The Globe and Mail touts tarot readings

August 16, 2021 • 9:15 am

According to Wikipedia, The Globe and Mail (G&M), is regarded as Canada’s “newspaper of record”. Well, I rarely read it, but know from articles that readers send me that, unlike America’s Newspaper of Record (the NYT, of course) it has a mildly conservative slant. But like the NYT, the G&M has a weakness for woo, spirituality, and the numinous. The latest is an article by Liz Worth, a professional tarot card reader who does her readings on Zoom and has a Tarot School (courses start at $500).

Now tarot started as a card game, like bridge or poker, but in recent years has transmogrified into a way to predict the future for gullible people with worries or questions. In this sense it’s like astrology, and tarot readers function very much like astrologers. But the scientific and evidential basis for these two forms of woo is the same: NONE. While I know that scientific tests of astrology have failed, I know of no double-blind (or of any) tests of the efficacy of tarot. My guess would be that there is no way that selecting pieces of cardboard from a stack can tell you about the future, or shed insight on your problems that a good therapist couldn’t do without using cards.

And yet people flock to tarot readers. After the customer shuffles the deck, the reader lays out a selection of cards (“the spread”), whose guide the gullible client towards answers, either about the present or future. As Worth reports in her longish piece (click below to read), while other businesses languished during the pandemic, she was inundated with requests for readings, which she can conviently do via Zoom.

What she writes below is a justification for the woo she purveys to the credulous.

In this article, as with many articles about astrology and woo in mainstream media, the woo-defender doesn’t make a blanket statement that he/she can predict the future. It’s in there, of course, because that’s probably the main reason people consult astrologers and card readers. But readers cover up the predictability aspect with a number of rationalizations: the readings are really about the present, not the future; they help people understand themselves better; and the readers act more as psychologists than woo-mongers, using cards or stars simply as a convenient props to suss out the problems of the clients. But note the article’s title, part of which is “Tarot isn’t JUST about the future”, implying that it’s PARTLY about the future. So it goes.

Here are some statements by Worth to that effect:

Tarot is a collection of ideas, an organic invention that has been shaped by various influencers over several centuries. There is no ownership over it and no singular perspective on what it is for. While the common perception of tarot is that it’s a fortune-telling device, you’ll find many tarot readers who don’t use the cards to predict the future at all. Tarot’s modern iterations are diverse and ever evolving. It shows up in psychotherapy practices, life coaching and yoga studios. It’s been used in conjunction with personality tools like the Enneagram and Human Design. Some people see tarot as a tool to develop your intuition, others see tarot as a visual language.

Nailing down one clear definition is like trying to distill a centuries’ deep history into a sentence or two. What’s best to keep in mind when discussing tarot is that its purpose is not always to look to the future, but also to make sense of the present. Many of my clients come to gain insight about what’s currently holding them back, and what changes in their mindset or behaviour they can make to help shift their lives. Tarot is not therapy, but it can feel therapeutic for many. To divine is a verb, after all, and means to discover a truth through intuition or insight. Divination isn’t just about foreseeing what’s to come, but about seeking knowledge of the unknown, overall. We all have blind spots: If you’re not sure why you keep making the same mistakes over and over again, or you need help finding clarity in a confusing situation, a tarot reading can fill in the gaps.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? It’s not always a prediction device, but often a way of “life coaching” and personality improvement. “It’s not therapy, but it can feel therapeutic.” Well if it’s not therapy, what is it? It sure sounds like therapy—that is, outside the many instances when it’s used simply for predictions. But if it worked, tarot readers wouldn’t be in business: they would have predicted how the stock market would go and made a pile.

But I digress. Here’s more defensive posturing from Worth:

The world of divination is much more than popular depictions of cheesy fortune tellers who make generic promises of fame, fortune and secret admirers. I owe so much of my spiritual development to astrologers, tarot readers, mediums and magicians. [JAC: Magicians???] And having grown up in this world, I know how easy it is to dismiss divination as fraudulent or deluded. Or even flat out evil. To be honest, there are people out there posing as psychics who do run scams on their clients. It doesn’t hurt to have a healthy dose of skepticism when you’re navigating this industry.

