Reading Between The Lines

Visiting a clairvoyant is an experience often shrouded in secrecy and controversy regarding their expected broad and unsubstantial claims. Given this, we sent two Impacters to a local psychic for a palm and tarot reading to shed some light on the process and see what, or if, they could gain from the experience. In the interests of fairness, we sent a ditzy, gullible blonde who claimed she was a ‘believer’, along with a suited and booted, no-nonsense sceptic.

Shaun Reeve – The Sceptic:

Every walk into university is difficult for me because I can’t walk upon three drains in a row, for fear of bad luck. I don’t really know why I refuse to walk across them – I think the logic is that they might bring about bad things, so why risk it? The same applies to good luck – I’m not going to waste my special robot boxers on any old occasion, when they are destined to bring triumph in exams and assist me in facing new challenges.

Keeping this in mind, I was sceptical of visiting a clairvoyant, but perhaps more worried about my reaction to it. How was I supposed to know what effect it would have on me – would I get the rational and critical Shaun who can debate the merits of Keynesian economics, or the unreasoned, emotional Shaun that secretly thinks Aladdin is the best film ever?

Meeting Robert, the clairvoyant, put my fears to rest. It is hard to take seriously someone who greets you in a woolly hat, has leaflets on ‘pet bereavement’ and whose comment book read, “I feel really energised by the colour therapy. I felt lacking in certain colours and felt energised by the process”. Having never felt lacking in colour, which I’m not convinced is possible, I prepared myself for the palm and tarot reading, taking comfort in my obvious superiority to the fools that would fall for this nonsense. Until the reading itself, that is.

Robert first gave me the tarot cards and went to the other side of the room to “give my aura some space”, while I contemplated what I wanted out of the reading. Unfortunately I couldn’t help but spend some time wondering how big an aura actually is, before remembering the task in hand. The choices were endless and mostly clichéd. Love would have made the entire situation seem like the opening scene of a bad rom-com. Career is something that, even as a final year student with no upcoming career prospects, is a locked door that I’m still firmly ignoring. So I settled on thinking about something much more vague and general – to the good of the method, probably, and definitely to the good of Robert. For what young person doesn’t wonder about who they really are, and who they want to be and whether becoming ‘them’ is even possible?

The unveiling of the first card had an anti-climactic feel – I was anticipating something as exciting as Father Christmas, but instead got a different fat man asking me to sit on his lap and reveal my desires. It was The Emperor, which although sounding glamorous basically stated that if you try hard at what you are doing, you will be rewarded. Although I do need to remind myself of this occasionally, particularly before an essay is due, such a statement can’t be considered anything more mystical than common sense.

At this point I was in full awe of the practice of clairvoyance, relishing the praise and envisioning grand possibilities for myself. Robert then sheepishly asked if he could look at my palm, and although I was paying for this service, I granted it to him as if I was giving him a favour. He almost squealed with delight while excitedly pointing out how detailed and complex my palms were, and the reading became increasingly flattering as it progressed. Having extolled the virtues of my exceptionally lucky palms, Robert concluded that habits cultivated in my past have led me to a potentially amazing outcome – in the future, I could be astounding. If it’s even possible to be more astounding than I am already.

Mentally preparing myself for the experience, I had the idea that Robert would be trying to get clues and would probe me for information, much like you would probe the Facebook page of a distant crush. Although in this case the knowledge would be used to gain credibility, rather than to sustain hope that a shared interest in Coco Pops might ignite a passionate love affair. He seemed very nonchalant about the whole process – his air of confidence was infectious, and it made that un-rational side of me take over. In hindsight I think what he said would apply to many people, but I feel it was relevant to me. Striving for the greatness can only be a good thing, so why not believe in clairvoyance just like wearing those robot boxers when I really need them?

Chloe Painter – The Believer:

I’ll admit that despite studying a science, I am still fairly susceptible to believing in paranormal activity. And it would seem I’m not alone – the Parapsychological Association recently reported that a 26% of the population of the UK are also believers. Worryingly for my parents, as a teenager I became a bit obsessive about the paranormal, at one stage being fixated with crystals and even ‘charging’ them by moonlight. One unforgettable Christmas, my parents stupidly gave me a pack of tarot cards, which brought the mood of the day down somewhat when I tried them out on my Mum and concluded that we would be destitute in the next three months.

I also had my astrological chart sent to me when I was 12, which is basically a lifetime horoscope based upon the planetary positions at birth. For you sceptics, I gave them only my first name, a friend’s address and paid in cash. I dug it out just a few days ago and funnily enough it said, “I will take a strong interest in the newly developing field of cognitive neurosciences and have an urge to have a comprehensive understanding of neural circuits that explain behaviour”. Well, I study cognitive neuroscience and psychology, but as for the “comprehensive understanding”, my marks would indicate otherwise!

Living up to all my expectations, the Nottingham-based clairvoyant we booked with was pretty zany. Pausing mid-sentence every time he spoke to leave awkward silences, he welcomed me to the reading and commenced with a colour therapy session. Also known as chromotherapy, the alternative medicine method proposes that one can lack mental and physical strength from different colour energies. I was made to stand with my eyes shut, holding different colour silk ribbons whilst the reader intermittently pushed and tugged on my right arm, occasionally screeching that I was only a six and a half in purple, and even more worryingly, only a 5 in red and if I was feeling OK? He explained to me that these findings meant that I had problems with my throat, spine, eyes, mouth, hands and saying no to things. He stared at me with piercing blue eyes for a good minute, before sweetly asking “How have you gone on this long?”

Due to my detrimental colour deficits, I was made to wear coloured glasses whilst some ‘code words’ were chanted at me. The whole pushing on my arm debacle continued, yet this time he kept proudly exclaiming that I had gained a ten in purple. I am still at a complete loss as to what I’d done to earn this accolade. The entire procedure was beyond bizarre, the coloured plastic glasses made me feel extremely nauseous and if anything the experience left me feeling rather blue!

Obviously, using his sixth sense, the clairvoyant could tell I was less than impressed, so we swiftly moved on to tarot reading. Dating back to the thirteenth century, tarot involved a pack of cards, each with a unique representational image that is believed to have a meaning based on the order in which they are read or turned over. Our clairvoyant made it very clear that the cards do not predict the future, but merely can guide you to an answer or pathway. Whilst slowly shuffling, you are encouraged to ask the cards a question to focus on. I was stumped, so settled upon “What will make me happy?” Traditionally you turn over 7 cards, however I went for a ‘free reading’ whereby I placed as many cards as I liked (I chose 10) anywhere on the candle lit table in front. I appeared to have an obsession with pairs, which he interpreted as a battle between me wanting to be good/bad, and work/play – but surely everyone has this predicament? He looked at my past and concluded that I’d fought to break from a troubled childhood, and asserted that if I continue to work hard my future will be everything I want it to. Let’s face it – he can tell I’m a student, so to say that I’m probably awash with work and knee deep in a dissertation is fairly obvious.

Once we left, I felt pretty good – actually, I felt excellent. I’d been told my palm was “extraordinary”, my tarot reading “was one of the best” and a “privilege to perform”, and I left feeling paranormally superior, if that’s even possible. Once I’d returned home and my housemates had burst my bubble, I had a little time to reflect and came to a slightly more sensible conclusion. You can take anything you want from a reading, but as corny as it is, you are ultimately the only one in control of your future, not some grubby cards.

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