Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images


These are anxious times. No wonder fortune telling is popular again 

But I'm not buying it, says Marisa Bate

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By Marisa Bate on

All my friends are seeing Angel Card readers and wearing crystals. They are having “conversations” with the universeq. They are reading books that tell them mysticism has a place in the modern world. They are telling me that “it just makes so much sense”.

I’m not sure where my cynicism comes from considering I’ve grown up with a family who really believe in the supernatural. My mum and my uncle swear blind they saw a woman walk through iron gates when they were children living in France. And as any TOWIE fan will know, the supernatural is a big deal in Essex, where my family is from. Clairvoyants are as popular as nail bars.

But I’ve always sort of seen it as a family quirk – some families are loud, some fight a lot, some like board games. Mine believes in seeing dead people and signs from a world beyond ours.

If chopping wood is the subject of an international bestseller, surely tarot cards are another romantic distraction from the drains of modern life?

Yet it’s somehow different when I’m sat at dinner with two of my closest friends, feeling not merely cynical but unusually conservative in my inability to see what they see, feeling like the magazine editors I used to hear dismiss the internet as a “fad”. I wonder if they pity my refusal to engage with anything other than what’s right in front of me. I wonder if they see it as a old-fashioned stubbornness or a boring decision not to even come along for the ride. I notice the crystals on their wrists and round their necks. I notice the way their eyes widen when they talk about what the cards revealed. I see their sheepishness when they’ve finished talking and they’re waiting for me to mock or laugh.

Of which I do neither. Never. I wouldn’t dream of it. I mostly ask questions. I’m interested in the pragmatics: where did she read your cards? How much did you pay? How old was she? Does she go straight into the card reading or does she tell you things about you from your aura? What is an aura, anyway? I want to know who these people are. I want to know how they’ve so convincingly persuaded my friends of something I am so doubtful of.

There’s several reasons I think mysticism is back on the market in a big way. The wellbeing industry is not showing any signs of slowing down for one. And whilst it has had its hiccups, such as the clean eating backlash, that hasn’t stopped the endless books flogging ways to happier lifestyle, be it via the Swedish dictionary or meditation apps. Surely, mystical enlightenment is just another facet of the life hack sector, another promise to make life a bit easier, another short cut to feeling a bit more OK. If chopping wood is the subject of an international bestseller, surely tarot cards are another romantic distraction from the drains of modern life?

But I think there’s something more fundamental about why I can sit at dinner and hear friends make life decisions based on something a middle-aged woman with a pack of cards told them in a hotel bar for £40. And why that seems to be happening now, as opposed to at any other time in our years of friendship, and that’s because everything, absolutely everything, around us is unstable right now, from the minute personal detail to the world political stage.

If we drew our lives in a series of circles, with ourselves in the middle and the wider world around us, every ring would be lined with anxiety.  As individuals, we’re faced with endless pressure to look and live a certain way, and all we have is an Instagram account and a Facebook status update to prove ourselves. We can’t afford houses which means we’re renting longer, or even living at home longer. We are a rootless generation that can’t afford to take hold anywhere. Our jobs are just as shaky, with stagnant wages and redundancies in every sector. And I’m pretty sure you don’t need reminding, but the government’s promise of strong and stable quickly became weak and wobbly. Our political parties are crumbling under the infighting, Jacob Rees Mogg is being touted as an *actual* contender to lead the Tories, and meanwhile America, well, America. Where do I start?

And so is it really any wonder that a market obsessed with life improvement has re-found a world that not only promises to give your life more meaning and direction, but will wipe out any anxiety because it has all the answers. Don’t worry about your relationship, your freelance career or your how you can afford to have a baby. These cards tell you what will happen, how it will happen and they will give you certainty in a time of chronic insecurity. They can make sense in this tangled ball of anxiety we’re all in. These crystals will ward off evil things and bring you good things. The universe will hear you.

This article is not intended to shame. It simply intended to try and ask a question: why, right now, has seeing the future become so fashionable?

Perhaps it’s because we’ve never been so unsure about the present.


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