COVER

LOOKING AHEAD

Many more women than men seek the guidance of fortune tellers

BRENDA BRANSWELL December 29 1997
COVER

LOOKING AHEAD

Many more women than men seek the guidance of fortune tellers

BRENDA BRANSWELL December 29 1997

LOOKING AHEAD

Many more women than men seek the guidance of fortune tellers

The pungent aroma of burning incense wafts through Le Mélange Magique, a Montreal store chockablock with every imaginable item for a New Age clientele. Colorful tarot

cards lie on display and dream catchers—light wooden frames with webbing to ward off nightmares—hang from the ceiling. Men and women, mainly young, browse through bookshelves containing such titles as Contacting the Spirit World and Unleash Your Psychic Powers.

A man hoping for a glimpse of the future strolls over to a secluded corner for a tarot card reading. The uncertainty of life in a sluggish job market has prompted this first visit, says the man, too self-conscious to reveal his name or much about himself. “You wonder if you’re still going to have a job tomorrow, this week or in a month’s time,” he says.

The customers of Le Mélange Magique

The unknown • 80% believe “there are a lot of mysterious and unknown forces in the world that we simply don’t understand’’ are part of a small contingent of Canadians who turn to the cards, mediums and stars for answers to life’s big mysteries. Only eight per cent of respondents in the Maclean’s/CBC News poll say they have visited a tarot card reader—even fewer a fortune teller, palm reader, astrologer, psychic or past-life channeller—in the past five years.

Who are those people who put their faith in soothsayers in the modern world? They could be called the New Age believers—the eight per cent of respondents who have both consulted at least one of those psychic practitioners and are among the 40 per cent of the population who believe strongly that “there are a lot of mysterious and unknown forces at work.” That group is predominantly women (outnumbering men more than two to one) and under 30, most numerous in Quebec, and not concentrated in any one income group.

Their openness extends into other facets of their lives: they are more likely than the general population to describe themselves as liberals (by a 64to 56-per-cent margin), and to approve of multiple sexual partners before settling down (27 to 21 per cent). They are also more likely to have consulted an alternative health-care practitioner for their medical needs (66 to 57 per cent).

According to one woman shopping in Le Mélange Magique, those people “want to be guided.” Marie-Andrée, 28, an illustrator from Que-

bee’s Eastern Townships who preferred not to reveal her last name, has been doing tarot card read-

ings since she was a teenager. Some people consult her about “earthly issues” like relationships and jobs, Marie-Andrée says. But they also ask questions like “How can I improve myself” and “What do I have to learn?”

People in the soothsaying business say they see plenty of evidence that acceptance of the psychic phenomena is growing. “When I started my career 16 years ago, I found it was really a taboo,” says JoJo Savard, the flamboyant Quebec

astrologer behind jojo’s Psychic Alliance, a dial-a-psychic telephone service. Now, she counts several

lawyers among recent clients. “And we’re not talking about stupid people,” she adds. “They want to know more.” The poll results, however, suggest a

diminishing public acceptance of psychic phenomena. Almost half the respondents—46 per cent—say they are less

receptive to consulting a soothsayer than they were five years ago, while only 11 per cent say their receptivity has grown.

Among the disaffected is 21-year-old Forestville, Que., homemaker Mélanie Tremblay. After three faulty predictions from tarot card readers, Tremblay says she will not lay out any more money.

In one memorable instance two years ago, a reader told her she would not get pregnant that year—before realizing Tremblay was already pregnant. “Then, she told me, ‘Ah, yes, you’re going to have a girl,’ ” says Tremblay, who subsequently had a son. “She didn’t know what she was saying.”

Others, however, remain interested in the paranormal—or at least its paraphernalia. Poll respondent Dave LeBlanc, 25, who is studying electrical engineering at Dalhousie University in

Halifax, says he uses tarot cards, but as an entertaining tool for selfdiscovery. “I don’t believe so much in the supernatural,” he says. “But just the fact that you’re thinking about your life when you do it, that’s probably why it’s insightful.” Whatever their perspective, some Canadians will no doubt keep bucking the national trend, searching the psychic realm for the inside scoop on what lies ahead.

BRENDA BRANSWELL in Montreal