Expert defends Gen Z's obsession with a spiritual trend: 'It's not a magic trick'

·6 min read

Gen Z has modern technology at their fingertips — therapy via text, virtual doctor’s visits, a portable search engine that can answer any question they’ve ever had — but when times become rocky and unstable, many are seeking out centuries-old iconography in the form of tarot cards.

Thousands turned to the so-called mythical arts during the pandemic, many looking to find some sort of semblance of structure and clarity during (everyone, say it together now) unprecedented times. Forbes reported early in the pandemic that supernatural readings had risen by a whopping 136 percent within the first few weeks of quarantine. 

Compared to other generations, Gen Zers and younger millennials are less likely to turn to organized religion as a spiritual outlet. Christel J. Manning, a sociologist of religion who has spent over 15 years in the field, wrote in 2019 that Gen Z is the least religious generation. In a study by Pew Research, about a third said they had no religion

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The factors for why this is varies from generational changes in upbringing to cultural shifts (Gen Z is considered the most ethnically, racially and religiously diverse generation in the U.S.). Professionals like Manning don’t view the diminishing numbers as a bad thing — one of the upsides she discussed in her 2019 article is the fact that Gen Z is more tolerant than previous generations, perhaps in some part due to their declining religious affiliations. 

Instead, many Gen Zers seem to be looking for answers in astrology, mediums and tarot cards. 

Tarot, in particular, has been completely revitalized by Gen Z’s interest. The practice was first popularized by European spiritualists in the 1800s and later entered American culture in the 1960s. In recent years, tarot was often dismissed as “magical arts,” but Gen Zers — particularly young, Black tarot readers and members of the LGBTQIA+ community — are being credited for its current renaissance. 

What is tarot?

To fully understand what tarot is and isn’t, In The Know spoke to Tatianna Morales, an Afro-Puerto Rican intuitive tarot diviner, ritual practitioner and medium. 

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“What I do with tarot divination is I access someone’s subconscious energies, feelings and emotions through the cards, through storytelling, through iconography and through symbolic interpretation,” she explained. “[I] give them wisdom, direction and clarity on what that person needs to know of.”

Tarot readings are not about predicting the future. Similar to aspects from organized religion, tarot readers believe that everyone has free will and that decisions can sometimes predetermine certain events, but at no point are tarot readers like the fortune tellers you see in movies. A lot of the basis of tarot is helping you confront and process aspects of your life that you already know about.

“It’s a tool for development and personal development and gaining clarity,” Morales said. “[It’s] bringing attention to these areas that you may be oblivious to.”

Can anyone read tarot cards?

So, can anyone simply decide to learn to read tarot cards?

“If you have an inclination to be a diviner — this is not a calling for everyone — but if you want to pick up a deck and implement the activity in your day-to-day life, you’re more than welcome to do that,” Morales shared. “This is a non-denominational practice.”

If you can’t visit a tarot reader or can’t afford to have a private session, plenty of online tarot readers have opened up their knowledge across social media. 

Morales offers daily oracle meditations on her Instagram, and her videos each rack up thousands of views. Tarotist Jessica Dore made a name for herself on Twitter — where she has over 131,000 followers — by posting daily tarot card readings for free. On TikTok, over 8 billion people have watched videos using the hashtag #tarot.

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What does it mean to be a medium?

Mediums who read tarot say they are also able to tap into a person’s ancestral spirits for more clarity.

“Everybody has the capacity to connect with spirits, it’s just dependent on what your upbringing was and whether or not you’re open to your intuitive or psychic gifts,” Morales explained.

Growing up in Black and Latine culture, Morales was introduced to divination and spirituality at a very young age. There was no “aha” moment for Morales — her connection to spirits was just her way of life.

“When people talk about being a medium, they just automatically assume that they’re seeing dead people,” she said. 

Morales described it like this: In her mind, humans have six common senses, and when they tap into their psychic intuition, they can access additional clair senses — clairvoyance (seeing spirits), clairaudience (hearing spirits), clairsentience (feeling spirits), clairalience (smelling part of a spirits’ memory), clairgustance (tasting part of a spirits’ memory) and claircognizance (receiving knowledge or information from a spirit).

How is tarot actually helpful for people?

Morales said that if you are open-minded to the practice and seeking answers or clarity, then tarot is very helpful in “illuminating the guidance” that you may need.

“I have clients from entrepreneurs, healers, psychologists, professors, artists, celebrities, moms and dads,” Morales listed. “This isn’t a magic trick.”

If you’re feeling particularly lost and are not even sure where to start, Morales recommends meditation.

“Meditation is nothing but mindfulness,” she explained. “It’s a dedicated set of time where you are being intimate with yourself and you are actively using your mind to run awareness on parts of your body, aspects of your life.”

Meditation app downloads have been booming since the start of the pandemic, but the total percentage of people who meditate regularly is still pretty low. In 2018, only 8 percent of Americans said they meditated.

“Anyone who is skeptical needs to question why they’re resisting,” Morales said. 

Morales hosts all sorts of classes for those interested in tarot and divination — including a recurring seance and prayer circle exclusively for Black womenand posts more information about them on her Instagram.

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