J.T. wrote in asking me: “I noticed that you are certified by the American Tarot Association. What does such a certification require/what is its significance? Should those seeking help from card readers be weary of anyone who isn’t associated with American Tarot (Association)?”
This is a somewhat controversial topic in the Tarot community as there are many ways to look at the concept of being certified in one’s ability to read the Tarot. I am a member of the ATA but I am not certified as anything other than a member.
First off, let’s look at what the certification entails. There are a couple of agencies in the United States that offer certification services. One of these is the Tarot Certification Board of America, or TCBA. Through various tests, sample readings and interviews the applicant’s knowledge and skill with the Tarot are gauged based on established criteria. This is similar to certification testing for other skills where established professionals evaluate you based on what you know, how you apply that knowledge and how well you can articulate that knowledge to others. Given the long and esoteric history of Tarot, this type of testing can be a phenomenal way to deepen your understanding of the history, symbolism and practical use of the cards. It can also be a great way to show others your dedication to the craft and your level of commitment to its understanding.
However, what about those that read purely from an intuitive standpoint? For every reader that studies the history and evolution of the cards, I would wager, there is just as many who use them as an intuitive spark and no very little about where they came from or how they developed into a divinatory tool. Such a reader would undoubtedly have difficulty passing a certification exam as the meanings they attribute to the cards may not necessarily match the prescribed esoteric definitions. Does this make them less of a reader? I don’t think so.
This may come across as a bit wishy-washy, but I am a “to each their own” kind of guy. In my experience, there are going to be clients that need the left brain connection of study equals knowledge that certification can display. There is a segment of society that needs to be assured that the person they are talking to is a “recognized expert” in their field. An uncertified reader could tell them the same thing, but it would not hold the weight or resonate in the same way. In the same manner, there are those that find certified readers intimidating. They want to feel like the person they are speaking to is somehow more “mystical” and less “scholarly”. There is a desire to feel as though the information that is coming through is not coming from the reader but that the reader is merely a channel of communication.
Yes, these are very extreme sides of the situation and the vast majority of those that seek readings, and the readers themselves, are somewhere in between. As a reader, I find myself more on the intuitive side of the spectrum. I have researched the origins of Tarot and understand the traditional meanings of the cards. But I do not always hold to those traditional meanings. If the picture on the card relates in a different manner to the question at hand, I rely on my intuition and my higher self to guide me in what to say. I am not certified in my knowledge of the Tarot and I probably never will be. I am no better than any other reader in that manner, and no less effective either.
When it all comes down to it, I really do not even see a need for debate on this topic. If you feel the call for certification, get certified. There will be clients who are seeking that. If you do not feel the need for it, don’t do it. There will be clients for you too. From the perspective of someone seeking a reading, the same falls into play. If you are someone who feels the need to have services rendered by a person who has been evaluated for their knowledge and application of the cards then go for it. If not, it really doesn’t matter. What makes more difference is trust and integrity. If you trust your reader, you will get a good reading. If you do not, then no level of certification will matter.