Walking down the Danforth on a Friday evening, I spotted a printed sign on a duplex that said, “Psychic Sonya, Come in.” As I was about to open the door at 2231 Danforth Ave., between Woodbine Avenue and Main Street, I spotted another note that said to ring the doorbell before coming in.
So I did. A blonde woman appeared at the top of the stairs, and ushered me up. Walking up, I felt nervous, especially when my jacket brushed along strings of bells hanging from both sides of the wall and set them ringing loudly. Sonya, who declined to reveal her last name, motioned for me to wait in her kitchen while she talked to another client. I started to look around. On the shelves I saw family portraits, crucifixes, tarot cards, bells, and an actual crystal ball.
Fortune-telling goes back to ancient times, and the practice continues to be popular in Toronto today. Sonya’s is one of close to 100 psychic shops open for business in the GTA, which advertise online. In April 2014, there were 60 exhibitors for the Toronto Psychic Fair. Many other psychics set up signs outside their houses and do not advertise themselves in any other way.
“I had premonitions when I was young and they were very strong…. I was 13 or 14 when my mother finally sat me down and explained that I have the same psychic powers she does,” Sonya said.
Psychics have often been portrayed negatively in the media. In an episode of the TV show Seinfeld, the main character Jerry, pokes fun at psychics and his friend George for cancelling his vacation because a psychic told him something bad would happen. But despite the stigma surrounding psychics, many people continue to go — and some even depend on them. They can even have an influence on organizations and companies. In November 2014, Brazilian airline TAM changed one of its flight numbers after a prediction from a renowned psychic that the plane would crash. The psychic, Jucelino Nobrega da Luz, has also correctly predicted the deaths of Princess Diana and presidential candidate Eduardo Campos. (The plane got to its destination safely.)
After a few minutes of waiting, I sat down at the dining table. Sonya asked me what kind of reading I wanted. She offers tarot, palm, psychic, and crystal ball. I chose the basic palm reading, because it cost only $20.
“Close your hands, make two wishes, and tell me one,” Sonya said. I told her one wish: to be successful in what I do. She then proceeded to read my palm. She told me about my future love, health, wealth, career, and family. Sonya also told me I was “stubborn,” which is very true. Something inside me started believing that all her predictions might happen.
“With the palm, all the lines mean something. It’s an art that anyone can learn,” Sonya said. Not all psychics are simple fortune tellers. A lot of them do tarot card readings. Tara Greene, who has a shop on Dundas Street East, has been doing readings for the past 22 years.
“The tarot cards can be used as a psychic tool; they are a medium, an interface between the conscious and the unconscious world,” Greene said in a telephone interview. More than a month before the 2014 Toronto mayoral election, Greene told the Toronto Sun that John Tory would emerge on top. Greene has had many other accurate predictions, such as the World Cup soccer winners and U.S. President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012.
A woman named Anna has been a client of Greene’s for the past two years. Anna said she seeks her advice for important choices and has even become a little dependent on her.
“I usually go for psychic services when I am making big life decisions and during emergency situations,” Anna wrote in an email. “The confusion and lack of clarity that clouds such occurrences may lead one to make decisions with dire consequences and Tara has helped me avoid that on multiple occasions.”
One of the reasons there is a stigma surrounding psychics is because almost anyone can claim they are one and scam others. In a recent case in Oklahoma City, a psychic was arrested for defrauding clients of nearly $1 million. She had been operating a palm-reading business from her home for several years. According to the City of Toronto’s Municipal Licensing and Standards section, there are no regulations in place for psychic services. When it comes to finding a psychic you can trust, Anna suggests doing a lot of research, like she did before finding Greene.
“I have people that come to me and tell me they’ve spent thousands of dollars on a fake psychic and I tell them they have every right to take them to court, but they are too embarrassed to admit they’ve done that,” Greene said.
After my session with Sonya, I thought about everything she had told me. I didn’t feel any differently or make any rash decisions in my life. I simply listened and gained a new experience from it.
“There is a reason to be skeptical. It isn’t scientifically proven that there are real psychics, but just keep your mind open, and if you ever get a chance to do a reading, try,” said Sonya, with a smile.