If you’ve ever walked down Crown Street, you would have walked past number 321 and seen a red poster of a palm and the words The Fortune Teller written above it. If you’re like me, you probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Or, you might have mused briefly on the idea before filing it away under “scam” or “very expensive piece of real estate for someone that claims they can see the future.”
I decided to leave my sceptic hat at home for a day and pay a visit to Paris Debono, aka the Fortune Teller. After all, no one can deny that for as long as we’ve had questions, humans have looked to other realms for answers. I also cannot deny that I sometimes flip to the back page of a magazine to check my horoscope – you know, just in case.
Paris has been a professional fortune-teller for over twenty-five years and specialises in divination, which is any material method used to divine the past, present or future: tarot and other types of cards, numerology, astrology and palmistry.
His strict Catholic family considered divination the devil’s work. “When I started I was very conflicted. At first my family thought I was joking. But when I started doing readings for friends and family members they realised it wasn’t a joke. And when what I said started to come true, that’s when they started taking me seriously.”
Paris studied tarot for three years as well as astrology and other facets of divination, teaches his own classes and appears regularly on Psychic TV. He was originally mentored by the woman who introduced him to the world of fortune telling. He was nineteen and studying art at university at the time.
“I asked her about my career, and she said ‘you will do what you love, but you haven’t found it yet.’ I was annoyed because I knew I wanted to be an artist. I decided to find out what the cards meant myself. I rang the fortune-teller up and asked if she taught, and she did. And I said, ‘I want to learn.’ And she replied, ‘I think you’ve just found it.’”
Most of Paris’s friends aren’t in the fortune telling community. “I’ve been doing it for so long, for them it’s not unusual. It’s like, brush my teeth, change my shirt, do a reading, have a glass of water. My friends are very respectful of what I do, but they’re not that into it.”
Sculptures of ancient mythological creatures perch on magenta covered shelves and tables of Paris’s shop, ornate cards sit in piles or fanned out showing the card designs he created himself and, sitting quietly on a shelf, is his crystal ball.
When I ask about the crystal ball Paris says he only occasionally uses it. “It’s too noisy here. To use it you need total silence and full concentration. In this shop there’s too much stuff happening.” Of course, I think to myself, Crown Street’s conditions are hardly perfect for crystal ball use. How could I be so naïve?
Preconceptions aside, there is a sincerity about Paris that I didn’t expect. As we speak it becomes clear that while our beliefs are (literally) worlds apart, he has a genuine desire to help people. I am also struck by his insistence not to speak negatively about others in his profession, even though he admits that some who claim to have the gift are very often delusional.
“There are different readers for different clients. Some clients like being told that they were Queen of Sheba in a past life and there are readers for that. Some clients want meat and potato readings: yes or no, you will get the job or you won’t, and there are readers for that, too. Most people that do this work are trying to help. Are there liars? Yes, but that’s in every industry.”
Whether it’s predicting that I will be single for the next twelve months (thanks Paris, but I think I could have told myself that one), asking to the cards if Trump will be impeached soon, or helping someone through a difficult part of their life, Paris the Fortune Teller’s intentions are not I what immediately assumed.
“I tell my students that they are going to be dealing with humanity, and there is a beautiful side to humanity and also a dark side. I tell them to take it seriously, to always have integrity, to never lie – if they can’t see anything, to be honest. You want to be authentic all the time.”
While divination is still, for a cynic like myself, a pretty difficult concept to digest, it’s a form of human connection focussed on helping, not hurting. Instead of immediately judging, perhaps a better approach is to have a respectful conversation. Who knows, you might even learn something.