“Wellness” Readings vs. “Illness” Readings: Innocent Until Proven Guilty

AUTHOR’S NOTE: As I continue to explore the premise that certain cards can convey hints of therapeutic insight when it comes to health-related matters, I decided it would be a good idea to restate my case for the performance of readings in these controversial and risky areas.

There is an unwritten rule among tarot professionals (often reinforced by local laws) that it is unethical and potentially illegal to attempt to tell clients what is going on with their health based on a card reading, particularly if that attempt involves diagnostic or remedial observations that the reader is neither trained nor licensed (and usually not insured) to make. There are further civil liabilities if following the reader’s advice causes irreparable harm to the client, instigating malpractice lawsuits. It is clearly an area of consultation for the prudent diviner to avoid. However, there is always a way to successfully tackle any taboo without winding up in hot water. It comes down to intention and focus, along with a healthy dose of discretion.

It has been said with justifiable cynicism that the United States doesn’t have a health-care system, we instead have a “symptom-management” system controlled by pharmaceutical companies that rely for their profitability on the population remaining unhealthy. (I’m confronted by this reality ever time I see a fast-talking TV commercial aimed at drug-taking geezers like me.) This mentality can infiltrate the act of divination in that sitters want to know “What’s wrong with me and how can I fix it?” rather than “What can I do to enhance my overall well-being?” In my own practice I do “wellness readings” with the intent of seeking ways to “tune up” what may warrant attention and to optimize what is already going reasonably well. I start with a “whole-health” approach in my spread designs that accentuates general well-being, and the possibility of less favorable conditions takes care of announcing itself through the cards pulled for particular spread positions. The idea is that these instances should be the exception rather than the rule if the querent professes to be in decent shape physically and mentally. I will then give a comprehensive interpretation of the “big picture” and address any topic-specific questions that arise during the dialogue. Any further action is entirely up to the client’s judgment.

Here are a few previously-posted examples that illustrate this objective. The focus of these spreads is almost diametrically opposite the typical “poor health” projection. They present the “innocent until proven guilty” scenario; if a pre-existing ailment is not evident at the time of the reading, they assume a stable situation unless and until something shows up that suggests otherwise. In other words, the potential for infirmity lies within a matrix of wellness, but it is only a potential. I’m reminded of something a doctor once said to a friend: “Everyone has ‘pre-cancerous’ cells in their body; if not triggered, they just lie dormant.” The “triggering” mechanism for disorders is often unknown, but these spreads propose how we might anticipate its presence and where to look for it. If the case for intervention is compelling enough and there are other reasons to trust its veracity, the querent can take it to a professional caregiver for an official medical opinion. Rather than simply saying “I don’t do health readings,” I believe it’s reasonable to at least have a conversation about the subject in hypothetical terms; a “what-if” exercise is almost never entirely fruitless.

Note that these spreads are inevitably (and invariably) more complex than the typical three-or-five-card “situational awareness” approach. 


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