Monday, 26 October 2009

See you there

Imagine the scene. You're in Derby on the night before Halloween. You're wondering to yourself, "I wonder who is the best medium around here?" And by that you don't just mean around Derby, you're talking more further afield. The Midlands generally.

If only there was an event that might help you find the Midlands' Best Medium. If only.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

All the fun of the psychic fair (pt 3)

One of the main reasons for my doing the psychic fair was so that people who I gave readings to could compare the reading I gave with a reading they received on the same day from another reader. For practical reasons, this meant I could justify giving readings for free as customers would be required to still get a reading from someone else so they had one to compare it to. If I just said come and get a free reading then it might understandably upset some of the other readers, and I didn't want to upset my new friend Psychic Malcolm who, after all, does this for a living. From my own perspective, it would allow me to get a sense of how meaningful my readings were. Were my readings as good as other readers at the fair? Or was I spouting meaningless drivel whilst the other readers were tapping into some mystical source of knowledge? Or, dare I say, the other way round?

Sam, the young magician sat opposite me, was quite sceptical about tarot readings. And he wasn't really intending to pay for a reading today, but was quite happy to get a free reading from me. Even though he wasn't planning to get a comparison reading, I was darned if I was going to let him walk away and leave me staring out from behind my table. As with Psychic Malcolm, I asked Sam to shuffle the cards while calming his thoughts, etc., etc. Sam deftly demonstrated his skills with a deck of cards as he proceeded to elegantly riffle shuffle the card, squaring them neatly on the table before drawing out ten cards from various parts of the deck. Again, I proceeded to give a reading that was probably not a million miles away from what I'd said to Malcolm. Not that I was just simply giving the same stock spiel. No, I was sincerely aiming to build a reading based upon my understanding of the meanings of the cards as they were laid out in front of me. The trouble was, I found myself saying fairly similar things and being suitably vague and impersonal no matter which cards I was trying to interpret. That said, Sam did say that a few of the things I had talked about in the reading seemed to be relevant to his life. The best thing was, Sam now seemed quite motivated to go and get a reading from another reader in the hall so that he could compare it with my reading. There's a little scientist in all of us.

Even better news was that while I had been giving Sam a reading someone else had appeared. Charlotte was now waiting for a reading. And after Charlotte was Sue, and then Vanessa, and then Michael. In fact, it seems word had got out. Even without a sign people had heard about the man giving free readings. Before I knew it, I was booked up for the rest of the day! Rachel took people's names and allowed 20 minutes per reading, which meant I had to be fairly concise. The readings themselves were probably only taking about 10-15 minutes but I took a couple of minutes at the beginning explaining what I was up to and why I was here. More time was spent at the end of the reading as people gave their opinions on the reading they had received and often furnished me with some relevant details of their lives to show where my reading seemed to have relevance.

In general, I think my readings were probably fairly vague. However, much of the feedback from the people I gave readings to suggests that my readings tended to be at least as good as those they received from others at the fair! Even Sam, the magician, had gone and got himself another reading (this time with Angel cards) and said mine was just as good.

However, there were a few times where my apparent accuracy surprised even me. The first of these, and the most dramatic, was in a reading I gave to Linda (not her real name). The first two cards in Linda's reading were the Two of Swords and The Emperor. The Two of Swords was in the reversed position (i.e., it was upside down) which is supposed to relate to 'suspicion'. The Emperor can relate to a few things, but the one that immediately sprung to mind was 'fatherhood'. In the celtic cross spread these first two cards are laid one on top of the other so I started each reading with an interpretation that linked these first two cards. In Linda's case, the obvious interpretation that immediately occurred to me was that there was a difficult relationship with her father. The trouble was, I found it a real challenge to to say this. I ummed and ahhed before finally saying, "these two cards suggest to me that there is some difficulty in your relationship with your father." The reason I found this hard was that it was the first reading in which I was broaching anything that was fairly personal. Up until that point I had kept things at the safe and general level, making reference to changes in the person's life (we're all going through changes right?), success in creative projects, and so on.

But part of the advice given to me by Psychic Malcolm earlier that day, and by others, was that you should go with what you get, "Give what you get!" So that's what I did, even though it made me feel uncomfortable by daring to make an assertion about Linda and her father which was frankly none of my business! But Linda seemed quite happy to accept this. There was indeed some tension between her and her father, caused by a relationship she was having with a friend of his. What I noted about this exchange was not only did I seem to hit upon a pertinent aspect of Linda's life (even if just by chance perhaps), but also her willingness to then tell me details about her personal life which, as I say, was frankly none of my business!

