I can’t say enough good things about Benebell Wen’s excellent book on Taoist talismans, The Tao of Craft. Giving it a second read, I was struck by the following passage, one to which I had not paid much attention the first time through:
Using something like magic violates people’s karmic paths. While trapped in the tempest of suffering, people forget the necessity of pain. Pain is part of the hero’s journey to greatness, and both that pain and greatness could be part of someone’s karmic path. Not allowing that person to suffer the necessary pain could be derailing him from the hero’s journey.
As I re-read this, I caught myself nodding in agreement. Pain is, of necessity, our greatest teacher. Moreover, I have written on this website about the role of fate and destiny in life experience, how one must sometimes be content to “adjust one’s wants to one’s capabilities,” as Anton puts it in The Satanic Bible. Some things simply cannot or should not be changed. I think Wen would probably talk about this in terms of “karma” instead of “fate.” However, although the concepts are not identical, they both point to the same reality: sometimes the only way out is through.
Of course, this is not what clients want to hear when they come to me asking for help, whether it be through a reiki session, the performance of a ritual, or a reading. I think a tarot reading will always help in a situation because knowing more about the problem and understanding it from multiple angles makes us more insightful participants in our own lives. And reiki is, by definition, complementary—it doesn’t interfere where it shouldn’t. But magic has a different intensity.
The kind of magic that Wen is talking about in the passage quoted above is the sort that can cause radical amounts of change. Sometimes, that is a good thing. Other times, we’re meant to suffer as a way for us to learn and grow. So the question is: how do we know when magic would be helpful and when it would interfere with a necessary learning experience? There is a simple, direct answer: do a reading.
This was one of the earliest lessons I learned as a child. Whenever we’re in doubt about the right thing to do, we “inquire of an oracle.” It could be a tarot reading like the ones I give here. It could be a consultation with the I-Ching, bone reading, geomancy, runes, the Holy Astragals, or some other system of divination. But we must perform a divination if we hope to avoid disaster by compounding our problems with magical interference.
I turn down slightly more cases than I accept as a sorcerer for hire. Since re-opening my business here at Thunderbolt Sorcery Workshop, I have already turned down 3 clients and will no doubt turn down more in the future. I have not done this for any other reason than the fact that their cards were negative.
As I often put it, if your cards are bad, I won’t take any more of your money. I charge a small reading fee (£10) for an initial tarot consultation before doing any magical work. This is to offset the time I spend considering your case. I devote a lot of time to talking with prospective clients about their difficult situations before I ever start the actual work. That’s how a responsible practitioner conducts himself—paying attention to clients and really listening to what they have to say. So it’s only fair that I get something in exchange for those hours on email and Skype. That said, I know there are spiritual workers who don’t do readings ahead of time. Their attitude is, well, if the work is going to work, it will. If it doesn’t, that’s how things are meant to go. But I think that attitude is shortsighted.
If I do a preliminary reading and see that conjure or ritual is going to change nothing or make the situation even worse for the client, there is no way I’m going to go ahead with the work. In my opinion, it would be unethical and potentially harmful to do so, even in situation where the client is offering me a lot of money. There have been a few times when I’ve been offered high four figures for a single working but because I could see that the client was fated to endure the situation, I had to say no.
On the other hand, sometimes magical work is right in line with the client’s life path. Those are the times when the cards are good, when a client comes to me and I see exactly how we could work on the situation. But it all depends on that divination.