On Tarot Reading Ethics, Part III: Addressing Curses

This is the final installment of a post series on tarot reading ethics. As you can see, I’ve decided to set this post to password-protected. This final installment comes after Part I: Readings on Medical, Legal, and Financial Concerns and Part II: Third Party Readings & Reading for an Onerous Client.

In Part III, I’ll be tackling the issue of curses and hexes. First, a note for clarification: I’m going to separate out the distinction between practitioner and reader for the purpose of this post.

A practitioner is someone who works proactively with unseen energy and spirit influences, who, for lack of better terminology, can and will cast spells for hire.

A reader is someone who reads energy for hire, such as someone who does divinatory work, like a tarot reader or psychic.

I think you’ll see why we need the separation.

The Commodification of Cursing and Hexing

While a strong argument can be made that cursing and hexing falls within the scope of First Amendment protection, when you offer curses or hexes for hire, it becomes commercial speech, and commercial speech can be regulated and even limited. Thus, constitutionally, cursing and hexing for hire can be regulated by the law and, like, getting way more legalese-y than we need to right now, just FYI, local transactions in-state would be regulated at the local level and under the commerce clause, there’s federal jurisdiction if the transaction crosses state lines, i.e., you live in California and you’ve been hired by someone in New York to perform a hex to be carried forth in Oklahoma. But all that is neither here nor there.

Nutshell summary: your local jurisdiction can regulate the practice of curses and hexes if there’s an exchange of money involved in that transaction. It falls squarely within the same scope as whether or not you can sell tarot readings in your municipality and whether you’re required by law to add “for entertainment purposes only” to your service disclaimer.

Business advice tangent time… Professional readers in the United States don’t add “for entertainment purposes only” to their service disclaimers for shits and giggles. There’s legitimate legal reasoning behind it. In certain states, it’s required if you want to stay out of trouble. Since most of us pros operate across state lines, irrespective of which state you’re residing in, it’s just general good business practice to include the “for entertainment purposes only” disclaimer in case one of the relevant jurisdictions gets triggered. It’s the tarot world’s equivalent to the cigarette industry’s surgeon general’s warning. It’s in effect the “hey, you’re still responsible for your own life choices and I’m not responsible for what you choose to do with what I say in the course of this reading” spiel.

Commercial spell-crafting falls within the same scope as divinatory readings in the eyes of the law here, so all spell-crafting services you offer should carry with it the same “for entertainment purposes only” disclaimer.

Here’s a reality check, though. Even if you neglect these disclaimer practices, chances of you getting in trouble for what you’re doing, if you do it in good faith, are low. Even if you have every air-tight disclaimer in the book plastered all over your stuff, if you engage in fraud or misrepresentation, you will still get in trouble. So ultimately, it’s not about the disclaimers. It’s about making sure you do not engage in fraud and misrepresentation.

More funny law-and-witchcraft stuff to throw at you. Okay, so to me, witchcraft is not a religion. Witchcraft itself is a practice, a study, an art, a metaphysical technology that operates outside the bounds of religious doctrine. However, many individual practitioners subscribe to a specific religion and will then practice their witchcraft within the bounds of their specific religion. So it’s like, there’s science, right, and then let’s say you’re a scientist but a conservative Christian, so maybe you’ll self-impose limitations on the scope of science you’ll experiment with due to your Christian beliefs. But that doesn’t have any bearing on the neutral body of science itself. Ya know?

Under most legal systems, the sciences and religion are regulated separately and differently. Obvious, right? However, in the eyes of the law, witchcraft is religion. Witchcraft is a religious practice. I’m not saying I’m surprised by this. I don’t think witchcraft is on par with the hard sciences, but I do find the distinction interesting–how many practitioners observe the distinction between craft and religion but the law does not, and the law treats craft as religion.

Bottom line, yes, you can commodify curses and hexes, but like every other commercial good or service, there are regulations you need to follow, most of it logical and intuitive. No misrepresentations. No fraud. Be careful with how you word your puffery and marketing materials. Don’t overstate the effectiveness, accuracy, or results of your work.

Now…is it ethical as a practitioner to perform curses and hexes for hire? Oh…isn’t that the loaded question…

A Practitioner’s Role When a Seeker Requests Such Work Be Done

My opinion on this front gets a bit dicey. See, here’s the thing. Professionally, it’s a blanket no. In my own observance of professional ethics, I do not do any curses or hexes for hire. Period. As a practitioner, I do not commodify cursing and hexing.

