I’m honored that Alison Leigh Lilly and Jeff Lilly spent time on their inaugural podcast of Dining With Druids discussing my draft of a Tarot Code of Ethics. One of the issues they examined is why I will not read Tarot for people under 18 without parental consent. The short answer is: The Constitution.
I am not a lawyer, and unfortunately I can’t find a short discussion of this easily, but as far as I understand it, the general consensus of US law, including Supreme Court cases, is that parents have a right to control the religious upbringing of their minor children. People who involve children in religious or spiritual activities without the consent of the parent can, theoretically, be charged with infringing on the religious rights of the parent.
Mainstream religious denominations generally don’t have to worry about this; it’s doubtful that a parent will prosecute a Methodist minister just because their Episcopalian teenager visited the Methodist youth group. But Paganism and Wicca are not mainstream religions and parents might be quite angry to find that their child was involved with related activities. Therefore, the parental-consent-when-under-18 is basically a self-defense, exactly on par with the self-defense statement that I cannot and will not provide medical advice.
This is a sad but true fact of life for Pagans and Wiccans today. The short answer may be “The Constitution,” but the long answer is “The Constitution, courts, parents, and fear.”
Alison and Jeff also highlighted the ways that the ATA’s code and my rough draft of expansions and adaptations sort of dances around the question of whether Tarot is “woo” or not. (Yes, Jeff, I use that term too!) I see the code as trying to acknowledge and defuse fears, concerns, and misconceptions. It doesn’t yet address those questions adequately, so I’ll keep working on it.
Obviously, I should have put that final paragraph up front and enlarged on it a bit; I see Tarot as a basis for spiritual counseling on a variety of levels, and so this code of ethics does in fact straddle the approaches of pastoral or spiritual counseling and the approaches of psychotherapy. I see my Tarot practice as spiritual because I do discuss matters of spirit, belief, and religious practice in Tarot readings. Moreover, the expertise that I provide to querents when I read Tarot is based in my studies and experience as an aspiring, developing priestess.
There’s also an issue of regulations involved. Since I don’t think I use psychic powers or do fortune telling as commonly understood, I hope that by making that explicit I can avoid the more onerous regulations related to those areas of commerce. I have only begun to look into this, and in fact I owe it to the Wild Hunt’s ongoing series on Psychic Services and the Law to be aware of the issue at all.
Thanks to the Lillys for giving me more to think about regarding the ethics – and metaphysical nature – of Tarot!