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...
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.
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