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.
Hey, still here? Cool! You might be interested in this:
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M.S. in Organizational Psychology and Leadership