threaten the little children

Another sad commentary on intolerance.

A South Carolina library system has closed down its summer programs for young adults after receiving threats and allegations that it was trying to promote “witchcraft” and “drug use.”

The Pickens County Library System’s half-hour summer programs for middle and high school students were supposed to take a light-hearted look at the topics “Secrets and Spies: How to Keep a Secret by Writing in Code or Making Invisible Ink” and “What’s Your Sign?” Another program was to examine astrology, palmistry, and numerology; and others were to feature tarot cards, tie-dying t-shirts, how to make a Zen garden, and yoga.

Now the programs are cancelled in the wake of phone and e-mail threats from the community, believed to emanate from a single local Baptist church. The astrology program was labeled as “witchcraft” by callers, while the Zen garden and yoga programs were objected to as “promoting other religions.” The t-shirts workshop? “Promotes the hippie culture and drug use,” callers said.

3 Responses to threaten the little children

  1. Oudler says:

    I do not have religious objections to Tarot reading myself, but as a Tarot player, I am disappointed at what appear to be one-sided presentations of Tarot cards only in terms of divination.

    Tarot cards, according to playing card historians, were not originally designed for fortune telling. They were created for playing a type of card game similar to Whist. Tarot card games are still played today in France, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. There also appears to be a small but growing number of players outside Europe.

    If public educational institutions foster the notion that Tarot is only about divination and the occult, then they are not doing the job for which we pay them.

    I think that taxpayer funded institutions such as public libraries and public schools which are designed to educate the public should give equal time to the card playing aspects of Tarot. Tarot is often presented in this country only as something to accept or reject in terms of its alleged accuracy in predicting the future. When other options such as card playing are being supressed, one is not actually free in how one views or uses the cards.

    I must ask why must all presentations of Tarot in this country have to be occult related? Why do we not expose the young people to actual card games played with Tarot decks? Teens should be aware that Tarot cards are not just used for the occult or for divination. We should teach teenagers the rules for Tarot card games too. It is highly possible that young people may come to prefer the card games over the divination practices. They should be given an informed choice. We should educate young people about all aspects of culture including Tarot and not present one sided depictions of these matters.

    I do not wish for these Tarot presentations to be banned or cancelled as they have in some parts of the country, but I do think they should be more balanced by including some information regarding Tarot’s role in the history of card games.

  2. Barbara says:

    It doesn’t look to me as if the library was presenting it as occult. Zen gardens wouldn’t fall into that category, either, and tie dying doesn’t have anything to do with encouraging drug use. I don’t know what they had planned, but it looks as if they were doing a variety of things aimed at capturing the interests of middle schoolers. Apparently public institutions can’t teach anything about tarot, or anything else that some folks consider contrary to their version of Christianity without risking threats to themselves and their patrons.

    By the way, if you read mysteries you might be interested in David Skibbins’ series about a guy who does tarot readings on the sidewalks of Berkeley (and is concealing his past as a wanted member of the Weather Underground). There the tarot stuff is about divination, not game-playing, but that’s largely in the context of making a living at a street stall.

  3. Oudler says:

    What these controversies demonstrate is that there should be MORE and not less Tarot education in schools and libraries. The truth about Tarot is that, unlike other European pastimes, it was never entirely imported into the US. All we have received are interpretations of the iconography of the traditional trump symbolism. In France, Tarot is an actual card game with an official federation for tournaments. It is often played in duplicate form like Bridge. The French use a different kind of Tarot deck with suit symbols similar to modern conventional playing cards.

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