But everything requires balance. The beliefs, assumptions and misconceptions about my work – and trust me, this is real work – tend to come from the perception that I just sit down and get grand visions of my clients’ lives. That I see everything playing out like a movie, and will be able to tell them the dates and times they’ll meet their future partners, or get a phone call with an exciting opportunity.

Divination is not omniscient. When people come to me for a reading, I often remind them that they know themselves best. I encourage them to get clear about their values, boundaries and desires, rather than sitting back and waiting for me to tell them what to do.

Tools like tarot and astrology are meant to help people tap into their own coping skills and inner resources, or offer perspectives they hadn’t considered. It’s not about seeing into the future. That being said, sometimes predictions do come true. There is a prophetic element to divination, but it’s not always as clear-cut as mainstream beliefs make it out to be. And we need to remember that there is a whole world outside of ourselves. Many factors shape our lives. The economy, politics, societal norms, technology and more all influence our opportunities, decisions and challenges.

What a swamp we must wade through here? “Yes, there are fake diviners, but I’m not one of them.”  “I’m doing real work!” “The real purpose is to help you ‘tap into your own coping skills and inner resources’, and I also offer ‘pespectives you haven’t considered’.”  No, it’s not about seeing into the future BUT “sometimes predictions do come true.” (Well, sometimes they don’t, which is why claims like this need to be empirically tested). “And other stuff affects your life beyond how the tarot cards fall.”

Here you see the idea that the reader can indeed do predictions, but they’re not perfect predictions. That gives them an out, and a way to pretend that it’s not about prediction at all. It’s the perfect scam: an airtight system that can’t be disconfirmed.

Wait! Here’s a bit more:

Tarot readers aren’t here to build fantasies, but tell the truth of what we see – for better or for worse. Which is why, in my practice, I work to bring people back to themselves first and foremost: What do you need? What’s important to you? What steps can you take to get yourself to a good place? We can’t escape the possibility of job cuts, lay offs [sic] or business closings. Those are part of our reality. But we can focus on managing our fears, and accepting that the future always holds unknown variables – including pandemics.

. . . Intuition is important, but it works best in tandem with common sense. Predictions shouldn’t trump good judgment, and readings don’t replace decision-making or personal responsibility. Nor do they override public-health measures, science or the benefits of good hygiene.

What the hell does hygiene have to do with this? Is this a hint that some clients might have life problems because they don’t wash themselves?

At any rate, if this isn’t being sold as therapy, it sure sounds like therapy. And it may be therapeutic for some people—people who need others to talk to about their problems: “paid friends”, if you will. And that would be okay except for several things:

  1. Tarot is often, or usually, sold largely for its supposed ability to predict the future.
  2. There’s no evidence that it does predict the future.
  3. If tarot readers like Worth are really doing a form of therapy, they are not trained to do therapy. They are trained in how to read tarot cards, which may involved “cold reading” of subjects.
  4. The cards, as with astrological charts, are critical in any therapeutic functions. There’s a word for tarot readers without cards (or astrologers without charts): “unemployed”.

All this adds up to the fact that tarot readers, and other purveyor of woo, are taking money under false pretenses. Psychic services in the U.S. rake in over two billion dollars per year, and that’s a lot of dosh. Well, not many people go broke using these services, so you can say, “What’s the harm?” The harm is that they add up to a lot of money, a lot of fraud and, in the end, the enabling of a form of faith: belief without evidence. It’s religion without God, and it’s an insult to rationality.

And why did the Globe and Mail publish this unpalatable pablum in the first place? What were they trying to accomplish? For one thing is for sure: the article will simply increase the number of people who flock to tarot readers.


