Sunday Session Two

Kat Robb “Facing the Dark: Pagans and Terminal Illness”

There are very few resources for Pagans dealing with terminal illness. Robb conducted a survey asking Pagans who deal with terminal or chronic disease how it affects their lives. She got a variety of answers, from “It doesn’t affect me at all” to long descriptions of how priorities and attitudes have changed in response to illness.

“Everybody deals with it differently. It’s like birth.” In many Gaelic cultures it was believed that death was the true birth, and that time on this earth is transitory.

Joan deArtemis and Joseph Greene “Finding the Seeds that Grow in the Darkness: Using the Tarot as a Tool of Healing in Dark Times”

Divination is a part of spiritual care for Pagans.

Joan starts with a brief (modern) history of the Tarot, beginning with the Waite-Smith deck. She describes reading at large events for people who are in some kind of pain, and reading for gay men in the early 80s as AIDS began to ravage the community. She says that Tarot and divination are some ways in which Pagans help each other get through the most difficult times of our lives. In Christianity this is known as pastoral care, but she suggests that “spiritual care” is more appropriate for Pagans.

Psychotherapy works on the interactions between actions, thoughts, and feelings. Different schools or methods approach these interactions from various angles for various goals as appropriate for the patient or situation. In spiritual care the methods are usually cognitively based and focus on the here and now. Supportive therapy, crisis intervention, and solution-focused counseling are the most common methods in spiritual care.

Supportive therapy is conversational and non-confrontive, allowing the patient to talk through the issues. The goals of crisis intervention are to reduce anxiety, increase coping, and mobilize resources. This is a more directive method, so the therapist is more involved in directing the client’s actions and needs (breathing exercises, discovering support systems, etc.). Solution-focused counseling is often very structured. It uses scaling–“On a scale of 1 to 10, how willing are you to…”, etc. “Miracle question”: what would it look like if you woke up one day and a miracle has solved your problem while you slept? The assumption is that the client knows, on some level, what the solution is.

All of these methods are at play in Tarot readings. The miracle question is less emphasized, but there are several points in a reading where the reader can ask the querent similar questions. Joan emphasizes that Tarot as she practices it is not fortune-telling. She doesn’t know the future, but she says that “we all have a sense of our own future,” and Tarot can help us articulate that.

As Pagans we have a different set of mores from the larger Judeo-Christian-based society. Things that we may consider reasonable in some situations (assisted suicide?) may run up against reporting requirements if you are in a professional capacity. Tarot readers should also know their pay grade–spiritual advisors are not mental health professionals.

Tarot uses images and storytelling to accomplish therapeutic goals. Joseph urges people to integrate their spiritual counselors into their professional therapy if it’s appropriate.

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