While Tarot has been around for ages, it has a stigma in certain religious circles that treat anything outside of their dogma as dangerous. Spirituality, however, is apart from religion and can be accessed by anyone who is open about the unknown and not committed to a closed system of belief.
This post is not about the history of Tarot nor how it’s long been used by spiritual seekers and those in a space of needing help. But as Tarot grows in popularity, I thought it might be useful to share what I was taught about the ethics of Tarot reading.
Prior to creating the Self-Love Oracle and the artwork for the Angel Tarot, I immersed myself in workshops and books about Tarot and Tarot reading. Even earlier, in my teens in the 90s (ie. before I knew what I was doing), I also wrote a numerology and Tarot-reading program for my A-levels Computer Science project. My understanding of the Tarot was so shallow and cringe at that time that I’m rather happy now that those files have been lost. (And for the record, I got a B. Eh.)
What are the Spiritual Laws?
The Law of Attraction is an example of a spiritual law. Everyone knows that one after it’s been popularised in countless new age and self-help books. Lesser known books on other spiritual laws are out there or taught in workshops (as the ones I attended around 2013), but the most comprehensive book I know is this one:
(If you’re unfamiliar with new age or mind-body-spirit books, you may wonder who “set” these laws. The quick-and-dirty answer is that some teachings are considered “channeled” by spiritual authors. I’m not here to dispute this other than to opine that I have this book and it’s thoughtful, gentle, and pragmatic.)
The material below was originally shared in my blog post “Tarot for Empowerment” which has been re-written and re-organised as Better Questions for Empowered Tarot Readings. That post was born out of the “Rule 1” that I was taught in spirituality/Tarot classes: Don’t let the querent ask a “Should I?” question.
The reasons why are found in the Spiritual Laws, and I still adhere to these in my readings. Here are some of the Laws from the book in no particular order that I’ve found relevant in the realm of doing helping work:
The Law of Responsibility
- You carry the responsibility for your own life and your body. You carry the responsibility for all your decisions made–as well as those you avoid or “give” to someone else.
- You are not responsible for anyone else. Do not take responsibility for someone else’s feelings or life choices. Be responsible for your own choices and feelings, and the actions that you take from the latter.
Application: Readers and helpers should not read the Tarot, make decisions for, or offer advice to an adult who isn’t present and has not agreed to the reading. These are the readings I’ve turned down, for example:
- Someone who wants to “check in” on their ex after a break-up.
- An anxious auntie who wanted to someone to read the “fate” of their son’s love life. I suggested that he could come to me and I would give him the reading if he wanted it.
Readings should be focused on the seeker or querent, and not too much on “snooping” on the people they’re keeping tabs on. From a psychological perspective, these people may be overstepping boundaries and trying to control or influence others. This goes against the Law of Responsibility when they’re not taking care of their own affairs and social or emotional needs.
The Law of Discernment
- Following the Law of Responsibility, the Law of Discernment requires that all information and advice received (even from parties deemed trustworthy) should be checked if it is right for us. Or, shorter: We are still responsible for what we believe and take to heart.
- We cannot blame someone else with the excuse that we ourselves do not know “right from wrong”, especially once we’re adults. We cannot avoid responsibility for our ignorance or intellectual/spiritual apathy. Be proactive practicing discernment and responsibility.
Application: The helpee, seeker, or querent is not obliged to believe or swallow wholesale the information that a reader imparts. Discernment protects all parties involved.
The Law of Perspective
- An experience is neither good nor bad except our perspective makes it so.
- Challenges and difficulties viewed with fear and avoidance frequently become blocks. Some challenges will persist until they are overcome with a shift of perspective, mindset, and/or engagement.
Application: “Should I?” questions usually come from a querent trying to avoid something. It could be the avoidance of “making a mistake” or facing a difficult loss…all of which feels bad.
Avoiding the difficult may be human, but from a spiritual and psychological perspective, it may not always be beneficial or the right path. So this is another mark against answering “Should I?” questions.
If the querent feels safe enough and the card reader confident enough, the reading can be used to explore the querent’s fears and projections. What are the reasons behind their mental or emotional block? What understanding and tools can be gleaned from deeper examination?
Tarot can present the querent’s challenge in a bigger context and from a more empowered perspective.
The Law of Gratitude
- All of us have inner and outer resources to lean upon. Seeing these and appreciating them raises us out of powerless victimhood and into the realm of problem-solving, inspiration, receptivity, and flow.
I should stress that everyone has inner resources, such as patience, imagination, resilience, compassion, determination, kindness, knowledge, caring, wisdom, autonomy, abilities and skills they can draw from but often forget or take for granted. In meditation circles, I’ve watched people struggle when asked to name something inside or about themselves that they are grateful for.
It’s easy, if not expected and coerced in conformist and authoritarian societies for people to be grateful for the external and material needs in life. They are expected to be grateful to their superiors. It’s easy to fall into a supplicant or beggar mindset amidst authoritarian conditioning. It’s easy to remain blind of how self-worth and self-esteem are easily exploited in hierarchical societies and unbalanced relationships.
The fix is to see our own worth, and to trust ourselves, and to be grateful to our own wisdom, bodies, minds, and determination that we are still here now, functioning with some autonomy and power.
Application: Helpers and Tarot readers are in the position to remind their clients that they are not passive actors in their own life. Not everything is measured in dollars or socio-economic standing; some resources and strengths are innate to the querent. Remind the querent of this. The world has enough critical and minimising voices.
The Law of Request
- If we still need help, requesting and making prayers for help is more effective from a calm and centered space.
Application: Even if your querent is in a tight spot, calming and helping your querent to feel safe in their session helps them to make better decisions, and not to take actions based on fear or rash impulse. There are also studies to show that spiritual practices help people with addiction and complex PTSD–which may not apply to your querent, but still supports them holistically. So if your querent believes in prayer, facilitate their spiritual connection. I’ve read cards and auras without problems for people who pray.
This finally leads to…
The Law of Attraction
- When help comes, it is more likely to be perceived and received when we are in the space of gratitude and grace.
Application: Readers and helpers are also active players in Tarot and healing sessions. I’ve often found that I get certain clients for a reason–that both of us have wisdom or information to be shared. All experiences can still teach if we can look upon them and reflect without hasty rejection. Even my “bad” reading experiences have taught me how to become a better reader.
For your querent, you don’t have to teach or remind them of the Law of Attraction. But, should they be pursuing a new love or new job, they need to remember to keep their spirits up and put in the legwork. The other laws still apply!
Tarot readings sessions are always conversations between the reader, the querent, and the cards. Whether the session is approached as a novelty or a source of spiritual answers, my own view is that the reader should be ethical and educated in the use of the cards, and act as a trustworthy helper and messenger. But, querent is also responsible for their own actions after a reading.
There will always be querents who misunderstand the cards as describing future events like they are carved in stone. Readers can try to change this view by emphasizing that the cards read dynamics, not certainties. We also live in a free will universe where we always have the power to determine how we meet our challenges.
Always empower when you can.
And to quote Prince, Love is the Master Plan.
Note: Originally posted May 2018 and titled “Tarot for Empowerment”. Updated in 2022.
Cover photo: https://pixabay.com/users/darksouls1-2189876/