TWH – The dramatic shift of New Age mogul Doreen Virtue toward Christianity and away from many of her previous teachings on the use of tarot and channeling has some of her former followers crying foul. While some feel personally abandoned at losing their spiritual mother, others say it’s her responsibilities as a teacher that she has failed to uphold.“There’s been a feeling of, I don’t even know, a feeling of sadness, of loss and grief, and…the word betrayal kind of came to my mind,” Andrew Barker says in a tearful video posted to YouTube.
Barkers says, “Doreen Virtue has played a really big part in my life and…she has been such a spiritual parent to me guiding me helping me and teaching me a lot of the things I need to know to help other people. There’s a certain fear that comes with everything she’s done because all of the classes I’ve taken from her, and I’ve given Hay House and Earth Angel a lot of money. It’s kind of diff for me in a way to think about the validity. I know that those classes really, really helped me…but in the back of my mind sometimes I wonder, was it even real?”
Virtue, the Hay House author of more than 50 books, angel oracle cards, and tarot decks, offers several types of spiritual counseling programs to become a Certified Angelologist, Angel Therapy Practitioner, Angel Intuitive, and Fairyologist through her Earth Angel brand. Her works have been translated widely offering information on channeling and mediumship, angels, fairies, and various faiths including Hindu, Celtic, and Native American deities.
Since February 25, 2017, when she was baptized in the Episcopal Church, her writings have focused on Jesus and scripture while she has openly repudiated the foundations of her former teachings and called for her followers to no longer go to other people to develop their relationships with God.
Critics say Virtue has made millions off people through her products and donations following her to learn how to be the conduits she is now denouncing. Though she talked about becoming a born-again Christian on her Hay House radio show in March, her transformation did not become widely known until she published a video publicly denouncing the use of tarot cards and other means of fortunetelling on the day of the solar eclipse.
While Virtue did not return requests for comment by The Wild Hunt, she defends her path in the video: “When people say I’ve given up my life work, it’s not true. I love the angels, they saved my life. I’m here today because of angels.”
She goes on to say that she was given a spiritual directive to stop using her prophetic abilities “like a trick pony” and to shift from doing readings to contemplations inspired by God.
“Instead of doing predictions, it’s more about contemplation, which is thinking about receiving messages,” she says.
“So, it’s a subtle shift. I just want you to see that because I know a lot of people have gone into fear and speculation about my changes. Anyway, so with regard to tarot, I was going to them for answers as opposed to going to God. And so, I saw that was not to do. I suppose someone could use tarot to go directly to God. I mean you’d have to pray to see if that was aligned with you.”
Virtue, who says she was born with second-sight, was raised as a Christian Scientist—although she says she didn’t read the Bible until recently. She has a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Protestant-affiliated Chapman University and a Ph.D in psychology from California Coast University’s distance learning program in 1996 before it became accredited, but says she gave up doing psychotherapy for giving tarot readings inspired by a carjacking in 1995 in which she attributes angelic intervention for saving her life.
She currently lives on a 47-acre estate in Hawaii, where she moved with her fifth husband Michael last year from their estate in Maui to better care for 100 rescue animals of all kinds. Some of the proceeds of her courses are earmarked for their care, but the ranch is not a registered charity and donations are not tax-deductible.
She has left it to Hay House to handle individual student questions and complaints.
“You have responsibility to the students who have built a business around your brand,” Lisa Frideborg, a Doreen Virtue certified angel card reader and tarotist who said she began following her since reading “The Lightworker’s Way” in 2003, in an interview with The Wild Hunt. “That brand is pretty much worthless now, so the students should all have a right to a refund.”
Virtue and others say while she had this experience, the roots of her conversion were longstanding. Her latest deck, Loving Words from Jesus, was published in March of last year. Some even speculate Virtue’s conversion may be an attempt to reinvigorate her brand within a new market.
She defended herself against the broader criticisms of greed in her video.
“People are always talk about how much money I make,” Virtue says in the video. “I want to just be honest with you that a lot of money has come through me but passed through me. I give so much to charity. I don’t talk about it because you’re not supposed to, but because people ‘gossip’ about it I’m just telling you that we rescue animals.”
“Most of our money goes to the animals we rescue or to the charities that we’re part of or feeding people. So, I know that brings up a lot of feelings, that spiritual teachers get paid, but it’s the way the money is used, right? It passes through me.”
Virtue also states in the video that she has directed her publisher since 1993, Hay House, to donate all royalties from her tarot decks to their foundation and to remove her name from them in a year. Her courses now sport the caveat that “This is not a New Age course, and it does not include the topics of divination or angelic communication.”
