This holiday season has taught me two things: one, that people are heliotropic as daisies, and two, that they love to celebrate it. Essentially every winter holiday relates somehow to the planet's descent into darkness and to the eventual return of light. Most of the time, this is a metaphor for hope and despair, not a literal longing for the sun, but the droves of solstice-related festivities around town prove that this is not always the case.
To commemorate the longest night of the year, I hit up a few local psychics, many of whom, I knew, would be plenty aware of the solstice and some of whom, I hoped, would say something useful about the cold months ahead.
I began with a palm reading. To be honest, the whole fortune-telling thing freaks me out more than a little, and of the various modes of divination palmistry seemed the safest. Not so. The woman conducting my reading -- a tiny black-eyed New Yorker named Ann Marchese -- began her examination of my hands by listing potential adversities and otherwise predicting impending doom. I am dangerously stubborn! I will alienate the people I love most! I will encounter what she vaguely described as 'great hardship'! (Following all this, she helpfully suggested that I relax.)
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Hoping for a brighter forecast, I consulted a tarot reader at Gypsy House Cafe. She told me my long-term future was clouded but, as far as she could tell, relatively bright. "What about the rest of the winter?" I queried. She told me I should expect romance (I will meet a Leo and we will fall madly in love), travel (India, she predicted), and, as an upshot of both, new conflict. She even gave me a timetable: all this will apparently take place by next September.
The last psychic I consulted identified himself simply as "Mr. Wizard." His medium was a bizarre deck of cards and his system, allegedly first developed by a jester in Napoleon's court, involved an artillery of impossibly precise detail. Do I have problems with my right shoulder? he wanted to know. What about with my siblings? Am I Jewish? Do I consider myself a businesswoman? Am I planning to take any trips over the next two weeks? Do I usually fight with my mother during the springtime? Where will I be this February? Like the others, though, his consultation left me with little of use.
It had proven to be a decidedly depressing attempt at festivity. I abandoned it. The days will grow longer in a few weeks anyhow, I reasoned. After a point, small certainties -- the spin of the earth, for instance, or the promise of sunlight -- are a little like understanding the future, near enough to it to count.