The mystical elephant in the room

I was sitting on the arm of a sofa at a neighborhood dinner party. We were all new — to each other, though I had already spent a few hours with the hostess and she knew at least who I was and what I did. I don’t hide out. Usually. I’m pretty up front about the fact that I’m a card reader when someone asks. Though in the midwest, in potentially mixed company I might say something like, “Oh, I’m a freelance writer,” which is true enough for me. I’m writing this blog post right now, right?

But Midwesterners aren’t nosey. They keep their business to themselves. My experience of New York has been strange. There are assumptions made when I introduce myself that I never considered in Indiana. In the rural midwest, women who have children as small as mine don’t work. Or if they do work, they work someplace miserable. You don’t ask a woman what she does for a living. It’s unlikely she has a career anyway. In Ithaca, New York, everyone has a career. Everyone has a Masters degree. Everyone is living here because of some attachment to a certain Ivy-league college. If they don’t, they have dreadlocks1.

I’ve never been asked so frequently, “So what do you do for a living?” as though living here isn’t just enough. One of the upsides to folks here asking me that though, is I’ve found the probability of being lectured on my propulsion to Hell unlikely.

“I’m a tarot reader.”

“I’m a card reader.”

“I read cards.”

or if I’m feeling especially sassy, “Fortune teller.” And then I nod my head like, What?

And still, in a town where no one would bat an eyelash if I said, “Acupuncturist,” this does not fit into their worldview. There’s a sideways kind of look I’ve become accustomed to seeing. This is a place that wants me to being a kindergarten aide at a Waldorf school or researching microbiology at the university or at the very least creating artisan whatsits from reclaimed whosits.

“Oh! Melissa is psychic. She reads tarot cards!” The hostess declared gleefully. A roomful of heads swung on their necks toward me. It was a slow, quiet moment as they collectively struggled to imagine me sitting in front of a crystal ball in a room full of animal skulls and purple silk scarves2.

Crickets chirped. The only man in the room challenged, “I don’t believe in that.”

Quiet again.

I shrugged, “Lots of people don’t.” Lots of people don’t believe in acupuncture or Waldorf education or hell, global warming either!

One of the women asked, in hushed tones, “Well, could you read my cards?”

“Uhhh… Well, yes, I mean, I could.”

“But could you tell me,” she continued, “You know, if there will be a man coming into my life?”

Three other women shot their hands up into the air as if it were suddenly a fifth grade classroom. And there it was. Contact made with the other side. I had polite excuses on hand. Unfortunately I almost always leave my deck at home. Business cards with contact info though, I always keep in my purse.


I was speaking with a client last week who wanted to become a professional card reader. I was a little surprised then, when she told me over the phone, that she had been giving paid readings for the past three years. Because that makes you a professional reader. The missing ingredient was that simple acknowledgement.

I am ordering business cards this week, so I’m thinking about my business. I am imagining a variant that is simply my name and the words Tarot Reader or Card Reader (Lenormand Reader is perhaps a little too esoteric for public consumption), my email and phone number. This would be different than the card I use in networking with other metaphysical or New Age types at conferences and events, which might have more information and a fancy logo (because I like fancy logos. Look at that one up there, it SPINS!).

So I have a few questions I’m working through for you.

If you’re an empath, intuitive or psychic: Do you hide out? Is is safe for you to say what you do? What do you say when someone asks what you do? What are the assumptions that you’ve found to go along with what you say you are? How do you deal with those assumptions?

If you’re not. I mean, if you’re reading because you’re a client, a friend, or a devoted amateur, and work on a different planet altogether, what are your assumptions about my work? How do you imagine the work of a tarot reader? I’m very curious, especially if it involves coin scarves and rune­stones and tea cups (I sometimes wish it did).


  1. I am aware I am making pretty big generalizations here as well.
  2. For the record, I totally would do that. If I had a crystal ball, a bunch of animal skulls and a big ass lot of scarves.

