On Tarot Reading Ethics, Part I: Health, Legal, and Financial Readings

Deck Pictured: The Awakened Soul Oracle by Ethony

Not one to miss a tarot bandwagon, I figured I’d work in my own thoughts, or at least a few of them, on tarot reading ethics. If you’ve been out of it all month and would now like to catch up on what the heck I’m talking about, check out this recording of a live episode of Spread This, Witches (STW), “The Ethical Tarot Reader,” featuring Allorah Rayne, Chase from Two of Owls, Nico of Scarlet Moon, Ethony, and hosted by Avalon. Ethony then put out this educational video, “Is Your Tarot Reader Scamming You?” to continue the conversation on tarot ethics. Chase also talked independently about the topic, starting a discussion vlog here, “Discussion: Tarot Ethics.” Allorah Rayne added more from her perspective here, on “Red Flags of Unethical Spiritual Practitioners.”

Here’s a Model Code of Ethical Conduct you can download and use in any way you like. A text version for you to edit and revise, and yes you are free to use, copy, or modify in any way whatsoever for your own personal or commercial uses is here, on my Holistic Tarot Study Guides page, under “Advanced.”

I’ll be subdividing this topic into three parts. These posts will explore some of my personal thoughts and also professional opinions on certain oft-adopted ethical rules.

This is Part I of III, in which I’ll be tackling the question of reading for medical, legal, and financial concerns.

7/11/2017 Update: This is Part I of II only. I’ve decided against publishing Part III. Explained at the close of Part II.

7/18/17 Update: I’ve decided to proceed with sharing Part III, but it is a password-protected post. Please do not ping me with requests for the password. It is made available in closed circuits to those who have access to those circuits.

You often hear readers say that it’s against tarot ethics to do readings on health or legal questions. But why? Why are tarot readers discouraged from reading on health and legal issues?

It’s for legal reasons and, as far as I understand it, that’s pretty much the only reason. In most jurisdictions, there are codified laws against the “Unauthorized Practice of Medicine” and the “Unauthorized Practice of Law.” At best, it’s a misdemeanor and a fine of thousands of dollars. At worst, either one could be charged as a felony and carry several years of jail time. To get charged with such an offense would be the worst day of your tarot reading life.

Deck Pictured: Tarot of Ceremonial Magick by Lon Duquette

Readings on Health Concerns and the Unauthorized Practice of Medicine

Weighing the legal risks and criminal penalties involved, most professional tarot readers play it safe and just put a blanket “NO” over all health questions. You can’t possibly get charged with the unauthorized practice of medicine if you don’t even take questions for the subject.

But must you reject divinatory readings for health concerns? Not necessarily. A divinatory reading for a health concern isn’t necessarily the “unauthorized practice of medicine.”

What constitutes the unauthorized practice of medicine? First, to be found liable, you have to represent yourself as a medical doctor. Thus, clear, explicit, written and spoken, repeated ad nauseum disclaimers shouting that you are not a medical doctor, that you do not have a license to practice medicine, and you are in no way giving medical advice, plus the unambiguous recommendation that the individual seeks qualified medical advice pulls you out from any accusations of representing yourself as a medical doctor.

Psst…business advice tangent. If you’re a professional reader and don’t have a written disclaimer on your “Book a Tarot Reading” page or in the confirmation note that’s sent out when a seeker has booked a reading with you, then pause from reading this post, jump over to your own booking materials, insert the following disclaimer right now, and don’t return until you’ve got such verbiage prominently displayed among your booking materials:

“Your divinatory reading with me is spiritual in nature and is an expression of what I hold as sacred. In no way should your reading with me be construed as financial, legal, or medical advice. I am not a qualified financial advisor, licensed attorney, or medical doctor. A divinatory reading with me is a form of spiritual, metaphysical consultation.”

So legally, if you want to do a divinatory reading for a health question, your first step is to make abundantly, almost annoyingly clear that you are not a medical professional. Also, do not represent yourself as a healer. That gets dicey and could get you into trouble if you’re holding yourself out as a healer.

That’s not all. You’re not in the clear yet. The second prong of the inquiry is whether you have given medical advice that is specific to an individual’s medical case, illness, or injury. That’s when things get grayish and murky. You’re probably being tasked to do a tarot reading for a very specific medical problem. If it’s a general, overbroad “health and wellness” inquiry where your advice amounts to “eat healthy, meditate, drink more water, and exercise,” then you’re in the clear. If it’s, like, for a specific individual’s current diagnosis of breast cancer or reading about Jane Doe’s heart condition, that’s when you land in the gray and murky area. Are you giving medical advice that is specific to an individual’s illness or injury? Could be argued either way.

