A Personal Take on Vancouver's Psychic Circuit

These readers and clairvoyants can give you spiritual guidance — for a price

Pendulums in Banyen Books in Vancouver. (Aly Laube)

Five hundred years after the death of Christ, using crystal balls to detect messages from the spirit realm was outlawed in the Roman Empire, and the once-commonly accepted practice of crystallomancy faded from the mainstream Western world.

Crystallomancy, or seeing meaningful visions in reflective or clear materials, is one of many purported ways of seeking knowledge by supernatural means. Partially due to historical factors, such as the association of divination with black magic — although it is primarily used for white or “selfless” magic — many of its nuances have been tucked away into niches or represented exclusively in the entertainment world.

(Aly Laube)

Regardless, the crystal ball seems to have stuck as a symbol for American mysticism. You can find them not only at your local psychic’s space, but also in costume shops and holistic wellness stores. If you’re in the mood to have your future told, they might even be in front of you, before the watchful eyes of a practiced crystal-gazer.

There are countless other ways of seeing past the present: Palmistry, the reading of creases on hands, aeromancy, the reading of the weather and cosmos, and tasseography, the reading of sediment left behind by drinks such as tea of coffee, for example. All over the world, you’ll likely be able to find someone willing to lead you through any of these processes — but it may cost you.

Although divination has not always been part of commercial culture, it is now firmly established as a business as well as a personal practice. If you’ve been to the PNE recently, you’ve probably seen a tent emblazoned with palmistry charts and signs that boldly proclaim “PSYCHIC” to the general public. Some of these practitioners make a livelihood out of it by freelancing from home while others have their own storefronts for conducting readings year-round.

Harmony Books and Sound, located on 6th and 6th Street in New Westminster, is one such storefront.

Seeking Spiritual Guidance in Vancouver

The inside of Harmony Books and Sound is modest and welcoming, warmly lit, sparsely decorated, and divided by a paper partition that separates the browsing area from the reading area.

On a rainy Sunday afternoon in mid-October, there were only two people there: The reader and an employee at the counter, both middle-aged women chit-chatting in muted voices.

I entered drenched in rain and notably out of place. Almost immediately, my reader — a well-mannered middle-aged lady with a calm demeanour — beckoned me over and motioned for me to sit down across from her.

“Have you been here before?” she asked me.

“No,” I responded. “This is actually my first time ever getting a reading.”

She smiled and glanced down at her phone, turning on ambient noise before flipping it over. On the table between us, a small candle burned to my right and a deck of both large and small tarot cards sat in neat piles in front of me. Before we began, she apologized for taking a brief phone call.

“It’s my son. He called me twice,” she laughed. “As a parent it’s hard not to worry.”

Then she looked at me — I mean really looked at me — intensely enough that, for a moment, I actually wondered if she could see my inner-workings of my life.

There were a few things on my mind as I began visiting psychics across the city that day:

First, my love life was on the rocks, to put it gently — but my career was going great. I had spent the prior three weeks making strides in all of my jobs (I have four) and was transitioning into more of a leadership role in one of them. What I wasn’t sure of was which path I wanted to develop the most after graduation.

Third, I was processing what I wanted for myself and my life in the long-term. Twenty-two years old and driven by a neurotic need to plan ahead, I figured the college days were as good a time as any to figure myself out.

So, as she spread out her cards for me to pull from, I actually started getting a little nervous. My insides felt squishy, immaterial, vulnerable.

I was ready to go into it with an open mind, but that isn’t to say I was devoid of skepticism.

Oftentimes, people reach out to psychics, healers, and mediums when they might otherwise reach out to a therapist. More often, they reach out to people who proclaim to have supernatural powers when traditional therapy has not yielded the results they had hoped for.

Whether or not this practice is beneficial to those seeking guidance is less relevant than the fact that it has been happening consistently throughout human history. We have always looked to the skies, the darkness, the unknown and the unseen for guidance and for mercy. Many believe that psychics allow us to attempt to understand the invisible and unreachable entities which may inhabit the world alongside us.