All in all, the psychic fair was a fantastic learning experience for me. I learnt a lot about the challenges associated with giving readings, and ways in which I could improve the readings I give. At the very least, a tarot reading provides a fairly unique context in which to give and receive a fresh perspective on events in one's life, and can be a valuable tool for enabling us to reflect on these events. Sometimes just standing back from a situation and seeing it from someone else's perspective is enough to help us find a way through. And a tarot reading (or some other psychic reading) can help provide that alternative perspective.

I'm still left with the question of whether tarot readings provide anything more than a way of reflecting on events. That is, can they provide a way of tapping into our otherwise ignored psychic or intuitive abilities? Or is that just wishful thinking? Hopefully this project will help me to answer these questions.

Whatever the answers, I have a feeling I'm going to learn a lot about myself and learn to appreciate other ways of seeing the world. And I'm already up one laughing Buddha and one crystal. What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

All the fun of the psychic fair (pt 2)

So there I was, sat in a dimly lit corner of a hall in the centre of Witney in Oxfordshire, flanked by a psychic artist and a Psychic Malcolm, waiting for my first client (or subject or victim, depending on your choice of terminology!).

For those of you who aren't familiar with the town of Witney, it's a small market town about 12 miles West of Oxford, with a population of a little over 20,000 people. Right now, all I needed was just one person to meander up to my table and ask for a reading. And then, next thing I knew someone had walked up, sat down in the chair opposite me and asked for a reading!

I was surprised who it was. It was Psychic Malcolm. Apparently, in the thirty years that Malcolm had been giving readings, he had never actually had a reading himself. I felt honoured that Malcolm, nay Psychic Malcolm, would have me be the first and only person to have ever given him a reading! I also felt a little intimidated as I'd be sure that he would be looking at the cards as they lay on the table thinking, "no, no, no... that card doesn't mean that!" However, it would be a start. I'd be able to have a practice run with someone who would no doubt be supportive. I asked Malcolm to shuffle the cards (I didn't ask him to cut the deck in two as PM had previously suggested) and take out ten cards. When choosing cards for your reading, it is advised by those in the know that you should calm your thoughts and to pick out cards that you feel 'drawn' to. That is, you shouldn't necessarily just count off ten cards without giving it some care and attention. Of course, sceptics and cynics would argue that it makes no difference as you're just pulling out cards at random. But tarot theory (or should that perhaps be tarot lore) is that you will be drawn to cards that are meaningful to you at that time. Whether or not there is any truth in this or if it's just bunkum, I thought I should at least ask Malcolm to take out ten cards he was drawn to. I also suggested that if he had a specific question in mind that he would like to be addressed by the reading, then now was the time to clear other thoughts away from his mind and to hold that question firmly in his mind. Whether he did any of his or not... we ended up with ten cards in a pile on the table.

I proceeded to turn over the cards as I lay them out in the formation of the Celtic Cross. The first card in the centre of the table, the second lay across the first, and the next four placed in front of, behind, and to the left and right of the first two cards. The final four cards were lay in a line to the right of the cross formed by the first six cards.

Malcolm looked down at the cards, and I saw his eyes dart from card to card as if to take in all the meaning that was there. And I could imagine a coherent reading was immediately forming in his mind based on what he saw. He looked up at me expectantly. I was still racking my brains, going through the peg system I had used to try and remember the meanings of each of the cards and find a way of transforming the key words associated with each card into something meaningful to say about Malcolm. I don't think either of us would have been impressed if I'd come out with something like, "I get the feeling you're quite an intuitive, dare I say, psychic person...?"

Eventually I was able to craft (or more accurately cobble) together a 10 minutes reading that Malcolm seemed quite happy with. Or at least he seemed quite happy with how I delivered it. And it did help settle my nerves. Moreover, while I had been giving Malcolm the best psychic reading he had ever had, a queue had formed. Perhaps queue is too strong a word. Is it possible to have a queue of just one person? Still, it was one person! A real person! And he was waiting for me! This was it. My first real customer!

