“Tarot Spirituality™” as a Legal Option?

“Tarot Spirituality™” as a recognized approach to working with Tarot was inspired by Katrina’s Transformative Tarot Counseling™ Intensive class, summer of 2010. In the “Counseling Skills and Ethics” workshop we began to discuss the legal challenges of practicing our spiritual art of sharing Tarot wisdom with others.

In most states, counseling is restricted to licensed mental health professionals who have successfully satisfied the established requirements of one’s state of residence. This usually involves a college level counseling degree, thousands of hours of supervised clinical experience, state or national professional board exams, ongoing educational requirements, annual state board fees, and annual business license fees. On the other end of the spectrum is the label of fortune-telling, practiced as entertainment. For many Tarot readers, neither of these options match their scope of practice or point of view.

Although counseling skills and ethics are valuable assets to any spiritual guide, to make it required by squeezing our expansive art into the limited box of options provided by state boards for licensing counseling professionals does not benefit our service or our those we serve. Again, for many of us, Tarot is a spiritual art that transcends society’s notion of business or mental health service.

Most Tarot readers integrate intuitive or psychic awareness into their readings, but not all readers deliver that information in the form of predictions or “fortune.”

We needed a third option, one that more closely relates to the spiritual wisdom of Tarot delivered via the high art of reading as a service. As we reviewed sample legal descriptions from our neighboring state governments, it became apparent that religious organizations more closely matched our sense of service and purpose in the world through the light and guidance of Tarot.

Our group of Tarot enthusiasts began to throw around ideas such as the “Church of Tarot” or “Tarot Temple,” but these are well established names already used by respected Tarot folks, whose domains we wish to honor. Finally, after much research and meditation, I chose the name “Tarot Spirituality” for it most simply describes our passion for the Tarot’s deep message of spiritual unity with the world…and beyond.

I hope this site inspires you to join our growing community of Spiritual Tarot professionals.

In Spirit,

© 2010 – 2023 Katrina Wynne, all rights reserved. Nothing herein may be copied, reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in any media format without express written permission of the author.


20 thoughts on ““Tarot Spirituality™” as a Legal Option?

  1. This is an interesting idea – one that Z Budapest put out when she was arrested for fortune telling many years ago in Los Angeles. She claimed that for her it was a religious practice. While I sometimes personally use tarot as part of my spiritual practice, including in spiritual gatherings of similarly-inclined people, I don’t feel comfortable reading for the general public, say at fairs or in bookstores, as a spiritual counselor. It seems a bit like proselytizing or saying that my spiritual wisdom teachings and perspective is something that the general public should follow.

    If someone comes to me in my priestly capacity (I’m Wiccan and an ordained Priestess in the Fellowship and Church of Isis) then I might offer to use tarot in those roles. I’ve also offered tarot rituals at Isis and Women’s Spirituality gatherings. It’s not something that I do specifically for money.

    I guess I’m saying that I wonder if this is truly a “third option” for the professional tarot reader – if that is what you are suggesting. Fees or donations for spiritual counseling, if there are any, usually go to the church, don’t they?

    These are just my first thoughts as I read what you’ve written. They aren’t meant to be criticisms but things I’ve personally wrestled with and that I hope you will be addressing.

    Mary K. Greer

    • Greetings Mary,

      Your input is always welcome and greatly appreciated.

      I agree. Money for service tends to fall under the category of business, while spiritual service most often is an offering. What I have discovered in my personal journey as a mental health professional and personal spiritual being, everything I do is imbued with spiritual wisdom, often from my study of Tarot. I could not find myself purely in one category or the other.

      Part of the issue may be the “labels” that society creates and the push to conform to these definitions. My brother once exclaimed to me in exasperation, “Why are you always trying to be different?”, to which I sincerely responded, “I’m not trying to be different, I just am different.” Realizing this lack of ability to conform, I’ve never been able to see myself embracing any particular label and prefer more unique descriptives…”Forest Mystic” for example.

