Can that idea just die, please?
There is an oft-repeated drumbeat in the tarot community that goes like this: “You shouldn’t charge for your gifts.” The reasoning behind this statement varies but it usually boils down to two arguments:
The first is spiritual in nature. The idea is that if you have been given the spiritual gift of reading tarot, then you should not monetize it. Your tarot reading should be freely given because your spiritual ability has been freely given to you.
The second argument usually has to do with accessibility. Many readers find it a hard square being caring healer with a pay wall.
I am going to respond to both.
The Spiritual Argument
No one really knows where this whole ‘you shouldn’t charge for your gifts’ thing comes from. But I suspect that it has Judeo-Christian origins. Jesus walked into church one day and cast out the money changers. He made it clear that commerce and spiritual activity are kept separate.
Most churches are free to attend and there is typically a legacy of charitable works for the poor. That being said, I don’t know any full time religious figure that doesn’t get paid. While nuns take a vow of poverty, they are also fed, clothed, have generous health insurance plans, and are taken care of in their retirement years. Same goes for Rabbis, Priests, Imans, and Buddist monks. By tithe, charity, food in a begging bowl, or by contributions all of these people who do spiritual work are paid. They should be paid. They should be taken care of as they care for others. To expect that a spiritual worker just labor for free seems like we don’t really want them to be taken care of in. The days of Manna falling from Heaven ended a long time ago.
Lets talk about the “gifts” aspect of the argument. Say that you are an incredible psychic. You are able to find buried treasure and speak the name of future kings. But what makes you different than having the gift of mathematical ability, or the gift of a great literary mind? What if your gift is that you kick a ball really well? Do we not as a society pay people who have these varied talents? Then why would those who have an ephemeral ability be any different?
Why do we shroud intuitive abilities behind a wall of superstition and rules that actually binds our hands from serving more people?
Here is the fear: that if you do monetize your intuitive talents, then some force (you know the Force out there, somewhere) will take it away from you. Where does this superstition come from? I am not sure, but it is old. And it isn’t true. It is just another random old superstition that isn’t based on anything real, or even helpful. It is operating from a (usually) uninformed and un-examined belief that the Universe has some kind of score card wherein some abilities are ok to charge for, but not these.
I ask you, why?
The second argument usually comes from people who feel squeamish about charging money for their services. Often, they have a background in education or nursing where they were not experiencing the direct transaction of money for their efforts.
They taught (or took blood pressure or whatever) people and those people were helped but almost mystically they saw a deposit in their bank account every two weeks. They often have a disconnect with the economic machine underpinning all of that to make it happen.
Let me just add that I know that person well, because I was once that person.
This lovely person who decides to build a tarot business feels at odds with charging people directly. The guilt is usually tied to underlying and often un-examined feelings around money, access and privilege. They assuage that guilt by creating systems such as sliding scale payments, or charging so low that they cannot support themselves with the work. They don’t want to “read for rich people.” They want to be a friend and helper to all.
This sentiment does not square well, however, if you are trying to become a full time reader so it boils down to this essential question: Do you want your readings to financially support you, or do you want your readings to be charitable contributions? Of course there are shades of nuance here but this is essentially a philosophical reflection. It is challenging to hold both arguments and make them work. Here is why:
As a self-employed person I have to ensure that each reading is priced so that I am able to pay my bills, my health insurance and my retirement contributions in addition to the business expenses that go into running a business. Oh, also I pay twice the amount of taxes, yay self-employment!
While I may only be paid for the actual hour I am reading, it has to be enough to cover all the other things that I am doing to keep the business afloat (writing this article, bookkeeping, emails, newsletters, class creation and so on). This is a different economic standpoint and often one not understood by people in muggle (your standard wage earning) jobs. The economics of direct service self-employment looks nothing like a salary or even an hourly wage earners.
So every month I need a minimum amount to keep my business and my life afloat. But also, (caveat here-every reader is different) I have a finite number of reading sessions in me each week. Once I cross over that number my accuracy, compassion, and insightfulness begin to tank. I do not want to give bad readings because I am exhausted so I have to throttle the amount of readings I can do.
Therefore, it is a dance between what I am physically capable of, what I need to live, and business costs. These calculations directly inform what I charge in an hour and also how many hours I will schedule in a week.
If I add sliding scale payments that essentially means that I will make wealthier people pay a higher amount to cover the lower cost of the person who cannot. Or, I have to read for more hours to make up for discounted sessions.
Honestly, I do not feel comfortable being the person who makes that economic determination for others. I do not want to politicize my work in this way.
Because I only have a finite amount of readings in a week I need all of them to pay my bills. But charitable contributions I do give. I give financially monthly to nonprofits that do work that I believe in. I volunteer for a local wildlife rehabilitation center and I also volunteer weekly for Meals of Wheels. I volunteer in ways that allow me to give back, don’t contribute to reader burn-out, and as a bonus, I gain new perspectives because I am giving in different ways. I am only able to give like this because of the career I have. Just like anyone else who has a muggle job and volunteers in their spare time.
