What follows is the first of what will hopefully be a continuing blog series, in which I talk about divination with friends and colleagues. Part interview, part conversation, the objective is to mull over important aspects of being a diviner, for oneself and for others, to reflect on our personal and professional practices as diviners and hopefully offer some insights or perspectives for other diviners and for those who employ professional divination services.
This week, I chat with my friend and godsister, diviner Sonia Ana Ortiz about professional ethics, being an interpreter, and the value of a martial arts practice for divination.
Sonia Ana Ortiz is a tarot reader of 25 years. She was raised in Miami and taught Spiritualism in Kardecian fashion by her mentor for a period of 10 years. She later learned how to combine tarot and astrology to be used as a tool for great insight and planning. Ortiz is also a graphic designer who resides in Brooklyn with her 2 cats Guapa and Frida. Sonia recently became reiki level 2 certified and has been practicing on clients and friends alike. When not behind a computer kerning her life away or conjuring up what next month will bring for you, she is learning muay thai.
Al: Hey Sonia, thanks for having this conversation with me. I wanted to kick off by asking how you see your role as a professional diviner for a client.
Sonia: I see myself as interpreter for the client's spirit guides. I am just translating a message for them. I like to leave the destiny in the hands of the querent but offer advice via their guides.
A: I definitely resonate with this role of interpreter for the client, rather than some formulator of their fate, yes. It's part of the reason I like referring to my sessions as consultations. Of course, the reading of divination is the central part of that, but I am not simply telling them their "fortune" - we are collaboratively coming to discern and formulate the useful messages being conveyed.
S: Yeah, I basically believe I am just a channel that delivers news. I definitely try to encourage my clients to build family altars to help them after they have consulted with me. Sometimes on a rare occasion, I can see dates, outcomes, messages but most of the time I am just interpreting or translating a message from the egun to the querent.
A: I also think there's a significant moral duty to not abuse the position of power with which someone invests you when they employ you as a professional diviner, to not get between them and their agency or their sense of self-determination. That kind of thing can potentially happen with unscrupulous readers looking to build a cult of personality.
S: I think karma plays a huge role in the life of every person here. As magical practitioners, I think it is really important to set an example of accountability as well as abide by rules to ensure we harm none. I think my methods of reading also focus on obstacles and how to overcome them. Sure, I do provide a 90 day forecast and an outcome but what I want the querent to take from the reading most is how to work with their spirit guides and karma to be mindful and improve their path so they can live their best lives.
A: Speaking of doing the right thing brings us neatly to divination ethics, something else I wanted to talk about. In either very general or concrete terms, what (if any) are the ethical considerations you think matter?
S: As long as no one is out to physically hurt or murder someone I really am not one to judge a person. I also keep the readings confidential even if i know all the parties involved. I also am not afraid to recommend therapy to the querent if they need someone to talk to.
A: I think confidentiality is pretty crucial. There has to be some level of trust going on. The space has to be relatively free of judgement. Also, conversely, if some shameful secret is relevant to the case at hand, a good diviner is going to find that out anyway, so why work against someone you've hired to help you?
S: Accountability has a huge role in this. I think in order to be the best diviner in the game you have to be the best in the game. I definitely look to Saint Mary of Egypt to assist me with that part. You are no better than the person doing the harm if you abuse your abilities to harm someone. Part of that hurt involves gossip or making information from a reading privy to other people. Coming from a place of compassion when all stories are subjective is key to being an excellent reader. I have had so many people in the past try to get information out of me or discredit me because I did not divulge information from a reading done on a lover, enemy, co-worker, etc.
A: And I totally agree about the therapy recommendations. I keep a list of helplines for the serious cases - one of the very sensible touches in Khi Armand's Deliverance chapbook on uncrossing, healing, and protection work was the inclusion of phone numbers of various crisis counseling charities and organisations.