      A big part of my initiating this community exploration of another way, whatever it is called or understood to be, was catalyzed by the state of Oregon changing their laws on the practice of counseling. In an effort to conform to narrow categories with limited therapeutic options with the hope of raising more revenue through licensure (my biased opinion), Oregon eliminated the non-licensed option for counseling professionals. What they do sanction is “Spiritual Counselors”, as long as they are registered with a recognized spiritual organization.

      This news sent me into a year’s meditation and exploration of my self and my priorities. Do I bite the bullet and conform to legal counseling standards that do not truly represent my eclectic style of counseling and limit my effectiveness, or leave the profession? Do I provide a spiritual service, but only accept donations? This is still under review, but at this time I feel balanced and authentic in realizing that my work has always been spiritual and clearly falls into the state’s option for spiritual counseling. I’ve been a non-denominational minister since 1992, registered with the local county clerk’s office.

      From this point of view, my Tarot work is not different. I bring a spiritual presence and wisdom to my Tarot work, no matter the topic for the querent. I know I’m working with a spiritual tool, even if it is only being used for spreading tasty morsels onto the bread of life.

      My spirituality does not have a singular religious orientation for it honors all voices, much like my spiritual understanding of the Tarot as a model of unity. I am a Tarotist, Taoist, Kashmir Shaivist, Wiccan, Pagan, Christian, Sufi, Kabbalist, Alchemist, Magician, Metaphysician, Buddhist, Pleiadian, Cherokee/Choctaw/Black Foot-Native American…and more, beyond these labels.

      I believe many people are moving toward a unity of consciousness and spirit, transcending the singular definition to embrace more essential, inclusive, values. I hope this website becomes an inspiration and friend to those searching for such a community of resonate spirits.

      In Spirit,
      Katrina Wynne

  2. This is very exciting, Katrina, and I feel so much a part of it. Congratulations on bringing it into manifestation.

  3. What is “the church”? I quote the Master Jesus saying, “Let everyone be a school unto themselves.” But I know the church is the body of believers (or knowers). I don’t think Katrina is envisioning a formal organization here (but I may be wrong).

    I follow A Course in Miracles, in which the Master says we should not charge for our counseling services. This is spiritual tradition: Spiritual gifts are freely received and ought to be freely given. It is also a spiritual tradition that the community supports the spiritual leader. We can suggest this but we cannot let this expectation interfere with the free flow of our gifts. We have to trust our recipients.

    This is why spiritual teachers traditionally had other means of support. Jesus was supported by his community. Paul was a tent maker and was also supported by his community. Their entire lives were dedicated to the spiritual well-being of their communities. (These are the examples I know best. I do not mean to conflate spirituality with a particular religion or even with religion, per se).

    • Dear Michael,

      I love that Jesus saying and hold it in my heart.

      Even I do not know where this will go. I’m putting my trust in the process and not interested in making rules or guidelines other than expressing my personal preference for a life-affirming dialogue and sharing from anyone who is interested in the subject of Spirituality and Tarot. This is daring, and as Mary wisely points out from her experience, it may have its risks.

      I believe there is a significant number of Tarot enthusiasts who are ready to embrace and share our deeper connection with each other through our study of Tarot wisdom. To me that is the essence of spirituality, recognizing our oneness while honoring our individuality and unique preferences.

      Jesus was a carpenter…I am a psycho-spiritual counselor/consultant. I appreciate the US value for separation of “church” and state because of the history of abuse in the western world. For me personally, they are not easily separated for I am a spiritual being in whatever I do. Again, I can not conform to the rules, nor do I wish to create rules of conformity for others…we all belong in the mix.

      Katrina Wynne

  4. Katrina –

    Since you legally have to be registered with a recognized spiritual organization – I wonder if that organization would have to be a state-recognized “church”? Of course, it is easy to get a ministerial license from some recognized churches (via the internet & other places). I have recommended this recourse to many as a way to be legally ‘safe’ in otherwise difficult situations – especially since it also recognizes both the wisdom & counseling approach to reading the tarot of most people I know well.

