Those of us who practice tarot know that there can be a lot of rumor, legend and superstition about what we do. Sometimes we, ourselves, are the source of untruths and half-truths about our practices.
Often, superstitious untruths are sanctimoniously spewed by practitioners who seem to value their judgmental and didactic opinions more than they value actual study.
One such legend that pops up from time to time is this gem.
A “true” tarot reader (or teacher) doesn’t charge money to read (or teach).
The last time I heard this was at a tarot class that I happen to teach regularly for free. A student arrived with her worn tarot deck. I was excited to meet her, and her cards. It seemed at first that we were gaining a class member with some knowledge and experience.
During our class introductions, she stated she had been reading tarot for forty years. That’s longer than I have. I was duly impressed.
Then she stated that readers should never charge money for readings. I tried to clarify with her; was she talking about the neon storefront psychics who scare people into paying huge sums of money to lift the family curse? No, she wasn’t. She was talking about me, and my colleagues.
She reiterated. She truly believed it was spiritually wrong to take money for a tarot reading.
I tried to make a joke of it, saying something about supporting my kids with tarot reading (which I did for most of their young lives). My student said I should have worked at McDonalds.
Some of the other students in the room gasped audibly. Every eye in the class was on me. The seconds dragged as I mentally scrambled to find a peaceful way to solve the problem.
Finally, I said, “One thing we can all agree on is that we don’t all agree about tarot. There is no one right way to read tarot, or interpret a card. That’s why we have this class; so that we can share ideas and each discover what seems to be true about tarot for us.”
The students nodded and relaxed.
To start our program of study, I asked the students to separate out the suit of Cups and put it in to order.
Can you believe that my forty-year tarot veteran didn’t know the tarot suits, and was pretty sure the cards didn’t have a specific numeric order?
I said nothing, but the rest of the class seemed to catch the three obvious unspoken lessons.
First, owning a tarot deck is not the same as learning a tarot deck. You may have owned your deck for forty years, but that clearly doesn’t make you knowledgeable about tarot.
Second, lack of actual knowledge leaves fertile ground for legend to grow. Often those who spout tarot myths most prodigiously are those who actually know the least about tarot.
Finally, if you don’t pay your tarot readers and teachers, you may end up with a reading or lesson from someone who literally doesn’t know the first thing about tarot.
I do a lot of pro bono work. I donate my time to charity regularly, I teach free classes and webinars, and share my skills with free webcasts and weekly newsletters. I encourage my students who are professionals to do the same. It makes good business sense, and good spiritual sense, to do that.
I am proud to be a professional reader. I have been a professional reader and teacher, fulltime, for more than twenty years. I work every day to expand my skills and develop my abilities. As a teacher and a reader, I know I offer quality products.
Not every tarotist wants to read professionally, and that’s fine. The very best use of tarot may be for our own personal introspection and growth.
It’s also true that we are a self-regulated industry, and the buyer must always beware. There are frauds, there are well-intentioned readers who aren’t very talented, and there are people with whom a particular client may not connect well.
However, there are plenty of great readers and teachers out there. if you need an insightful reading or an informative class, don’t be afraid to find a great professional tarotist to make it happen.
If you are a talented tarotist who wants to go pro but are concerned about the spiritual significance of taking money for tarot-related work, here’s what I think.
Don’t listen to the proclamations of judgmental people.
Do study well, practice much and be excellent at your work.
Give people a fair value, and give back when and where you can.
That’s what’s worked for me all these years. It will work for you, too.