Kids and the occult: what’s your policy?

In my post for the Register about the Black Mass that will be reenacted at Harvard, I included this paragraph:

Satan is real, and he is not fussy. He doesn’t care if you are kidding or not when you call him by name. This is why I tell my kids to stay far, far away from participating in anything occult — ouija boards, tarot cards, etc. — even if it’s just a game.  An invitation is an invitation, and Satan doesn’t stand on manners. You may not see Exorcist-style special effects when the Father of Lies creeps into your life. You may not realize anything has happened to you at all, as the rift between you and God slowly gets deeper and wider.

Predictably, someone responded with this comment:

Seriously? Ouija boards? Tarot cards? What other things made by Parker Bros. are we supposed to be a afraid of? Are the kids not allowed to dress up for Halloween? How worried should we be about that Harry Potter fellow?

A fair question.

As with so many other things, we try to find that middle way when dealing with occult-ish things in our family. We don’t want to be screaming meemies who hide under the rug every time someone says the m-word (magic); but we want to make sure our kids don’t innocently slide into something truly dangerous.

There are three categories of things that raise questions:

Things expressly designed to make contact with spirits other than God or the saints or angels. This includes tarot cards and ouija boards — and just because Parker Brothers is dumb enough to put out a kiddie version of these things doesn’t mean they’re harmless. They are explicitly occult, and, as I said in the Register post, the devil doesn’t care if you are just kidding, or don’t understand what you are doing. An invitation is an invitation; and Catholics are, in fact, expressly forbidden to get involved with this kind of thing, so there’s not much to decide. Listen to your mother!

Things which once had or may have had occult or pagan origins, but have changed or been “baptized,” and now signify something else. The gleeful celebration of Halloween, complete with skulls and bats and gore, falls into this category. My husband and I make decisions about these things on a case-by-case basis, and sometimes decide to pull away from creepy stuff for a while if it seems like it’s having a bad effect on the kids, or if it crosses the line into true perversity. But “spooky” is not the same as “occult,” and the Church has a long history of facing death and fear head-on; so it’s entirely possible to be a good Catholic and still enjoy scary stuff. I talk about this in a few posts: Twofer Costumes for the Conflicted Catholic Family;  Do Brains Break the Communion Fast?    and Twelve Movies to Terrify Your Kids.

Yoga also falls into this category. If it’s just exercise, it’s just exercise, and if it calms you down, super — and I think 99% of Catholics who do yoga are doing fine. If you’re trying to find spiritual enlightenment through yoga, though, I’d be wary. The Church has that covered already. Mind/body stuff is weird. It’s not for nothing that the sacraments use materials we can taste, touch, and smell. What you do with your body means something, so make sure you know what you mean!

Things which deal with or discuss magic or the occult, such as the Harry Potter books. Our kids have read and enjoyed the books. My husband and I read them first, to see what all the fuss was about. We decided that, since none of our kids show any particular attraction to dark or occult things, there was no danger in letting them read about magic — especially since it was a story about goodness and love and such conquering evil and darkness and such. If I had a kid who was easily swayed, and showed an unhealthy interest in magic or new age stuff, we’d probably make a wider berth around Harry Potter (and this would be no tragedy, because the books are not exactly irreplaceable in the canon of western literature).

My son recently wanted to look up Harry Potter curses to beef up a game they were playing. So I said yes, but first we discussed how Harry Potter is clearly fiction, but some people take it more seriously than that, and that they can get drawn into dangerous waters, so we don’t want to get sucked in with them. He volunteered that, if he saw anything that looked at all weird or fishy, he’d shut the window immediately (which he actually does).

Dungeons and Dragons (etc.) is in this category, too. Some of our kids play it with other kids who are decent and grounded, and just want to have fun imagining crazy and exciting stuff. I would not let my kids play it with a group of kids who were fascinated by the occult in general.  You get out of it what you put into it.

People who argue that the Narnia or Lord of the Rings books are dangerous are simply not serious people, and when they want to talk about this stuff, I have to go clean out the lint trap of my dryer, because it’s more edifying.  I have, however, noticed a lot of books aimed at middle school girls which tell the stories of wise girls who understand the ways of the earth and herbs, etc. etc., and harsh, suspicious men, especially clergy, want to quash and oppress them. These are ideas which can seep into young imaginations and wreak all kinds of havoc (and they tend to be stupid books anyway), so I’ve asked my kids to stay away from these. Scorn is a powerful teaching aid.


Overall, we keep a sharp eye out, and reevaluate often what we will and won’t allow in the house. And we talk, talk, talk about it, and try to keep a sense of humor. If parents freak out when kids do something that might be wrong, kids will not go to parents for help when there is something wrong. There is a lot of weird stuff floating around, and kids need to be taught a healthy sense of caution, without making them afraid of the dark.

How about you? How do you handle this in your house? Has your thinking or approach changed over the years?

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  • I’m basically where you are- we did delay Harry Potter until 12+…just because a child is able to read a book does not mean that he/she is ready for it

    • DeirdreMundy

      We said ‘wait until 12’ because while my 10 would be fine with the first 3 books, the later books are a lot more YA.

      • Kate Cousino

        I warned my 9 year old that I wouldn’t allow him to read the later books until he was older. He was undeterred, so I let him read the first three–which he enjoyed, but he says that even the third one gets “kind of creepy” so he’s not fighting me on waiting for the rest.

