I read this article on The Wild Hunt this morning, and it just made my skin crawl. The short summary is that (infamous) psychic Sylvia Browne, on the Montel Williams show, told a mother that her child was dead, and implied that the child was murdered. That child turned out to be Amanda Berry, one of three women rescued from being held captive in a house for the last ten years.
I know little or nothing about Sylvia Browne, though I hold a healthy degree of skepticism against out of the blue psychics who claim to communicate with spirits and the like, especially for high publicity jobs like those on “reality” TV shows. I hold this skepticism at the same time as I actively read tarot cards for others online (for friends and through forums, and not usually for pay) and am attempting to learn runes. I am large, and contain multitudes, I guess.
Granted, I think there’s a difference between “psychics” and performing divination – especially in the Druidic sense. When I am asking the Kindreds for their guidance, I’m specifically asking other beings that I trust to give me guidance in the form of cards or runes. I also tend to run those guidances through my own personal filters of “does this make sense”, and ask my teachers and other people whose opinions I trust if those guidances make sense. That’s for religious matters, but I do tarot readings for non-religious questions as well, and for people for whom a card reading is just a card reading, not an encounter with the divine.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, when it comes to reading for other people, it’s that I have to set boundaries. There are subjects about which I won’t read, because it is just too fuzzy, too ambiguous, and too likely to be incredibly damaging if I’m wrong. A teacher I once had called these things the “Three D’s”: Death, Disease, and Divorce. I won’t do a reading to tell you if you have cancer (go to a doctor), I won’t do a reading to tell you if you’re going to get a divorce (go to a counselor, or see a lawyer), and I won’t do a reading to tell you if someone is or is not going to die/has already died.
I also won’t do readings for people who aren’t actually there to hear them. If you want me to do a reading to look into your relationship with your mother-in-law, I’ll do that, but it will be focused on you, your actions, and how you contribute to that relationship (and whether or not your taking steps might mend or break that relationship). I will not do a reading to see how your sister is getting along with her husband, because a) that’s a huge breach of privacy – she may not want you to know that, and b) why don’t you just ask your sister? If you’re estranged from your sister, see above about a reading about mending a relationship.
And I always couch these readings with the strong statement that the cards I’m reading are only looking into how the situation looks right now. I strongly believe that even a ‘future outcome’ spread has the potential to change drastically based on how you respond to it, and that a tarot reading is never set in stone. For me, divination serves two functions – it serves as a tool for communicating with specific Gods and spirits that I trust, and it serves as a way to look into current situations and attempt to bring unseen aspects of those to light, for consideration and reflection.
Maybe I’m having too strong of a “squick” reaction to this case simply because it’s so egregiously bad. I know or know of several intuitive readers who have strong ethics and aren’t out for sensationalism. But this is just bothering me on a lot of levels.
I certainly don’t expect that everyone who reads cards or does divination work will have the same sets of boundaries and guidelines that I do – I know that kind of thing is very personal. I just really hope that people who take on this kind of responsibility will do so ethically and responsibly – in a way that suits their own boundaries and is beneficial to the person for whom they are reading. It just strikes me as highly irresponsible to tell someone that their missing loved one is dead and murdered, on national TV, and then say “well I’ve helped lots of other people, so I guess I was just wrong about that one” when it comes up as wrong.