I thought I was done talking about tarot certification. Really. I have written about it on a few occasions, including recently. But here I am again, ready to talk about it. Why? As I mentioned in my last post about certification, the conversation got reignited with the whole Doreen Virtue drama (Lisa Frideborg has been diligently reporting on that debacle). That situation exposed the inherent flaws in certification and lead to more questions behind the scenes.
People asked me if tarot certification was necessary (my answer: no), but also: what to look for if they indeed wanted to have that piece of paper on their wall.
Although the main tarot certifying bodies have disbanded long ago, there are a few individuals who are currently offering certification. As consumers, we need to approach these with great care and common sense before investing our time and money.
Which means: we need to ask the right questions to these certification boards.
Here is my checklist on what you need to ask and do before you seek tarot certification:
Find out if the certification board is a non-profit or for profit business. This is important. Although it’s no guarantee, a non-profit might be more focused on education whereas a for-profit business may be more interested in their bottom line. A non-profit would also have strict legal requirements, a board of directors, federal guidelines, mandatory meetings, as well as a democratic voting system which would help the tarot community get a voice in choosing leaders. (Ex: TABI – Tarot Association of the British Isles is a non-profit comprised of volunteers who offer mentoring and endorsement. They provide an excellent and ethical service for tarot readers.)
Next, scrutinize the website. Is the web copy full of social triggers? Do you feel anxious when you read the web copy? Are they making false, urealistic promises (ex: you’ll be 100% accurate!)? Some people practice slick marketing techniques that tap into your fears, aspirations, and insecurities. Don’t get swayed by triggering web copy. Also, are there testimonials from well known tarot readers or authors? If so, reach out to them and get feedback. Remember: anyone can put up a picture and twist some words around to create a flattering but phony testimonial. If you feel uneasy reading that sales page or if anything doesn’t add up, investigate thoroughly – and trust your gut.
If the certifying body is claiming to have national or international accreditation, inquire about this.
- Where did they get this accreditation?
- What process did they have to go through to get this?
- Was there rigorous vetting or did they just pay a fee to be able to slap that on their website?
Ask questions about the person(s) behind the certification board. Questions such as:
- Why are you offering this? Is this to better the industry, establish your method as the standard, or something else?
- How long have you been reading tarot?
- What is your experience reading for the public?
- Are you still reading for the public? If so, how many readings per week do you do on average?
- How many face-to-face readings have you done?
- Who certified you?
- What is your tarot lineage, if any?
- What gives you the authority to offer this program?
Get a reading from the person(s) offering the certification. (If they don’t offer readings, this is a HUGE red flag). Do you like their reading style? How accurate do you feel the reader was? Remember: if they expect you to prove your skills, then they need to be ready to throw down and prove their chops to you too. Do NOT skip this step.
Ask questions about certification process itself. Questions such as:
- Will the certification process give me access to one-on-one mentoring with you – or not?
- If so, how much assistance can I expect to receive?
- What criteria determines what makes a tarot reader certifiable?
- Will I need to take a test and what will that test entail?
- If I don’t pass the required test, will I have the opportunity to re-test? If so, will this be free or will I be required to spend more money?
- How will this certification help me in my tarot business?
- Will clients ask to see my tarot certification?
- Is this certification based in any one tarot reading method or is their room for all styles and philosophies?
- Will I get further support in my business from you? If so, are there any additional costs involved?
- Will there be additional educational requirements over the years to maintain my certification and, if so, does this need to be with you or with any reader I choose?
Get clear on any rules you may be expected to follow by asking these questions:
- If I am certified through you, am I required to put a badge on my site? If so, will this link to your site?
- Is there a code of ethics I am expected to abide by?
- If I choose not to follow your ethical guidelines, what might be the repercussions?
- Will clients have the power to file a complaint against me with you? How might this affect my certification?
- Under what circumstances might I lose my certification?
Seek referrals. Who has gone through the process? What have they gotten out of it? Did they feel it was worth the money?
Finally, ask yourself this question:
- Do you feel proud saying “I’m certified by ________” or does it make you feel corny? Sit with that for a minute and see how it feels deep down inside. Look, you may think being certified will make you more legitimate in the eyes of the public, but it’s prudent to ponder whether it’s a necessity for your business or just an excuse to spend your money to get a fancy title (and fund someone else’s “lifestyle”).
Be a good consumer and go through every one of these steps before you hit buy. This might be the only way to determine if these certification boards are legit – and right for you.
Other thoughts I’d like to share:
Molly Meehan of Bitchy & Witchy says this:
“Take courses with instructors whose work you love, teach yourself tarot through the gift of your own insight, whatever you want to do, but please do not fall prey to the belief that you must have some fake degree that certifies you as a reader. You DO NOT NEED ONE.” (Please read the rest of their blistering post – I agree 100%.)
My dear friend Catherine Chapman of Tarot Elements has this to say and I think it beautifully sums it all up:
“Doesn’t it seem that when people or groups, over time, try to validate the art of tarot with titles and criteria pertinent to others sectors, they just end up tainting it with ego, snobbery and try and force it into a familiar coat that doesn’t fit. Those who try to contain it find out in the end that tarot cannot be constrained or contained. Tarot itself is a free spirit, and therein lay its beauty.
It keeps on breaking free of the shackles the likes of some who would like to place on it thru ownership, trademarks, and skullduggery. Tarot always wins in the end, breaking free every time someone new experiences it’s depth and freshness. Tarot is a free spirit, for free spirits. It’s that simple.”
On Twitter, Elle Nash made this point when asked how much we should pay for tarot certification:
“nothing. it could be used to keep marginalized groups out of reading to make a living who can’t afford to get certified i think”
This is an important thing to keep in mind if anyone pushes for mandatory certification through expensive certifying boards: some people will be left out. Is that fair? Just one more thing all consumers need to ponder.
I want to finish off by saying this:
I’ve been reading tarot for 35 years. I can teach people in my methods. If I like, I could offer a little certificate saying that they’ve learned those methods. Nothing wrong with that. Many teachers and schools such as The Tarot School do just that. But there is no way I would ever position myself as an authority figure with the power to certify someone’s legitimacy – nor would I want to. Only you and your clients, dear tarot friend, can determine that. Let your own wise self and the wonderful people who sit at your tarot table be your authority, no one else.
[PS for those who think it’s no big deal and don’t understand the fuss the tarot community makes around this subject, do know that there have been people over the years who wanted to push for a mandatory tarot certification where tarot readers would be held “accountable” and “consequences” would happen – whatever that means. Bureaucracy and a governing body do not belong in tarot, period. This is the reason why we must question the motives behind these certification programs. As someone who has been witnessed the problems with certification in the yoga community, I can tell you: it’s not a good thing. I’ll write on my experiences with that in a future post – and this may help you to see how certification and organizations can hurt a sacred art/practice.]
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What’s not to like about this: Betty Crocker Lost Recipes: Beloved Vintage Recipes for Today’s Kitchen.
And The Tarot Coloring Book tour is wrapped up. If you were able to catch me live, thanks for showing up.
What I’m Grateful For:
A clear head
Good times in new places
Long drives with my husband
Soundtrack for 10/21/17:
Fight the Power by Public Enemy
images from stock photography and personal collection
© Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2017