        • Kate Cousino

          Handing him the Johnny Maxwell trilogy by Terry Pratchett, and the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede, might have something to do with his willingness to wait, as well…

          • DeirdreMundy

            Lloyd Alexander is also fun. And Diana Wynn Jones. And Jasper Fforde’s new YA series seems fun so far….

          • Kate Cousino

            I tried reading my favorite Lloyd Alexander trilogy to my kids…I was halfway through the first book before I remembered just how grim the Westmark trilogy is. I finished it, though, because by that point it was starting a lot of good conversations with my oldest. But, man. Wow.

            Ooh, speaking of magic and the like, I loved Diane Duane’s “So you want to be a wizard” when I was a kid. It didn’t make me think magic was real, but it did make me wish magic was real. It mostly, though, just made me very aware of the constant battle between creation and entropy…almost as good as L’Engle that way.

          • DeirdreMundy

            I love those books!

            For Alexander- some of his folktale retellings are lighter. The Vesper Holly books are goofy fun. And I think Prydain is a better starter series than Westmark. Westmark is too realistic on the revolution thing, I think. (Even though I did love it!)

            I’d have to reread, but I think the Myth, Inc. books were pretty clean and a ton of fun. (And also Phule’s Company)

            We enjoy the Troubletwisters series by Garth Nix at this house. And Percy Jackson, of course, because it’s good, clean , monster-killing fun!

            So far, none of my kids are Wiccan.

            Although– I did pick up a magic book at a renfest once. (Like occult stuff.) I started reading it, got scared immediately, and then hid it on the back of my shelf until I eventually tossed it. It advocated emptying your mind to let things in. Even at 16, I could tell that was creepy and a bad idea.

          • Kate Cousino

            I loved all of those books! And I was so sad to read Robert Asprin’s obituary when he died and realize that I’d lived in the same city as him for three years. Not that I would have done anything if I knew. Maybe written a fan letter. 🙂

    • Barbara Fryman

      God bless you!! So many of my 4th grader’s friends are reading and seeing “Divergent”, which is, just no. I hate the “as long as they are reading, it’s find with me” attitude. I know my daughter resents my decision, but she’s been so understanding so far. I hope I can continue to guide her with her reading choices.

  • Tony G. Pizza

    Placed this on Simcha’s FB page and will here too. A worthwhile book to read when consider whether pop culture with occult or magic-related themes can fit into a Catholic or Christian child’s development.

  • jenny

    I think I agree with everything you said here, this is pretty much how we do things. We delayed HP a bit too, b/c I felt like he needed to understand a few things first.

  • Lindsay Amery Stehno

    Fantastic, and as always, straight forward and sane.Thank you.

  • Danielle

    I agree! Balance and discussion is vital. I let my son read Harry Potter, and we have had many conversations about what “fiction” means. But I have known since I was very young that Ouija boards and Tarot cards are not silly and harmless, but real danger masquerading as “fun.” There are plenty of ways to have fun that are not spiritually dangerous.

  • Barbara Fryman

    I’ll be printing this out. As you stated knowing your kids is really important!!

  • AnnF

    I was always fascinated by magical things as a child and had an Ouija board and even a set of Tarot cards, and of course we always had séances at sleepovers. I grew out of those activities, but in later years one of my brothers became a priest, and we talked about the occult. He said to avoid such things: “You do not know what you are inviting in.”

    Now that I am a parent, the same advice goes. Our boys are well catechized, so no worries about Harry Potter. But no divining allowed.

    Oh, and if you don’t like the occult, then why do you force us to use Disqus?

    • TroubleAtTheMine

      What’s wrong with Disqus?

      • AnnF

        It doesn’t play well with some browsers–windows explorer for example. I always have to switch to Chrome to use it. I cannot log in otherwise. I’m not the only hater.

        • Ginkgo100

          Just out of curiosity… but I’ve never, ever heard of someone before who prefers Internet Explorer to Chrome! Ever! Having designed websites in the past, I would say that it’s almost certainly not Disqus that is not playing nice with Internet Explorer. It’s Internet Explorer that is not playing nice with Disqus. It doesn’t even play nice with HTML/CSS.

          • Asemodeus

            “Just out of curiosity… but I’ve never, ever heard of someone before who prefers Internet Explorer to Chrome!”

            Firefox is the best and anyone who disagrees is a heretic.

          • AnnF

            It’s the default on the laptop, and I have a child with a phobia for certain types of change. Seriously. It’s easier just to pop open Chrome when I need it.

          • Asemodeus

            Then you are just begging for Google to eventually unleash their plans for world domination.

          • DeirdreMundy

            But firefox is evil now! So we all must switch… to another browser run by people who hate conservatives…..

            (I stick with Firefox b/c several of my gigs require it, and it seems to play nice with everyone.)

          • Asemodeus

            Well now, to be fair, conservatives are terrible people.

  • DeirdreMundy

    My kids are young yet, but they are the offspring of nerds, so our general rule is

    -FSF books and games, OK–but I preview the books for age appropriateness and plain old boring.

    -Yoga- ok, because we’re just exercising, but we skip any ‘spiritual’ crud on the DVDs.

    -homeopathic and other pseudomagical medicines: we explain how chemistry works.

    -reiki, enneagram, ouija, anything condemned by the church (including space-monkey fake apparitions)— we run like the dickens, don’t let them near us, and avoid religious orders and groups that dabble in them.

