So, years, ago, I owned my own business, which I ran out of my house and it was pretty easy setting it up and getting a license. Fast forward to today and I was thinking about some of the witch markets and pagan fairs coming to my area and whether I might like to sell something. I also thought how fun it would be to the whole fortune teller thing, maybe just for parties. A local husband and wife couple does that and they make $2000 minimum per event. Not chump change. So I looked up what was involved. Now, if I sell widgets, I don’t pay a license fee if I make $10,000 or less. And if I make $100,000 my fee is just $50. BUT if I dare to tell fortunes for money, I would have to FIRST pay a $500 license fee. Before making ANY money. Every year. Now, how is that fair? How are psychics compelled to pay 10 times what widget-makers pay? I get that there has been plenty of fraud among fortune-tellers. I feel like this is a way to discourage people from entering into the business at all. BUT…isn’t that kind of unfair? I mean, it’s a free country. No one should defraud anyone. But if I want to do tarot readings at Halloween parties for consenting adults, for example, I can’t do that without paying $500 and getting a license first. I don’t have a problem with the license. It’s the inequity that seems wrong somehow. And it’s not just my state. Until recently, in New York state, telling fortunes AT ALL was just plain illegal. Imagine! Your thoughts?
https://www.courthousenews.com/shes-a-spirit-counselor-not-a-fortune-teller/ (this is from 2009; also different district, but still, $300 and requirement that she prove she was of good moral character!)
This one is equally insane. I never had to go to COURT to get a license for my marketing business. In Cambridge, MA you have to do that AND notify schools of your presence, as if you were going to harm CHILDREN. Apply for a Fortune Tellers License - City of Cambridge, MA
Low against also forms of witchcraft for gain. I never knew this. Pennsylvania and some other places have these laws. Wow. Don’t sell a love potion or astrology reading in PA! Title 18 - PA General Assembly
Wow, that is wild!
I got super curious and dug into what the procedure would be like in MA- on the state website about fortune tellers, it just says the license is given by the town and you need to have resided there for at least one year. There is however a law against “pretend fortune telling” in MA.
On the town website, in order to tell fortunes you need to:
- License your business
- Fill out an application
- Fill out a REAP Form
- Fill out a Workers Comp Insurance Affidivit
- Go to the police station and get photographed as well as have your fingerprints done
- Pay $25
And all this looks like it needs to be done every single year on a certain day.
If it’s your first time applying to be a fortune teller, you also need to give the town:
- Driver’s License
- Birth Certificate
- Successfully pass a criminal background check
- Have your license application approved at the Board of Selectman’s meeting
How is this fair!? Things can get a bit beurocratic, but I highly doubt other professions have to go through this level of scrutiny.
I wasn’t planning to, but I guess I will be crossing professional tarot reader off of my list of potential side jobs
The only reason I can think of that governments would impose such large fees on “fortune tellers” is to cut down on fraud. I couldn’t find anything for my local area but several other counties and cities around me have something similar. The fee isn’t nearly as high but it’s still there – also there with the background checks, license, and similar. Though you’re right, $500 is quite a lot!
From my personal standpoint, while it might seem unnecessary, that’s because we are the good ones And I know not everyone is going to agree with me on this either. I wouldn’t mind paying the licensing fee every year because it would protect me but it also means I’m doing my part to keep the scammers out of my local community.
People are scammed by “fortune tellers” all the time. It’s even happening on Instagram right now where scammers are impersonating popular people and soliciting readings. Then once the person pays for the reading, the scammer disappears and blocks you.
There’s also the case here in Florida where a family of fortune tellers had been scamming people since the 90s and amassed a large amount of wealth! It happened in 2011 but it was such a large amount that no one is going to forget about it any time soon.
I don’t know, I guess being a tarot reader myself and reading for other people – and being the target of a few scam attempts – I don’t really mind the extra steps to take if I want to read professionally in a store. It’s a protection for my clients
I know to sell tarot readings and witchy stuff on Etsy, you have to add this disclaimer: “For entertainment purposes only. I have no liability and/or responsibility for any actions and/or decisions any buyer/client chooses to take or make based on his/her consultation.” Or: “All items are for curio purposes only.”
