Americans ask stargazers for coronavirus answers
When might there be a vaccine? Should I move to avoid a second wave of infections? Will I get another job? Americans anxious from the upheaval caused by the coronavirus crisis are turning to astrologers for answers about an uncertain future.
Stargazers and tarot card readers in the United States are reporting an uptick in business due to COVID-19 as people seek advice and comfort for their disrupted lives amid sometimes chaotic messaging from leaders.
Michele Bell, 54, hired New York City-based astrologer Jenny Lynch after the virus killed her mother in April.
Bell had spent seven years caring for her mom and was now at a loss about what to do with her life.
"I was caught in a very toxic energetic field," Bell told AFP.
After studying Bell's chart based on her date, time and location of birth, Lynch told her her horoscope suggested 2021 would be a good time to fulfil her dream of living abroad.
"She really gave me some new personal growth to navigate to," said Bell.
Almost 30 percent of Americans believe that the movement of stars and planets impacts human lives, a 2017 Pew Research Center poll found.
Americans spent $2.2 billion on "psychic services" in 2018, according to market research firm IBISWorld.
As US residents started to grapple with the new world of social distancing and political leaders sent contradictory signals amid an unprecedented, fast-changing situation, traffic to some astrology sites increased slightly, according to media analytics company Comscore.
Visits to Astro.com, Cafe Astrology and Astrology Zone were up in March, when America's epidemic broke out, compared to February, Comscore said.
Lynch, 70, quickly picked up ten new clients after New York went into lockdown on March 22.
"Some are out of work and want to know what to expect. Some of them want to start their own business. And a lot of people want to leave cities right now.
"Everybody is in a state of transition," she told AFP.
Lynch -- a practitioner of astrology for half a century -- has clients from across the world, including Spain and Saudi Arabia.
- 'Resurgence' -
She charges $150 for a one-hour reading on Zoom, Skype or WhatsApp, but prefers the old normal when she could sit with clients in person, both of them looking at her computer.
"In person is better because I can show the movements of the planets on the screen. They see that it's mathematical and I'm not just making it up," said Lynch.
Anne Ortelee, another prominent NYC astrologer, estimates that her billings have risen 25 percent since the virus crisis erupted.
She says people are asking themselves whether they trust their political leaders.
"Are they leading you into something happy or are they trying to kill you by injecting yourself with Clorox?" Ortelee said, referring to President Donald Trump's infamous suggestion that injecting disinfectant may help kill the virus.
She says stargazers knew a major disaster was coming this year because Pluto and Saturn came together in Capricorn in January.
The arrival of Jupiter later in the year spells further volatility.
"All these planets meeting in the same part of the sky is very rare," Ortelee told AFP, before sounding an ominous warning.
"There's going to be a resurgence of the virus. It's going to make everything we've had now look like kindergarten," she said.
The 65-year-old says families would be wise to stock up on 120 days of food, even though politicians consistently warn against panic buying.
She predicts it could be two years before a vaccine is found. With pharmaceutical companies working flat out, the US government has said it is possible by the end of this year.
Psychic Derek Calibre foresees a global recession "much deeper" than that of 2008, which major economists also predict.
But his tarot cards also offer wilder predictions.
"Now that everyone has had a taste of incarceration, I see prison reform, with more efforts toward rehabilitation programs.
"The handshake will go for a number of years but come back later like a fashion trend," he told AFP.