    Also, I don’t read or watch anything about exorcisms, because my husband finds it unsexy when I have nightmares. Though I guess that would be a good NFP aid….

    • James

      Most of the “alternative medicines” are simply taking advantage of the placebo effect, occasionally combined with “hidden” healthy lifestyle changes.

      These magic beans will cure all that ails you. But to make them work, you need to exercise and eat well. Do that and you WILL feel better. I guarantee it. 🙂

      • DeirdreMundy

        Actually, I was reading online (on a government site) that the FDA doesn’t regulate the amount of alcohol in most homeopathics, and that some are pretty strong.

        Which caused me to revise my opinion of them. Not so much ‘placebo’ as ‘grandma’s medicinal brandy.’ No wonder it stops your child’s teething pain! My dad had a miniature bottle of whiskey that did the EXACT SAME THING!

      • There really is no alternative medicine. There is just medicine that has been proven to be effective and there is medicine that hasn’t.

    • Handsfull

      What’s wrong with enneagram?

      • DeirdreMundy
        • Handsfull

          Hmmm… that used a lot of words to say nothing much. I’m still none the wiser!

          • Hegesippus

            And that’s the problem with Gnostic ideas – very slippery and not very easy to grasp. So, without putting th effort in to understand the problems, it is very easy to slide into ‘Well, what harm can it do?’

            Simply? The enneagram is not compatible with a true Christian faith. God doesn’t put you into a category, so you shouldn’t either.

            God bless!

  • I’m pretty much where you are. IF it is in the Catechism then there is no debate. That includes horoscopes.

    I’m a bit more sensitive to somethings because in my family there has been the used of curanderas which is pretty much black magic using sacramentals. It used to be one of my reasons for thinking the Catholic Church was from the devil, but when I learned that the Church teaches that it’s completely wrong, then I realized that most of my family is ignorant to what the Church teaches and not that the Church is evil, if that makes sense. But like you said, the devil doesn’t care if you are just kidding around and that stuff has had a bad effect on my family and even me personally. So, I don’t do some things that are probably fine for others, like hiding green scapulars in people’s things or burying statues of St. Joseph because it is so close to what I know of curanderas.

    Other than that, we take things on a case by case basis. Including Harry Potter and even Twilight and games they can play.

  • CW Betts

    I myself play role-playing games. And honestly it is entirely dependent on the people. Most gamers are just trying to have a good time, others cross into the creepy. I would also say that some games are more problematic than others. Dungeons and Dragons is much more tame than Vampire: the Masquerade or Call of Cthulu.

    • DeirdreMundy

      My husband played Cthulu with his friends as a kid. He said they had to constantly cheat or else everyone was dead in about 20 minutes. This strikes me as a flaw in the game design.

      • CW Betts

        There are several games with a high body count. Cthulu is one. Rifts is another. I think what most critics of D&D miss is the overt statement in the rules that it is a game of heroic fantasy and the players are intended to be heroic.

  • Tori

    This is pretty much our take on it, too. I’m embarrassed to say I wrote a paper in high school about the occult (using a single book as a reference, yikes), which included role-playing games like D&D. But I really knew NOTHING else about it (the game) aside from what I read in that book. Come to find years later that it is really very different than it was made out to be. Now my husband and I play Pathfinder a couple times a month and we’re in the middle of an awesome Gothic horror adventure.

    • Ooh, Pathfinder! How do you like it? My husband has been planning a whatchamacallit (storyline? scenario?) in his spare time for us to play.

      • Tori

        I love it! It’s a lot of fun. We always end up staying up too late those nights, haha.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        Pathfinder is excellent. It’s basically the 3.5 edition for Dungeons & Dragons, only with many elements fixed to balance the game. I wish there were cooler people in my are willing to play. I love RPGs, but unfortunately most people who enjoy them are not very fun people.

        • I’m tempted to set you up on a playdate with my husband. He wants more people to play with, too, but the friends who are interested are too busy (so are we, which is why the game is still in the planning stages).

          • Andy, Bad Person

            If we lived in the same area, I would absolutely take you up on that offer.

        • Kate Cousino

          My brother plays via Google Chat, so it is doable (if not quite the same) over long distances.

          I know what you mean about finding people to play with, though.

    • Ben

      Pathfinder’s a lot of fun! I prefer some of the more streamlined games, though, like Dungeon World or Numenera.

    • Peter Holmes

      After a brief period of denouncing it as devil worship (as an evangelical), I have played fantasy RPGs now for 30 years. Now I run a Pathfinder game for my children once a week! (Pathfinder is the D&D model without the commercial rubbish introduced by Wizards of the Coast).

  • DeirdreMundy

    I fear that we cannot continue this discussion without a link to the time MST3K met Jack Chick in Dark Dungeons:

    • LiveOaksandSpanishMoss

      Classic. Jack Chick is the best if you need a good laugh.

    • Suzanne Emery Andrews


    • The Mystical One

      I came to the comments just to make sure that comic was posted. It probably is the best Jack Chick comic ever.

  • Lydia

    That’s my take, too and pretty much what I grew up with after my family left a slightly fundamentalist Messianic Jewish group. They always took the occult very seriously for a few reasons. My mom, when she was a teenager, had a weird experience with an ordinary ouija board. She was playing with a friend and making fun of it, because she was a cynical type. They got bored and took their hands off of it when the glass moved on its own. It actually darted across the room towards her. So yeah. My dad, after his conversion, got rid of a lot of theosophic/new age stuff, but every time he got rid of a set of tarot cards it came back. He would find it back where it had been. Eventually he managed to get rid of it, but ended up having weird demonic manifestations in his apartment that went away after he went through it with holy water.