This is a really good point- I guess the sense of injustice exists because we are comparing honest work with other forms of honest work. And I imagine all of these barriers do do their job of dissuading scammers
I guess I feel bitter about it because all of these hurdles don’t just stop scammers, they stop actual tarot readers- those who have dedicated their lives to the Craft- from turning their skills into a livelihood.
Don’t get me wrong- I imagine it is difficult for the government to be able to distinguish fake readers from authentic readers- but I don’t hear about the same limitations on opening a church, selling holy water, or priest visits to the home (all of which are allowed here in Poland without interference from the gov’t, and which one could argue would also be difficult to tell who is “real” and who is not).
I guess, to me, these restrictions are less about preventing scammers (after all, here in MA there is a separate law with punishments for those deemed to be fake fortune-telling) and more about limiting those of a certain belief system Again, just my personal thoughts on this.
Hopefully they’ll find a better system in the future that is more balanced- prevents scammers but still allows tarot readers to practice their Craft and make a livelihood in a fair way
I can understand the hurdles put in place to dissuade scammers, but it irks me that there are seemingly no limitations on the things that Bry mentioned. It’s not like Christian churches have never scammed anyone before too.
The real reason for charging fees is so when the government decides to go on a new witch hunt, they know where to go
Paying a fee for a license doesn’t deter fakes. Fakes know they can make even more money by spruking a license and paying a little fee.
“I’m a real psychic. Look at my license!”.
@TheTravelWitch_Bry – Those are good points I wonder if you could get away with appealing the fees if you insist that tarot and psychic services aren’t “fortune telling” but rather spiritual guidance and divine communication as part of a religious practice. Since they don’t get involved with churches, priests, and the like, I wonder what their excuse would be there
@Kasandra --You’re right! Churches have also scammed people!
@Temujin_Calidius – Oh goodness, I don’t even want to think about that
I guess it can be a complicated topic!
OK I’ll chime in here…my thoughts:
First, here is a very recent article that I just read that talks about all of this in Petoskey, MI. They recently reversed the laws for Fortune telling because it’s against the first amendment and the right of freedom of and from religion.
As far as I’m concerned, I believe it’s very hard to know if licensing laws and requirements are effective in deterring intentional scams. It might be better simply to prosecute individual instances of fraud when they occur (and hopefully the victims are willing to report them). Focusing on the criminal conduct of particular ill willed fortune-tellers and not the practice of fortune-telling in general respects the right to believe, which includes a right to be deceived.
The effort to single out only some psychics as frauds is not entirely mis-guided—if you focus on the intent of the psychic, not the truth of his or her assertions. Thieves and liars are not defined by the falsity of their beliefs but by their insincerity and their intentions to deceive. Blanket bans on fortune-telling are unconstitutional, a California appellate court recognized and rightly struck down prohibitions on fortune-telling under the First Amendment, in a 1984 case. I think each state is on their own journey however — Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Carolina, for example, fortune-telling is flatly prohibited by state law, or once was, I haven’t looked it up in a while. In Arkansas and Mississippi, fortune-telling is regulated by local governments, which are empowered by the state to regulate or “suppress” fortune-telling, along with other businesses deemed unrespect-able, like dance halls and poolrooms. In Louisiana, localities may regulate or “restrict” fortune-tellers. In Massachusetts, they may only practice their profession if they are licensed by a city or town.
But while skeptics moan and grown that all fortune-telling is fraudulent, as a civil libertarian, I do not agree with government restrictions on the right of citizens to indulge their beliefs in psychic power (which are no more or less ridiculous than belief in God). We don’t license preachers or require them to prove they’re not conning us (we offer them public funds). Why should we license psychics? Religious freedom means that seances enjoy the same constitutional protection as the sacraments and/or protection from those same seances/sacraments if I so choose.
From my perspective, I think that would be a very fair appeal
If it would pass all the buearocracy and be approved in court, however, is a whole different issue unfortunately
I second this If a country truly offers freedom of beliefs, then beliefs should get the same (hopefully fair, but at least equal) treatment across the board. Whether that means intense regulations or no regulations is up the government, but one religion should not get more liberations and leeway than any others.
That’s a positive sign and a step in the right direction! Hopefully, with time and changing attitudes, honest tarot readers and fortune tellers will have more freedom and protected rights to pursue their Craft as a livelihood
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