By and large, tarot readers aren’t the ones getting in trouble for this offense. Holistic health practitioners who don’t have medical licenses, energy workers like reiki practitioners, and those who are holding themselves out as healers are the ones who are most at risk. There are actually FDA regulations, state Business and Professions Codes, and consumer protection laws that many holistic healers are breaking all the time that no one realizes. In my capacity as a lawyer, I’ve worked on such cases, so I know firsthand. It’s scary stuff. So if you’re a holistic healer, I really hope you know what you’re doing and you’re fully informed of both the federal and state regulations that apply to you. (And please do not ping me to ask me for help. No, I won’t give you legal advice. You’re just going to have to find that help somewhere else.)

So can you do a tarot reading for a health question? Here’s what I do when I’ve decided to take on such an inquiry. I make it clear in-text as follows:

“The nature of your question means it can only be answered by a licensed medical professional. You cannot use a tarot reading to substitute qualified medical advice. However, we can address the spiritual or karmic implications of the matter at hand and I can use tarot to read about the metaphysical, nonphysical energies that might be at play. Addressing the metaphysical, nonphysical energies only without also addressing the physical, medical problem will not resolve the matter. With all that clear, I’m happy to use the tarot to read about the spiritual or karmic implications of your inquiry.”

Yes, go ahead and copy-paste any of the disclaimer text I’ve provided, even word for word. Or just change around a couple of words. Or rephrase entirely. Whatever you need to do to cover your ass. Also, I have some “for entertainment purposes only” verbiage somewhere on this site for you to use, copy, or reword at will, and that absolutely needs to be in your disclaimer, too.

Then, in your reading on the health question, do not use any medical terminology. Try to talk about the reading through the framework of energy, karma, spirit influences, high or low vibrations, the kiss of the flying spaghetti monster, fairies, and so on. Interestingly, the more woo, the less likely you’re in jeopardy of being accused of giving medical advice. When you start sounding like a medical doctor, you start running a greater risk of being accused of misrepresenting yourself as a medical doctor. Don’t sound like a medical doctor.

So, to sum up, make it unambiguously clear that you are not a licensed medical professional and that you are not going to be diagnosing medical issues, but rather, your reading is spiritual in nature and you’re looking at metaphysical energies only.

Readings on Legal Questions and the Unauthorized Practice of Law

Now, what about legal questions? Although I am a licensed attorney, I never mix my legal practice with my tarot practice. When people come to me for a tarot reading on a legal issue, I make it clear that I’ve set up blinders over my legal mind and that in no way will I assess the situation as a lawyer because I have quarantined that part of my knowledge and will be proceeding by intuition only.

As for the unauthorized practice of law, leave it to lawyers to render that difficult to define. It’s hard to say for sure what is and is not the unauthorized practice of law as it might apply to a tarot reader. Real estate brokers who don’t have law degrees draft buy-sell contracts for people all of the damn time and I have a lot to say on that front but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

Typically, how legal matters get ensnared with the sacred arts is when a reader is asked to predict the outcome of a case. By the way, licensed lawyers are not allowed to predict the outcome of cases. It’s totally taboo for lawyers to be doing that! Since I am a lawyer, to play it safe, I never, ever use tarot to predict the outcome of legal matters for people. So if someone comes to me with a question like will I win custody over my child or will I win that landlord-tenant dispute, I will decline such readings out of hand and not even try to negotiate a rephrasing of the question.

When it comes to best practices as a reader, again, make it annoyingly clear that you are not a licensed attorney and that no part of your divinatory reading can be construed as legal advice. If your disclaimers aren’t annoying, then you haven’t made them explicit enough. Get it to the level of annoying.

I know many psychics who do predict the outcome of legal cases for clients and are probably doing it with great accuracy. Here’s why I’m going to recommend to you that you do not agree to predict the outcome of legal cases, even if you’re super-psychic.

Let me set up a scenario for you. Your client is in the middle of an ugly legal battle. Your client is represented by a lawyer. The other side your client is battling against has a lawyer. Trial is imminent. Your client is feeling antsy and comes to you for a divinatory reading to predict what will happen in the trial proceedings.

You give your tarot reading about the legal matter. It isn’t 100% aligned with what your client’s lawyer has told the client. Your client goes back to her lawyer and says, “Yeah? Well my tarot reader said this and this.” Guess what. Now the lawyer knows your name and you are on that lawyer’s radar. Let’s say shit hits the fan in some really unpredictably awful way. (There goes your super-psychic abilities.)

