How To Spot A Spiritual Scammer
by Sarah Gottesdiener·
Recently, on my podcast Moonbeaming, I spoke with the practitioners Chauna Bryant and Susan Ateh about this very topic: the episode is a must-listen. There was more I wanted to cover, so I dropped an exclusive, Patreon-only episode sharing some of what I’ve experienced over the years: my concern is collective, but it’s also personal. I’ve now seen enough to know what some of the red flags are.
So, how can you spot a spiritual scammer? What do the practitioners whose offerings are created in integrity do differently? Below are some red flags and green flags to help you search a spiritual practitioner who is aligned with your values.
Always, always, always trust your intuition above all else. You don’t need to know why, you just need to know that it doesn’t feel aligned in your body. How many times has hindsight made your vision 20/20? Feel empowered enough to not see someone again, and to take what they tell you with a grain of salt. Even the most skilled psychic doesn’t know your life. But you do. While you may be going to a reader for guidance, be clear on what you’d like to get out of the reading and communicate that. An experienced practitioner will ask why you booked a reading: it focuses the session.
Not everyone is everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve gone to practitioners that others loved, but they were not helpful to me. They could be the best practitioner in the world, with the best ethics, but maybe they aren’t the right fit for you. Not being a good fit doesn’t make a practitioner “bad,” “harmful,” or “unskilled.” (The readers who didn't quite ring my bell were absolutely experienced.) You might need to adjust your expectations or get clear on what you are looking for.
Those with integrity will recognize the vulnerability of the client/facilitator relationship and will hold and revere that for its sacred and confidential nature. They will not create imbalanced power dynamics with their clients. A good reading affirms what one already knows, and provides enough support or suggestions that the client can come to make their own decisions with confidence. A good reading is a safe space to be vulnerable, show emotions, and disclose harder things. An ethical reader will bring you back to yourself, your desires, and intuition.
A practitioner in integrity creates tools and frameworks for others to use, and that comes from training, experience, and practice. Their frameworks and suggestions are adaptable and abundant. They will want you to name and figure out things for yourself. They will help you put the pieces together and make connections, whether it’s your astrology chart or a Tarot spread. These are the green flags.
Here's some red flags.
- People who promise they can cure you, or that they are the only ones who have the cure/answer/knowledge, and that assure you it will be easy, but maybe not cheap.
- Readers who try to create dependence by pressuring you to buy more readings or an item from their store that is the only thing that can help whatever came up in your reading. (This is much different than an acupuncturist giving you herbs, or an herbalist creating a custom formula for you after a session.)
- Anyone that markets themselves as them being the ONLY one doing this thing, or being the only one who you can get results from. The world is vast and huge. Unless they painted the first artworks that became Tarot 500 years ago or brought Reiki to the West, it is highly unlikely that no one else is doing what they do.
Yes, sure: sometimes, the source is Source. Believe me, I know! There are literally some messages I never could have come up with on my own: spirit was being channelled through me. But we all come from somewhere, we all are shaped by others. No one comes to a practice fully formed because no one is Athena or Venus—we are but mere mortals.
And mere mortals are interdependent and learn from one another.
Ethical practitioners know not to be culturally appropriative. They don’t steal or separate culture from a practice if it is integral. (Think: Judaism and Kabbalah, or Rumi and Islam.) They may practice from traditions that are open, but not of their ethnic background, like Buddhism, and they honor the culture it comes from. (Those that divorce the culture from the practice are white-washing it.)
Most likely, their lineage does have a tie-in with their blood lineage or the folk practices and traditions associated with the land they came from, or the land they live on currently.
Ethical practitioners pay reverence to their teachers by naming them. Those teachers could be deceased, in a book, from a course or class they took, or their teacher’s teacher. What all these teachers add up to is a lineage. Yes, a lineage is absolutely where you come from: for example, one of my lineages is Judaism, and as I learn more about the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism, I fold more of that into my practice and worldview. And also: among my teachers are also James Baldwin, Kate Bornstein, and bell hooks: those I’ve never met, but who have impacted me greatly.
If someone online seems overwhelmingly prolific, chances are they either have a team or are stealing. (Or both!) The Rachel Hollis of it all has proven time and time again, a lot of riveting content is actually being ripped off.
Citation is feminist. Our ideas and inspirations do not happen in a vacuum. We are all informed and influenced by others. One way to spread that thanks and to extend the energies of reciprocity and abundance is by citing your sources.
On my Patreon, I spoke more about soft power, being trauma-informed, culturally competent, more green flags, as well as a couple of other red flags I’ve noticed that tie into the American myths of hyper-individualism and marketing 101 in the spiritual world.
Of course, there are many incredible folks I know, love, and trust. There are more practitioners out there with kindness and integrity than not. I interview many of them on Moonbeaming! I also included a few readers I recommend for my members over on Patreon. Happy healing!