Accepting that she will only write scriptural works, Hay House readily agreed to take her book of deities from multiple faiths, Archangels and Ascended Masters: A Guide to Working and Healing with Divinities and Deities, and its companion cards out of print “in case people used them to worship idols and deities other than God,” Virtue says.
The video has sparked a firestorm in New Age and metaphysical circles mainly because of its impact on her students and followers who had not been aware of her conversion six months earlier and are left unclear how to proceed. Frideborg’s blog posts about Virtue’s conversion spiked more than 15,000 hits. She says her own business won’t be negatively impacted because she had a business prior to taking courses with Virtue.
Barker is among those who are processing this as a personal journey of evolving past Virtue as a teacher. He finds the situation “heartbreaking” and feels he is going through the stages of grief, but does not want to be hateful toward Virtue because he thinks she is courageous and making an authentic change in her life.
While he will no longer be following her, he appreciates what he has received from her, including the strength to come out to his mother.
But others are still trying to understand why their teacher has changed course. Students and followers of Virtue have flooded social media from twitter to Facebook to give their opinions and share their experiences, some even doing tarot readings to gain insight into Virtue’s conversion.
Trix Malone, a tarotist and Virtue student, posted in a public thread on the sectual.com discussion forum that while she felt Virtue was “totally coming from the heart,” she disagreed with the distinctions Virtue was trying to make.
“Why is Doreen trying to differentiate between intuitive understanding, and communications from God?” Malone asks in the post, which she gave permission to The Wild Hunt to reprint.
“Who’s to say they aren’t the same damn thing?? Does Doreen honestly not realize this?? Or is she saying that she thinks the tools aren’t needed and that we should just be using solid intuition? Is she now considering intuition to be communication from God?? What’s the big deal with the cards then if the messages are coming from the same place?? Why the differentiation?? It really seems like going from an open-minded, non-religious mentality to a closed-minded religious mentality is a massive downgrade.”
Virtue’s about-shift has been ill-received by the Pagan community because of the judgment against non-Christians and their beliefs. Some have banded together to create their own Pagan-themed oracle.
“I can see why Pagans are offended with her bashing of Pagan deities, faeries and such—but she was never Pagan,” says Mat Auryn, a witch, writer, professional psychic, and occult teacher from New England. He told The Wild Hunt, “She’s always identified as Christian with a New Age twist, it’s just that this New Age twist is now gone and she’s full-fledged Christian.”
But Auryn is among many who took to social media to say no one should judge another’s spiritual journey. In the interview, he said, “I think we should respect Doreen’s path. Her path is not our own. It’s important to not mistake her teachings with her as a human being.”
His view is that the certificates she offers are really more about personal achievement so cannot be invalidated, but that each path is shaped by many influences.
“It’s hard when a spiritual teacher of any sort renounces teachings that had a great impact on their life” Auryn said. “This provides a great opportunity for discernment, was she misled then or is she misled now? Were her followers misled or was she, or both? In the end, her practice or the practice of any other human being doesn’t really effect my own. As Witches, we tend not to be purists, but rather taking what works for us and what we resonate with and discarding what doesn’t. As Witches, we walk a solitary road at the end of the day regardless of who our teachers or role models were.”
But critics say it’s not her personal path that has them concerned, but her repudiation of mediumship—and the very people she fostered for more than 20 years.
Virtue allegedly posted another video earlier this year, as described by Frideborg and others, that was removed almost immediately.
Blogger Chanel Adams quotes the video in a story for The Inquisitr, saying Virtue “called her followers ‘demonic’ and ‘dark.’ She even told her followers to burn some of her books and the decks associated with them.”
This clashes with Virtue’s available statements, such as her latest newsletter in which she states, “Some people have incorrectly said that I’ve renounced all of my prior work, and that’s not true. See? That’s an example of how fear-energy likes to stir up drama. I respect your right to pray and believe as you choose! Some people have acted like I’m judging them since I became a Christian, and that’s probably because they’ve had painful experiences in the past with judgmental people. I have total compassion for those who’ve had painful experiences with organized religion, and I am praying that they keep God and Jesus in their hearts.”
Sheri Harshberger, the president of The American Tarot Association (ATA), told The Wild Hunt that her organization was “deeply disappointed in the actions taken by Doreen Virtue. People are drawn to the tarot and oracles for many reasons, and to step away from it in a way that undermines the beliefs and ways of others is unfortunate. When she took this action, she only succeeded in demeaning herself.”
While Hay House would not return requests for comment, they are still publishing other tarot decks and authors. Virtue’s longtime co-author Radleigh Valentine, who also did not return requests for comment, is scheduled to publish a new Fairy Tarot deck this fall.