Author: Melissa

Melissa Jozefina is a poet, stargazer, and fortune teller.

  • I tell people what I do. I have a sign on the porch, too. No problem, even though I’m in a conservative little town in central Texas. We’ve got a long-standing tradition of cuaranderismo here and people are used to such things. When you read cards for the locals, they might ask you to burn a candle for them, too. It’s just assumed to be part of the job description.

    Of course, being a small town, it’s all about rumors and when I started reading full time and people didn’t see me going to a job anymore, one lady tried to say I was, to put it delicately, “in the business” – the world’s supposed OLDEST business. This got nipped in the bud though, partly because people SEE me get the cards out when the cell rings, often in public places, and partly because my daughter got in her face about it. 😀

    Austin is accepting, too. Lots of musicians and artists there, they all understand that working for The Man sucks and they love anything weird. (That’s a BIG slogan there, “Keep Austin Weird”) I’ve always been treated well in Austin. And in a way, I’m a kind of entertainer, too – though I wouldn’t go as far as the legal disclaimer “for entertainment purposes ONLY”. 😛 Austin is egalitarian. You can sit down with a lawyer and a rock star and a waitress, and everybody treats each other “regular”. 🙂

    San Antonio is weird, it’s a big mix. You have the cuaranderismo thing, but a lot of other stuff, too, and it’s pretty conservative for the most part. When I told one guy I was a fortune teller, he asked me how I could “lie to people like that”. I said I don’t. They pay me to read cards, and I read them. Success!

    I like the business cards idea…and the freelance writer thing. I’m going to wait until I sell a few words before I use that one, though. Email readings seem like they don’t quite count, haha.

    Great post, Melissa, made my day!

    • Great response! I would have a shingle if I owned my home (and didn’t live in the boonies).

      I was asked point blank once if I actually believe this stuff or if I’m knowingly defrauding people. I just explained, as you did, that people pay me to read cards and I do. Makes me wonder if people ask Wall Street investors the same thing! I’ve also been in heated situations with religious fundamentalists — which can be scary. For the sake and safety of my children and myself, I’ve learned to be discreet in certain circles.


  • Hi Melissa,

    I became a fan of your work a little over a year ago. I found you through Youtube and have been getting to know you little by little through all the social networks. (I’m Monica Laura.) It fascinates me! Your life is very inspiring to me, and so is the fact that you’re creative. The Postmark Lenormand was the first ever Lenormand that I studied. I found that the images were very clear (Although I like the Letter card from the earlier version much better!) I’ve been too shy to book a card reading with you yet, but I definitely will at some point in the future if you are still taking appointments.

    You made the Lenormand practical in contemporary culture. In a way you have contributed to that wonderful Lenormand revolution storming up the world of cards. I would like to see your little black book in progress again, the descriptions are great!

    It was your blog that got me into the Lenormand in the first place! I read somewhere that to become a master, one must first be a teacher. : )

    As far as my personal development as a fortune reader, it has been intense. I live in Puerto Rico, a lot of people are conservative with their Catholic/Christian traditions. I am faced with questions such as, “is that evil?” Some people still find metaphysics taboo. However, the other half absolutely loves it. They get really crazy for a reading at activities (comic cons). It depends on how open the people are. I have faced a lot of ridicule by skeptical men, but it hasn’t stopped me from doing my work.

    I am a certified clairvoyant/clairsentient tarot reader and I love what I do. 🙂 The people that support me are cherished, and those that ridicule me can just show themselves to the door.

    Whoo, mouthful!

    Take care,

  • I think this is a critical issue to look at right now because I am hearing from more and more “woo woo” types that accepting what they do, naming it, being, GASP, even Proud of it, is something that folks are working on. I live in Texas. The Deep South. The Bible belt. I also was a state championship debater, cheerleader, and I expected to go to law school and be a lawyer by this point. My life path veered off in a different direction and for awhile there it was tough to accept-I had asked the universe to allow me to be of service, to make my purpose clear to me, but a card reader? A ritualist? Really? Now I wear the names proudly. I don’t boast about what I do because I’m not that kind of gal-but when people ask I tell them-making eye contact all the while. It can still sometimes feel scary-but then most worthwhile things do-and it feels very honest.

