The ‘For Entertainment Purposes Only’ disclaimer is intended to cover up any possible legal issue. It is specially directed to cover the reader since in many states fortunetelling is illegal, even when these laws are rarely enforced. You can go to jail for telling the future, but a person who is doing entertainment would be safe. As with any disclaimer associated with esoteric practices, the logic is that the client will disregard it anyway, but it is nice to have it “just in case”.
Now, I have seen that sign in a very few psychic parlors run by gypsies, but the disclaimer is more often used by cold-readers and people in the business of psychic entertainment. In other words, and although there may be exceptions, I take the disclaimer as a sign of a dishonest reader. (If the word ‘dishonest’ disturbs some people lets re-phrase and say ‘readers who aren’t totally committed to the truthfulness of their work
). In a less critical note there are those readers who see what they do as theater: they play the part of a reader at a Ren-fest, private parties or psychic fairs, and therefore, the disclaimer seems to allude to some sort of histrionic flair in their readings.
I agree with you, Robert, in that the disclaimer shows a lack of compromise. Where I don’t feel comfortable is at automatically linking tarot to fortunetelling. I am not saying you have no reason to say that, you do, but I don’t feel comfortable with that.
For what is worth, I chose to become a tarot reader the day I understood that a beautiful life, for me, could consist on waking up in the morning and go to a place were I could look at these images all day long while sharing their beauty with other people. I envisioned that this routine could substitute my former life, in which I would share with people images I would personally make, as an artist. I have always being interested in how images work and I also have an enormous interest in people and their narratives, so, I thought that working as a tarot reader would be a better model for that beautiful life that just being an artist. Faced with that vision I immediately understood that I was stepping into very murky waters. So, more than a code of ethics I envisioned some sort of ‘aesthetic code’ to enable me to jump into tarot readings. That ‘code of aesthetics’ is very simple and consist on gaining a clear understanding of how readings really work, a sober understanding of the tarot real history and iconography, and the rejection of all the cliches associated with tarot readers and fortunetelling. The way I see it, tarot readings belong to the same realm of some other impoverished arts like magic, clowning or the circus, whose former glory vanished as their practitioners were unable to evolve into the aesthetic codes of modernity, but as Cirque Du Soleil has proven, these arts can be updated. That’s my belief.
A big amount of what transpires in a tarot reading is informed by the expectations people bring to the table and predicting the future is the main idea associated with the tarot. This means that, even when I am clear at stating that I can tell anybody’s future, I have accepted the fact that some people will end up giving me credit for things they think I predicted. That is, I believe, an unavoidable part of what constitutes the illusion of tarot. Even so, I am clear and upfront about the fact that I don’t predict the future nor I see -in the way tarot readings work- any evidence of how can this be accomplished. Same thing happens with quantitative questions regarding dates, amounts of money, age of a soulmate or lottery numbers. Thankfully, I am rarely asked for such things. I once read the tarot for an old woman -the right term I think would be a ‘hag’- who listened with attention to all I had to say and apologized afterwards for not being as deep as my reading was since she only wanted lottery numbers! I told her I had no way of getting that from tarot cards and she kept coming once a week for many months just to listen to what I had to say, without ever asking for lottery numbers again. This helped me seeing what I do as giving some sort of homilies. Everybody at some point need to be reminded of an essential message of trust in their own power of redemption.
Said that, building a clientele up has taken me a long time because I prefer to work with people who has no previous experience with the tarot and therefore no set expectations. I try to discourage those who entertain strong esoteric views from seeing me. In fact my ‘perfect’ client is the one who decides to come for a reading after he/she has been told that I am not a psychic and I don’t predict the future. Most of these people are often very cynical or jaded, but all of them belong to my same faith: more often than not they believe, or at the very least, they suspect, that art can inspire the better side of us.
A few weeks back a friend of mine came to NY. He is a master at drawing and writing but has been divorced from the visual arts for a while now. He went to the Metropolitan Museum and of all things, he became mesmerized by a small, almost insignificant, skecth made by Degás. “As I stood in front that drawing -my friend told me- I understood how all my life assembled itself so I was brought there, to that little drawing. That drawing gave me a sense of myself, and the courage to continue.”
His words reminded me of my favorite story about Henri Matisse. At some point, way before becoming a famous master, Matisse scraped as much money as he could and purchased a small Cezanne painting. Matisse hung the Cezanne up in his living room, where it spent the next 50 years. After all that time, Matisse donated the painting to a museum. In his speech for the occasion, he confessed that all these years this small painting had been his sanctuary, a place where he came back several times during his life to seek refuge, and be healed, and to gain focus every time he had a professional crisis. Looking at that painting, he saw everything clear again.
My friend’s words resemble those of Matisse almost word by word. They also resonate with my own expectations for the tarot, and with what I expect from my clients to be able to understand or experience. I am sure that makes me a snob, and that certainly limits the amount of clients I will ever had, but I won’t have it any other way.
P.S: Sorry, I went way off-topic here!