    So, how does one do ‘Spiritual Counseling’ using tarot in public (non-Church) venues with clients who may not understand what this is, or who may not realize that they are going to get information that is viewed through a very particular spiritual lens? I’ve had plenty of internet forum discussions with “tarot fundamentalists” who insist that tarot can only mean one thing (their ‘thing,’ of course), and sometimes it’s something I’ve found to be dogmatic and offensively judgmental. Not all readers are as open-minded and flexible as you are, Katrina!

    One concern is that some people will see this as a license to spread their own spiritual beliefs to unsuspecting clients. I know that you are very up-front about what you do. But, I think we’ve all been hijacked by some over-eager New Ager confronts us with how we deliberately ‘created’ an illness (even if I personally believe some form of this philosophy), or we’ve been shocked when a Fundie Christian says that AIDS is a punishment meted out by that man with a long white beard.

    Personally, I’ve steered away from seeing or talking about tarot as a religion or even ‘spiritual,’ because I see it as a slippery slope, for some, to megalomania and power/control issues — as in, ‘I’m the direct line to what Divinity wants.’ We know of the abuses that regularly happen in everything from Scientology to the Osho & Eastern-religious centers to main-stream religions. By it’s very nature, as tarot readers, we are the ones who are ‘interpreting’ the sacred book of Thoth, the very ‘will of the divine,’ to someone else.

    • Dear Mary,

      Great questions and insights from your vast experience. Clearly this is a hot topic, one that will take much study and reviewing to develop better understanding over time.

      1 – State-recognized church?
      Oregon law is vague on this point, as is the information shared when I called the office of the Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists for more detailed information. I’m guessing this gives them legal latitude to interpret the laws in a way that best meets their needs. It tends to be case law (the courts) that establishes legal presidents and examples. In the meantime, I can only read what is written and make a reasonable effort to comply. Consulting an attorney is advisable, but such counsel would be limited by the lack of definitive interpretation of the law at this time.

      Every state and country is different so I recommend that folks do legal research and study case law to get the real scope on what is tolerated or supported in their community. My hope is that contributors will investigate and report information on this site for the benefit of us all. I know that “Tarot Town” started a similar project to which I have a link on the Web and other Sources page.

      I’m not an attorney and cannot give legal advice. I can report my experience. I invite other contributors to follow this guideline as well.

      2 – Tarot Fundamentalist
      For now, rather than calling “Tarot Spirituality” a particular type of reading, I prefer to focus on the attitude and philosophy it can support for those who are interested, i.e. readers, clients, students of Tarot. It is purposefully broad to encompass many possibilities. Fundamentalism is a reductionist approach that has merits I can appreciate, but also carries limitations I choose not to embrace.

      My vision is to move beyond exclusion, limitations, labels, and finite definitions, in favor of expansive, inclusive, and infinite concepts. You can call me a dreamer…but I may not be alone. I don’t feel alone and that brings a sense of excitement to my heart.

      3 – “License” to misrepresent
      I hear what you are saying about the danger of manipulation and misuse. This is a concern I address in my book An Introduction to Transformative Tarot Counseling – The High Are of Reading and will soon post articles on this site with material drawn from that writing.

      “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure” “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
      Marianne WilliamsonA Return to Love

      When we live by fear or low self-esteem, we sell ourselves short and may never reach the level of proficiency we would like to be recognized for achieving. Many borrow ideas from others, but may not remember where they came from or do not have the integrity to give credit where it is due.

      You know, Mary, people will do what they will. Folk’s behaviors and choices say more about them and their integrity than the title they work under. Snake oil is snake oil even if promoted as the elixir of life. The “Peacemaker” was an intercontinental bomber, manipulation abounds. I can only take responsibility for myself as I live with the joy or sorrow of my choices. My hope is to raise the bar for those of us who are interested in fulfilling our authentic personal potential.

      4 – Abuse under the guise of spirituality
      As Tarot practitioners working with others I believe it is paramount to carry ourselves with integrity, honesty and professionalism. This may look different from reader to reader, but is a worthy standard to develop individually. One way is to develop one’s own “Code of Ethics” or “Professional Disclosure” to share with clients or peers.