Time may heal all wounds, but it does not answer all questions. Some questions don’t have answers. But psychics, authentic or not, work to help people feel that they’re at least closer to finding a resolution.

Trying Out Tarot

(Aly Laube)

Tarot is a form of fortune-telling using a deck of cards, also known as cartomancy. Each deck is different, but there are some similarities between them: Tarot cards display virtues, vices, and characters which can reveal truths about the reader’s client. With the assistance of a psychic, the cards may act as a conduit for communication with spiritual guides or presences which can pass their knowledge and predictions on to the living.

The first reading at Harmony Books was my favourite of the three readings I received, not because of the spread I got, but because of how my reader used word association throughout the process to take messages from spirits.

“They’re giving me the word ‘ego,’” she said at one point, causing me to burst into a fit of giggles. She was pointing at the Sage of Cups card, which was supposedly a representation of my primary romantic partner. She also pointed to the Seven of Swords card, representative of dishonesty and slyness.

“That’s funny,” I remember saying. “That makes a lot of sense.”

Although we hit our time limit — 30 minutes — she didn’t feel ready to finish the reading, so she gave me the opportunity to pull from a pile of angel cards splayed out across the table.

The card I picked told me to find my dear ones, my soul mates, and allow myself to trust them. Bring them close. Follow the heart and not the head. Make a decision.

My reader also told me that, with or without my knowledge, someone was laying the groundwork for me to succeed in one facet of my career that I was passionate about. Eventually, it would pay off with financial security.

As I headed to the checkout, I felt pretty good about what I learned. I felt clearer in my mind, like I was able to distill all of my chaotic thoughts about a chaotic situation into a few key points to contemplate: Don’t be afraid to have faith. Carry on working hard. Put yourself first. Accept something major ending. Embrace a new beginning.

Just as I turned to leave, the woman at the counter offered me a free chakra reading. I agreed, and she began to dangle a swinging pendulum in front of my body, moving it vertically from head to toe.

Once she was done, she handed me a chart with a list of chakras and indicated which ones were blocked for me — namely in my throat and solar plexus — along with a series of methods for restoring my energetic balance.

As cards are to tarot readings, the pendulum is to chakra readings, which determine the balance of energy systems throughout your body. There are seven of these chakras in different locations in the body, from the base of your spine to the crown of your skull. Blockages in the flow of this energy can cause issues, and much like any other ailment, readers believe that diagnosing the problem is the first step to solving it. They figure this out with the help of a pendulum, which moves differently near different parts of the body to indicate balance, blockage, and anything in between.

Once I had left, I started to wonder if there would be any crossover between my reading at Harmony and the ones I was preparing to experience. As it turned out, there was a little.

At the Good Spirit in Gastown, a younger woman in a minimally decorated, bright room gave me a tarot reading. She told me the same thing I had heard earlier about my career — that someone was looking out for me financially and professionally — and pulled mostly major arcana cards, indicating general life changes rather than specific scenarios.

Only a few blocks away, I went for my third tarot reading. This one was in the reader’s apartment, a cozy, colourfully lit studio full of greenery and objects for performing rituals. We talked about the energy in Gastown, and how points of colonial contact could be more charged with spirit energy than other places. Then she sat down across from me with her deck.

She was the youngest and most playful of all of the readers I visited, but that does nothing to diminish her expertise. She has her Reiki certification, leads sound baths, and identifies more as a healer than a clairvoyant, but is still deeply intuitive and willing to communicate with the spirit realm. Like the other two readers, she told me that my career is on the up and up, something to continue to pursue fearlessly. She also pulled the Emperor card, which she recoiled at.

“Oooh, who is this?” she asked, before recommending that I carry on in my journey alone regardless of the answer.

“All of that energy you had that was going to them is now all on you,” she said. “It’s all about buffering your energy field and taking care of it and continuing the self-care you’ve been practicing this month.”

Near the end of our session, she kindly offered me a free session of sound therapy.

