Ask the fortune-teller

I’ve been reading the discussion in Great Debates about the legality of a state law outlawing fortune-telling. Various people have contributed their stories of amusement or anger over being conned by fortune-tellers, but no one has even suggested asking if any dopers have actual experience in the business. I’m here to correct that. My qualifications are thus: I have read palms, cards, charts, etc. since childhood and have been able to derive decent pay from it since I was fourteen. I am almost 40 now. While fortune-telling is not my only source of employment, it has probably been the most consistent. I have told fortunes on two continents (Europe and North America) and I have supported myself to earning two degress (B.S. in history and a Masters in Library Science). And if the economy gets any worse, fortune-telling could potentially be once again be my primary source of income.

Do you feel bad for peddling nonsense, or do you go for the strict “entertainment only” angle?

Do you read your own palms/tell your own fortune?

Do you ever consult another fortune teller?

Do you feel bad for peddling nonsense, or do you go for the strict “entertainment only” angle?

I don’t consider it completely nonsense. Most of what a good fortune teller does is based on common sense which unfortunately many people don’t have. The client is paying for my time and advice and I am considerably cheaper to talk to than many of the spiritual counselers connected to christian churches.

Do you read your own palms/tell your own fortune?

Nope, because according to the traditions (if the traditions even work) those practices don’t work if you try them on yourself.

Do you ever consult another fortune teller?

We ask each other for advice and discuss work amongst ourselves all the time just like professionals of any other job. If I ever felt I needed some sort of spiritual advice, yes, there are specific individuals I would go to, but I have never felt the need.

Do you “what will happen to you” type stuff, or more of a cold-reading “this is who you are, I could not possibly know this without a connection to otherwordly spirits or being a better than average guesser” schtick?

The only hangup rational people may have is that a lot of people who go to fortune tellers/psychics/etc probably think that what they’re being told is legit, that these people actually have super powers. Others, though, are just doing it for entertainment or some kind of genericized advice knowing that it’s not really supernatural.

The psychics and fortune tellers like to pretend that everybody is part of the latter, and pretend that nobody is ever of the former.

What numbers are going to be drawn in the Mega-Millions lottery game this evening?

Please try to have the correct answer posted within the hour, so I can buy my ticket before the drawing.

How are you telling a person’s fortune? What steps do you do? What questions do you ask?

Wierdaaron, I do whatever seems appropriate for dealing with each client. In cases where what will happen is so glaringly obvious to anyone accept the client, I will point this out to the client. Usually something along the lines of. “yes, my dear if your husband is working late and on weekend so often, but comes home smelling of exotic spices, you will soon discover he is having an affair.” Most of these people only come to us because they want someone to confirm what they already know. When it’s obviously for entertainment, especially for a party, I’ll spice it up with wild ideas and jokes. As for how most fortunetellers view their clients, mostly we see troubled people, if they are decent people, we would try to help them; however, thre is general attitude that annoying fools and scumbags do deserve to be separated from their money.

Ah, Kayla, if the spirts or the cards would only tell me those numbers, I would be their devoted servant. But apparently, the spirits don’t care about getting good help these days.

How are you telling a person’s fortune? What steps do you do? What questions do you ask?

The big question is always some variation of what troubles you? As to the methods, cards are good on older people, housewives, and people from cultures outside the U.S. Cards should never be used on goth, wiccan, new-age etc., clients. Chances are they have already read a dozen books on the various systems and will want to critique techniques. Palms are safer with this group and with men or an open bowl of water.

Say that I go to have the Tarot cards read at a fortune-teller’s and the prediction for my future indicates nothing but disaster. Ten of Swords. The Tower. If I go to ten more fortune tellers, will their prognostications be the same? Not that they’d all pick the exact same cards, but would my future still look bleak? If not, why not? Which one am I supposed to “believe”???

If the ten other fortune-tellers are all sincere and knowledgeable, their readings should be similiar though not necessarily identical. However more than likely in any given sample of readers, there will be some people who do not have any skill or intelligence for it. Problem is how do you know the which ones they are. As to which one of set of predictions, you are suppose to believe, why the one that you feel in your heart is truth.

All kidding aside, there are no truly bad readings, predictions of disaster should be explained away as forewarnings of what could happen and advice given as to how to avoid that disaster.

Thanks for the interesting thread.

Do people come just for the (it seems to me) psychotherapy, wanting to dispense with the mysticism / spirituality and get to the advice, or are all the clients comfortable with the mystical / spiritual elements?

Just to be perfectly clear and eliminate all ambiguity, you do not actually believe that there is a shred of genuine supernatural influence on anything you do, is there? Are you saying you do this purely as a performance exercise in cold reading, entertainment and advice without any pretense to actual magic?

How do you get clients? Referrals? Internet? Walk-Ins?

How does one judge the overall quality of on fortune teller? I mean is it strictly on accuracy or does one major predicton that turns out equal three minor ones that doesn’t?

Do you ever give the impression that you can speak to the dead or have supernatural powers like clairvoyance?

What do the spirits tell you about using the “Quote” button?

Atheists only come for the entertainment value and I have been told I can be very funny like the time I told the Marine he would be awarded a Medal of Honor as an Air Force officer after he undergoes a sex change. Most people who come seriously have, for lack of a better word, faith in the mystical or spiritual elements or in the idea of magic, mysticism, supernatural whatever existing. Most are not well-educated and those that often come from families that are very religious, so they are more comfortable with magical thinking than science. These people would probably also patronize faith healers though some come to me because they have had more traumatic experiences in more mainstream religious traditions.

Exercise in cold reading? Not really, I rarely have to do a purely cold reading. Most people give out so many obvious clues about themselves before even talking that the process is more akin to profiling.

Entertainment? In some cases absolutely.

Advice? In many cases yes, and I am as qualified to do that as many of the other religious and pastoral “counselers” who do that without benefit of certification, but still request 10% of their flocks income in tithes. At least, I am upfront that I am not a social worker or a psychotherapist and the two degrees I have one in history and one in library science, were earned at a real university, not an unacredited, mail order bible college.

Do I believe in the supernatural? Still undecided, I’m more inclined toward what can be proven in a scientific laboratory, but hook them up to a polygraph machine, many priests, ministers, and imans would have similiar results.

Clients are a mixture of walk-ins and referrals. If I were a client I would judge the overall quality of a fortune teller by what I got out of the experience: Was it fun? Where they sympathetic? Did they offer good advice? There is no governing board out there that determines good or bad.