A Clear Line in the Sand

For this week’s blog post, I had intended a different topic.  Recent events in the news take precedence.  There was an article in the Sun-Sentinel about the sentencing of Gypsy psychic Olivia Evans.

 First, here is the letter I have written to the Sun-Sentinel.  I don’t know if they will publish it, but it contains everything I want to say to the public.  Following that, I will give my comments to the metaphysical community in general, and the tarot community in specific.

I am so pleased to read that justice has been served in the case against Gypsy psychic scam artist Olivia Evans, who will soon be serving time along with her relatives Bridgette Evans and Pollie Evans.

Very often, it is difficult to obtain convictions against these kinds of fraudulent practitioners, either because the victims are too embarrassed and afraid to come forward, or simply because the victims did the bidding of the con artists of their own free will.

I am a full-time professional tarot card reader, teacher and author.  Fraudulent Gypsy psychics like the Evans family have been the bane of my career.  I am distressed by the number of intelligent people I have met who have been frightened and swindled by these types of practitioners.  I am dismayed that many people assume my peers and I are guilty of the same dirty tricks.

In fact, many people don’t realize that there are trained metaphysical practitioners who might also be considered professional “psychics,” but conduct business very differently than these traditional Gypsies do.

We are highly trained professionals.  Often we have earned degrees and certifications.  We charge fair rates. We do what we do because we feel called to spiritual service.  Generally, we do not make the kind of money the Gypsies do, because we do not defraud anyone.

We volunteer our time and skill to charities.  For example, on December 18, 2011, Tarot Circle Meetup of the Palm Beaches raised 600 pounds of food for Feeding South Florida.  This is not unusual; truly spiritual people value charity and community.

What truly spiritual people don’t do is what the Evans ladies did.  We don’t scare people into giving us expensive gifts.  We don’t promise to reunited loved ones and perform medical miracles for a price.  We don’t suggest the need to lift curses or to be protected from demons. 

We do help our clients cope with their difficulties and suggest that they make improvements in practical ways, and sometimes in spiritual ways.  Those spiritual ways may involve prayer, meditation, introspection, the study of spiritual wisdom, positive thinking, visualization, Reiki healing, or Yoga.  These techniques should not be confused with magical cures for a price.

Although the Evans’ are behind bars, there are plenty of frauds still in practice and ready to take their place.  The Gypsy community is large, well organized, and well funded. 

Certainly, not every ethnic Rom is a con artist, nor is every dishonest psychic a Gypsy.  But the Evans case brings to light a few facts that bear mention.

First, even smart people can be victims to those who prey on fear. They are good at what they do, and have been doing it for generations.

Second, psychic readings can be a true source of entertainment, insight, inspiration and perspective.  But any metaphysical practitioner who claims to be able to solve your problems for you should be suspect, especially if that solution is based solely on magic performed by the reader herself and carries a hefty price tag.

As in all things, let the buyer beware.  There are guilds, associations and certifying organizations that vet metaphysical practitioners, just like any other profession.  If you want a psychic reading, want to learn tarot, cleanse your chakras, get your chart done or hire a reader for your next party, that’s terrific.  But please take the time to find one of the many honest, talented professionals who actually deserve your business, and who will behave as a caring, competent professional should.  I can guarantee you we won’t be sitting in a storefront behind a neon sign.

Finally, if you are in the unfortunate position of having been swindled by one of these fakes, call the police.  The only “demons” you are likely to encounter are the humans who want to fool you, scare you and trick you.

Thanks to the Sun-Sentinel for reporting such an important event.

Now I would like to speak directly to my community of metaphysical and tarot  students and professionals about this issue.

Sadly, these “Gypsy fortune-tellers” have a lot more visibility than we do.  It’s a fact that much of the general public can’t tell the difference between them and us.  Largely, we have let these charlatans define our industry for us.  Then we feel hurt and disenfranchised when the business world treats us with disdain and mockery.

I have often tempered my complaints against the Gypsies for fear of being guilty of perpetuating ethnic stereotypes.  The Rom have certainly suffered over the centuries, and today often claim to suffer the same discrimination that many other minorities suffer in this country, and worldwide.  I certainly do not want to suggest that we unite against any particular ethnic group.  As I said in my letter to the Sun-Sentinel, not every ethnic Rom is a con artist, nor is every dishonest psychic a Gypsy.  But the fact that Olivia Evans’ own defense attorney used her ethnicity as part of her defense (she couldn’t help it, she was raised that way) really opens the door for this conversation, in my opinion.

For a long time, I tried to make a distinction between capital-G “Gypsy” to describe the ethnicity, and lower case-g “gypsy” to describe the costumes, stereotypes and shoddy business practices associated with “gypsies.”

At this point, I have done enough research, and enough has happened in the legal arena, that I think it is time to be clear about what we are dealing with here.

It is time to draw a clear line in the sand between legitimate metaphysical practitioners and the Gypsies.

Of course, if a person of Rom heritage becomes a legitimate metaphysical practitioner, that’s not a problem.  Skilled professionals of any heritage are welcome in our community.

And if a person of any ethnicity chooses to engage in the fraudulent practices developed and perpetrated by the Gypsies, they deserve the full measure of our contempt.  It’s not a problem of culture, per se.

Here’s what else the problem is not.

It’s not a trained and revered Santero offering traditional ritual for a customary fee.

It’s not a well-intentioned tarot reader who happens to be lousy at reading the cards, or simply having a bad day.

Really, it is an organized ethnic criminal underground that functions throughout the United States, and the world.  Its profitable endeavors include this type of fraudulent “fortune-telling.”

So, what can we, as a community, do?

In my opinion, our best defense is education and visibility.  We need to stop letting our work be defined by the Gypsies.  We need to educate ourselves, our students, our clients and our communities about their tactics.  We need to be visible and available as alternatives to their practices.  Some people actually believe that if you want a psychic reading, you gotta pay the “candle fee.”  We need to tell the truth about the Gypsies, and about ourselves.

Of course, we need to make sure we are above reproach.  Our conduct and performance must be exemplary.  We would do well to cease our in-fighting, professional jealousy, and our “witch-wars” to unite against the obvious common enemy.

I am often concerned that many of my peers perform in gypsy costume, and hold gypsy-themed events.  I, myself, own a gypsy costume – sometimes clients require it.  When a client requests it, we don’t have much choice.  But when we do have a choice, we should think twice before adding to the confusion.  While we, in our minds, may make a clear distinction between the fantasy gypsy stereotype and the Gypsy criminals (who often don’t dress in costume any more than any other ethnic group does), it may further cloud the issue for the public whom we are trying to educate.

I don’t imagine we will ever be able to change the behavior of the Gypsy temples.  But we can surely separate ourselves from them, and we can make sure the public knows that they have a clear choice.

I have removed and closed comments on this post. I appreciate the many people who commented in support of me, and the many people who asked questions. I am happy to engage in dialog with anyone, but I now have a new appreciation of the kinds of aggressive, manipulative  tactics people use to suppress the truth. What I have experienced on this post was an example to me of how fraudulent psychics use circular logic and bullying. If you have questions, look up the many arrest reports on file in towns all across the country, or visit this site: http://www.gypsypsychicscams.com.  If you have been defrauded by one of these con artists do not be embarrassed and do not be afraid. Simply call the police.