I think there is no real direct correlation between your special aptitudes and those being the aptitudes you need to give away. In fact, the time you spend volunteering by using skill sets in other areas will only enhance what you have monetized. I am a better reader when I spend some time outside of the tarot booth doing other things that feed my heart and help others.
There is more than one way to give.
In conclusion, I think it is such a beautiful sentiment in the tarot and intuitive communities that so many struggle with the idea of monetizing their time and capabilities. We are labeled as flim-flam con artists and people of the worse repute when in actuality, most of us want to give and be of service.
I think this is the right problem to have because it speaks to an underlying ethical and moral code that is needed in this world. But, I also think there are ways to examine how we want to read, who we want to read for, and whether we actually want to make a living doing it.
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Which one of these statements do you agree with?
Women are bad drivers.
Teenagers are lazy.
Tarot card readers are con artists.
Wide sweeping statements feel so definitive that it is easy to believe them. Black and white thinking feels so much more comfortable than grey. It feels good to pronounce a belief about a whole group of people believing that our judgement is right. Stereotyping is based out of a need to categorize, condemn, and ultimately feel better than the people we may be talking about.
Have I personally watched every single woman drive, and do I have the certifications necessary to make that kind of judgement call? While some teens might be slow in the motivation department, there are many examples of the opposite. However, I hear the third statement regularly and without question that it is indeed, true: “Tarot readers are all con artists.”
Rational, objective, science-minded folks eat up the social consensus regarding tarot. Logical and fair-minded people regularly denounce a whole field without ever having visited a reader. What is the first premise in scientific inquiry? Observation. Have these people suddenly forgotten the very foundation of their beliefs in the rush to denounce what they might not know anything about?
How can this be? How is it that while we are quick to denounce stereotypes we are able to make the exception with tarot readers? It is, I suspect, due to tarot’s public image coupled with an incorrect assumption promulgated by popular culture and the co-opting of tarot by people with questionable ethics. Tarot is not the problem. Shitty people using tarot are the problem.
Google up any image of a tarot reader in the movies or TV shows and more often than not we are treated to a mysterious, dark-haired woman. This woman is of indeterminate background (an inelegent nod to the idea that ‘they are foreign’) is sitting in a darkly lit room, ready to receive a questioner. She pronounces the fate of said character for good or ill. This fate is unalterable and our tarot reader has the ability to see into that future that is already written out for us.
A search for the words ‘tarot reader’ also reveals con artists who use tarot to prey upon the innocent. One need not look far to read stories about a certain actress in a fake Jamaican accent imploring you to call now. Not far behind her are so-called tarot readers who were jailed after husting tens of thousands of dollars from the wealthy or the desperate.
Finally, the bias towards tarot are often from people who question the very nature of tarot and what it does. They believe that tarot does not work, and anyone who believes in it is either gullible or a con artist (see that “all, never, or always” thinking here)?
But the thing is is that the underlying assumptions about how tarot works are inaccurate. That assumption was unquestionably formed by some real bad actors (pun intended). So how can we form a truly informed opinion if we are working off of assumptions that are patently false or misunderstood?
We can’t. It is easy to assume that our underlying beliefs that form the basis of our opinions are accurate. But that it is not scientific inquiry. Rather, that is bias. Bias is often the byproduct of a closed mind who frankly stopped thinking the moment their irrational criticism began to rear it’s head. It is this bias that hounds professional, honest, and earnest readers. In short, we are a field green-lighted for condemnation. This condemnation is largely based on a complete fantasy regarding what we do and how we do it.
Have people completely given up on the banking system because of the Great Recession? Are lawyers ran out of town with crowds of people holding pitchforks? Of course not. Because we know that while there are some unscrupulous bankers and lawyers, we also know that not all of them are. And while someone might not understand how tarot works, that lack of understanding does not mean that tarot readers are selling snake oil.
Tarot is having a moment. Tarot is being normalised by a generation of people who are willing to dive into the mystery of personal truths. More than ever, there are professionals in this field who take the work of reading very seriously and treat their craft with the professionalism it deserves.
Tarot is not going anywhere, and just like massage and acupuncture and herbalism, it is moving towards a stable norm. While tarot has a PR problem now, I see the shift on the horizon. I look forward to the day where I can say I am a professional reader without cringing or avoiding the question because I don’t want to deal with some people’s bias. I cannot wait to be open and comfortable with this passion of mine and my work in the way it deserves.
Its highfalutin time for me to write ye olde "professional tarot reader' rite of passage called the "Blog about How to Become a Professional Reader'. Google that term and I am sure you will find pages of worthy information for your eager eyes and searching heart.
Here, in this 3 part series, I offer my own sagely advice based on my own business and also in helping others achieve their own. May it contain something to sustain you on your journey, colleague!
Tarot is a Passionate Calling
To be a full time tarot practitioner is to undertake some of the hardest, most exhausting, most rewarding work you have ever attempted. The burn out rate for readers is extraordinarily high, and even the best of us need regular breaks from reading.
