My friend Michael thought having me write about tarot ethics would be interesting. I think I might disappoint him because I don’t have a set of tarot ethics that I think all readers should abide by. And I don’t think, as some readers do, that unless you follow MY ethics you an ethical reader. I think that it is kind of arrogant to think that I have the corner on ethical judgment.

I do think, though, that any one who uses the cards should think about ethics. Many people think that tarot readers should write out a statement of their ethics or standards. Even though I am a writer and someone who loves structure, I’ve never done this. Probably because for me, things aren’t actually black and white and I can’t bring myself to create a set of rules that I may or may not ever follow.

For example, I believe in client confidentiality. I will not talk to other people about my client’s readings. Except sometimes, if something was really interesting or hard or miraculously wonderful, I will tell my wife about it. Also, I imagine that if I ever read for someone and it came out that they committed some heinous crime, I would probably toss client confidentiality out the window and do whatever needing doing, such as perhaps going to the police. But it would have to be some crime that I considered heinous (I don’t think all actual crimes are), so that’s completely arbitrary and I’ve not yet read for someone who fell into that category, so I can’t tell you what I would actually do. I don’t think we can know for sure what we’ll do in a hypothetical situation until we face it in real life.

I do advise my students to consider some general areas (and I know this is such an incomplete list, but a complete list would be paralyzing) and decide for themselves about their own ethics. Here are a few topics.


Do you believe the future can be predicted and if so, should you do that for people?

Here’s a subset topic…if you don’t think that prediction is something that can be done and someone wants a predictive reading, is it ethical to try to talk them out of what they want and instead to reword their question to suit your ethical or philosophical beliefs? Or should you be upfront, tell them that you don’t do that kind of reading, and let them take their money and find another reader whose ideas are more aligned with their own? Or is part of your reading services to teach or evangelize your own ideas about what it “the truth”?

Type of Advice

Some readers will never give medical, legal, or financial advice because they are not doctors, lawyers, or financial advisors. Most readers, although not all, would agree that these are good boundaries. But beyond that, each reader must determine how far those boundaries go.

What if a querent has three different medical opinions (or investment strategies) from three different medical practitioners (or financial advisors) and wants to know which one is the best for them?

What if a single doctor gives the querent two very different solutions to a health problem and leaves it to the querent to decide which one. Would that be outside the ethical bounds of a reading?

Some readers will not read about a situation regarding someone else who is not present. For example, a querent wants to know if her spouse is cheating.

Less clear is if the querent wants to know what to do to help a friend or support her daughter or improve communication with her boyfriend. These are less directly about the other person, but still do touch on their lives.


Many readers say that their readings are absolutely confidential. Before deciding that is your boundary, make sure you consider:

What if the querent is a danger to themselves (is asking about self-destructive behavior or suicide)?

What if the querent is inquiring about something illegal or has confessed to a crime?

What if the querent is a danger to others?

Third Parties

Some say reading for people who aren’t there and haven’t given permission is like being a psychic peeping Tom. It is important for you to know where you stand on this one because unlike some of the other ethical questions, you will almost certainly be asked at least once “is he coming back?” Or “is he sleeping with anyone else?” Or “how does he feel about me?”

Another third party question is about reading about celebrities (about them, not for them!). Reading “about” celebrities or really anything in the news is a great way to hone your predictive skills, if that is something you want to do. Because you do the reading, make your prediction, and then find out what happens.

Telling All

Where is your boundary in terms of telling a querent what you see? Do you tell them everything you see whatever it is? Are there some things you won’t tell no matter what?

Death is an extreme example, but let’s say you do think that the cards can predict death. If you see it, do you say it? What if you don’t usually think the cards can predict death, but you just know that’s what’s on the table in front of you?

What if someone asks about their children, and you see illness or some sort of accident?

What if someone asks about the 65 applications they’ve sent out while in their 12th month of unemployment and there is no positive outcome?


Will you read for people under a certain age? What age?

Will you read for people under a certain age if their parents give permission?

Will you read for people under a certain age if their parents are present? If so, are there things you wouldn’t reveal or say in order to protect the minor’s privacy?

Written by Barbara Moore
The tarot has been a part of Barbara Moore’s personal and professional lives for over a decade. In college, the tarot intrigued her with its marvelous blending of mythology, psychology, art, and history. Later, she served as the tarot specialist for Llewellyn Publications. Over the years, she has ...