As a sciences student raised without religion, I’ve largely considered myself a skeptic of the supernatural. Despite my background as a non-believer, I jumped at the chance to visit the Kingston Psychic Fair, where I found myself sitting across from a psychic on a cloudy Sunday just before Halloween, getting my fortune told.
Franny Armstrong, who operates Phoenix Fortunes in Brighton, Ontario, has been doing tarot readings, palm readings, and other forms of divination for over 30 years. When we first met, she was wearing a witch’s hat, clearly playing into the Halloween festivities. For Armstrong, however, the power of the supernatural couldn’t be more serious.
Though my life has been remarkably empty of direct paranormal influence, I’ve always been fascinated by tales of the unexplainable. I’ve had friends recount ghost stories to me in complete earnestness. My mom, a scientist, is solemn when she tells me about traditional healers from her home province of Inner Mongolia, whose supernatural powers could cure illnesses. Stories like these remind me of the tantalizing possibility there will always be things about our world we can’t hope to explain.
Though I came into my reading without high expectations, I wondered if Armstrong might finally give me a taste of the supernatural experiences I’d missed out on.
Armstrong started my reading by laying out her tarot cards. According to her, I’m currently facing a judgement of some kind, which could take many forms, such as being evaluated by my professors or sized up by a social group.
The other cards foresaw several events within the upcoming year, such as a trip on or near water, and a long journey that would end with a wish coming true. Other cards pointed to aspects of my personal character, such as an apparent affinity for the arts and a strong will.
A second deck of cards adorned with paintings of rainbow fairies answered more concrete questions about my life. They told me to trust my intuition about events in my past, and “something better” was coming to me in the future, though it was unlikely to happen soon.
Armstrong then asked for my right hand for a palm reading. The last time I’d had my palm read was at summer camp in second grade, where a girl told me I’d experience a severe head injury later in life due to a prominent fork in my head line.
Armstrong didn’t rule out the possibility, but she thought the branching meant I would face some kind of difficult intellectual or educational choice. She saw a long, positive romantic relationship in my near future, which lifted my spirits a little.
While I found these predictions interesting, none of them particularly resonated with me. A trip on or near water seemed inevitable given every major city and tourist destination’s proximity to bodies of water.
The possibility of something positive happening to me in the future seemed likely, given the fact that everyone experiences regular ups and downs. I wondered if perhaps Armstrong was simply making vague assumptions based on the events most people go through in their lifetime.
At the same time, I felt a real sense of trepidation while asking her about my love life, career, family, and health—things that matter to me, and I admit I desperately wanted to be reassured about.
Though Armstrong never made any predictions with certainty, she didn’t deny the fact I might face some major challenges in these areas. After listening to her words, I wondered if I’d come to this reading prepared to hear negative feedback about my life, or if I’d only been seeking unconditional validation.
I left the event without being too convinced by the reading, but with a greater appreciation for why people turn to psychics in times of need. Before our reading, Armstrong told me about her journey with bipolar disorder, and how her psychic gifts provided her with clarity and focus while she battled her mental illness.
Regardless of whether her predictions could be empirically proven, I saw how psychic readings could provide believers with meaningful guidance in their lives.
These readings aren’t so much about predicting the future with absolute certainty, but providing clients with new insights about their situation, or even just offering words of comfort to the lost, worried, and confused—which is a completely valid service.
In that sense, it isn’t so bad that psychic readings largely reflect what people want to see. Perhaps psychics aren’t divining the unknown with their supernatural powers, but instead, helping us face what we already knew all along.
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