It is not uncommon for readers to even take a break for a few years if they over extended themselves reading tarot.
The people who don't make it are people who just thought it would be an easy source of side income, or just something to do in retirement; these folks do not last long because the act of reading tarot and running a business needs everything you got. People come to tarot because they feel lost, or scared, or anxious, or empty and from an emotional standpoint it can take a toll on a reader; just like any social service. The people who stick around for longer than a hot minute are passionate about the tool of tarot, are in love with the process of reading, cannot see themselves doing anything as exhilarating and amazing as bringing the art of tarot to everyone.
Tarot cannot be about making money (though I did enjoy making my tongue in cheek pic above). You MUST love tarot enough to allow the work of tarot to transform and support your life. People who come into it to make money end up leaving, or outsourcing their readings to other people. Tarot is about finding your calling, and if you are brave and a very good reader, you will be able to make a living. Tarot comes first, however. There are so many people who need and want a tarot reading, the demand is there, and they deserve a reader who loves helping them, and loves the magic that is tarot.
Be that person, and you will not thirst.
Trust your Calling.
You Do Not Have to be Perfect
In fact, your broken places make you a better reader. Being a professional tarot reader means to be supremely compassionate and understanding of the person’s journey for whom you are reading. You are not a guru, you do not need to have a perfect life in order to give advice. This is because a tarot reading is not about you, and you should not be projecting your life, agenda, needs, or hungers onto your client. You need to read the cards, hold space for your client, and be a bridge rather than a guide; be the book binding rather than its letters. The information is what you share, not who you are. Reading for others though, will have the effect of granting profound wisdom onto you own life and about the spirit of humanity as a whole. Being witness to suffering, helps you understand your own. Truly the gift you get from tarot and from clients is far, far greater than the one you bestow.
Trust your Gift.
Always Run the Numbers
If you are running a business, run it as a business. The container of your business is what allows you to read professionally. It protects you and allows you to do more than you could ever do without it. Before you say yes to that house party, reading out of that New Age Store, or starting an Etsy shop, my friend, RUN THE NUMBERS. Look at other readers doing similar, how much are they making? Is this really worth your time? It can be so exciting to make something look like a business on the outside but if you are not bringing home the bacon, it’s not really a business; it is your hobby.
Do your research before you say yes. YES, your time is worth this, YES, your business deserves this. Running the numbers does not mean you are some evil capitalist bourgeoisie pig. Running the numbers has nothing to do with your spiritual feelings or your tarot practice. Running the numbers ensures that you are taking care of yourself, and a well-taken cared of you means a reader who can serve more people, better serve people. If you find yourself having a hard time with this, look deeply, it might mean that part of you is attempting to sabotage your dream. The biggest saboteur is you. Your ability to show your inner saboteur that YOU are the boss of you is the GREATEST factor in your success.
Trust the Numbers.
Mind Your Mind
This is by far the biggest determiner of your success as a tarot practitioner. Inside each of us is an inner guide and inner saboteur. The saboteur runs on fear, he resists change, he wants to keep your vibration low and he is tricky, no one knows you as well as he does and he will create all kinds of ‘problems’ to derail your success. Expect to feel fear, anxiety, sudden physical problems, relationship problems, every 1,001 reason why you cannot, should not, please don’t, do not– it is ridiculous anyway.
Listen, you are the boss of you. You are the grown up in this equation and the better you can learn to first, identify when the saboteur is talking (he amazingly will sound just like you but when he says things it’s to make you small, rather than big.) Once you can identify him that is half the battle, the next step is to move forward despite him. Cause, you also have an inner Guide, and he wants you to live your calling.
This topic alone requires so much more than I can give in this blog post; to start read
The War of Art. When you are finished, start in the beginning and read it again. Highlight it, dog– ear its pages, rail and scream and pump your fist to the heavens. Fight, baby, fight! You are so worth it. You know it’s true, feel that part of you that says yes? That’s your Guide.
Trust Your Guide.
Be a Professional
Don’t feel like giving a reading? Too bad. Scared of reading at that party you booked? Get over it. Have a client who isn’t ‘playing along’? Sorry, Charley, but you are a professional and as a professional you need to suck it up, show up, and hang it up. This is kind of part two of the saboteur above, that Saboteur will give you every single reason under the sun as to why you can’t. Don’t give him any power. You do that by being a professional. Treat yourself as the professional you are by taking good care of yourself (boundaries) and also by how you treat your clients. This also extends to your social media, how you email people, how well you respect them and yourself. Be kind. Be generous. Take an extra minute to say thank you, even if you aren’t getting what you want. Build relationships, not transactions. Stay for the long haul, the world needs your professionalism, it is in critically short supply. Even if they are mean, suck it up, you know it’s not about you anyway.
Trust your Ability to Show Up.
Did that resonate, sugar plum? If so, there is more where that came from! Keep your eyes peeled over the next few days as I drop part II and part III. You can always subscribe to my blog, and email me with any questions and yes, I do mentor tarot practitioners. Here's to the rising tide, and the wonderful Spirit of Tarot that makes it so...
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