A 2013 Harris Poll survey on belief shows that Americans believe a bit less in angels - down 6 percent since the original survey in 2005 - and a little more in ghosts - up 1%. Less in Heaven - down 6, more in reincarnation - up 3. While our faith in astrology remains level at 29%, our belief in witches has fallen off 5 per cent. NHPR's Sean Hurley isn't quite sure what he believes when it comes to mediums, witches, and astrology - and to find out more, he recently visited two psychic fairs in New Hampshire. A quiet gathering of 6 mediums in Londonderry and a larger fair with vendors at the Radisson in Nashua.
It's the end of the day and the psychics are tired. Julie Ann, who organized the Londonderry psychic fair, introduces me to Rich, a Shamanic medium and healer.
Can you bring someone in for him?
I'm really gone.
You can't, hunh?
You look like you need a little rest.
Yeah, see, everybody sees it. They're all making fun of me.
After 24 sessions, Rich is ready for bed. So Julie Ann offers to do a channeling for me herself. It's a little shocking when she begins. Her face and voice both alter. I close my eyes and listen:
Oh it is so good to see you here with us, gear in hand, beautiful son of ours.
Julie Ann channels for another 15 minutes and when she's done, suggests that I keep her message to me private. It is for me alone, she says.
Can you tell me a bit about your own journey toward this?
So in my early days, younger days, I did a lot of palm reading. My first job, almost losing it because instead of hiring people based on their applications I was reading their palms. "But no! I know he'll go to work, I've seen it in his palm!"
Julie Ann runs her own staffing agency now and continues to rely on the non-traditional resume of palms. But she also sees people in private consultation:
You know a hundred years ago there were times we trusted our instincts, we trusted our judgments. We all had a sense of knowing. So I work with people to bring them back to that place.
I get in the car and head to the Radisson. A faux-castle with a glossy interior and a wing of ballrooms.
In the Nashua North Ballroom, it's Sierra's Sweet 16 party. In the Nashua Grand, the premier Bride Wedding expo is underway. And in the Balsam and Wentworth Ballrooms, it's the Magickal Marketplace & Psychic Faire.
60 vendors fill the room, selling everything from spices to chainmail. I glide by the home made soaps and mysterious runes until I find myself standing before my magical weakness.
I got magic wands. Not your Harry Potter type wands. These are real wands. Harvested by myself, while hiking in the woods. They're used for focusing your energy down into a specific point. So that you can cast spells, cast circles.
Dante the Wandmaker, has been harvesting wands for 20 years.
In the Balsam, I sit down with Judy Seidl, who works primarily with cards. When she sees my eye drift to her Druid Animal Cards, she spreads them out before me. I pick three and she turns them over. An eagle, a dog and a snake.
The eagle is asking you to observe with new eyes. The dog is a guardian. The dog is also about being loyal to yourself. Being true to yourself. The snake - you think of the snake shedding its skin, symbolic of rebirth and regeneration.
Across the room from Judy Seidl, Sha Blackburn - the Loon Witch - specializes in Aura Photography.
It's based on the principles of Kirlian photography that all organic matter emits light and color. So you're gonna have a seat in this chair and then you're gonna place your hands on these boxes, there's one on each side.
Now is this the kind of photo you smile for?
You can, but we may not see it. Ok you can take your hands off and relax. So that's you. I see you have this nice bright yellow, the lemon yellow here. That tells me that you are a creative person but you're not pursuing that creativity as much as you'd like to.
My aura on the Polaroid photo also shows pain in my foot and neck. Both of which are true. Both also could be said to be common human ailments. The question might be - is this magic, or just universally applicable advice?
That can be as relevant as you like. For me, belief doesn't enter into it. I dream about eagles all the time. My ankle hurts. I have a creative project that I don't have time to work on. Regardless of magic, my attention has been refocused on each of these. I should take care of that ankle. I should get back to that project.
So when Julie Ann writes me an email later that night and expresses her hope that I found her channeling meaningful, I don't have any doubt, or problem, saying that it was.