  • I would point out that Tarot Cards were originally Catholic. One of your fellow Pelosi did a expose on it a few months ago.

  • Tina

    I had “the talk” with my kids (about that board game, and the other “game” offenders) several years ago after seeing they had started making it in pink to attract little girls. My daughters were scared out of their wits for months. It is certainly a “talk” we must have with our children when they venture out into the world of birthday parties and sleepovers. My girls were freaked out for months.

    I hate to say I love the movie Constantine, and my favorite line is, “Do you believe in the Devil? Because he believes in you.”

  • Dave

    I think what you’ve laid out above is entirely reasonable. I was/am one of those kids who played/plays Dungeons and Dragons (and a host of other pen and paper role playing games [push_up_glasses] [/push_up_glasses]) and mostly played with reasonable, grounded people. I can definitely see and support checking on the group(s) your children are playing with, though, as there are some real nutters out there. This, however, isn’t really any different from checking on your children’s friends in general, though, is it? I don’t have kids, so I’m just trying to speak reasonably about this. (I could be way of base, so feel free to correct me; maybe some parents don’t think they need to worry about who their kids hang out with, as “I’ve raised them right and they know better than to hang around true weirdo,” I suppose is not entirely crazy, but I don’t think it would be my approach; then again, what do I know?)

    I think a lot of it really, ultimately, comes down to each child (shocking, I know). I’ve read books that would probably cause some of my more…extremely strict…religious friends to say I needed to be exorcised or re-baptised (I’m Catholic, last I checked we still don’t do that), but I read them for the fantasy elements and the adventure. I could see the (sometimes-not-so-subtle) subtext of “Church bad” or whatever, but I know people who read Tolkien and Lewis as fantasy and adventure and don’t buy into the clearly Christian/Catholic symbolism in both. It sounds, generally (again, shocking; really, look at me, shocked) that you’re doing a fine job balancing legitimate caution between real, dark powers and lighthearted fun that simply uses magic and the like as a setting.

  • JMB

    I’m a practicing Catholic as well as a 200 hour registered yoga instructor in Vinyasa Flow yoga. Nothing makes my eyes roll more than when people (who’ve never stepped foot on a yoga mat, taken a class or been inside a yoga studio) tell me that it is a form of religion, or better yet, the occult. Thanks for being even handed, Simcha. Yes there are some kooky yoga teachers and studios out there, but the majority of yoga that is practiced today is a form of exercise (asana) that is a series of quick paced callisthenic movements aligned with breath. Contrary to being an ancient form of exercise, it was derived in 1930s and 1940s as an off shoot of gymnastics and body building. An excellent reference is Mark Singleton “Yoga Body The Origins of Modern Posture Practice”.

    • AnnF

      I love Yoga. If there’s ever any meditation involved, my “place” is Eucharistic Adoration. I had one teacher who was a little too eastern for my taste, so I dropped her class. The New Age-y ones I can tolerate, but many I’ve experienced are normal folks who are all about the exercise.

      • I once had a new agey instructor tell me what a wonderful connection I had between my body and my mind, how spiritual my practice was. That amused me, because I see and treat yoga as a purely physical exercise.

        • DeirdreMundy

          Well, your body and mind (and soul) ARE connected, since we’re physical creatures and can’t chop ourselves into bits.

    • tt

      I would be shocked to find very many teachers who aren’t preaching the spiritualism. My sister-in-law is a “certified” yoga teacher as well (she didn’t finish the hours but the person in charge traded her some stuff from her other business for the certificate instead of making her finish–so I’m not sure I trust the certifications either). She has Hindu statues and a Buddha in the studio. She preaches about the “mind-body-spirit” balance only yoga can provide. Her classes include poses to the gods/goddesses of the season. And every other class I’ve ever been to has been the same. “Namaste” does not mean something Christian. Plus the teachers I know are deeply committed to the pseudoscience and think they can diagnose and cure medical problems. I would not want my children exposed to this kind of spiritualism or pseudoscience. Why not pilates if you want to exercise in that manner?

      • JMB

        I’m sorry to shock you but there are zillions of yoga studios, gyms, schools, recreational centers, hospitals and Ys that offer yoga classes. If you can’t find one that’s not “spiritual” you are not looking hard enough. Pilates is an off shoot of yoga and offers similar benefits – improved posture, stretching and strengthening, however the reformer machines are expensive compared to a mat and a few blocks. I think that most people chose their exercise based on convenience and cost. There is a reason why yoga and spin studios are popping up all over the place and pilates places are not. Besides, yoga is a lot of fun. Do you have a problem with Soul Cycle as well? Is it ok to be “New Agey” on a bicycle seat but not on a mat?

        • tt

          And in my town, the same people preaching at the Hindu/Buddhist/New Age soaked studios are teaching at the rec center and the Y and trying to get into the public schools to bring the message of “centering” to 100s of impressionable children.

  • jen

    We had a family fundraising thing in my husband’s last parish where people would sponsor a table along a specific theme and I was asked to do the children’s table one year. I decided to do a Harry Potter theme and was perusing Amazon.Com to see how much chocolate frogs and stuff were when I got a phone call from one of the organizers.