“This will unblock your throat chakras,” she said, pausing with her mallet resting on the rim of a large crystal bowl. I hid my surprise that the same chakra mentioned at Harmony Gifts this morning was being brought up again, and closed my eyes. It made a low, soothing humming sound as she dragged it along the surface, stopping intermittently to tap the edges with a gentle “ding!”

I walked home in the cold feeling surprisingly comforted. Tarot, if anything, encouraged me to accept my situation for what it was and helped me maintain a sense of hope for the future.

It’s funny how having your future predicted can make you feel like you’re more in control of your situation.

I once watched a documentary about how governments and companies in Japan create extensive resources for coping with major earthquakes — not because they know one is imminent, but because they know it’s a likely possibility. By providing those solutions, they’re taking care of themselves and their loved ones ahead of time.

“Maybe divination is like that,” I pondered as I drifted off to sleep.

Meeting a Clairvoyant

(Aly Laube)

Juan the Psychic takes clients in his office on Davie Street, and was by far the most expensive of all the psychics I met. He was also the most convincing.

The space is private and, oddly, a few floors above Celebrities Nightclub. Clients are buzzed in and asked to meet Juan on his floor, where he welcomes them into his space.

Inside, the iconic, long-awaited, milky white crystal ball sat amongst other divination tools on a low-lying table. Juan was the first psychic I met who used it, and I was immediately excited about the possibility of watching it in action.

First, though, I gave him my hands for a palm reading.

(Aly Laube)

The amount of detail in what I heard was shocking. My iron was low, and my immune system was weak — notably, both true. I should take this vitamin and that vitamin and bathe in salt water, because I have a connection to the ocean. I am analytical. I think too much, and I need to learn to trust people. Also all true.

He didn’t break it down for me step-by-step, or tell me what each line on my palms meant. Instead, he rattled off a series of statements, and after he had “gotten the energy,” released my hands.

We used three other divination techniques while I was there.

Like the woman at Harmony, Juan employed a pendulum to read my chakras and identified — like the woman at Harmony and the reader I saw in her home the day before — that my throat and solar plexus chakras were unbalanced. He then handed me the crystal ball in hopes of balancing them.

“Close your eyes and imagine a white light entering through your third eye and working through your body, all the way into the earth,” he told me, as I cradled the crystal.

Anyone who has been to a yoga class has heard this sort of language during meditation. It is supposed to calm the body, mind, and spirit so that it can release negative tension.

Juan let me carry on in my head until I started to drift off and eventually snapped my head up.

“It’s very powerful,” he smiled. “Can you feel it?”

We carried on to tarot and did a few different spreads. When it came to my love life, he asked to see a photo of my most recent romantic partner. I showed him, and was told that the problem was “not talking” and “keeping things from one another” rather than a lack of compatibility.

The two of us chatted for a while about his experiences with shamans in Colombia, where he got many of the objects around his room, and what I should do about my financial worries. When I got up to leave and paid him the $120 I owed him for the half hour, he bowed.

“Namaste,” he said. “Thank you.”

The Verdict

Here’s what I was told by every psychic:

Sing more often.

Trust more often.

Follow your passion more often.

Just make a damn decision already.

The first three seem like something you might see on a motivational poster, and yes, they are catch-all pieces of advice, but maybe sometimes that’s all you need to hear. It means one thing coming from a glossy print of a kitten and another coming from a human being with a “gift” — even if that gift, in actuality, is having great people skills and a penchant for spiritualism.

All in all, I was shocked by how accurate some of what I heard during my readings was. Will I go back? Probably not, but only because I don’t have the expendable income. The price range for this kind of service is wide — from $50 to $120, depending on who I saw — and I only spoke with four people across the Metro Vancouver area.

That isn’t to say that the time I spent with these readers wasn’t valuable. I got a lot of personal insight from seeing them, including the satisfaction of indulging a lifelong curiosity about the powers of divination.

So yeah, if I ever find myself at a serious crossroads again, I might go looking for another crystal ball. Maybe if I’m lucky and choose the right reader, I’ll be able to see myself more clearly in the reflection.


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