S: That is incredible Al. I never thought to keep a list of helplines. I would like to consider this for future use. I definitely have made uncrossing candles (of the Lady Rhea/ Enchantments fame) and cleansing and clearing baths as a step or tool to help people overcome such bad energy. But I would like to explore your methods for my own use as I see having access to a helpline to be tangible and proactive to helping the client. Part of why I became reiki attuned myself was to also explore the healing aspect of my abilities but I do think magic can only go so far in some cases. Sometimes it is best to be part of a team where you have a psychologist on call as well as a spiritual person to guide and help those in trouble.
A: Knowing what one can feasibly treat, and what needs referring is an important discernment. Conversely though, are there any kinds of readings or questions you can do but really dislike doing? Alternatively, maybe not “hate”, but what are the trickiest or subtlest for you?
S: Answering questions about love for single people has always thrown me for a loop. People want to know right away what the date, look, and demeanor of their future spouse or partner are. It is hard to explain something that the querent / client may be sabotaging themselves. I think coming to a tarot reader with a desperate energy will always kind of ruin the reading because an expectation creates a physical block which makes it impossible to get a clear read on. I hope that does not sound too mean!
A: Not mean, no. I think that idea of desperation sometimes making the reading harder is really interesting. I mean, regardless of how bad the situation might be, nothing is helped by the client having a panic attack. So I think there is definitely practical value in making sure the client is calm when you take them through the reading. Especially if there is indeed bad news.
S: I agree. I think there is something about being present, even when looking into your future or past, that's really important. Focusing on the when and the how too much can muddy up the energy and spoil the goal altogether. I also think it annoys the source energy when you ask the same thing too much. I find that that spirit world will shut down if you keep asking the same thing over and over again without addressing larger issues at hand.
A: Thinking about desperation also brings up something about how divination is perceived in secular "mainstream" society. I feel like there's a background tendency - which seems certainly a result of the materialist overculture - to see seeking divination as either fancifully self-indulgent or the last ditch effort of a truly desperate person. You know, this idea that you have to be half-mad with ego and/or panic to think there's anything to this. It's an unspoken derogatory framing of divination that I really think needs to be readdressed. My clients aren't narcissists or on their last shred of meager hope; they want assistance in getting perspective and advice on doing tangible grounded things and they go about it in a generally pretty diligent, careful and realistic manner.
That said, love does make people crazy! And of course the lack of it can have some serious and very sad consequences. I don't tend to get as many people wanting to know what their future forever-spouse will look like. I get pretty reasonable questions either about how the client can work on themselves to attract new love or whether it is a good idea to pursue something that's on the verge of starting. But I do love those old folk love divinations - like reading the future lover's initial from apple peel and so on.
S: To answer the above or perhaps provide a reply, I think going into a reading with a certain frequency (desperation being the frequency) can affect the reading. I do believe in trying to do a guided meditation with the querent before the reading in the event they are too fixated. I am not sure if you have ever experienced that before? I think part of this affects me because having my Moon in Pisces makes me really empathic! I think tuning into a positive to neutral frequency with an open mind will give the querent the best reading possible. I also think adding uncrossing rituals are key to fixing that.
A: Oh right, in terms of rituals, do you do much sorcery or spellcraft with your divining tools? Do you place Tarot cards to act as images or icons on an altar or anything like that?
S: I only use the tarot for divination. Very rarely, I will meditate on a card to help me set a goal. I have other magical practices that do not involve the tarot at all. I think my relationship with tarot cards is that of telephone caller and operator mainly.
A: And what are your go-to sorceries and tricks to keep your divining muscles fit and active?
S: I read for myself every week. I also tend to my ancestral altar once a week to ask for assistance and spiritual evolution. It also helps to pass my tarot decks over incense or palo santo to clean the energies embedded in the deck. I also have been learning muay thai for the last year. This has helped me stay grounded and has improved the quality of my readings by an insane amount. I cannot recommend this enough.
A: I'd love to hear more about that! What do you think it is about your muay thai that has helped your divination?
S: Muay thai has helped me stay grounded. The practice itself is about keeping yourself connected to the earth. I am learning a very physical skill that requires the same kind of dedication and practice that my spiritual skills require. It has helped me be more still and receive clearer and better messages. Also, the disco fighting shorts are so cool.
A: They sure are. Thanks for chatting, Sonia.