Whether it is appropriate to charge fees for tarot readings and other similar spiritual or divination services is a divisive and controversial topic, even though I don’t think it should be. The conclusion seems rather simple and unequivocal to me: yes of course one may charge fees for tarot reading just as one may charge for any sort of professional service, though when it comes to tarot, due to its more spiritual nature, we must be even more cognizant of ethics.
Yet indulge me for a moment while I reflect.
When I was a child, I met several Buddhists with an inexplicable empathic or intuitive connection to the universe and none of them charged fees when they interpreted their visions for seekers. At most they would accept donations. They would be conscientious of how they used the money from these donations: only for necessities; only for further helping others.
Their approach has always stuck with me, perhaps because of how impressionable my young mind was back then. Couple that with growing up in a Puritan society and that is probably why I feel intense bouts of guilt when I charge people for tarot readings.
And so I don’t. Instead, I insist that I’m okay with giving the readings free, but will accept donations of any amount. I say this with the hope that the donation amount will be proportionate to their satisfaction with my work. If I provided zero insight and could not have been more wrong about their situation, then truly I am okay with nonpayment. If, however, they left feeling inspired, enriched, and empowered, then I hope they’ll show their gratitude by giving money that will reaffirm to me that I’m doing something right and continue on with my tarot reading adventures. Do not let my offer of free readings “for donations” fool you: I am very, very human, and very, very capitalistic. It is impossible for me to not measure the value of my tarot readings to others by the dollar amount I find in the coffers.
So when I get nothing, I feel like that’s my value. Imagine how that must feel after diligent focus on a tarot reading. Performing a one-card reading, thinking about it thoroughly, and writing up an assessment for the seeker takes 20 to 30 minutes, and that’s just for one card. I am very meticulous about how to apply that one card to the seeker’s question. Most of my readings are through written e-mails now, so then I need to write up something coherent. That, too, takes time. Ten plus cards can take up to an hour plus or minus. Many times, especially after repeat exploitation from seekers, I literally want to stop offering tarot readings altogether. I don’t think I even expect that much.
When you dine out at a restaurant, you expect to pay for the food and services. So when you request a tarot reader and the reader offers them “free, but accepting donations,” at least consider donating the cost of one restaurant meal. Isn’t that reasonable and the very least one can offer for another person’s time? In fact, when you request any kind of professional service at all, you expect to pay. So why would anyone go out of their way to seek a tarot reading and not expect to pay? Why would anyone take the initiative to contact me for a tarot reading and then not even consider how much time it must have taken me to do a reading and how much money they would want from a stranger if they put in that kind of time, commitment, and diligence for someone they didn’t even know? The more I advance down that line of thought, the angrier I get at the selfishness and lack of consideration of others. Is my time free? What makes them think I do not need to be compensated for in any way whatsoever for the work I do? Especially when I devote so much of myself to my work?
And that is when I start to think that the professional readers who charge $100 for their readings got it right. What is something I often say to seekers? Do not ever let others determine your self worth. You define your own worth. And yet here I am, a hypocrite, letting others determine the worth of my tarot readings rather than defining it myself.
Yet before I can change my mind and start charging for my services, that guilty conscience kicks in. I don’t know where it comes from, but I wish I could send it back.
More than that, though, I wish others applied the golden rule. I know I am.
UPDATE: I’ve since changed my mind on this topic, but instead of deleting the post, I’d like to leave it up and simply add this note. The tarot reader offers a very specific form of guidance and provides insight in a way that I have not seen any other service be able to do. On a certain intellectual level, I do not believe in charging fees for healing (as in doctors, medicine) or advocacy (as in lawyers and the practice of law). Generally the idea of commodifying social service is, again on a certain philosophical level, loathsome to me. However, in the reality we live in, money is the current that keeps society thriving and what governs the quality of our lives. So a tarot reader charging for services is no different from a doctor or lawyer, restaurant owner or plumber charging for their services rendered. If anything, given the nature of the work a tarot professional does, this should be an occupation held in high esteem, at the same level as other high professionals.