      Abuse of power is one of the most dangerous realities of life. There is an unfortunate abundance of examples throughout history of the misuse of power. I think the Dalai Lama said it best, and I paraphrase…the problem isn’t with religion for there is truth in their teachings. The problem is when people who misuse power take control of the interpretation of religions. Closer to our home, Tarot is not evil or abusive, but abuse can be perpetrated by the one using it. As with the proverbial double-edged sword, it can swing toward healing or harming, depending upon who is wielding the sword.

      My desire in creating this website is not to set a standard of Tarot interpretation, but to celebrate its diversity in an inclusive, life-affirming way. That is my bias. Wisdom will be drawn from spiritual and religious sources. What has more meaning for me is sharing with folks like you who have a sincere interest in expanding our collective knowledge and connection with our chosen “friend” and tool, Tarot.

      In Spirit,
      Katrina Wynne

  5. I just want to add, that I hope you will be writing about ethics and guidelines that address these issues. I don’t mean to say that “Tarot Spirituality” is a bad thing—just that, in some hands, it could be very bad.

    American tarot via Paul Foster Case and Eden Gray has a decidedly “New Thought” emphasis that most people don’t even realize is there. While this quasi-religious approach is probably one of the most benign, it definitely lends a too-often unacknowledged spiritual cast to our roots. [“New Thought” is the philosophic basis of several American religions like Christian Science.]

    • Mary – to be brief. I have no idea where this study will go. My hope is that it inspires integrity, professionalism, and life-affirming attitudes and practices that elevate Tarot as a socially accepted and legally recognized service.

      I will be posting material from by book (mentioned above) and our collective wisdom on this continuous study and sharing of ethical and effective Tarot practices.

      Big hug and many thanks,
      Katrina Wynne

  6. Om Namah Sivaya,

    Oregon law is vague on this point because of the separation of church and state. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The government gets involved when you want your benefactors to get a tax-deduction for their donations or you want your church-related purchases to be tax-exempt. Then you have to be recognized as a tax-exempt organization (501c3) by the Federal Government. This applies to any not-for-profit organization, religious or not. It has nothing to do with its religious status.

    • Here’s the information on Z Budapest’s trial in which she stated that tarot counseling was part of her religious practice – she lost the court case!

      She later fought (for over ten years!) to get recognition for such religious practices (although it wasn’t retroactive to her case) – but, as Katrina states, these legal interpretations can vary from place to place.

      Here’s a much more recent case from last year – which didn’t go to court:

      Some states and municipalities put limits on who can perform ministerial duties – such as this statement about who can perform marriages as it applies to many states: “Licensed or ordained ministers, clergymen, or pastors of recognized religious societies.”

      There have been legal cases in California jails regarding whether tarot cards are part of an inmate’s “allowed religious items” or not. I’m not sure how far these cases have gotten. The restrictions become more severe when either payments or donations are involved in ‘services’.

      Here’s an in-depth discussion from New Jersey:

      Here’s a statement about spiritual counseling that mentions Montana laws:

      “Black Rose Spiritual Center is a Montana Corporation and is governed by the laws of that state. Under Montana Code 37-35-201, “pastoral counselor” is stated as a separate and distinct form of counseling help than that of a psychology professional such as a licensed counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist. All of our volunteers and employees who perform spiritual counseling services are members of the clergy and all counseling performed (whether the term is “counseling”, “reading”, “session”, interchangeable) are performed under the guise of spiritual counseling.

      “Montana Code 37-23-201 states in part “as long as the person does not represent by title that the person is engaging in the practice of professional counseling”.

      “Montana Code 37-17-1-4 states in part “(1) qualified members of other professions from doing work of a psychological nature consistent with their training if they do not hold themselves out to the public by title or description incorporating the word psychology or psychologist.”