It’s not because I’m against curses or hexes, though I am, though I still do them, though more on that later. It’s because based on my religious beliefs, there is karmic fallout that can come from such work and there is no dollar amount I care to receive for dealing with or putting myself in the line of fire of such karmic fallout. So I don’t do such craft for hire.

However, I would be disingenuous and frankly, lying to you, if I said I am totally against and do not do any curses or hexes whatsoever. Here’s where the human part comes in. Yeah, it’s inconsistent and yeah, it’s hypocritical. Per my religious beliefs, it’s immoral to curse and hex. There are severe karmic repercussions if and when you do. That’s what I believe in terms of my religion.

And yet yeah, I won’t pull the wool over your eyes about my reality, because yeah, I do engage in cursing and hexing. I’ll give a few solid examples to satiate your selfish curiosity.

A while back I sent out a generational curse on someone on behalf of one of my closest friends ever from childhood that I’m still close to today. I’m close to her mom. I know her brother. I know her whole goddamn family. We’re that tight. This asshole sued her family business and put her and her entire family through hell. To support her family, my friend had to give up her career, put her marriage in jeopardy, and so much harm was done because of this asshole. Initially I signed up to help from a purely legal and business perspective, to counsel on the side supportively alongside the main legal counsel they hired. But my friend isn’t just a client. This is my girl. We laughed together, we cried together, we got in trouble together, we graduated together, we went on and learned how to adult together. I call her mom “Auntie.” I made fun of her kid brother with her and yet like her, have much love for him notwithstanding. I feel a weird, inexplicable big-sisterly sense of protection over her kid brother. When Hubs and I visited her city and she was out of town, she left the keys to her place under a mat and told me to come in and go freely, and to have at it.

They know what I do. So when the family asked me for this rather specific form of help, despite being pretty sure I was going to say no because karma, and because they think I’m kind of uptight and straight-laced, I surprised them by saying yes. My friend thought she knew me, knew where I stood in terms of my moral compass, so couldn’t believe that I was ready to rumble, but because she was desperate, asked anyway, prepared for the no. I didn’t give her a no. I rolled up my sleeves and said bitch, let’s do this, he is going to be so sorry he ever crossed any of us.

Was it right and moral? Nope. Not according to my personal spiritual beliefs.

Was it legal? Yeah! As far as I understand the letter of the law, yes it was.

Here’s another IRL example. When a group of mean girls went after my baby sister and she was at a loss for what to do, you better believe the witchy gloves came off.

Currently I hold myself out as a professional reader and have also offered spell-crafting work for hire as well. However, if a seeker came asking me to perform a curse or hex for hire, then I would decline. Professionally, it goes against my ethical standards to do curses and hexes. Personally, it goes against my moral standards to do curses and hexes but I will do them anyway for those I love when they are in dire straits. Is that a hypocritical double standard? You better believe it is. And?

See? To me, there’s a world of difference between professional ethics and personal morals, what I’d do within the scope of a professional relationship and what I’d do within the scope of a personal relationship. Should there be a double standard? Probably not. Do I maintain a double standard anyway? Yes.

Ultimately, I believe that practitioners who commodify curses and hexes do a greater disservice to the professional community’s reputation. I’m not saying it’s wrong all of the time and in fact I would bet there are many occasions where such acts are justified. But in a cost-benefit analysis and weighing all factors in totality, ultimately, it does the entire community of practitioners, as a professional collective, a disservice.

I’m not saying you can’t do it, but I am stating affirmatively that you doing so will hurt the reputation of practitioners everywhere else. Out of consideration for my professional peers, as a practitioner, I will not commodify cursing and hexing.

A Reader’s Role in Detecting the Influence of a Curse or Hex

The ethical issues aren’t getting any easier here. The textbook fraud case that the professional tarot community needs to deal with is the conniving tarot reader who tells a client that there is a curse on her and that the reader can remove the curse for a significant fee. That stereotyped trick in the book is the one we as a professional community are trying so hard to distance ourselves from.

Thus, it’s generally accepted among readers that telling a client that there is a hex or curse on them is unethical. Basically, the ethical code most readers abide by puts on an intentional block when it comes to curses and no discussion of curses are to take place during the course of a divinatory reading. Period. (Likewise, it’s oft-accepted that readers will not talk about death and we put up an intentional block when it comes to death and dying, so no discussion of death or dying shall take place during the course of a divinatory reading.)

