Even As A Nonbeliever, I Couldn’t Help But Be Charmed By What I Found At This Monthly Event That Celebrates The Metaphysical.

It’s Sunday, August 6, and I’m sitting on the steps of a dais at the far end of a crowded event center located in a nondescript Dallas business park, killing the 30 minutes between an astrological analysis and my scheduled past-life analysis by trying to create a list of all the curious, strange and intriguing things I have seen and done today at the monthly Dallas Psychic Fair.

I’s seen people getting their auras photographed, painted and analyzed. I saw several different schools of massage in action — ones that focused less on muscle tension and more on chi and energy. I smelled sage, essential oils and an array of aromatic mystery herbs. There were middle aged men wearing amulets, and older women oozing high school art teacher vibes. I saw several young mothers here getting readings with their children and strollers in tow. One vendor went on a rant in my general direction, telling me which foods were “killing us.”

I should say before diving into a greater description of this event and what it’s like to partake in it that I am not what you would call a “true believer.” Far from it, actually. I don’t really believe in much of anything metaphysically. So why’d I pitch this story, then? Because whether you believe in psychics or astrology or whatever, they’re still fun. They’re kitsch. They’re charming. And there’s an overabundance of charm at the Dallas Psychic Fair. There really is.

The event features readers of tarot cards, angel cards and playing cards. There are animal communicators, clairvoyants and dream interpreters. There’s a hand writing analyst, a lithomancer, a curandero and a palm reader. And that’s just a small selection of the readers you’ll find here. There are, in short, a lot of practitioners of magic, spiritualism and new age philosophy packed into this event center.

A $7 cover charge gets you a wristband and admittance to the event center — a large space that, with its ornamental dais and silver-painted chairs, has almost certainly hosted a quinceañera before. I mill around for a while, overwhelmed and unsure of where to start my journey. I ask vendors questions.

“What does this crystal help with?”

(Mediation, health, money.)

“How much is this Buddha?”

(Far more than I have on hand.)

Vendors populate the southern end of the hall. Most of those are selling crystals, crystal jewelry and handcrafted art with a spiritual bent. There are also a couple of tables dedicated to health and healing that seem less to do with the spirit and more to do with pseudoscience.

The northern end is made up of massage tables. As mentioned above, the massage tables have as much variety to them as the readers do. For example, Cynthia R. Shaw practices “Energy Dynamics,” a form of “multi-dimensional transformational healing” that promises emotional healing, spiritual growth and physical health. Sherry Coffman, on the other hand, is a “Reiki Master Teacher, certified DNA Theta Healing Instructor, Certified Crystal Viewing Practitioner.” There are others like them — but also not like them at all, if pedantry is your thing.

While I was very tempted to get one of these massages, I balked. The tables here are very much out in the open. Like getting a massage at the mall, I would be on display for anyone passing by. No thanks. I did, however, sign up for three different raffles for free massages. I didn’t win any of them, though. And so I remain curious as to what a reiki massage actually involves — although I would still prefer find out in private.

Around the perimeter of the conference center are the readers. Each reader is provided a pair of chairs and a small table, which they have in turn draped with soft, colorful table cloths and topped with their chosen accessories — crystals, crystal balls, exotic decks of cards and, of course, business cards. Young and old, men and women, these readers are just as diverse as their different schools of divination, although I do get the sense that they are all very entrepreneurial. These are professionals.

I sampled three different kinds of readings during my visit. At $20 per 15-minute session, the readings are not cheap. That said, from what I found in my online comparison shopping, these are the market rates for short readings like these. Hourly sessions outside of the festival, on the other hand, rival that of professional psychologists and life counselors.

Kicking things off, I sign up for the first available tarot card reader that was available, Andrea Aqua Aura. Andrea is a combination spirit reader and energy healer based in Dallas who uses both tarot and angel cards. (Angel cards, I would learn, are large graphic divination cards with less history than tarot, although they serve much the same purpose.) As my appointment begins, she greets me warmly, remarking that she is only three minutes behind on her schedule. Then she offers her hands. I take both of hers in mine, at which point she recites a short prayer — a very quick prayer — to “God and the angels.” She rattles it off so quickly that I can only catch a portion of it before she begins asking questions and drawing cards. She has clearly done these countless times, and is well practiced.