      Katrina – as your own practice – of course, only you are involved. But, if your hope is to write about Tarot Spiritual Counseling as a path for others, then you would be doing us all a great service if you gathered as much of this information as possible. Jason, at The Wild Hunt blog, tries to keep up with current legal cases regarding fortune-telling and related practices.

      I’m only addressing these issues in the “Legal Options” section of your blog as this (and Ethics) is where some attention needs to be paid.

      Also, there is an ethical and power difference between tarot advice that is ‘entertainment-only’ (even though it, too, can be abused) and the advice of a spiritual counselor who is offering messages from the Divine (divination)—even if legally allowed.

      • This is the beginning of a long and comprehensive study for which I hope to see a successful and empowering conclusion for us all. It is from the research and dedication of folks like Z Budapest that we can continue to build a more solid foundation.

        First, I will post the links you offered and will continue to develop a hub for information on the legal parameters of this art.

        My heart is inspired to promote spiritual awareness when interfacing with Tarot wisdom, but it is the heady legal definitions that control how we share our art, a great challenge with dangerous historical precedents that I hope we can remedy.

        Thank you, again, for your invaluable contributions!
        Katrina Wynne

  7. Thankyou Katrina and Mary for your considered discussion regarding the process of sharing spiritual advice using the tarot as a tool or medium for such. Interesting how spirituality has become such a loaded ‘field’ even as the fields of psychology, sociology and politics are in America constantly veering onto traditionally religious or spiritual grounds.

    If Wisdom is not Spiritual, then what is it? If the Tarot does not represent a traditional Wisdom Way, then what does if re-present? If a Reader cannot legally advise while sharing the wisdom of the tarot, than how can she/he refer to wisdom at all?

    Love to you both…

    • Dear Dai,

      You put words to my feelings that I struggle to express, as always. Sharing wisdom, engaging in a co-creative process, this is what I’m excited about when working with Tarot. It is wise and enriches one with wisdom. This is the spirit that inspires me.

      Thank you for your contribution –
      In Spirit,

  8. Here we are in 2016 and this is still a relevant conversation. Thanks everyone- this has given me some good stuff to think about. Does an increasing emphasus on client participation or even client-led readings impact this discussion?

    • Great question…
      James Ricklef, a contributor on this site, has a book on the spiritual aspects of Tarot that lends itself to any type of reading, but with spiritual interpretations.
      In my work with Transformative Tarot Counseling™ my style is to follow the client and support the exploration of inner wisdom and knowing, as well as personal empowerment…in line with what you reference as client-centered.
      One way sees the spiritual message in the cards, while the other may support a spiritual experience within the client.
      Spirit is present in both options, but what I would wonder is which creates a more open experience for the client to resonate with spirit? This can be very individual, depending on the client, reader, topic, and environment.
      I prefer to see all road as leading to spirit, potentially.

      Love and Light,

  9. I see I commented a lot back then. I still had my social work license and thought I might use that, but I never really tried. I let it lapse and don’t want to get involved in that again. It’s all about being involved in the system, getting insurance reimbursement, etc. If “spiritual counseling” is the only way now, that’s fine with me. “Don’t muzzle the ox that treads the grain” is what the Bible says, and “the workman is worthy of his hire.” I don’t have to call it a donation, but I will if that’s how the law is written. And, I’m a church unto myself, too. My new business is called Art of Astrology. I make fine art and I use Tarot, too. It isn’t theoretical anymore.

    • Dear mvalentinus,

      I appreciate your comments and biblical contributions.

      The narrow professional view on the scope of what is therapeutic and emphasis on insurance billing of my state licensing board is the reason I chose not to seek a license. Fortunate for me, I am a minister and allowed to practice my “Soulful Counseling” services, which includes my Tarot service.

      I relate to the deck of Tarot cards as a visual “bible” with many of the same values, life lessons, and guidance for one’s spiritual as well as everyday life. In my mind and heart, Tarot can stand alone as not only a book of wisdom, but a spiritual practice, and ultimately a religion on equal standing with the same legal protections as all other US religions.

      Should be interesting to see where this goes….

      In Light & Love,

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