By last October, Isadora’s life had become overwhelming. A 20-year-old politics student from Cumbria, she was having problems in her relationship, questioning her chosen life path, and feeling lost almost every day. “I was at a point where I felt I was stagnating,” she says. “[There was] so much uncertainty about my life.”
During her childhood, Isadora had been lightly interested in the mystic – following horoscopes, reading about astrology, and even studying witches in school. Consulting her friends about what do about her life situation, they told her that they’d obtained help through untraditional means and had, in fact, experienced remarkable results. So rather than seek help from a therapist, family member, or mentor, Isadora paid £25 for a 25-minute reading with a psychic.
Isadora is just one of the swathes of millennial women paying high prices to have their futures elucidated. Looking to gain advice on major career moves, romantic relationships, and estranged parents, more and more women are willing to pay to have their lives picked apart by a stranger. While the women I spoke to paid anywhere from £25 for half an hour to £100 for a full-hour session, clairvoyants, psychics, and tarot readers can charge upwards of £250 just for an hour-long reading.
The rise in women visiting clairvoyants is likely linked to a widespread feeling of general uncertainty. As Amelia Tait wrote for the New Statesman in August 2018, millennials have increasingly turned to tarot cards and astrology to deal with the ambiguity in their lives, doing readings for themselves, for their friends, and taking the results semi-seriously. “I mean, like all millennials, I read my horoscope but think it’s totally made up,” 31-year-old Stephanie tells me. “I was always into the more mystical side of life… but I don’t think I necessarily believed in people being able to read your future.”
Many people arrive at a clairvoyance reading almost as a joke – mostly not believing in mysticism but simply looking to have some fun. “I always thought psychics were made up,” says my colleague Ellie, who went to see a clairvoyant for the first time this month. “When she used Tarot cards, at first I thought it was a little silly. But then, after a while, I was very into it.”
All of the women I spoke too, however, cited a revealing moment in their reading – when the psychic, tarot reader, or clairvoyant honed in on a particularly veiled part of their lives. For Isadora, it was deep knowledge of a family member who’d recently killed himself, for Stephanie a discussion about the father figures in her life, for Kate it was a glimpse into her future she, at the time, flat-out rejected.
“I was kind of seeing this guy casually, and the tarot reader said ‘there’s a third person you don’t know about,’ and I left feeling like she got it wrong,” Kate, a 35-year-old journalist, tells me of her big moment. “Then three weeks later: the guy tells me he has a secret daughter. It was wild.”
Jenny, who is now 30 and lives in Jersey, has been seeing psychics regularly since she was 16. “Growing up I had a very positive association with psychics and spirituality because a family friend was a psychic,” she tells me. “I have had multiple [readings] since with multiple people and each time have found it a positive experience.”
While not visiting on a monthly or annual basis, Jenny sees psychics every few years during “periods of change or transition”. “I find them grounding,” she says. “They reassure me that I am doing the right thing.”
Charlotte Codrai is a clairvoyant based in London who has been working in her field for the last 10 years. For £80 an hour, she takes participants through numerology (the way numbers that appear in your life connect to your possible futures), a tarot reading, and then gives them an insight into their past and present, offering guidance on how best this information can improve their futures. She tells me that she has seen a significant spike in people seeking her services in the last two years. “People are worried about the country’s current circumstances,” she says, “Brexit and how the government are dealing with it.” She also notes that the majority of her clients are young women seeking advice on all facets of their lives, from romantic relationships to family problems to future career moves.
Nils Bischoff is a representative for LifeReader, a clairvoyance service that connects people with “pre-vetted spiritual consultants” online. Consultations are all conducted virtually and users are charged by the minute (typically around the £3 mark), with consultants available to cover anything from soulmate matching to work to financial planning through methods such as tarot reading and “angelic-guided decisions”. Like Codrai, Bischoff tells me that LifeReader’s clients lean female and predominantly fit in the millennial age bracket and says that the company’s year-on-year growth partially reflects that same feeling of global uncertainty. “We believe this is due to the opportunity presented by technological advances, the demand for immediate connection, and a significant increase in on-demand spiritual support,” he says. “And, dare I say it, falls somewhat on the disarray and uncertainty around us.”
While most of the women I spoke to felt drained following their experiences, they all felt they were ultimately cathartic. “At first it felt like I had left therapy,” Ellie tells me. “I just spent 40 minutes going through the intricacies of my life with a stranger… but she seemed to know so much about me.” Ellie wasn’t alone: almost every single person I spoke to said the experience felt like a counselling session. Isadora described the process as “cleansing” and listened to her recording over the session over and over again. “[In the days after] I felt so strange and I was questioning quite a lot of things,” she tells me. “But I was also feeling refreshed and positive.”
“While I’m incredibly sceptical and unsure of exactly what happened that day,” Stephanie says, “by making the decision to go to the session, I created a space – intentionally or not – where I could face some things I had been avoiding in therapy.”
Despite the often three-figure price tag and shoddy science, every single woman was glad to have gone. “It made me feel better about life at a challenging time,” Isadora tells me. “I’m not religious but I’m open-minded to finding a form of spirituality from somewhere else, and I truly think my reading did help me. I don’t regret it at all and will definitely have another one.”
Ellie says that it’s perhaps not the best option for those needing serious life guidance – “feeling like you must radically change your life based on mysticism is quite stressful,” she says.
“I’d definitely go again if I was struggling to work out what I think about something or on the cusp of making a big decision,” Kate says. “I would say my experience was relatively helpful. I have no regrets.”