried sober. It’s just not “there”, anymore. I’ve lost my mojo. It makes me wonder if it was ever “me” with any of these abilities or if I just let something else in all of these years. It could just be that the pathways need to be rerouted. Maybe I have just outgrown all of this “silly magic stuff” and should just grow into the mystic I have always daydreamed of being instead- more Hebrew, fewer “barbarous names”.

I still love tarot though. Despite its becoming overly popular, despite feeling it’s left me behind, I still think the deck, any deck, is a powerful tool. I am working on bringing it back into my life, as my life is constituted now, and look forward to feeling confident reading again someday soon. I don’t want to leave tarot behind the way I have walked away from spellcraft and sigils and other assorted tools of the mage (for now at least). Actually I am confident I will come out the other side a better reader- that this time is for me the magical equivalent of the “Dark Night of the Soul”. Until then I use my phone for daily pull. 

That may sound strange, since I am effectively a Luddite with a blog, who eschews most apps and social media and whatnot. But I was turned onto Golden Thread’s app, and it has a daily pull feature that I have found quite useful (while I do recommend the app, I am sure there are others that work similarly and I have no connection to the venture). I am finding the daily pulls on my phone, which I gather are decided by a random number generator, to be spookily accurate to my situation most days. It’s at least as useful as my previous manual daily pulls, and even easier. [My one complaint is that the logging system could work better, it would be nice if it kept a longer log. One could always use a journal of course and not be lazy, but I journal enough, dammit!]

Here’s the conclusion you could probably guess I already made before I started writing- no, phones will not replace tarot readers. The world “needs” tarot readers for the same reason we “need” bartenders- sure, you could do it yourself, it’s not like being your own doctor or lawyer, but you’re better in the hands of a professional. Just like tending bar, when you get a connection with the person you’re reading for, the experience is better for everyone. There is an energy exchange. We also need more decks. There is no reason to stop making decks. Make decks that speak to you, clutter the world with decks. Make decks that help create the world you want to see. Your phone won’t replace your favorite deck, or your favorite reader. That doesn’t mean it’s not a powerful tool for divination. There is something of the spooky in random number generators. As there is no such thing as random (every event has been caused by something), it’s my belief that there are no random numbers- you’ll see patterns in the short term even if they disappear in the long run. There is something magical about this computing function, and if you don’t believe me, a quick internet search will turn up some interesting studies. So be a good magician and use the best tool for the job, whether that be analog or digital, it’s still magic after all.

And maybe I will pick up a deck today after all..

Blessing Your Devices? Yes!

The computer is a magical tool. The smartphone is the magical tool of the moment. Don’t believe me? Chances are you got riled up today seeing something on that screen today. I know I did. That’s magic. Try doing that to millions of people with a wand and a cup and a pentagram. It may seem like chaotic and malicious magic, and it certainly is, but someone is benefiting from every click. So why don’t many of us bless our computers and smartphones?*

Let’s build an easy blessing..

I generally work in a Catholic grandma meets Western Occult wizard framework, with enough Chaos punk ethos to strip things down to the base necessities. So I am going to start with the basic necessities here. Computers, smartphones, and the internet are all under the umbrella of communication and thought, so Mercurial spirits seem like a good choice. I do the occasional hymn to Hermes, so I will open with that, but feel free to open with anything that seems right. I am going to use the day and hour of Mercury, because I like the shorthand of planetary day and hour. I will close with a Raphael prayer, both for his Mercurial and healing aspects. One could certainly make a case for the other Archangels too, so if that’s your bag go right ahead, but really any prayer of thanks should work.

A basic procedural framework might look like this. Light incense appropriate for Mercurial spirts, or frankincense, candle, glass of water, or other offerings of your preference. Start with an opening prayer or evocation, wave the devices over the smoke saying something along the lines of (using unnamed spirits to keep it universal*);

“Spirits of protection, Spirits of Healing, make this device, this tool, this portal, safe for me, and for my Peace of Mind. Help me to keep my Equilibrium in the sea of things meant to distract me from my Work. Spirits of Communication, help me to express my Thoughts in a way that will be understood and not judged unfairly, and help me do the same for the thoughts of Others. Spirits of Commerce, help my financial ventures thrive in the online marketplace, and make my purchases true. Spirits of Mischief, turn your eyes elsewhere, and do not deceive me through this device. Spirits of Wisdom, guide me always.”

Say it three times over each device. Close the ritual with a prayer, thanking the spirits for their help in the matter. If you work with saints, you could try St. Isadore of Seville, St. Anthony of Padua, or you can be hip and petition Carlos Acutis, who is reportedly on the fast track to becoming the official patron saint of the internet. I don’t know about you, but I want that kid in my corner. Happy travels online, since that’s the best we can do right now anyway

*I got the inspiration to do this from listening to a recent episode of the “Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole” podcast, so only fair to give a little credit

*Thanks to Six Ways by Aiden Wachter to open my eyes to using abstract spirits rather than named spirits for things like this