Freaky Friday: Did they see this coming?

By Ash Pryce

Somerville is a small city in Massachusetts, and it’s just passed something into law which looks… interesting to say the least.  As of April 12th this year anyone wishing to promote themselves and practise as a fortune teller must obtain a license to do so.  If they fail to obtain the correct license then they are liable for fines of up $300.

Now at first this might seem like a rational victory, after all here in the UK psychics are supposed to (Though don’t always seem to) state that what they do is for “Entertainment Purposes Only”.  Though it is easy to get around by making a light hearted joke of the requirement, I doubt many will be put off by it if they’re already believers in the abilities of psychics.  But, it’s something at least.

We might say that this new law is a start, it is something itself and a positive step.  Sadly, this isn’t about addressing the validity of psychic ability, however, but simply providing licenses, from the State, allowing them to practice as a fortune teller.  The worrying implication is that instead of taking on frauds it might look as if the State is adding legitimacy to the bogus claims of supernatural abilities.  One member of the committee that pushed this through, Rebekah Gewitz, stated this was “for the purposes of making sure that we were not dealing with people who have been convicted of fraud with respect to fortune telling,”.  Noble, certainly.  But again, this adds the risk that those with a license are somehow the genuine article.

And just what does the license cover, well, this

"Fortunetelling shall mean the telling of fortunes, forecasting of futures, or reading the past, by means of any occult, psychic power, faculty, force, clairvoyance, cartomancy, psychometry, phrenology, spirits, tea leaves, tarot cards, scrying, coins, sticks, dice, sand, coffee grounds, crystal gazing or other such reading, or through mediumship, seership, prophecy, augury, astrology, palmistry, necromancy, mindreading, telepathy talisman, charm, potion, magnetism, magnetized article or substance, or by any such similar thing or act."

On the surface this may seem like a good move, making sure that “psychics” haven’t been charged previously with fraud, but it also seems to be legitimising fortune telling and that is maybe the wrong direction to be going in.  “For entertainment Purposes”, when it appears, may be spoken in a mocking tone, but at least it’s a start.

The original article from SomervillePatch can be found here: http://somerville.patch.com/articles/somerville-fortune-tellers-now-need-a-license-and-background-check