For her part, Virtue does not seem to discern between her personal and professional paths. In the Aug. 21 video, she says her most major transformation came on January 17 of this year when Jesus appeared to her in church: “After seeing Jesus, I was completely changed. I started to read the Bible even more. I started to volunteer at the church even more. And I started to give up things that were against the Bible like mediumship and what they call fortunetelling, which is predicting. And so, I wanted to be completely aligned with God’s will.”
She says that the “really important turn in my compass is to always make sure that I am going straight to God for messages and for healing and health” and said the problem was that “people were going to deceased people instead of God” for prophecy. Since Virtue had never previously openly addressed Christianity’s view of metaphysics, her students are stumped by her comments.
“Doreen should be asking WHY ‘sorcery, fortune telling and divination’ are forbidden in the Bible,” posted Malone. “Sounds to me like it’s forbidden because they don’t want you getting answers from INTUITION, they want you getting answers from a proxy, a ‘higher being’ than yourself… as a CONTROL MECHANISM.”
While upset with Virtue, Harshberger does not see any negative ramifications for the tarot industry.
“There are millions of tarot readers worldwide,” she said. “They are business executives, doctors, lawyers, teachers, housewives, writers, engineers, students, and any other profession that can be named. They are neighbors, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers. Tarot reading empowers readers and others to think through their options and come to decisions on their own.”
“The cards are used to gain insight into personal growth opportunities, to aid in meditation or concentration practice, to explore options or alternative answers to questions, or to enhance creativity through brainstorming. Within the last few years, the cards are even beginning to appear in therapeutic settings. Such spiritual and internal seeking is a healthy part of the human condition.”
Sarah Fuhro, a Druid astrologer and tarotist, told The Wild Hunt that she is among many who use the tarot differently from Virtue’s current take on it.
“The images deepen our stories so they become archetypal,” Fuhro explains. “We understand when we ‘read’ tarot that we communicate with a reality not interested in the concerns of the ego, a source not interested in a particular outcome. There is humor in the cards. They turn it around and say: Haven’t you forgotten something? Tarot is a friendly guide taking us through dark tunnels into dappled light.”
For people like Frideborg though, there is greater and more troubling symbolism in this rejection because it could have far-ranging implications. Virtue’s embrace of Christianity to the point of denouncing what she once taught herself comes at a time when the United States is fraught with political unrest from Christian extremism on the far Right.
“This is all part of patriarchy kicking back against the return of the Divine Feminine. Patriarchy is in its death throes and doing all it can to cling to power,” she wrote in her blog.
Frideborg told The Wild Hunt that she knows “Tarot colleagues in certain parts of the U.S. who have to work pretty much under cover because they fear persecution. This will certainly NOT help them. [Virtue] has stoked the fire under the bellies of the hyper fundies…I see strong ties to the polarization that is happening with Christian far right in the U.S. and fear-based indoctrination. Duality breeds fear and fear strengthens duality. It’s a vicious downward spiral right now… However, I do believe that things will come right in the end. People are waking up from their zombie-like consumerist existences—and THAT can only be a good thing.”
Virtue was interviewed Friday by Steven Bancarz, a former New Age blogger who became born-again last year and now runs the Biblical justification website Reasons for Jesus. On the site, he calls Virtue “one of the most influential figures ever involved in the New Age” and writes that while she has “renounced the New Age movement,” he hopes Virtue evolves even further to denounce the tarot and angel cards completely as well as join a Church that is more restrictive of LGBTQ+ rights. “This is a big step in the right direction.”
In the interview, which was live-streamed on Bancarz’s YouTube Channel, Virtue addressed what she called “spiritual celebrity gossip” and said she has gotten hate and rudeness as well as support from New Agers and Christians alike. She said, “I’m not telling people to change their path. I’m not denouncing what you’re doing, I’m denouncing how it’s used. And I don’t use it anymore.”
However, she also went on to say that other New Age teachers advocate an “everything goes” attitude and wrongly tell students that “whatever feels good, do it” and “if it makes you happy, it’s the right path for you.”
When Bancarz said he takes a more rigid approach, she said she admired him for his bold approach and that while she was not there yet, she was learning quickly. She agreed when he said it takes time to re-write the brain’s pathways when coming from the New Age movement.
Not everyone believes Virtue’s conversion signals a cultural shift or that the New Age movement will falter because major aspects like tarot are is firmly embedded in the world.
“Most scholars agree the earliest known decks reflect a Medieval Christian mindset (though the illustrations also draw upon other sources, including mythology,” said the ATA’s Harshberger.
“More and more people use the tarot and other oracles as tools for self-examination, spirituality, and other worthy purposes,” Harshberger says. “The metaphysical disciplines have never been more popular. They don’t get the press the conservatives do, but tarot and readings are more visible in television and movies, while being portrayed in a favorable light. New decks and other reading tools are being produced every day.”