San Francisco has an unusual law for fortune-tellers. This law requires that anyone who offers fortune-telling services to apply for a license with the city and report to city hall for fingerprinting. As someone who reads tarot as part of a metaphysical solutions practice, I balked when I found out about this. Sure, a business license made sense—the city's taxes and budget needs are enormous for anyone who moved there after 1970—but fingerprints? Tarot somehow meant criminal activity in a place with the mystical history San Francisco?
Not long after this discovery, a post on NextDoor from the San Francisco PD explained everything. Scammers were exploiting vulnerable people in public spaces, marching up to them in shopping malls and at gas stations to offer readings, and then convincing their targets that they were cursed. To remove these afflictions, these "readers" demanded hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
In some cases, if the person refused the scammer, the fake reader might then persuade them that they would be cursed if they didn't pay up. (In at least one case I know of the scammer did follow up with a negative working.)
San Francisco has always had a reputation for pirates and plunderers, so fortune-telling scammers come as no surprise. What did shock me was the frequency to which these villains still succeed in their evil deeds. For people like myself that are in the business of ruling out (or acknowledging) curses to break bad patterns, scammers pose a massive and complicated problem. How can you operate a business that requires faith and trust with people claiming your field with the very intention of violating faith and trust?
Scam victims are a regular and painful part of life for legitimate members of the spiritual field. Anyone who works in this business more than ten years has at least one story about a terrified client seeking a second opinion after an encounter with a spiritual scammer. By the time these folks come see someone legitimate, they have already lost hundreds to thousands of dollars because of these manipulations.
This puts me in a rough position with San Francisco's regulations. I object to the law, but I can't ignore the reasoning behind it: vulnerable people need protection.
That's the very reason I started down a path that includes curse diagnostics and breaking. Those of us raised in colonizer cultures unfortunately make the problem worse because of our own cognitive dissonance around cursing. Curses are billed as "ridiculous" and "superstitious" and yet it's people from all backgrounds that end up on that scam victim list. The way it's been handled so far is to gaslight and add to the dissonance—either insisting that "that doesn’t happen," or insisting that "only those people from that culture and practice have curses."
Sometimes, the colonizer mentality doubles up on the gaslight/put-down and suggests that "those people" are just "uneducated." "Those people" are the only real experts on the realities of their lives and if someone from outside my cultural bubble comes to me believing they may be cursed, I listen, rather than dismiss. If someone comes to me thousands of dollars poorer because of a scam, I don't chastise or judge, I listen to why they think it might be so.
My exposure to people far outside my bubble of birth has left me convinced of two things: curses are real, and con artists are common. Finding an ethical person to diagnose and resolve a curse is even more difficult when navigating a community that has both people casting real spells and people faking it to scare people into handing over their money. The spiritual scam victim and the person who bought into the "curses don't exist" modern party line ends up having much the same questions: Are curses real? Am I vulnerable? How do I rule this out? Can I even find an honest person for a second opinion? What the hell do I do about it if I am cursed—I don't have $500!
I can't offer absolute protection from scams; these people know how to cold-read and pick their targets with care. The most resistant person can get caught up by a scammer if picked on the wrong day.
I also can't give guarantees on my workings. Hired spiritual work is similar to working with a lawyer, or a doctor, in that you pay for a certain kind of expertise that cannot be guaranteed. You can't always win the lawsuit, and you can't always see the results you might want from a spell or spell breaking.
With this dilemma in mind, I offer the following guidelines if someone says you have a curse on you.
If signs are pointing towards a cursing, try to keep an open mind about who and how. Stay as calm as you can. Do not trouble yourself too much over why unless you did something especially unconscionable.
Get divination from someone who has a good reputation but who doesn't know you or the situation. Look at reviews for local metaphysical shops, and if the shop has positive feedback in multiple places, give them a call and ask about their readers. Forums such as RateMyPsychic can also help you track down someone that can help. Before you hire a reader, also take a look at their social media platforms. Look for an authentic person showing themselves. Someone that expresses critical thought about popular spiritual ideals is more likely to handle a tough problem than someone that only posts inspirational memes.
Never call a "psychic" that advertises by dropping glowing reviews on the profiles of other psychics. "I got my husband back..." these usually begin. These people are invariably scammers.
If you honestly believe someone has worked harm to you via magic, then put the same effort into finding someone to help you that you would put into finding a contractor for home repairs.
All curses are breakable. It may take persistence, and in some risky cases, it may well involve expense—but an ethical worker will take every effort to work themselves out of a job, and will start with the least expensive solutions first.
We live in a big universe, one large enough to contain curses, cures, and con artists. Part of making the world better is cursing the cons, curing the innocently cursed, and raising ourselves beyond the need for any of it. Until then, tread carefully, think critically, try to rule out the supernatural before seeking spiritual help, and never believe a guy at the 7-11 who walks up to you out of nowhere and tells you about a “dark energy” in your aura.
Diana Rajchel began her career planning to serve as clergy and write about all subjects spiritual. It did not occur to her or anyone else to say with what agency she might assume priesthood. The result of this oversight in ...