    The gist of the phone call was that a few members had gotten wind of my plans and were afraid of what people would think if there was a Harry Potter table at a church function.

    What I wanted to reply: “That we can tell the difference between reality and fiction?”

    What I did reply: “Oh sure… no problem. I can change this.”

  • Victoria Lynn

    How about that “This is so cute and harmless and cool kid” packaging on the ouija board!? Yikes.
    No. Never. We’re still new Catholics – came into the church together 5 years ago and we take our Mother’s word very seriously.
    I used to be a Buddhist and do yoga and know exactly how the slippery slope of evil and despair can completely wreck your life. It really is only by God’s grace that I’m even reading this post as a Catholic today.
    Yoga- specifically, in my opinion should be in the list with ouija and all things occult. It is not a Christian practice and never will be. It is a Hindu multi-theistic practice that has no room for God because it is designed for the self. Enter despair. If you want calming exercise and meditation, there are plenty of options; Pilates and Christian meditation to name a couple. Satan is real, and never sleeps.

    • tt

      Thank you! This is what I see with my sister-in-law’s teaching and practice. And I see her sucking in a lot of practicing Catholics including a deacon’s wife who signs every FB post with “namaste” now.

  • Ben

    I agree with the Ouija boards, but Tarot cards are actually an interesting case. They originated in the 15th century as just a deck of playing cards, and were never used for divination until late 18th century. In fact, many of the trump cards are filled with christian symbolism. You find all sorts of writers claiming that they represent ancient knowledge, but this is hogwash. Our modern deck of playing cards is just an adaption of the tarot deck, with the trumps taken out. Now, it’s certainly true that using anything for divination is wrong, and there are some editions of Tarot decks with occult imagery, clearly intended for that purpose. But in themselves, their just a tool for playing games. Some early decks are quite beautiful. See more:

    • Mostly in agreement here. However I must add that the standard playing card deck is not actually derived from Tarot. This is a common myth that I myself believed at one time. The standard playing card deck actually precedes the creation of the Tarot. The Tarot deck was created because a clever Italian added extra cards to what was then the standard deck.

  • I agree with all of this! Let’s just educate ourselves and be reasonable. (Most Christians who denounce Dungeons & Dragons have no idea that it’s basically the exact same game as a lot of quest-based video games they’d let their kids play… only without the screen.)

    • DeirdreMundy

      And with more education in probability!

      • Kate Cousino

        Group story-telling. Or, if you’re talking to a Tolkien nerd, you call it “group sub-creation.”

    • Asemodeus

      Christian hysteria over D&D is awesome. Anyone that has actually played D&D will tell you that 95% of the time the party of adventures that are represented by the players, are good doers off fighting evil. It is done this way since it promotes group unity and keeps the game flowing. If you have a party of evil sociopaths you’ll eventually end up team killing. Always.

      If anything, D&D promotes responsible character development, especially if the DM sets up interesting morality puzzles.

      • Kate Cousino

        Heck, yeah. The most aggravating game I played was one where a single player insisted on a chaotic neutral alignment. Which basically just made his character a slippery, unpredictable, unreliable, and borderline insane ass. We were all–including the player, I think–relieved when that character was killed off after only a couple of gaming sessions.

        Most of the group was lawful neutral or chaotic good (one lawful evil, which is always an interesting alignment), but by the end of the campaign, everyone’s alignments had shifted further towards the ‘good’ side of things. Our DM was a stickler for character gameplay, so if you played out of character you either had to change your gameplay or allow an alignment shift. As you say, it’s easier to keep a team together if you’re mostly all good.

        And the best character in the whole dang thing was the NPC paladin who sacrificed himself at the peak of the story arc to save the rest of the party. Man, that Christ-like imagery gets in *everything,*

        • Asemodeus

          My favorite movement as a DM was when I presented a puzzle to the party. They were traveling the underdark and had them defeat a drow outpost for laughs. Letting them loot the place and move on to the drow city that the outpost was protecting.

          The puzzle was that there was a paladin in the party, which gives off a good aura that any half baked drow can pick up and properly arrest the crap out of if he tried to enter the city. He cannot turn it off, and nobody could hide it, and they couldn’t just leave him outside either.

          I eventually had to give them the solution. Which was to dress him up as the parties slave and present him as such to the drow. Luckily for them, the drow leader in the previous outpost just happened to have plenty of BDSM gear on them, as the party proceeded to gimp suit up the paladin and walk him into the drow city openly.

          We all laughed for a solid ten minutes afterwards.

  • Jo

    Have you seen Thomas MacDonald’s series on the real history of Tarot cards? I still stay away from them, but it was really enlightening as to their real, non-occult origins:

    • A excellent series. I still wouldn’t let Tarot cards into my house. The association is too confusing for adults much less kids.

        • Hard to see the details. Maybe… Like I said, I have small kids. I think I’d have to approach the discussion about why some Tarot is ok and other Tarot is not, the difference between using cards for a game and for fortune telling. That’s a discussion my kids aren’t old enough for yet, so I’m dealing with a hypothetical I can’t answer firmly one way or the other. I wouldn’t want my possession of a deck that was not associated with the occult meanings of Tarot to become in someone’s mind a sort of tacit assent to the other, if you know what I mean. When I was younger I picked up books off my parents’ shelves, assuming that if they were there then they were safe and wholesome. But I got into some stuff I should probably not have seen until I was older and better formed in the teaching of the Church, especially on matters of sexuality. Because of the potential for misunderstanding, I think parents need to exercise prudential judgment.