Tarot cards: Reader and customer:

Liz Worth:

Liz Worth (source)

h/t: Christopher

22 thoughts on “The Globe and Mail touts tarot readings

  1. … Liz Worth, a professional tarot card reader who does her readings on Zoom and has a Tarot School (courses start at $500).

    Most blatant scam since “Trump University.”

    Caveat emptor, I spoze.

    1. Caveat emptor is good, but false advertising should still be illegal. I didn’t see the standard “for entertainment use only” addendum anywhere, though I guess Canadian law may be different on that.

  2. Now tarot started as a card game, like bridge or poker, but in recent years has transmogrified into a way to predict the future for gullible people with worries or questions.

    Indeed, I have a taroc deck! I’m really not sure which came first though; use for game or use for fortune-telling. If some expert told me the fortune telling came first, I wouldn’t be surprised.

    I also vaguely recall there’s also an old game which is played with a standard deck of cards but where the face cards are used as a 5th trump suit. That could be a sort of attempt to reproduce taroc with regular cards. I also don’t know whether Euchre’s use of the left and right bowers is related or unrelated to this.

  3. Atheist Greta Christina once wrote an insightful essay comparing the mindset of ‘liberal’ religious believers to her own mindset when she used to tell fortunes using tarot cards. There seems to be a form of compartmentalization and self-deception that allows a believer to slide between opposing views, depending on the social context.

    She writes:

    If I was talking with a skeptic, I’d say things like, “No, you don’t need to think of the Tarot as a mystical force to think that it works — it’s designed to work, the cards are designed to be about human experience, it’s just a useful hook to hang a conversation on.” But if I was talking with a fellow believer, I’d say things like, “The cards don’t lie.” I’d assume that the cards were being moved by some unexplained mystical force in response to the question on the table… and I’d do my readings, and carry on my conversations with the people I was reading for, based on that assumption.…

    …the best way I can describe it is to say that my beliefs were slippery; and my justifications for them shifted around depending on what was convenient, and what allowed me to hang onto my beliefs and enjoy them. I didn’t really believe anything that had been demonstrated to be absurd…while anyone was watching. When nobody was watching, I believed some seriously crazy bullshit.

    I suspect Worth is playing this same mental game with herself. That, or she’s a con artist who knows that deceiving others requires knowing how others deceive themselves.

  4. I buy the Globe every Saturday because, by and large, it’s a good newspaper. Last week they published a brilliant article on the Catholic Churchs’ evasion of responsibility concerning their residential school operations. I couldn’t believe they followed it up with this (ta)ROT.

  5. The Globe and Mail, as I’ve said previously, is not conservative. It’s well established as a liberal newspaper. The conservative papers in Canada are The National Post and The Sun. I never hear from the Sun anymore. The far right Nazi paper is Rebel News. CBC is also somewhat left leaning.

    1. I agree …. the Globe is one of the most neutral papers out there. Does not appear to have an obvious agenda as such.

      Interestingly, wikipedia they has a category: Conservative New Media in Canada, but there is no mirror category for Liberal news media.

      1. Yeah I saw that Wikipedia classified it as centre right but I don’t think so it’s much more centrist and if we were using American criteria for left and right, the Globe would be very left and the CBC would be communist.

    2. Distinctly liberal (in the past with a large ‘L’), but like all of us, even those who voted for him, suffering from Justin fatigue. Hence much more centrist that the paper has traditionally been,

  6. Of course there is a tarot card app and a magic 8-ball app for your phone. That would be just as accurate, of course, but I am sure that customers also want human contact and a feel-good conversation.

  7. Despite their access to esoteric knowledge, the Esoteric Community (such as Astrology and no doubt Tarot as well) is burdened by the same desperate issue that afflicts weaving, bird-watching, musical notation, and Human Genetics. The Numinous website reports as follows:

    “When Adama Sesay of Lilith Astrology enquired about writing for The Numinous, she also came with this question: so we asked her to share her views on why mainstream astrology is so white.