If there is even one-hundredth of a fraction of an iota of a weak case to be made against you by that lawyer for tampering with the case in any way whatsoever, guess what. You’re getting sued. Period. Especially if that lawyer can work out a case of the client relying detrimentally on what you’ve said in the course of that tarot reading. Lawyers will sue everybody under the sun with barely a tangential relationship to a situation. That’s their job. They wouldn’t be good lawyers if they didn’t do that.

Whatever dollar amount you think you’re going to make from doing that one divinatory reading on a legal matter is not going to be anywhere close to worth the risk of trouble it carries. Don’t do readings on legal questions, especially the predictive kind. Do not predict the outcome of cases even if you’re good at it. The law does not care how psychic you are. The potential negative ramifications to your professional practice isn’t worth the risk of predicting the outcome of legal cases.

In fact, professional readers often warn about not letting your ego get in your own way. What does that mean? Here’s one way that can happen. You know you’re damn good at predicting the outcome of legal cases so you want to do it as a professional reader. That’s your ego getting in the way. Your ego wants the validation of being accurate in such psychic predictions so you make such predictions at the risk of all the ramifications I just listed out. Frankly, it’s stupid. Get your psychic validation somewhere else.

When it comes to predicting the outcome of legal matters and doing any form of divinatory reading on a legal matter, my professional recommendation is to just say no. Decline reading on legal issues, period.

Remember: you can always rephrase the question and pull it out of the scope of law and into the realm of personal spirituality. For example, the question, “Will I win my custody battle?” can be rephrased to, “What does Spirit want me to know about the best interests of my children?” A question like, “What will happen if I file for bankruptcy?” can be rephrased to, “What life lesson is there to learn from my past and current economic situation so that I can better achieve future success?”

If you must do readings on legal matters and you’re not going to listen to my professional recommendation, then at the very least, make it explicitly clear that you are not a licensed attorney, that you are not acting as a licensed attorney, and that in every way, the seeker should defer to the licensed attorney’s professional counsel. In other words, discredit yourself. Seriously. Say something to the effect of, “If what I say about the outcome of your legal matter conflicts with what your lawyer says, then don’t listen to me; listen to your lawyer. In all instances, defer to the professional opinion of legal counsel.”

Readings on Business and Financial Matters

While there are codified laws against giving medical advice or representing yourself as a medical professional and laws against giving legal advice or representing yourself as a legal professional, as of this writing, what constitutes a “business consultant” or “financial advisor” are not defined. In fact, at the moment, the laws around whether financial advisors have any fiduciary duty to you are in contention.

In the past, all sorts of folks have called themselves either a business consultant or a financial advisor and may or may not have any educational background, experience, let alone certifications to back up such claims.

Thus, the legalities around doing readings on business and financial matters aren’t clear.

So if a seeker wants you to do a divinatory reading on whether to buy, sell, or hold Stock ABC, or what insights you can give into running the seeker’s XYZ start-up business, or whether to buy that corner property on Main Street, you can do such a reading, so long as you operate in good faith, make it clear there is no fiduciary duty between you and the seeker because you are not a professional business or financial advisor, and you don’t engage in intentional misrepresentations or fraud.

In other words, from a general legal standpoint, giving financial, investment, or business insights using tarot or any other divinatory tool is the same as holding yourself out as a financial advisor giving financial, investment, or business advice. There aren’t any legally distinguishable differences between the two. Unless otherwise specified or an individual is a certified public accountant (CPA) or certified financial analyst (CFA), neither owes a fiduciary duty. (Although, again…due to a ton of consumer issues that have risen as a result of this, the law looks like it may be changing.)

As a professional rule for best practices, just be truthful and read only for the questions you feel comfortable reading for. Fully disclose your background and your educational and work experiences. Over-stating your qualifications for doing readings on financial and business questions is probably a bad idea. Okay, it’s a really bad idea. Make it explicitly, annoyingly clear to the client that you’re using woo to answer the financial or business question and not using any form of expert financial or business background.

Random Sidebar: Personally, and never for the exchange of money, just for shits and giggles with people who are already at the top of the professional financial game, like hedge fund managers, stockbrokers, and analysts, I definitely give buy, sell, hold tarot readings. It’s so much fun to see who wins–my tarot deck or some guy with 40 years of trading experience as a fund manager.

Nine of Cups from the Golden Universal Tarot by Lo Scarabeo

As tarot readers, one of the most detrimental consequences of not being a regulated profession is no consensual code of ethical conduct. There are private organizations that you can join, such as the American Tarot Association, where a consensual code of ethical conduct is required to be complied with among its members, but that only extends to its members.