    • Why stay away from them if they are not authentically “occult?”

  • Angelie Roth

    “Books aimed at middle school girls which tell the stories of wise girls who understand the ways of the earth and herbs, etc. etc., and harsh, suspicious men, especially clergy, want to quash and oppress them.” Yes! Although actually, I’d be more worried about the kids (hypothetical for me, at this point) gravitating towards bad writing. Two things I think really shaped my upbringing and relationship with the occult: we didn’t have ouija boards or other paraphenalia in the house, and we did have a copy of “Begone Satan”, which was a case study of an exorcism. Anything slightly smacking of occult or the demonic gave me the screaming mimis.

  • Melissa Hunter-Kilmer

    It’s kind of like drinking, I think. Some people can knock back a beer or three and have no problems at all. Others just can’t stop.

  • Anna Pohlgeers Stenken

    When I was in college and on a search for God and truth, I stumbled into the occult. During this time, I felt like a black cloud hung over my entire life. It was very wearying. Thankfully, I had a conversion experience which compelled me to learn more about my Catholic faith and to return to it. I have read many books by Catholic exorcists who proscribe all of these things…Tarot, Ouija, Harry Potter, yoga, Dungeon and Dragons…because they are not spiritually harmless. As you say, the devil isn’t too picky about proper invitations and will use any opportunity to get in. He is very legalistic and whether or not you are inviting him in purposefully, you are opening doorways that are very hard to shut. I have heard many priests who are active in spiritual warfare also denounce these things as very dangerous. Having read many books by former occultists who say that these things really are dangerous spiritually has convinced me not to allow my kids to engage in these things. Our world is darkening we need to encourage our kids to help it along on this path?

    • There appear to be two camps in the Catholic side of the argument– the people who argue for a judicious rejection of the clearly dangerous things like ouija boards, etc. but allow leeway for things like Harry Potter as a work of pure fiction bearing no actual resemblance to the practice of witchcraft, the use of yoga as an exercise in strengthening and flexibility, etc.

      The other camp insists we must steer clear of all of it, all of it, and why would we ever even risk such exposures for the sake of reading a book or engaging in an exercise? (This second camp, based on my totally non-scientific observations, seems to be populated by all the Catholics who previously dabbled in the occult, plus certain others.)

      A possible explanation: I’m wondering if there aren’t some things, like the ouija board as the most obvious example, that would correlate to a real-world poison like arsenic or strychnine. Lethal across the board, even if you honestly think it’s harmless. And if there aren’t other things, like yoga, that largely bother the people who are especially wary of the occult *because of prior exposure*, which might correlate to a real-world allergen like peanuts, a harmless snack for some, and a life-threatening, well, poison for others.

      Those folks aren’t being hyper-paranoid for avoiding peanuts or yoga, they’re doing exactly what they need to do to protect themselves. But that doesn’t therefore mean that everyone, everywhere needs to avoid consuming peanuts, or employing yoga for physical fitness purposes.

      • DeirdreMundy

        There’s a third group– Catholics who’ve fallen in with certain stripes of protestant fundamentalists, and who adopt their worldview because ‘stricter must be better.’

        At least in homeschooling circles, that’s a pretty big group.

        • Netmilsmom

          And preying on that third group are the “ministries” that cash in on them. Big money to be made selling books on how to get rid of curses and heal diseases by “prayer”. They stick a few references to the Eucharist, Our Holy Mother and a ‘seer’ and suddenly you have a new form of Catholic superstition.
          Better to stick with the Saints and actually Vatican teaching.

          • DeirdreMundy

            I’ve noticed that the ‘intergenerational curse’ thing has gotten really big.. I don’t really understand it…

          • ^^^THIS! Explain this! I can totally see that there will be behavioral patterns and trends in family trees– being more or less prone to substance abuse, anger management issues, depression, etc… But this is a horse of a very different color and strikes me as not compatible with the Catholic understanding of things.

          • Netmilsmom

            Exactly. Those of us who lived through the 90s as adults all remember the New Age Catholic practices. A couple of us have been trying to warn the people who are into the Generational Healing “ministries”, but a fool and his money are soon parted.

  • Ginkgo100

    We’re pretty much on the same page… Jimmy Akin made a video a little while back talking about how “drama” is an essential part of storytelling, and tension and scary things are an essential part of drama. (The Bible’s Author knows that.) I used to play occult-themed role-playig games myself… they were just games with no connection to the “real” occult. Ouija boards and tarot cards, OTOH, involve actually calling upon occult powers, and whether or not they’re marketed as toys, they’re not safe to mess with!

    • Steve

      Both aren’t nearly as interesting as you would think.

      Tarot was used to play actual card games for hundreds of years before anyone though to use it for fortune telling.

      Ouija was entirely invented by the Parker brothers. This is the same company that invented The Transformers. Not mystical.

      They’re just stupid toys that people think have mystical powers. I can say that typing comments on an internet blog is a way for me to harness the powers of hell, that doesn’t make commenting occult, it just makes me an idiot.

  • captcrisis

    Children who are taught “sanctifying grace” and “transubstatiation” as if they are magical, mysterious things are more likely to be attracted to other kinds of magic.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      But only if those children abandon all reason and can’t make distinctions between two things.

  • Steve

    Look, I really have to say, I do not believe that Ouija boards have any kind of supernatural power. It’s just idiots moving a lense across a board.

