Saturday, June 23, 2007

No Place for Palmistry at the Library

A library system in South Carolina had to cancel their summer program for youths after being accused of promoting witchcraft and drug use, and receiving threats by telephone and email. Their planned program included palmistry and tarot, which didn't sit well with members of a local Baptist church.

School Library Journal: 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.

"If you have an anonymous call of a bomb, what do you do?" asks Library Director Marguerite Keenan, explaining her decision to cancel the YA programs. "You clear the building, you close the building for the protection of the children. And that’s hugely sad."

Keenan says that the stream of threatening 20 or 30 anonymous phone calls, plus e-mails, began two weeks ago. Callers spoke of "picketing" the county’s four libraries and made statements such as "We’re going to get you" and "How dare you?"

1 comment:

Oudler said...

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.