Also, as a consumer, if I have an ethical bone to pick with a lawyer, doctor, accountant, broker, or contractor, just to name a few occupations, there’s a licensing body I can contact and file a claim with. At the time of filing such a claim, other members of that same profession, whom I might view as superior to the one I had a bone to pick with, will then assure me I’m right, what that single person did was not cool, and that is not proper for members of said profession. In other words, immediately, any negative stereotypes I might have begun to form about the profession can get dispelled by the governing body.

That doesn’t exist for tarot readers. By and large–and you can’t totally blame them–consumers walk away from a shitty tarot reader with the impression that all tarot readers are shitty and tarot reading in general is shitty. There usually isn’t a bigger-better group of professional readers to swoop in immediately and assure the consumer, “no, what that one single tarot reader did was not okay, you’re right, that reader was wrong, here, let me explain to you exactly how legit tarot readers would operate.”

Most tarot readers are fringe by nature and don’t want to be regulated by a governing body. Without a governing body to regulate, there is no way to do large-scale damage control. So all we tarot readers can do is establish our own code of ethics, set our intentions out there, and then hope for the best.

Like the series so far? Continue with the subsequent parts, linked below.

Part II: Third Party Readings and Onerous Clients

Part III: Addressing Curses (Password Protected)

11 thoughts on “On Tarot Reading Ethics, Part I: Health, Legal, and Financial Readings

  1. I have a question. I read in a previous blog post about protecting oneself from litigation as a professional reader. I understand the need to know the laws regarding fortunetelling in ones area. My question is, how would I even begin to look that up in my county? For instance, Solano County, California…where would I look for county regulations about card reading? Having no legal background, I am at a loss. That said, I do not want to put myself out there without having all of my bases covered.


    1. You can check city ordinance codes rather easily on Google just by typing in “[Name of City] City Ordinance Code.” You can also check county codes. Since you mentioned Solano County, note http://www.codepublishing.com/CA/SolanoCounty/, run a search for keywords to get you to the right spot, such as “astrology” (I would go with “astrology” even if you’re a tarot reader, because not every city code includes the word tarot, though tarot reading would be covered under the “etc.” part, whereas by and large they’ll include “astrology.”) or “occult” or “palmistry” or “fortune” (for “fortune-telling”).

      You’ll need to do the due diligence on your own, but a cursory search under the Solano County Code database pulled up Ordinance 362, passed but not yet codified, titled “PROHIBITS THE PRACTICE, BUSINESS OR ART OF ASTROLOGY, PALMISTRY, PHRENOLOGY, ETC., AND PROVIDING PENALTY FOR VIOLATION THEREOF.” Where that leads, though, is probably a rabbit hole you want to follow, since it’s relevant to your region.

      Ideally, find a business lawyer in your county and ask him or her to prepare a signed legal opinion for you on the legalities of your particular sacred arts practice. It will probably be a couple of hundred dollars, but then once you’ve got that document, you can rely on it to do your business.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Benebell, I had to tell you, I went down the rabbit hole and discovered that this ordinance was codified in 1953 and repealed on September 12, 1989. A gentleman from the county was kind enough to send me a photocopy of the history of ordinance 362 and advised me that I may practice with impunity! Very excited right now and I appreciate your assistance with this. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. You are always brilliant and articulate. I agree with everything you’ve said in this post, but you are such a thoughtful reader and writer that I would have loved reading it even if I didn’t agree. Looking forward to the continuation!


  3. I completely agree with you regarding above and I do (unpopularily so) incorporate health and legal questions into my repertoire. I also have business insurance that would pay for legal fees associated with any issues I might get from clients who would like to sue me for a reading as a ‘just in case’ but for the most part people know that this is only advice which they can take with or without a grain of salt. The readers getting into trouble are the ones who are coercing their clients into giving them stacks of money. A simple one hour reading targeted to the questions at hand are in no way even close to what is being criminally or civilly charged these days, especially when a reader makes a statement regarding their culpability and the clients’ role in session.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The Grimoire Files: 02 – the Rowan and the Staff

  5. Pingback: Cheap Shots #26: The Slippery Slope | Parsifal's Wheel Tarot & Astrology

  6. Pingback: Linkage: Faery food, ethics, and negativity | Spiral Nature Magazine

  7. Pingback: Disclaimers and ethics – OHOTarot

  8. Such a helpful and refreshing read. Thanks so much! Seeing that Part III title definitely triggered some client request flashbacks. Hopefully someone I know has access to it, not because I ever plan to handle curses but because I want to make sure I’m deflecting those requests in the most useful way (and if someone does handle curses, then I’d love to know resources to send a client to when they come up).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s