    And it’s much newer than we think:

    • Lydia

      Parker Bros did first commercialize it, but the idea/method of it goes back to the theosophists of Madame Blavatsky’s circle. There was a hell of a lot of sketchy stuff going on with that and it is, essentially, a form of conjuring, which we Catholics are not allowed to do.

      • Steve

        Did you read the article I linked to?

        The supposed early forms of Ouija were not really like Ouija. Even if they were, it wouldn’t have any power at all. None of those things hold any power.

        • Kate Cousino

          The things don’t. The intentions and invitations issued by the people using them–who, typically, are only interested in them *because* of the supernatural appeal–does have a kind of power.

          • Steve

            If that was possible, you can be damn sure that I would have used and abused that power like a maniac. Unfortunately, Hell doesn’t have that kind of power no matter how much anyone wishes it did, so you don’t have to worry about a Dark Lord Steve conquering the western hemisphere with black magic.

        • Andy, Bad Person

          Because Cracked is a reliable source of information?

          • Steve

            Did you not read any of the links within the article? Those are pretty important, might want to check them out.

  • elkav

    I dont’ understand the fear of a lot of new age things. I first read of Lavenders ability to help one sleep in new age articles. Science has since come to accept aromatherapy as, well not necessarily mainstream but acceptable. Should I get rid of my lavender sleep pillows, soaps, lotions etc because some people consider this secret ancient witch/pagan knowledge?

    The tarot cards were initially a card game. It wasn’t until the 18th century that a group of people decided they were mystical fortune telling cards and codified meanings for each card. That is like saying your kids Old Maid cards, should somebody in 300 yrs decide that the picture of the cat means this and the picture of the old lady mean something else, are works of the devil.

    • Kate Cousino

      Well, it all depends. If in 300 years someone is using Old Maid cards to attempt to invoke spirits of divination, even in ‘play’, then I’d say there’s a danger there.

      Or have you *ever* met anyone who owned Tarot cards for any reason other than that to play at divination or for effect because they are ‘spooky’?

      • Kate Cousino

        That is to say, I don’t think there’s something inherently dangerous in the cards. But there is something inherently dangerous in the intention or mindset that commonly goes with purchasing or using the cards.

        • elkav

          Ah I saw your follow up. For the record I have never ever considered using a Ouija board because to me that is expressly about making contact with spirits. I find the thought of using one distasteful. I also do not read horoscope or anything like that. But with tarot cards I honestly believe they are a tool … because the cards are so full of tiny details our subconscious picks up and makes connections between the cards for us to come to an understanding of where we are at.

          Not to be too heretical but when reading the Bible, especially with friends, I have noticed that we get different things out of the same passage depending upon where we are at emotionally. A friend and I recently did this with the parable of the mustard seed… what does this passage mean? No matter how small and insignificant we believe ourselves to be you never know how you are influencing/helping others so do your best? Or does it mean remain humble and meek and you will flourish in God’s kingdom? Or does it mean, depending upon who is receiving your words and examples, it may or may not spark faith {the sandy vs rocky vs rich soil}… Or does it mean depending upon your character how does faith work throughout your life…are you a fair weather Catholic where your faith can blow away at troubles or is it something you were taught as a young child but it got strangled by societal influences or is it something that even if you aren’t aware of is growing steadily and providing a basis for all the things that come into your life?

          More likely the parable means all of these things and more I haven’t thought of but depending upon where you are at you will read what you need to read out of it at any given time. That is the power of parables.

      • elkav

        actually yes I myself own Tarot cards for the artwork. Before you scoff Kat Black had two decks out. The first The Golden Tarot is collaged out of artwork from Medieval and Renaissance period and the second The Touchtone Tarot uses artwork from Renaissance and Baroque period. I also have decks that are artist interpretations of the deck and chosen purely for aesthetics as opposed to darkness or ease of ‘reading’. Kat Black herself is a Christian and refers to the early decks coming from Catholicism and the symbolism therein {the Pope for example is one of the cards in older decks since replaced by Heirophant aka wise man and more ‘occult-y or new age-y’ if you want.}

        I know of several people who own decks because of artwork and not because they believe they are tools for divination. Including a well known tarot deck shop owner with whom I spoke to for a long time about how she got into the business…. she started as a collector of decks. Very few of the decks I own are considered good reading decks by tarot enthusiasts.

        Secondly although I rarely pull out my decks, maybe once every year or two, I use them as meditation tools. I do not in any way shape or form believe I am speaking to spirits/angels/false gods etc nor do I believe that they inform my future. Rather, by meditating upon a randomly drawn set of cards, I feel that my subconscious might see different things within the symbolism of the cards and help me to clarify my thoughts on an issue.

        The last time I did a reading was in Aug of last year. I go to church regularly and often seek solace in the church teachings and pray the Holy Spirit will aid me in being a more patient, loving etc parent/wife. The 3 cards I pulled FWIW were the king of hearts aka emotions, the 8 of coins which is often read as being overwhelmed with work and an upside down lovers card which, in retrospect, was a good representation of feeling frazzled due to the 5-7 children I tend to. By drawing and reflecting upon the cards I felt that I was able to clarify being burned out by responsibilities and that the primary relationship which helps me deal day to day was amiss since I wasn’t paying much attention to it. There is no future predictions anywhere in that reading merely a half hour on reflecting upon what was laid out in front of me and using it to figure out what was going on with me. Much like journaling. Although I suspect any person who really believes that tarot cards are evil will have stopped reading when I started with I own some so the differentiation in how many people use the card might not be understood.

