Throughout the US exists ordinances and laws making fortunetelling illegal. While there is no federal prohibition against reading cards professionally, there are laws by state as well as by city that do in fact make reading tarot as a profession illegal.
Most of these laws were passed a long time ago, during a different time in our nation's history and often sound like laws such as, "Don't leave your donkey tethered after 6pm". And, while these laws are old, state officials and city officials like to invoke them to "keep the riffraff out." These out-moded and dangerously misinformed laws not only impinge on our American right to freedom of expression and religion, but they unfairly discriminate against good, law abiding, honest readers whole sale.
I have spoken at length about the unfair stigma a professional reader has to contend with, but as society begins to take a more tolerant view of our work, readers are beginning to fight back. Below, In this two-part series, I interviewed a would-be professional reader who is working to repeal ordnance in her town. The second part of this series interviews someone who was successful doing it.
Heather Cooper came to my attention as news media outlets were covering her fight in West Virginia to repeal a local ordnance so that she may rightfully work within her own community. I was intrigued by Heather's indomitable spirit and courageousness. Heather was gracious enough to spend some time with me discussing what she was up to.
Tell me a little about yourself, how long have you been reading tarot and when and how did you decide to go into business as a reader?
I have been reading since I was a teenager. I knew no one who read at the time so I had to teach myself. It wasn't until around 10 years ago that I meet other readers. I was surprised there were others, more, group of them that met regularly. Before them I only know what I learned from books. When I turned 18 I went to Memphis TN. There was a palm reader there. She had a small table and a line around the corner. I took one look at her and thought... I want to do that. It wasn't until the last 3 years that I believed. I could.
Where are you located and when did you learn about the city ordinance that bans 'fortune telling' can you also include a copy of the actual code? What do you know about it's creation and what it was created to serve?
I live in Parkersburg wv. I had always heard rumors about it being illegal but never thought anything of it. What I do was everywhere. There was psychic fairs a few blocks from the city building, sometimes right beside it. If it was true some one some where would have enforced it. We met weekly. It wasn't until a year after I received my state license and I had a store that I was told about it. I was told that the code was tracked back to 1906 by a city council member but he couldn't find any thing before that.
"529.05 FORTUNETELLING, PALMISTRY, ASTROLOGY, ETC. PROHIBITED. No person shall engage in or practice in any manner, within the corporate limits of the City, the trade or profession of palmistry, fortunetelling, astrology, phrenology or any kindred trade or profession having as its object the foretelling of happenings of future events. (1947 Code §20.13)"
(Isn't it interesting that the authorities only stepped in when a reader attempts to become a legally licensed and registered business owner? The ordinance then only punishes the honest, enforcing the very environment they wish to keep out!!)
Why do you think the ordinance (besides your livelihood) should be overturned? What do you envision will happen if it does?
I hope to be able to open peoples minds about divination. There is such a bad stereotype. I would like to see that changed.
Why don't you read tarot outside of the city limit, or go somewhere else?
I have ties here. My family founded this town. My ancestors and relatives
Helped to make it what it is today. I volunteer here I am on committees here. My passions are here. Also my kids, now teenagers go to high-school here. Their hopes, dreams, friends and girlfriends live here. This town and our location means everything to us.
Why is it important for you to overturn this ordinance?
Why else it's wrong and out of date. It's not in forced and it's not right to restrict us in such a way. I am not hurting any one. I just want to do what I'm good at and give back to the community.
What do you think it will take/require to overturn this ordinance?
I'm hoping that I have done everything possible. It is on the docket for this Tuesday the 12th. The only thing left is to ask people to call their council members and let them know we are here and part of this community.
Have you done a reading on this situation? If so, would you care to share with us?
The bad thing about doing what I do is that I can't read myself. It drives me crazy.
(I hear you there, Heather!)
Heather has a gofundme account to help her raise the legal support to make the repeal a success. If you can spare just a dollar, please do what you can to help. While it might seem that it has no direct impact, it does. For every reader who successfully fights back against injustice, it helps the rest of us. This generation of readers are bushwacking the acceptance that later generations will get to enjoy.
Please be apart of this journey!
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M.S. in Organizational Psychology and Leadership