I have come prepared with one, broad question for each of my readers: Having recently quit a teaching job after four years to pursue writing as a career, I simply want to know if I made the right decision. I figure my quarter-life crisis will give these readers a lot to work with.

Andrea’s reading involves asking short follow-up questions and drawing cards, each of which provides a little bit of insight or wisdom that clarifies my initial question. Here are the takeaways I get in my first, rapid-fire session: She tells me that she can tell I am worried, but shouldn’t be and she chuckles when she assures me that she has no bad news to share.

“Work-wise, sometimes you sabotage yourself,” she tells me. “Sometimes, there are opportunities and you don’t know if you’re good enough, so you keep yourself from a lot of opportunities. You are literally stealing from yourself.”

She holds up a Seven of Swords card that she has drawn from the deck. It depicts a man carrying a bundle of swords and looking back over his shoulder.

“That’s what this guy is doing: He’s stealing,” she says. “You need to stop doing that. You need to be conscious of your behavior so you can change it.”

Another card indicates that I am at the beginning of a nine-year cycle: “Everything you plan for this year will manifest nine-fold over the next nine years,” she says. “If you don’t change your behavior today, that’s what you’re going to keep doing for the next nine years.”

She continues: “What I want you to do is believe in yourself, and see yourself doing well, and think about what you’re going to do when the next opportunity come. I just heard ‘them’ say, ‘Sometimes he gets opportunities and sometimes he turns them down.'”

She tells me that I made the right choice in leaving my job and that I need to start doing more things for myself — especially writing and blogging. I need to be more confident and stop worrying so much, she says. Another card tells me that, whatever I am wishing for, I will certainly get — so I should “wish big.” Another combination still tells me that I am going to succeed financially.

The whole reading is very affirming. I can see why people do this regularly. Regardless of the supernatural origins of her advice, it’s all decent guidance. Set goals and meet them. Seize opportunities. Above all, worry less because things will turn out OK.

Encouraged by my first reading, I sign up for another. This time, it’s with a combination astrologer, numerologist and card reader who goes by pseudonym Sylvia ESP. With Sylvia, there is no prayer or channeling before the reading. We get straight to work.

Jotting down notes, she asks me my day and year of birth. I was born in late August, which she immediately remarks makes me a Virgo. Then, excitedly, she asks me if I am aware of the eclipse later this month: “Do you know the last time we had an eclipse that occurred over this part of the United States? This is a very, very important eclipse.”

She responds to my prepared question about leaving my job in much the same way that Andrea Aqua Aura did, with good news. But some of her predictions are a little harder for me to believe. She says the fortunes coming my way might take the shape of a new job or book deal. I wish!

And then, even more good news: “Are you in a relationship? You have great romantic opportunities in the coming week.” When I tell her she’s in a relationship, she tells me she sees a proposal soon — possibly in the next two weeks. This is huge news to me. I had no idea.

Marriage proposal news aside, I come away with what seems like good advice. Focus on your health and well-being. Meditate. Worry less. Focus on my writing. Change your behaviors now, because it will set an important precedent.

“Plant seeds,” Syliva says. Makes sense.

After my second session, I’m hungry for more. I’ve decided at this point that even the more fantastic, hard-to-believe findings are frankly too entertaining to pass up, so I decide to go all out with a specialist in past lives.

While I await my final 15-minute session — one that ends up being just as fun as the other ones, but impossible to really verify, even years later — I check out the vendors one last time. I gravitate towards one stall that is selling small stones, bundles of sage and a small pack of tarot cards that really catches my eye.

“These are major arcana cards,” the vendor says. “It’s an incomplete deck, but we’re coming up with the full deck. It’s limited edition of 60. With the artist we’re working with, he sketches them all out.”

He flips through the cards, showing me their take on the tarot. They have taken some liberties with the original concept. The Devil is towering and extra menacing here. The World is a globe in the palm of a hand. There is not one, but three different versions of The Lovers — one gay, one lesbian, one straight.

I like what I see, so I, a non-believer of the spiritual and metaphysical, buy it. I might even buy the full set some day. Maybe I’ll eventually do some readings of my own.

What can I say? It is kitsch. It is fun.

Like the fair itself, it is too charming to pass up.

The Dallas Psych Fair takes place on the first Sunday of each month at the Dallas Events Center. Head here for more information.

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