Tarot is accessible to everyone, which means there are hundreds of people offering readings online. How can you find a reader you can trust, who's qualified to help you with your questions?
I primarily use TikTok for consuming my social media these days, and while I technically have an account for Lamplighter, I haven't used it much. I mostly use TikTok to spend a few idle moments seeking a good joke or gag, and occasionally to help inspire me. My FYP is really a mixed bag of things curated for me by the algorithm, as it likely is for all of us. Of course I'm interested in tarot, so I get a lot of accounts and lives pushed to me. And I've been somewhat shocked at the sheer number of people doing readings on the app.
With such a saturation of readers available, how can you find someone who is a "true" reader and not some dabbler or novice, or —worst case— a charlatan (a person falsely claiming to have a special knowledge or skill; a fraud)? Let me help!
First, I'd like to say that I don't believe tarot readers are "one size fits all". I think that you can and should find a reader who vibes with you, who can really connect with your energy, and make insightful observations and suggestions. I might be the right fit for you, but it's also possible another reader is a better fit! I think it's really important to have choices when seeking someone to support you in making changes in your life.
Secondly, it's part of any professional tarot reader's job to help root out charlatans. It's an unfortunate reality that this line of work is like a magnet for predators and the vulnerable alike. Tarot is, by and large, a self-taught trade. There are people whose family taught them, and there are others who took tarot courses (like mine!), but most people will buy a deck and a book, and dive in. There are definite layers to tarot, and depending on how deep you want to get with your studies, you might just be a dabbler, or a novice, etc. I'm not here to point fingers and call people out, but I do want to help you identify charlatans and professional readers.
Experience & Rates
I am of the opinion that people should not be charging money for tarot readings until they are a "professional". So, what's a professional tarot reader look like? A professional will have been working with tarot for many years, doing reading for the public for a least one year. Their rates should reflect the number of years they've been reading for, as well. Lower prices for less experience, higher prices for more experience.
But I also think you've got to be discerning in the other direction too! I've seen some pros charging more than $200 for 60 minute readings (or less) but as a matter of fact, you will not get more out of their readings than other who are charging less for the same amount of time —60 minutes is 60 minutes and only so much can be done in that time. In my opinion, a solid professional tarot reader will be charging anywhere from $0.50-$3 per minute, offer a variety of ways to book at different price levels, and might even offer a sliding scale. I believe that everyone should be able to afford a tarot reading if they feel they want/need one. To be clear, pros who are charging hundreds of dollars for one hour aren't necessarily "bad" but I do question their reason for reading cards, their reason for high pricing. To me, it's not a matter of their "value" because it's still just 60 minutes of their time and energy, same as anyone else's. You be the judge for yourself, what do you think is a fair price for experience?
Spotting a Charlatan
I want you to save yourself from losing your money, getting a bad reading, and most of all getting a harmful reading. So here's a list of ways to spot a charlatan to save yourself some heartache.
One surefire way to identify a charlatan is to research them a bit. How long have they been reading cards for? Where/how do you book their time? Do they have a website references or testimonials? Are they using protected methods for payment?
Watch for anyone who says that tarot is "mysterious", or has unknown origins, or is centuries old. Anyone who has studied tarot knows that what we know as tarot today is rooted in the 1800-1900s. Divinatory practices have long predated that, and cartomancy (reading cards) has existed for quite some time (but we can't be sure how long because paper doesn't last), the current prevalent tarot systems are genuinely only a little more than 100 years old.
If the reader isn't actually showing you the cards they've pulled, just telling you which card it is, this can be a red flag. In my practice, I always share the spread with my clients. This is because tarot decks are designed purposefully and thoughtfully and may contain imagery that resonates with the client that I just won't see the same way. There's no rule that says you have to show the cards, but if they're never sharing them, that seems troubling to me —who's to say they've actually pulled that card.
There's a new trend where people are letting cards fly out of the deck, rather than intentionally picking cards. This isn't always a bad thing, but to me could very well be a red flag to watch for. Tarot uses a system called "spreads" where cards are very intentionally positioned to create a grid for interpretation. Many new TikTok readers shuffle chaotically until cards fly out and read those, but never really create these spreads. Again, there's no rule saying spreads need to be used, but spreads will give you a much clearer message. There are different ways to go about "finding" the cards, and for some these flyers are their way —which is fine if that's the intention set— but it's clear to me that many new readers are using this technique because they've seen others doing it, and it's spreading like wild fire.
If you catch them on a livestream, take note of the card they are showing and listen to what they are saying. A quick google search of any tarot card will give you key words for that card's meaning. If they are talking about something completely different, they likely haven't spent any time studying. Yes, tarot is interpretive and intuitive, but it is absolutely founded in traditions and widespread symbolic systems (depending on the deck). In my opinion, all good tarot readers have a solid foundation in the basics. This is probably the best way to fact-check a reader before you give them money.
Finally, use your intuition! If a reader doesn't feel right then don't go with them. It's standard practice to pay for a tarot reading upfront (especially online), so if you're not sure whether this is the right reader for you but you want to give it a try, ask yourself if the amount of money or time you're spending is an amount you're willing to lose.
Finding a Professional
A professional reader will have tons of information on their website or platform, and will be willing to answer your questions before you book a reading with them. Research goes a long way!
Do they have an FAQ? We readers often get the same questions over and over, so we're likely to have an FAQ that will do some gatekeeping for us, to save us some time.
What is their history or background? Many of us have either studied or worked in psychology or sociology fields. If they share this information, it's a great start, but feel free to dig a bit deeper. Do they have affiliations, do they recommend other readers or professionals? Can you find their information listed on third party websites?
Do they have a code of ethics? Most professional tarot readers will have ethics and policies posted on their websites. If they don't, feel free to ask them about "rules" they uphold for the safety of themselves and their clients.
See if they have invested in a Tarot business. Much like the researching tip above, see if the person has spent money on their business platform. Do they have a professional website, have they paid for ads, etc. This will account for some of the higher prices you'll find. You can also check if they offer other, related services such as downloadable content, courses, etc.? This shows an energetic investment in their practice.
A Few Tips
If you're nervous at all, email the reader to ask a few questions. Some might not respond at all, and others might take some time to respond, but the way they treat you before an exchange of money will give you a great indication of their approach. In my experience, professional readers are very dedicated to giving you a great experience and to leave you feeling empowered. If you walk away from any interaction with a reader feeling uncertain, they're probably not for you.
If you're booking with a reader for the first time, I suggest getting the shortest, cheapest, smallest offering they have and go in with no expectations. Discuss an issue that is important to you, but not one that is going to hit really close to home. This is because you don't know this person, and you can't be sure they're going to be able to hold space for your reactions or feelings, or if they are qualified to navigate difficult subjects with you. Tarot doesn't have to get deep, but it certainly can. So make sure you're protecting yourself financially and emotionally.
Finally, if you're really curious about tarot and would like to get a reading but you're nervous about reaching out to a stranger, consider buying yourself a deck with the money you'd have spent on a reading (or in many cases, much less money). There are many free resources online to help get you started, and a great number of paid courses you can take, too (just do your research here, too). I have some great recommendations for decks and books over here.
If you have any questions, send them my way! I'm always happy to talk tarot.
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