Impractical Magic: City Council Requires Licensing of Fortune Tellers

Undeterred by evidence that licensing for professions as important as attorneys and accountants does not protect citizens from fraud, the Eastpointe city council in Michigan turned this month to licensing their fortune tellers (WXYZ Action News). Based on the rather lengthy ordinance (number 1041) we have to assume that at least part of the protection comes from applicants losing interest or falling asleep before they are able to figure out what they are supposed to do.

Provided that an applicant is able to wade through all the information they will realize that Eastpointe anticipates they’re already a criminal, and in complying with the ordinance they will be providing the police with a handy arrest kit. The application requires, among other things: recent pictures, physical description, criminal background, fingerprints (FINGERPRINTS!), and “authorization for the City and its agents and employees to seek information and conduct an investigation into the truth of the statements set forth in the application and the qualifications of the applicant for the permit.

So what do they mean by fortunetelling? “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 or other craft, art, science, talisman, charm, potion, magnetism, magnetized article or substance, or by any such similar thing or act. It shall also include effecting spells, charms, or incantations, or placing, or removing curses or advising the taking or administering of what are commonly called love powders or potions in order for example, to get or recover property, stop bad luck, give good luck, put bad luck on a person or animal, stop or injure the business or health of a person or shorten a person’s life, obtain success in business, enterprise, speculation and games of chance, win the affection of a person, make one person marry or divorce another, induce a person to make or alter a will, tell where money or other property is hidden, make a person dispose of property in favor of another, or other such similar activity. Fortunetelling shall also include pretending to perform these actions.

By this definition you are not safe reading the horoscope to your spouse at the breakfast table, had best not wear a gypsy costume on Halloween, and should probably think twice before quoting from television shows Psych, Buffy, and Supernatural, or movies like The Witches of Eastwick, The Craft, and Love Potion No. 9. And never, ever try to do something like ghost hunting there.

But take heart! You could always hide behind the corporate veil since the very next section defines: “Persons” shall mean an individual. Corporations and other legal entities shall not be required to obtain a fortunetelling license... Because if I have to choose between a palm reader and Enron I’m sure the palm reader is where the real danger lies.

Undoubtedly there will be a follow-up ordinance about exactly what time of day and for how long Eastpointe residents can burn their witches.

Sue London is a writer, blogger, and doodlist who may be the only person who believes in you as much or more than your mother does. Check out what she's up to by visiting her Sueniverse.


  1. "I'm so glad John and Mary are getting married, they'll have such a beautiful future together!"

    "Come with me, Ma'am."

    "What? Why? Who are you?"

    "Undercover detective, Ma'am. You're under arrest for fotune-telling without a license."

    Seriously, how would they even enforce such a law, except in the case of actual street-office businesses. And don't those have to have a business license anyway? Laws be crazy, yo.


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