As Malcolm stood up and wished me luck for the rest of the day, the young man who had been waiting walked over to say hello and shook my hand. His name was Sam and it turns out he was a local magician who had seen small piece about my project on As is the case with many magicians, Sam was rather sceptical of the whole idea that tarot cards might be able to convey some kind of mystical information about our lives. I explained a little more about the project as a whole, telling him of my intentions to see if I could develop my psychic abilities for real. He was still sceptical. And understandably so. As I heard myself describing the project and my plans for the coming year, I felt my own scepticism rising within me. What was I thinking? I had left behind a perfectly good, safe, academic position in order to learn to become psychic! Oh but it'll be alright because at the end of the year I'll take a million dollar challenge to prove that I really am psychic. I was clearly deluded. And it was going to take a lot more than a lucky Buddha to save me.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

All the fun of the psychic fair (pt 1)

Apologies for the delay in posting an update following Saturday's psychic fair in Witney. Without going into too much detail I (along with Rachel) have been pretty ill since Sunday with liquids forcing their way out of both ends (maybe that was too much detail?).

Anyway, the psychic fair... I was getting all psyched up for it especially after we sent out the press-release in the middle of last week. BBC Oxford picked it up and ran a short piece with me for BBC South News on TV on Friday evening and I did another brief interview for BBC Radio Oxford on Saturday morning. Hopefully these two dips into the local media would bring a few folks looking a free tarot reading to my stall at the fair.

The fair opened at 10am and Rachel and I arrived at quarter to 10. Some of the other stall holders had apparently been there from 8.30, setting up their displays of crystals, wands, etc. We didn't exactly have a lot of setting up to do. A deck of tarot cards doesn't need much setting up, other than a shuffle. Fortunately, Deb, the organiser of the fair had at least provided a dark red tablecloth, but other than that we were working bare (as it were). To help create the right effect Rachel nipped over to one of the stands to buy me an amethyst crystal (for grounding) and a small laughing Buddha for good luck. £5 well spent.

With a couple of minutes to go before the doors opened I had a quick chat with my neighbours for the day. To my left were Elaine and Mark, who were also psychic fair virgins! (As in this was their first time with a stall at a psychic fair... what else could that mean?) Elaine is a psychic artist who will draw your spirit guide. Mark is her partner. Actually, I'm assuming Mark is her partner as the conversation didn't get much past the fact that Elaine is a psychic artist (and, of course, that they too were psychic fair virgins). To my right was Malcolm or, rather, Psychic Malcolm to give him his full name. I felt I had more to learn from Psychic Malcolm as he, too, was offering tarot readings. I told him what I was doing there, although I think Deb had already explained what I was up to. I was concerned that Malcolm might think I'd draw customers away from his stall given that I was offering tarot readings for free. But I explained that anybody getting a reading from me would be required to also have a reading from another reader at the fair with which to compare it to. He was quite happy with that.

To be honest, my concern wasn't so much that I would be drawing people away from the 'real' psychic readers at the fair, but more that I wouldn't get anyone coming to my table for a reading at all. I mean, despite the red tablecloth (thanks Deb) and my lucky Buddha and crystal (bless you Rach), my table looked pretty crap. What's more I was tucked away in the far corner of the hall and, to make things worse we hadn't even thought to make a sign. No sign! What were we thinking?! Why hadn't we made a glossy sign saying "FREE READINGS"? A sign like that would have surely attracted some attention. Even Psychic Malcolm had a sign saying who he was (he was Psychic Malcolm). We did consider making a sign there and then, but the only paper we had were the short questionnaires we were planning to give my 'clients' (if I had any) to complete after their readings. I didn't feel that a hastily hand written sign on the back of a piece of A4 paper was going to do the trick. It could do more harm than good, especially as we didn't even have a pen. The sign would have had to be written with one of the pencils Rachel had rushed out to buy for people to complete the questionnaires!

I thought it might be a good idea to enlist Psychic Malcolm's help. He seemed to know what he was doing. I mean, he had a sign and everything! I had a feeling that he'd probably attract a fair few customers throughout the day so I asked him if he could mention my offer of a free reading to the folks he gave a reading to. He was more than happy to help.

He sensed I was a little nervous about what lay ahead. It could have been his psychic faculties that allowed him to draw this conclusion or it could have been I gave him a clue.

"Malcolm," I said, "I'm a little nervous about what lies ahead."