    I’ve asked myself this question since I’ve started working professionally in this esoteric community. Why are there so few people of color in the mainstream new age movement? And not just in the astrological space—this is a conversation that’s being had across various modalities; most notably in Yoga. And while things are getting better, I believe we still have work to do.

    … Based back in New York City, I work specifically with womxn as I feel that all feminine identifying individuals need whatever additional validation we can get in a society still doesn’t see us as equal to men. I also happen to be a 1st house Lilith in Leo—my self-expression ruled by the disruptive and unapologetic divine feminine archetype in the zodiac. But it was when I began to look for opportunities to contribute astrological content to media outlets and I noticed a trend—a consistent lack of diversity and representation.

    …My goal with speaking out on this issue is to raise awareness and encourage the inclusion of more astrologers of color. To challenge the mainstream media outlets to become more mindful in their discovery and inclusion of more diverse and alternative astrologers. And, not least because the practice of readers of different ethnicities, races, and expressions of gender and sexuality, will have been shaped by their often-marginalized experiences of being human—helping to create a more inclusive, and healing, astrological landscape overall.”

    1. Why are there so few people of color in the mainstream new age movement?

      So many white jokes, so little time…

      1. Obviously a consequence of solar systemic racism. Consider all those celestial bodies named after figures in Greek/Roman literature, and not a single planet named after Alice Walker.

  8. 1. Tarot is often, or usually, sold largely for its supposed ability to predict the future.

    2. There’s no evidence that it does predict the future.

    3. However, a lot of chicks and gay men are into occultism, and it can serve as an easy way to get in their pants.

    4. If tarot readers are really doing a form of therapy, they are not trained to do therapy, but unlike therapy (which also turns out to be a good way to seduce people), tarot readers have no professional ethics boards or licensure, so it limits the professional blow back when the dew dries from the flower, as it always does.

    Also, because 3., the MSM has suddenly discovered occultism because it sells.

  9. The Globe and Mail, for which I laboured happily many a long year, is, or was, a sort of Red Tory paper. Red Tories, an almost extinct breed replaced by a more rightish brand, was characterized by fiscal conservatism and social liberalism. Thus,Canada had a party calling itself, unironically, the Progressive Conservatives. Rockefeller Republicans would be the US equivalent, a bit less liberal, but equally extinct.

  10. Ugh, being an Ontarian, as soon as I read that jello souffle of an article, which was one long dance-around-the-question-of-what-tarot-card-reading-actually-does-and how, I had to fire off this letter to the editor, if only to get it off my chest:


    Our neighbor to the south has become destabilized by conspiracy thinking and our own country’s pandemic progress is still held hostage to a significant number of scientifically naive, woo-believing anti-mask/vaccine-resistant hold outs.

    We can no longer cohere on “facts” which have become whatever an individual “feels” through his/her “research” on youtube, scientific consensus be damned.

    And yet, even as we collectively suffer the excruciating consequences of unscientific reasoning, when more than ever we need to promote responsible epistemology, the Globe concludes now is the time to promote a major, uncritical article in defense of…Tarot Card Reading.


  11. I’m afraid that most psychotherapy training with the possible exception of simple behavioral therapy in the case of circumscribed phobias is also woo, in the sense of being based on doubtful/outdated theories of mental/emotional/social processes, and coming in “schools” that sell different and partly mutually contradictory versions of therapy and theory. As far as psychotherapy works (really hard to measure reliably because you can’t blind the patients, and it’s hard to find objective outcome measures), it is probably not via the specific mechanisms assumed by the different schools. A major effect seems to come from the actual person who does the therapy (in some large studies with many therapists that control for this, the largest effects are the person effects). Maybe Tarot woo helps just as much (or little), and the mystification is part of what helps.
    Still, I’d much rather see a critical article on psychotherapy than an article touting Tarot.

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