However, given the parameters of my personal beliefs, let’s say I happen to sense out a dark cloud affecting a client I’m working with. Always, I will leave the client with magical instructions. And if it’s an in-person reading at my home, then a talisman of some sort, or other totally-free protective metaphysical work will be provided to help the client out. (And just for the record, that rarely happens. To me, a “curse” is something rather specifically defined, which I won’t get into here. Then there’s just “negative thinking” and by and large, people are just suffering from good old fashioned negative thinking, not a curse.)

In the Western culture, a deeply-embedded conviction in the reality of curses and hexes is not prevalent. Those who believe in such things are generally in the minority. However, in many Eastern cultures, especially the rural parts, cursing and hexing are very much a reality in the people’s collective consciousness. If there’s just one thing we can agree on irrespective of our beliefs, it’s that the people’s psychology make hexing a reality.

If you’re a reader, even one from the Western culture, when encountering a client from an Eastern cultural background who subscribes to the belief of curses and hexes, to impose your belief by telling that prospective client, “There is no such thing as curses and hexes” is probably not going to be as productive as you’d like it to be. It’s going to be more productive to help facilitate and navigate that client within his or her own head space to make sense of that belief in the curse or hex. In fact, that’s what empathy and being an empath is all about. You’ve got to start at the point of your client’s head space and emotional state, and then within the context of that client’s perspective and point of view, identify the best path to navigate that client to somewhere better.

Empathy

When you’re holding yourself out as a professional reader, you’ve got to maintain high standards of professionalism. I’m not sure anyone could disagree with that assertion.

Now, to me, part of professionalism when you are a reader is empathy.

Let’s say a client comes to you for a divinatory reading and begins the inquiry with, “…incurred negative karma and now I don’t know how to overcome that negative karma from my past life incarnation so that I can ensure a more auspicious rebirth…”

I would argue that if you respond with, “I don’t believe in karma. Karma isn’t real. Reincarnation isn’t real. There’s no proof that reincarnation exists, so there is no such thing as rebirth. Let’s rephrase your question so it’s grounded more in reality…” — if that’s your response as a reader, then that’s incredibly unprofessional. Here’s why.

Even if that is true to what you believe, in fact especially if it’s your belief, such a response from you, the reader, lacks empathy.

If a client comes to you with the presumption of angels, or fairies, or gnomes, or ancient aliens, starseeds, or Jesus, no matter what your belief system might be, to be an ethical, professional reader, you need to meet your client where your client is and go from there.

When I’m confronted with framing a divinatory reading around a belief system that I don’t share, I say something to the effect of, “I’m afraid I don’t know a whole lot about the world of gnomes…” Phrase your response as you not being knowledgeable of that particular principle. Don’t say you don’t believe in that principle or you don’t think it’s real. Instead, acknowledge that you just don’t know. Then go from there.

What does this have to do with the topic of curses, hexes, and ethics? If someone comes to you clearly convinced of the reality of curses and hexes, I just don’t think it’s your place to challenge that belief.

If you really can’t read on such a topic, just phrase it as, “I don’t know much about curses or hexes and that arena isn’t one I’m informed in…” Does that hurt your little ego? Aww, well, too bad.

“I’ll Remove That Generational Curse for $3,000 and a Gold Rolex…”

How do you draw the line between fraud and religious or cultural beliefs? It’s the same line we try to draw between snake oil and some essential oil moon-blessed potion that we purport falls under “holistic healing.”

No two individuals can agree on which position to draw that line. We try to explain it with a word like “intention” and then also say “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Interestingly, I would argue that in terms of legal philosophy, it’s not so clear cut whether such propositions are illegal. Sure, no question, fraud and misrepresentation are illegal and carry potentially both civil and criminal penalties.

But here’s the conundrum. What if all parties genuinely, in good faith, true to their word and religious practices, believe that there is a generational curse and the only way to remove that curse is by the cursed party forking over $3,000 to a priest or priestess and a gold Rolex watch? Try to not laugh at or dismiss belief systems not your own here. In fact, among evangelical Christians in America’s Bible belt, there’s that whole prosperity gospel, which if you ask me and I’m getting honestly judgey, sounds a whole lot like “I’ll remove that generational curse for $3,000 and a gold Rolex…” where Christian ministers of Jesus are driving $100,000 cars, living in a $100 million mansion, and own a fleet of private jets. Jesus indeed.

