Inside the weird worlds (and homes) of Toronto psychics
Photographer Lyndsey Constable has been fascinated by psychics since she was a girl: she used to tag along with her mother to tarot card readings, where she fell in love with their mystical, multi-coloured spaces. When she was old enough for her own readings, Constable realized not everyone shared her affinity for mediums. “People think psychics are fake,” she says. “I wanted to meet some of them around the city and see what they had to say for themselves.” So, over the course of two months in 2014, she spoke to dozens of psychics and eventually shot a handful of them in their spaces. Here, three of them share how they started, what they do and what it’s like battling the bad rap.
“I’ve felt that I can see other dimensions since I was a child. I had an aunt who used to talk to her dead mother, and she seemed to be the only one who understood what I saw. When I was a teenager, I did a lot of reading and bought my first tarot book. I taught myself at first, then met many astrologers and eventually studied with a psychologist in Toronto who was using tarot in her therapy.
I got started doing corporate events, and now I’ve been doing this work for 25 years. I’ve always worked against that neon-sign, storefront-gypsy feel. I’ve tried to take a higher road, a more serious road. I take a broad approach and use lots of different tools: tarot cards, astrology, numerology. I read for couples, and often I read for corporate people who are trying to figure out which date to go to trial.”
“People want to know how they can trust whether a reader is authentic or not. I always say, anybody who promises they’ll change your life, break the spells, hex someone or anything like that, that’s not real. I’m more of a confessor. I feel that tarot readers are therapists or counselors. They take the place of the priest or the priestess. It’s healing work, and you have to do it with the utmost integrity.”
“For a long time, if someone had told me I’d be a psychic, I wouldn’t have believed them. I liked math and science, and I didn’t believe in psychics. Then, one week, I was sick and took some time off. My first psychic moment was hearing a voice telling me I was on this earth to do music—that I should drop everything else and dedicate myself to it. I had never played music—I thought it was useless—but the voice was so clear and so strong that I just listened, and it set a new course in my life. I was playing in bands within a few months. I had an astrology reading that same week, which really fascinated me. Music was in my charts, but so was the idea of me being an astrologer. I read more and more and really got into it. As it turns out, my father used to used to do tarot and astrology, too.
I don’t like the word psychic. It sounds too occult. There are truly people who can look in your eyes and tell you what they see. I’m not one of them. I don’t look at it as telling the future but co-creating the future. Instead of saying, ‘This is going to happen,’ which is very disempowering, I might warn, ‘If you continue in this direction, this sort of thing might happen,’ and I can help guide them and empower them. I’m less interested in trying be impressive by telling a specific future and more interested in helping someone. Astrology is my main art, and I do tarot, palmistry and corporate readings—people have their minds blown open when this stranger dressed like a wizard can tell them so much about themselves in five minutes.”
“I also do sound healing. The client gets on a massage table, and I use a bag of tricks I have based on my studies of shamanism and energy. I do some hands-on healing and use sound to move energy in the body. I use my voice and music I’ve created myself. The goal is to create a sacred space that can help your body heal. There’s a wide range of instruments: gongs, crystal bowls, vibraphones, xylophones, guitars, drums, tuning forks. Any good musician is doing some sort of sound healing—that can be Jimi Hendrix doing Electric Church or it can be the new-age musician Steven Halpern and his melting electric piano dribbles. It takes many forms. Some parts of the sound healing can be very intense rather than “relaxing.” But sometimes you need that kind of thing to move the energy. Sometimes you need death metal.”
“I was marked out to be a healer when I was four years old. I saw spirits and I’d look at people and tell them their problems, and they’d say, ‘How do you know that?’ My grandparents encouraged it and groomed me for this life. After school, I worked some part-time jobs, got a bit of money, and decided to go into private practice.
I’ve always been interested in divination, which is the process of deciphering messages from tarot cards or a palm or whatever the case may be, traditionally used to heal and decipher messages from God. I identify as both a Christian and a witch. I don’t execute a lot of Christianity in my practice, but I do tell people that I walk with Christ because the kind of healing I do has roots in biblical times. God gave me a great gift, and my grandparents instilled in me a level of humility. I try to be welcoming and completely without an ego. I’m obviously not queen bee of anything but my own life, so I don’t pretend to be Aretha Franklin coming on stage in a fur coat.”
“My guinea pigs are my life. They’re the cutest things in the world, and they make me look more accessible. I love people and I’m very friendly, but I come across as dead serious about my work. Unfortunately, four of the guinea pigs in the photo have since passed.
It’s been a struggle to have my work validated. Most of the world sees it as, ‘Let’s go to the carnival and have our palm read.’ A guy once called me up with a fake voice and said, ‘I am the prince of darkness, and you’re doing my work!’ And I was just like, ‘Please.’”