It is not an easy thing to be a Tarot reader, in fact, if one is not called to do it, it hardly seems worth it sometimes.
Tarot readers often have a history of reading at the fringes of society, often working under the table or without true business practices, it is not uncommon to find a reader reading from her kitchen table with cash payment taken only.
So while Tarot and Tarot readers often have a reputation of working at the fringes of society, society by and large actively blocks readers who aim to professionalize the field. In my years of working and creating a professional business that is legal in every way, here are the particular challenges I and other readers have encountered:
Banks will drop us once they find out we read Tarot. I had a bank that I was using online and that bank decided to drop me for no other reason except that I read Tarot. When I asked why, I was told that my company was in violation of their terms of service. Their terms of service had tarot card readers snuggled in right between mail order bride companies and narcotics sales businesses. (!!!) When I tried to push back, explaining that what I do is like life coaching using the archetypal nature of Tarot, I was ignored, discounted, and basically treated like a third class citizen.
Some insurance companies will drop us if they find out we read Tarot. A colleague of mine was unceremoniously dumped as a “psychic company” when in fact the word psychic appeared nowhere on her website, only Tarot. This insurance company will cover life coaches (also completely unregulated and requiring no formal education) and yoga teachers, but not Tarot readers. Not all Tarot readers are psychic or claim to be, but it doesn’t matter to society- there are no attempts at making any distinctions or educating themselves on the many differences of Tarot and the Psychic field on the whole.
Some festival and event coordinators will not allow us to read at their events (while allowing face painters, art vendors and other small business folk) due to their own personal agenda, religious beliefs, and things like, “We had a bad reader 15 years ago so no readers now.” or “You are only here to capitalize on these poor unsuspecting people.” I have had craft vendors deny me but allow other service providers, I have been told regularly that “We don't allow that kind of thing, here.”
The professionals leave because of the ongoing discrimination they face as well as the vulnerable position they are in because no one will cover them, leaving a nice big void for the bad guys to fill. How does this make any kind of sense?
There are bad readers and con artists who use Tarot as an avenue to rip people off. But when us honest readers who pay taxes, buy insurance, and professionalize ourselves are met with roadblocks at every turn, it reinforces the tarot reader under the table scheme, because no other framework is allowed for us. If the prevailing idea is that Tarot readers are a joke or a con at best, and if readers who do attempt to professionalize are blocked at every turn; then that actually creates the conditions that people complain about in the first place. The professionals leave because of the ongoing discrimination they face as well as the vulnerable position they are in because no one will cover them, leaving a nice big void for the bad guys to fill. How does this make any kind of sense?
Because of the rampant discrimination many readers feel, they often use an alias or do not put a picture of themselves online because they are afraid of the reprisals they may get from society, day jobs, family and friends. If our best most honest readers are still hiding in the Tarot closet out of fear of discrimination and retaliation, then again, that only reinforces the erroneous concept that Tarot can only be a profession at the fringe of society. Discrimination against readers is so difficult that many do not find it worth it. I know many amazingly gifted readers who never take the plunge to actually read as a professional because they are scared. So who is the bully here, readers so unfairly maligned, or cultural ignorance?
Interestingly, I am more authentic, more honest to myself and to others than I have ever been, far more authentic than in any job I have ever held. The sad irony is that society now views me with the most suspicion. Some days I get exhausted having to prove myself and the Tarot over and over again. What a miraculous dream it would be to just do this work with the benefit of the doubt. Understandably because of the con artists many come with a bad experience, but if we are not allowed to professionalize, how can we possibly compete against the bad guy?
So at this point, you might be wondering, “Well, Jenna, why DO you do it then, if it is such a pain in the tuchus?” That is a fair question, a question that I sometimes have to ask myself, especially after a door has been slammed in my face, especially when I am called a “bottom feeder” from a detractor, especially when friends of family say, “If Jenna has an advanced degree and speaks several languages… why is she doing this?”
We do it because to ignore this ignores a fundamental piece of ourselves.
I read Tarot because I have seen how a good reading can fundamentally change someone’s life for the better as nothing else can. I read Tarot because it is a CHOICE that I choose from many options available, not because I have no other choice or options. I read Tarot because I love it and it has value, worth and I get to (lucky lucky me) help people with their lives, I can see everyday that what I do has value for others. Being self-employed as a Tarot reader means I answer to no one except to my clients, I am living my life by my rules and in my way. Reading Tarot means I don’t wear panty hose or dress suits or play political office games (though I do miss having office mates).
Reading Tarot means that I am using all of my native strengths and talents and it is truly me at my best, helping others intuitively is something that I have done my whole life. The call to read Tarot became so loud that I could ignore it no longer and like an artist, like a person who has a calling-everything about who I am fell into place once I took the plunge to go full time. I stopped fighting myself and embraced something near to the core of my meaning and purpose. If reading Tarot wasn’t such an intrinsic part of me, why the hell would I even bother to deal with such unfair bias? Why would anyone (besides the con men) bother when the social cost is so heavy to do so? We do it because it is a part of who we are and what we are called to do. We do it because to ignore this is to ignore a fundamental piece of ourselves.