        • I use Tarot for its original gaming purpose and taught others to play the games. The game of Tarot is still practiced in countries such as France, Austria, and Italy

  • Suzanne Emery Andrews

    My policy is very similar to yours. Nothing directly satanic or occultic, and other things on a case-by-case, child-by-child basis. How do I avoid those books you mention toward the end, is there a particular series that leans that way?

    • DeirdreMundy

      As much as I enjoy Tamora Pierce, she falls squarely into that category, I think. And I wouldn’t let a preteen read her. Plus, she has way too much ‘hygenic sex.’ As in, the heroine goes out, gets a contraceptive, and then sleeps around without it having any consequences for her relationships. Like pooping, but with two.

      • Kate Cousino

        And a fair bit of Ursula La Guin is of that stripe, too. I will always love the Wizard of Earthsea (though the third book gets…strange), but picking up any of her other books always feels like a crapshoot.

        • DeirdreMundy

          Robin McKinley also had a few duds, IIRC… So, again, the key is to preview. I think around 16 or so, I’ll give up and say ‘the world of books is your oyster!’ But for now, with a precocious 10-year-old, it’s a matter of remembering that just because she CAN read something, doesn’t mean that she SHOULD at this point.

  • Lydia

    My mom let us dress up for Halloween, but never as witches or the like, and let us read Harry Potter so long as we understood it wasn’t real.

  • bob

    But Tarot cards and ouija boards are no more “expressly designed to make contact with spirits” than your kids’ Operation game is designed to train them to do surgery. These things are toys. Make believe. Nothing more or less.

    When you say “expressly designed,” you mean, what? At some point in history? These things are made in a factory in Ft. Wayne or Tallahassee, probably by blue collar Catholics. They don’t have any special powers.

    • silicasandra

      But the kids playing “Operation” know that the “patient” is fake. Lots and lots of people play Ouija or tarot thinking they will (or could) actually make contact with spirits. My mother, who is not religious, had a really creepy experience playing with a Ouija board growing up and never permitted us to have one. Before she played it, she never thought it would do anything and that the friends who tempted her to play were just being stupid, so she thought she’d “show them.” Those friends were inviting a spirit to speak to them in this way. God doesn’t speak to us that way – so who’s going to fill that void?

      • bob

        My mother had a bad experience with a cat when she was a kid and was afraid of them ever after. This does not mean cats are evil. Individual weird experiences that people have with thing are evidence that they had a weird experience. And that’s all.
        The people who think they can contact spirits with a ouija are wrong. They can’t. Or if they can it has nothing to do with the ouija. They could just as easily contact a spirit with an old slipper or their TV remote.
        This is just silly superstition and that, frankly, is what we should teach our kids.

  • LeticiaVelasquez

    Trouble is Simcha, most parents aren’t as vigilant as you and your husband, my dear mom a devout Catholic allowed me a Ouija Board, and used horoscopes, not to mention what other occult nonsense we did at camp outs with the Girl Scouts at nine years old! She was a leader, but no one understood the harm we were opening ourselves to as no one was saying this in the seventies. Few are today, but thank God for the Internet where you can inform us. And YES, I did have a close encounter, the glass table in my bedroom split in two by itself, sending me screaming downstairs!

  • kenofken

    I can offer a few observations from the other side of this issue. I, and most others I work with closely don’t consider Tarot to be spirit work or conjuring of any kind. The cards are just a medium of symbolic language to help express ideas and observations from our unconscious mind during a reading. I don’t see divination as a way to “foretell the future” as much as a natural way to help see the “big picture” of the present and the trends that are set, but not set in stone. That said, if your faith bars you from engaging in divination, don’t do it.

    Ouija is spirit work, or can be, but it’s usually an amateurish and unproductive, and yes, potentially unsafe way to do it. It’s like randomly calling public phone booths, or in modern parlance, speaking to strangers in chatrooms. Many won’t respond, most aren’t too bright or worth speaking with, and a few are psychos. Spirit work, if it is to be done at all, is best done with the right training and with particular spirits like ancestors. It’s not, to us, inherently evil, but neither is it a game or something to be played at.

    Dungeons and Dragons – that one’s just ridiculous. I’ve been playing with a group of my friends since high school, so going on 30 years. It had nothing to do with my “occult” involvments, and apart from me, the rest of that group is the most solid bunch of Catholic guys you’d ever meet. Our DM, who I love like a brother, is so Catholic he made Pope Benedict look like a liberal hippie! I think he’s actually Opus Dei, or his wife’s family is. Likewise with Harry Potter. Just fantasy stuff, and the story line is full to the brim of Judeo-Christian values.

  • The original and arguably true purpose of Tarot cards is not to communicate with spirits, fortune telling or any occult purpose but to play a type of trick taking card game still played today mostly in European countries. The traditional Tarot symbolism is mostly rooted in Catholicism. As I’m not a Christian, I’m neutral about occult Tarot although I’m skeptical of the ability of cards or of anything else to predict futures. My principal interest in the Tarot is in the games for which the cards were originally intended as I’m one of the few American players of them
    Thomas L. McDonald, a Catholic and an editor of Games magazine, has written an excellent series of articles on the topic on his God and the Machine blog.