Draft of Tarot Code of Ethics

I’m firmly committed to the Code of Ethics of the American Tarot Association:

  • I will serve the best interests of my clients, conducting my professional activities without causing or intending to cause harm.
  • I will treat all my clients with equal respect, regardless of their origin, race, religion, gender, age, or sexual preference.
  • I will represent honestly my Tarot qualifications, including educational credentials, levels of certification and experience.
  • I will keep confidential the names of clients and all information shared or discussed during readings, unless otherwise requested by the client or required by a court of law.
  • I will recommend clients consult a licensed professional for advice of a legal, financial, medical, or psychological nature that I am not qualified to provide. If trained in one of these areas, I will clearly differentiate between the tarot reading and any professional advice additionally provided.
  • I will respect my clients’ right to refuse or terminate their reading at any time, regardless of prior consent.
  • I recognize that all ATA members have the same rights and obligations, and I will always respect and honor my co-members.

I would like to expand on a few of these points, though, and develop my own statement of my ethics with respect to Tarot. Eventually, I’d like to codify these into a one-page statement that I would have available to anyone who considered having me do a reading for them.

Age limit: I will not read Tarot for an individual under the age of 18 without parental consent. (If I have previously received parental consent for the minor to study with me or receive religious instruction with me, and the parents knew at the time that I read Tarot as part of my spiritual practices, that will count as parental consent.)

Honesty: I will read to the best of my ability, and will honestly admit when I cannot interpret part of a reading.

Confidentiality: I will not maintain confidentiality in cases where I believe the querent poses a serious risk to him- or herself or to others. (This is how I interpret the “court of law” part of the statement above, but it might not seem the same to others – what do you think?)

Confidentiality, again: I reserve the right to discuss insights into the cards that come about in a reading, as long as those insights are presented without identifiable client information attached. (Compare this to medical privacy: a doctor might say, or write a journal article about, “I had a patient once who had XYZ happen…” and this is not considered a violation of privacy as long as the doctor does not include information sufficient to identify the patient. Similarly, many professional readers include insights such as “I once had the Ten of Swords mean this, that, or the other…” without identifying clients or violating privacy. Would most querents find this acceptable?)

Confidentiality, yet again: I reserve the right to refuse to do a reading that, in my professional judgment, encroaches on the privacy of a third party not present at the reading. (Other people often come up in the context of a reading. That’s not the issue here; my point is that I won’t try to read your partner’s, boss’s, or best friend’s mind for you. How can I state this more clearly?)

Refusing and terminating a reading: I reserve the right to refuse to read for anyone at any time, and to terminate a reading, regardless of prior consent. If I do so, I will return any payment made to me.

I use Tarot as a device to help querents reflect on their current situation. I regard reading Tarot as a form of spiritual counseling in which I help querents understand themselves and their lives better, so that they can make the best choices for themselves to shape their future courses of action. I do not believe Tarot can “predict” the future, nor do I rely on “psychic” skills to read Tarot. The cards are a starting point for a conversation between me and the querent, and throughout, the querent remains in complete control of his or her life, choices, and the consequences thereof.

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About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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6 Responses to Draft of Tarot Code of Ethics

  1. Pingback: Episode 1 – Inaugural, Uncut « Dining with Druids

  2. Literata says:

    On reflection, I need to rephrase that point about readings involving third parties. To be clear, the reason I won’t do a reading that is primarily about a third party (not present) is because I can’t. My style of reading Tarot is a collaborative enterprise with the querent’s active involvement. It sounds high-minded to put it in terms of protecting others’ privacy, but at the root, it’s about what Tarot is and isn’t (again, for me).

    I need to find a way to restate that more bluntly to say there are certain kinds of questions that I can’t answer and won’t try to. “What does Bobby think about me?” is right up there with “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” Mu.

  3. Donalbain says:

    Do you think you have any ethical responsibility to check to see if your tarot readings “work”? By which I mean do you check up on the reliability and the veracity of the information you provide?

    • Literata says:

      That’s a good question, but I’m not sure how to put it into practice. I’m not in the business of detecting specific bits of information, so I can’t ask if somebody found their lost car keys or met a tall dark stranger. Most of what I present is possibilities and interpretations, many of them subject to metaphorical interpretation, which I work on constructing jointly with the querent. So much of it is contingent: if you have a situation in your life like this card, then, that card over there suggests you might think about whether you’re putting too much energy into a project that’s not going to go anywhere, and whether you might be better off shifting over to something else…and then the conversation continues about what the querent thinks and feels about that possibility.

      What I can say is that since I’ve mostly done readings so far for my close friends and family, I have been in touch with them afterwards and have seen that my Tarot readings have done some good and no harm that I can remember. I don’t know how I’d follow up with other clients, though; if they come back on their own, we can continue the conversation, but I can’t force them to be in touch. Do you have an example of how I might do something like that?

  4. inquisitiveraven says:

    I’m not sure there is a good way to follow up on something like that unless the querent initiates contact. You can, however, make it easy for them to initiate contact. A business phone number or dedicated email address can help here.

    However, I’m going to point out that if you’re not trying to predict the future, but rather trying to illuminate a current situation by providing the querent with a new perspective via the symbolism of the cards, then how well the reading “works” is going to depend very much on what the querent puts into the reading as well as the what the reader brings to the table. That’s something that’s going to be very hard to evaluate.

    Hmm, I have an idea. Ask the client if zie would be willing to fill out an evaluation form after the fact. If zie is willing, get zir email address if you don’t already have it, and send out the form a week or two after the reading (basically, allow time for events to play out). You probably won’t get all of them back, but I’d expect you to get enough of them back to be able to get an idea of your strong and weak points in doing readings. If you can get the querent’s consent, you can also use evaluations as testimonials to advertise your offerings.

    • Literata says:

      Another thing to point out is that since I’m not trying to read the future but trying to help the querent “read” hirself, if something emerges in the course of the session that the querent doesn’t want to acknowledge, that can be uncomfortable and might make the querent say it was a bad reading from hir point of view even if that was what made the reading potentially useful from an outside point of view.

      Your idea is great, though, and I’m definitely going to consider the possibility. Following up afterwards, if and only if the querent wants it, is a great idea.

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