  • Prompt: If you’re not. I mean, if you’re read­ing because you’re a client, a friend, or a devoted ama­teur, and work on a dif­fer­ent planet alto­gether, what are your assump­tions about my work? How do you imag­ine the work of a tarot reader? I’m very curi­ous, espe­cially if it involves coin scarves and rune­stones and tea cups (I some­times wish it did).

    So, I’m not. I’m a sometimes-client and a friend.

    My assumptions about your work are tied to my assumptions about you.

    I assume that you’ve had a bit of livin’, or at least enough basic life experience to relate to a wide range of lives. Not that any of this is mandatory, but I like that you’ve been married, you’ve lived in different parts of the country, you’ve had a wide range of jobs, you have kids. This combination of life experience makes me view you as “seasoned” in a way that I am not. I respect your diverse life.

    I assume that you have a flexible mind and heart, that you’re comfortable with questions and insecurity and quiet in a way that most people aren’t. I assume that you can sit with difficult things personally, and across or with people who are going through difficult things. I assume that you are generally non-judgmental. I assume that you are imminently trustworthy and protective of my privacy.

    I assume that you have knowledge of Other Things. I assume that you pray, or meditate, or write, or stretch, or otherwise have some kind of centering exercise that puts you outside of yourself, or within it, or whatever matters at the moment.

    I assume that you want the best for your clients, that you have a good heart, that you truly want to help people. I don’t question your motives. I trust you.

    Those are my quick thoughts – hope they help!

    • Blessings Adrienne!! What a wonderful comment and compliment! Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  • Hi Melissa! reading your blog is always so fun. and before i even read it on your post, i discovered today that your logo spins, how wonderful!

    okay, so i’m not sure if i’m exactly professional yet, and after our conversation i realized that this is not something i want to do full-time because it requires a lot of centered energy that i use more for other parts of my life. in fact, i can’t imagine doing it full time! those who do must be grounded and emotionally healthy, and be willing to give a lot to others. which i love to do, only i must save a lot of energy for myself to put into my artwork. so i can only imagine how hard it is for people who do it for a living, though i know it also brings great satisfaction.

    i’m still navigating this world of professional readings, but so far my response has been largely positive. i don’t tell people I’m a “reader,” because when people ask what i do i say i’m an artist. it did take me some time to even say that in a way that i myself believed, and now i find it coming out without hesitation. i don’t think there is the same stigma around saying you’re an artist as there is in saying you’re a reader, but i think they’re similar in that they’re non-mainstream lifestyles. anyway, the fact of me being a reader comes up when i tell people about The Golden Moth Illumination Deck that i created, and at the events where i advertise that i read. since that has been mostly craft shows and now monthly at a vintage boutique, the kinds of people who come are generally in an arty or leisurely mood. i look non-threatening and much younger than my 30 years, so people either express interest or don’t say anything. i’ve never had anyone try to debunk me. i’m not sure what i would say if they did. i don’t think of what i do as telling the future, anyway. i try to explain that my readings help show patterns in a person’s life and give some advice. most of the people who come to me have never or rarely had a tarot reading, so they are open and curious about the process. so as it stands, my reading profession is largely linked with my artistic profession, though the two definitely have different purposes in a way. but i think of the readings as healing and self-discovery tools, and i think of my art as healing in a way, too.