"Don't worry," Malcolm reassured me, "you'll do fine." I wish I had his confidence. Malcolm proceeded to talk me through a little how he would conduct a tarot reading, while also asking me how I was planning to conduct mine. "You going to get them to cut the deck in two?" he asked. "Er, no," I replied. The little book that came with my tarot cards had said nothing about cutting the deck into two... only to get the person for whom you were giving the reading to shuffle the cards! Malcolm went on to lay out 16 cards into four rows of four, quite different from the Celtic Cross spread using ten cards that I was planning to use. As he started to offer interpretations of the cards that didn't seem to match what I had learnt for each card, I thought I'd better stop him.

"Thanks for the help and advice Malcolm," I said, "but to be honest, this is confusing me more!"

As the doors opened, and people started to trickle into the hall, I wandered back over to my bare-looking table and sat down behind it. And I waited.

What had I let myself in for?

Friday, 2 October 2009

And the beginning of a new one

As luck would have it (although we know that luck is no accident don't we?) there was a 'Psychic Night' on at the pub down the end of our road last night. A perfect opportunity I thought to see how this psychic reading lark is done.

I got down there for around 8. There were three readers: Bev, Rose Marie, and Vicky. I booked a slot with Vicky for 9.20, which would give me time to pop round the corner to the shop for some essentials, nip back home for something to eat and then get back in time for my reading. I arrived back at 9.15 in good time for my slot. I was still waiting at 9.45... I guess it's hard to keep to time when channelling energies and the like (my worry is how to make a reading last 20 minutes... or even 10 minutes!).

Soon enough I was sat opposite Vicky who was, let's say, 'larger than life'. As she took a drag on her electronic cigarette she told me how she worked. "I work with Spirit", she explained as she blew out vapour that resembled smoke.

"I do cards, but I let Spirit guide me", she added.

"OK", I said, all excited wondering what the cards, or Spirit, had in store for me. Vicky instructed me to spread the cards face down on the table, mix them up, and select 10 cards. As I chose each card, I was to pass it to her. Once all 10 were chosen, Vicky placed them face up into the formation I now recognise as the Celtic Cross.

Excellent. Now I’ll get some tips and ideas on how to read this spread. Or so I thought. It seems as though that Vicky, or the Spirit she was connecting with, had other ideas. This particular Spirit, who Vicky thought could be my father’s mother, just wasn’t going to let Vicky get on with the reading. And because my dad’s mum died before I was born I obviously couldn’t connect with any of the (very vague) bits of information she was giving me.

“Perhaps it’s better that we switch and you get a reading from someone else?” proposed Vicky.

“Er, OK” I replied. I felt a bit of a failure. Maybe she’d seen something in the spread of cards laid out between us and she just couldn’t bring herself to tell me. Next thing I knew, the girl who was taking the bookings ushered me to a chair to wait for one of the other readers. Without any further explanation I saw Vicky hurrying out of the door to the pub clutching a cigarette. I assumed this time it was a real one and not the electronic one. Maybe that was it. It was just Vicky’s nicotine addiction that meant she couldn’t read my cards.

Whatever the reason, I was now waiting for Rose Marie to finish with her current client. Would I fare any better with her? Rose Marie at least looked more the part. She was an older lady wearing a red knitted shawl over her shoulders. And I learned a lot more from this reading (at least I got a reading!).

There’s not enough time to go into detail here about what she said. Suffice to say much of what Rose Marie told me seemed to fit. Sure, much of it could have been, and probably was, me taking what she was saying and making it fit to my personal situation. But interestingly she did tell me about a change in my work circumstances! Spot on. Yes, I know that this could be interpreted in so many ways and if it didn’t happen to fit it would probably be forgotten. But let me be impressed for now. She also told me that I would be successful in my new career, so I’m taking her at her word.

In terms of how she gave the reading, the important thing I learned echoes some of the comments on this blog. She didn’t say this card means this, and that card means that. It was more to do with how the cards linked with or reinforced each other and how these were built into a narrative. This is what I need to try to do when I give my readings on Saturday. It’s either that or try Vicky’s approach and suggest they try a different reader before I rush out of the door!

Wish me luck! (Although luck is no accident, etc.)

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The end of an era

Ten years in one job is a long time. I'm with Fern on that one. In fact, you get to the stage that you feel as though you should have left a long time ago. The question I have been asked the most during the last few weeks is, "Are you still here?". Only in body. Not in spirit.

Over the last couple of days, as I have packed up my office, soon-to-be-ex-colleagues would wander past and comment "Lucky man...". But why so lucky? Surely, any of them could do what I was doing and leave. Couldn't they?