I don’t have an answer here. I just acknowledge it’s an uncomfortable question.

In terms of what appears to be the laws in effect, you run a serious risk of being charged with fraud if you go around fear-mongering about curses and hexes, and proposing to remove such curses for money. Thus, to protect professional readers from exposing themselves to such accusations, elders in the profession typically instruct that in terms of ethical regulation, do not talk about hexes or curses during the scope of a divinatory reading.

Ethics versus Morals

The thing with morals is everybody’s got a different set of them. Some folks think drinking alcohol is immoral. I don’t. Oh heck not at all. But I totally get and respect that to some, it’s immoral. Hey, you do you, boo. Our laws and legal system get conflated with morals and that’s a major problem. I learned that from an amazing law school professor. Ethical codes written into law work for a society, but moral codes do not, because of the similar stripes morality and religion wear. To be the best legal mind you can be, you must, must, must separate out a distinction between morals and ethics. If you don’t, you run the risk of creating shitty laws.

So do I think our laws should illegalize cursing and hexing as commercialized services? No! Although I do believe a stringent ethical code needs to be in place to prevent fraud. It is only my own moral and religious view that cursing and hexing as commercialized services should be frowned upon, and while that is a code I wish to live by, it is not a code I believe should be imposed upon others who may hold different moral views. That’s a really key distinction.

What frustrates me are the opinionated self-righteous readers and practitioners who conflate morals and ethics in a public forum. To me, it is a demonstration of messy logic and an unclear head. If you don’t start with the clear separation between morals and ethics, then everything you have to say after that point is going to be a mess. Once there has been a separation between morals and ethics, as a professional community, we can then come together and debate intelligently about what ethics to agree collectively to uphold, if we choose to have that debate at all.

14 thoughts on “On Tarot Reading Ethics, Part III: Addressing Curses

  1. Jadzia

    That’s a very interesting and insightful blog post, thank you for writing it!
    Personally, I don’t advertise anything besides straight-forward tarot readings. But, every once in a while someone will book a reading and it takes an unexpected turn. I do think that seekers are drawn to certain readers for a reason. Anyway, the only time I’ve ever had the question of curses come up in a reading was from the seeker. They felt like they’d been cursed. It was a topic I never expected to explore in a reading, but it turned out all right.
    On your topic of death and dying, again a topic that I don’t usually expect to come up in tarot readings, has on occasion. The most intense time was a woman whose husband had passed and he really wanted to talk to her. I guess it’s a good thing I have that ability, although I’d never advertise it.
    So I guess, a lot of these controversial points just depend on the situation. Sometimes something you’d thought you’d never do comes up and seems right in that moment.

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    1. Hi Jadzia! I totally agree that the reader best be ready for the unexpected. 😀 The craziest things can happen that throw a wrench in what you thought was your code of ethics or what you will or will not read for!

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  3. Benebell, I’m so grateful you wrote this post. I prefer to steer clear of the whole hexing and cursing “thing” because it makes me wicked uncomfortable – both from the standpoint of being on the receiving end and also as a practitioner faced with potentially breaking one. It’s a harrowing thought. That said, I’ve had two separate clients come to me who turned out to be dealing with ancestral karma concerns that were very curse-like.

    Mind you, I didn’t know until that first client that ancestral karma existed.That itself was eye-opening… and third-eye opening. 😉 And the reality of what that first client was dealing with through that ancestral thread in this present time was downright alarming.

    In both instances, the resolution of the karma blended into their existing energy healing session and intuitive session. And in both instances, although a way to resolution revealed itself within session, the work had to be done by the clients, on their own, out of session. It’s fascinating stuff.

    Given those experiences, it seems possible to me that the persons who feel they’ve been cursed might benefit from a similar approach. What could be more powerful than breaking a curse against yourself through your own power? Of course, there goes that $3,000.00 and the Rolex. 😉

    Again, fascinating stuff. Peace.

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  5. Amanda

    Thank you for sharing this post! I never took into account the legal aspect (I don’t work for hire at all just yet) but it’s very important info to consider. And I appreciate that you don’t take a cut and dried approach to curses and hexing, because yeah, sometimes a witch has to do what a witch has to do!

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