    as a client, i still sometimes feel a little bit nervous about entering one of those walk-in storefronts, which i’ve only done once. seeing a reader in person definitely influences whether i’d like a reading from them. so i suppose i still have a bit of a prejudice about readers being weird or a bit voodoo-ish, even though i am one! i think i am more drawn to a woman than a male reader because i feel more comfortable around my own gender. but all the readers i’ve known have been very down-to-earth, yet i love that we can talk about metaphysical things. sometimes just hearing the advice is enough to help me shape my path, letting it all get absorbed into my system. i used to think readings would tell my future, and part of me still wants to believe that. i find that the personality of a reading is shaped by the personality of the reader, so it’s important to go to someone you emotionally connect with, otherwise you may not get as much out of the reading. my only real assumptions about readers as a whole is that they have a lot of trust in what they do, and they are probably pretty confident in their work if they’re doing it professionally.

    • Hello – like you, I’m an artist and a reader, and it took me a very long time to accept being both; and like you, reading is a part of my life, while art & tutoring will be the rest. I appreciate the way you thoughtfully sifted through what it takes to read full-time because art does take a lot of energy, even if being “in studio” is applying for events or thinking of nothing in particular but knowing it’s part of having that energy for art. People wanting readings can be intense.

      It’s been helpful for me to learn from others and Melissa in this blog, about ways to keep some things to yourself some of the time, and come out where it’s appreciated. I’m still not at the point where I can outright say that I’m a reader & take the reactions. I tried to make a life of it a couple of years ago but I struggled with the stigma. Reading in a shop where a reader is expected gives me some shelter & I get to practice.

      A big part of the fulfillment is knowing who you are & being at home with that, especially if it’s off-beat. Business cards for both coming up.

  • I am from Chicago, lived in NYC and also lived in Los Angeles. For the most part, I have gotten strange looks and an air of “dismissal” or that they think I am not sane. Chicago peeps, NEVER TELL THEM. It’s too conservative a city and too blue collar. In my experience, the peeps who think it’s cool will find you and you’ll know it’s safe to share.In NYC, I was too young and it was a new hobby. I kept it to myself out of fear. In Los Angeles (where I lived during my 30’s) people want you to read their cards constantly and if you tell them you only do it for hire or are a professional, suddenly they loose interest and only go to someone that a celebrity went to for $!000 a reading. Now I live in AZ and it’s truly a mixed bag. Some dig it, and others think it’s Voo Doo witchcraft. It’s a weird and wacky world out there.

    Having said all that… I think you are so much more talented and professional than I was when I attempted to read cards for hire. I think your brilliance, artistry and writing is so evident that when someone meets you, hears you speak with intelligence and wit and then visits your website they know you are LEGIT and in a serious BUSINESS. You have created such a wonderful, glorious world for yourself and we all have been so lucky to share it with you.

    I think you’re doing a GOOD thing for our “secret society” and modernizing it and brining it mainstream.

    Nothing but the best for you!

  • I want to say with a glaring eye, “I receive messages from the other side.”

    Want to leave a longer message. My sick child is in car honking on the horn. My usual pithy response about that sticks in my throat after the shootings in CT.

    Instead I think, “I am blessed. My kids are bothering me…that is a blessing.” I will weigh in on this later because I love this question.

  • I live in a small, conservative town in Oklahoma and I very open about it. I have lived in various parts of the country for the last 22 years and moved back to my home town just a couple of years ago in my late 40’s. I am secure in who I am and what I do and just didn’t feel a need to hide it. When asked whether or not I was concerned about people thinking I was crazy, I always reply that I don’t give a rats ass if people think I’m crazy or not. The people who matter to me, know my nature and true character — and those who don’t know me, well, obviously their view of me doesn’t matter since it’s based on a false assumption and stereo-type, rather than on “me”.

    Life is too short to worry about what other people think of you. And I feel that those of us that hold back a part of ourselves because we’re concerned with what other people think are doing ourselves an injustice. Words of advice I tell my clients who have a gut feeling of how they should handle a situation, but then they run it through the “what will others think” filter – sigh.

    Trust your gut.

    Be passionate about what you do.

    Disregard small minded people – they are on their own journey.

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