Being the Queen of Wands type that I am, I also have an agenda. I do not play at being small very well, nor am I the type to be comfortable or happy reading at the fringe. My overarching goal is this: that as a professional reader who also business coaches other Tarot readers; that will I help create a tipping point of professionalism, support, nurturance and honesty- the amount of amazing readers will be so open and so professional-that the culture-at-large will have no choice but to check it’s own stereotype about us. I aim to see Tarot reading being seen in the same light that people now see massage therapy within one generation. I aim to change it all.
Back in the 1970s people saw massage therapy as a fringe business, too. Something hippy folk went to or at the very worst, a veneer for sexual services. When I speak to my massage therapy friends I hear these early stories and I also see how different it is now, there is no longer any stigma attached to get a massage, it is seen as a helpful therapeutic service. I want Tarot to be seen in the same light. I want future Tarot readers to be able to provide a therapeutic service without the stigma of deceit, tricks, or manipulation labeled against them.
So I use my real name. I use my real picture, I am completely legal in every way, even when doors have been slammed shut to prevent me from professionalizing my service, I soldier on. When people ask me what I do, I tell them. I have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I am extremely proud of the work I do for others and I work very hard at creating a business of value and worth to my clients. My existence serves as education against a long unfair stereotype about who Tarot readers are. I and many others are blazing a path, and I do not come alone. We are the professional face of Tarot. The face that will not allow anyone to put us away, to shut us up or ridicule us. We are here to stay.
As a Tarot client, student, or Tarot lay-person, you can help, too. Do not hide in the shadows about your craft or interest or that you get readings, square those shoulders and calmly step out into the light with us. Educate others about Tarot, engage when you hear misinformation, bring yourself authentically and push back when others attempt to quiet you. We stand shoulder to shoulder and we will change this, within our lifetimes it is possible and the world will be better for it. Join us.
We are the professional face of Tarot. The face that will not allow anyone to put us away, to shut us up or ridicule us. We are here to stay.
9/30/2014 08:12:06 am
Brilliant article, Jenna! I'm already actively involved in the way you suggest toward the end of the article and I'm so passionate about it that I will be doing it until the day I die. I don't believe in using an alias. Like you, I've met resistance from some family members and been excluded from various parts of society because of my calling. I'm pushing on and I'm glad you are too! Brightest Blessings
9/30/2014 01:07:25 pm
Although I haven't officially hung my shingle, I have done a few parties and charity events. For me it's a hobby that has spilled over into actually making a few bucks to boot. I work at a university for my day job and when I told some of my colleagues - who are very intelligent intellectual types - that I read Tarot, I've had one of them literally laugh in my face until she realized I was serious. Then it was just uncomfortable. Another one told me in no uncertain terms that only stupid people could possibly believe "fortune-telling" has any merit. I live in a pretty conservative area and the community here is pretty uncomfortable with Tarot readings. I am tolerated at best. I remember putting up a tear-away flyer on the bulletin board at the grocery store. When I came back, every single tag was gone, removed by some self-righteous holy roller no doubt, bent on saving souls by depriving them of the opportunity to make choices for themselves.
Thank You Jenna for this brilliant post! I totally feel related to you!
9/30/2014 11:29:11 pm
Fabulous post and it hit on so many issues Tarot readers face in their day to day lives. My insurance guy has me down as an 'artist'...lol yeah. When I asked him about it, he said that the people in admin wouldn't understand. Oh well, and kudos to you for using your real name, your real picture, and making an effort to not play into their stereotypical ideas. The world needs more honesty and the more transparent a reader can be, the more trustworthy they are, or that's how I see it anyway. Great post.
10/1/2014 01:26:51 am
10/1/2014 01:27:04 am
Jenna, Thank you for your very inspiring blog post. I am a relatively new student to Tarot. I have a degree in Psychology and am very passionate about both. I had a calling to Tarot, similar to what you described. It was very powerful. Herein lies the irony of your post, I think--It is about stigma and discrimination, but your passion, and your career in Tarot is a source of huge inspiration for me. Out of bad comes good. :)
10/1/2014 01:45:39 am
Lucy, thank you for your comment and I am glad it was inspiring to you, that was the whole point of the post! It was a call for all readers to stop ignoring how we are treated and lean into it by being our most authentic selves and continue to do thing we know is helpful that we know is in act of greatest good despite the negative din around it. thank you for stopping by and keep reading! :)
Not sure why I got sent to an old post (I think I found it through Medium), but it still rings so true for me!
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M.S. in Organizational Psychology and Leadership