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Why lost millennial and Gen Z women are flocking to tarot and palm reading



A lot of things might be indicative of a quarter-life crisis – your first real heartbreak, an unanticipated career pivot, the quiet indignity of getting through an entire tub of butter on your own.

But for millennials in the midst of despair, these age-specific uncertainties are coupled with some very tangible economic ones. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the cost-of-living crisis or the eye-watering rent increases that are forcing young people out of the cities they work in. But it’s not a brilliant time, all told.

And in times of uncertainty, people often look to new places for answers they can’t find elsewhere. For millennial and Gen Z women, the answers are written in the stars.

Spiritual practices such as astrology, reiki, angel cards, palm readings, crystals and energy healing – otherwise known as the “mystic services market” – have young women in a chokehold. Don’t believe me? Just go for a wander through The Healing Field at Glastonbury where queues to see the fortune tellers are made up exclusively of women in their twenties. How would I know? I was there too, of course.

Earlier in the summer, during a wave of confusion and despair, I visited a pop-up palm reader in one of my local pubs to seek spiritual guidance about my career prospects.

I went with two friends – one of whom was outed for having a “busy mind” by the lines in her hands, and the other who was told she would experience a big love in her forties. The palm reader managed to guess what I wanted to do for a living in the first minute because of the length of my Apollo finger (a long ring finger supposedly indicates a strong creative side).

The soothsayer was herself a young woman, so I wanted to find out whether she’d noticed the same pattern. Asha Swati Mitra, 28, is a palm reader based in London. “I wanted to pursue it as a career to be able to give others the same optimism palmistry gave me,” she told me. “My usual sitters are women, from their twenties to mid-thirties. It’s a pivotal time for anyone, regardless of sex or gender, but I think women tend to be more open to it because we like to make sense of things, even by means that don’t make much sense themselves.”

While it’s easy to dismiss these practices as recreational Phoebe Buffay-isms, what the experience taught me is that you only see what your eyes will show you. As is the way with many different therapies, faiths, and “self-care” practices (including exercise!) – they don’t all work for everyone, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work for anyone.

And it’s not just us. The industry is worth an estimated $10bn (£8bn) and is expected to rise to $22.8bn (£18bn) by 2031. More Americans know their zodiac sign than their blood type, and nearly half of Britons say they’re generally influenced by their horoscopes. Gen Z and millennial women are not alone in our intrigue, but we’re certainly a driving force.

We were still at school during the 2007-08 financial crisis, we didn’t all get a say in the Brexit referendum, and we’ve never known free universities. Celebrity psychic and witch, Inbaal Honigman, unsurprisingly, saw our increased interest coming. “For young people today, living according to what is ‘normal’ has already let them down,” Honigman says. “Young people were turning to witchcraft, mysticism, Tarot and crystals in their droves during the pandemic,” she adds, “because it gave them hope and agency.”

However, the magnetic pull of the industry is not without risk. The emphasis on agency and individualism at the heart of a lot of self-improvement practices means we’re more curious about ourselves than ever, but it also poses the risk of thinking we have more power over our circumstances than we really do. Mercury in retrograde might explain the argument you had with your housemate, but it won’t stop your landlord putting the rent up by 15 per cent. And try as we might, we can’t manifest a mortgage.

It’s also interesting to see how quick people are to dismiss their horoscope when it doesn’t resonate with them. When my horoscope told me I was about to enter a period of financial prosperity the same day my boss announced a round of redundancies, I simply closed the tab.

But as Anna Ferster, 24, an astrology podcaster who’s trained in reading tarot and birth charts points out: “Astrology doesn’t solve your problems, in my understanding it makes you more aware of them.” For her, the emphasis on the individual in a lot of modern spiritual practices can be viewed in a positive light too. “As a woman in that space early on, I see astrology as a way of connecting with others much more personally – especially online. It’s definitely helped me make sense of difficult experiences.”

And even when it doesn’t, the mystic services market – as enticing as it may be – is not prescriptive. Different things work for different people and maybe one woman’s gong bath is another man’s Peloton. The cosmic world might not hold all the answers, nor does it promise to. But at least it offers us somewhere to look.

Nikki Peach writes about news and culture for outlets including i, Grazia, Heat and i-D

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