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I’m not superstitious. I step on lines on the sidewalk, whistle indoors, and even walk under ladders. I don’t go about purposely tempting the “fates.” It’s just that I’m not self absorbed in fear of them. Nevertheless, I have my routine in reading the morning paper – front page, business, comics, and lastly the daily horoscope. I don’t believe in astrology. But just like the comics (and often the front page), I find the horoscope amusing and entertaining.

There are many ways each of us seeks happiness and life guidance. Some find it by reading books on metaphysics, astrology, or numerology. Some are happy to read their fortune inside a cookie or written on a tee shirt. Others seek out professionals. They seek guidance from psychiatrists, psychologists, lay and religious counselors, or even storefront fortunetellers.

Madame Joanne is a fortuneteller. A sixtyish lady, married with children and grandchildren, she does “readings” from a store in Agoura. Her storefront window has a huge palm and advertises “Psychic Readings.” Mystic figures decorate the inside of the store. There’s a figure of Merlin, a Buddha with a crystal ball, and cards. This is her place of business. “My crosses,” she says, “I keep at home.”

She reads palms, cards, or from a crystal ball. “I don’t charge four bucks a minute like the Psychic Hotline,” she says disdainfully. “I have a gift from God,” she says. “I have never known life without it.” She has been doing psychic readings for fifty years. She charges by the reading, a fixed price however long it takes, charging different fees for reading palms, tarot cards, or psychic vibrations.

Though she says she sees both the good and bad in people’s “fortunes,” she will not simply tell people the “bad.” “I will show them how to use their spiritual strength to overcome the negatives in life. A positive way to work through darkness.” And she does not predict “worldly things,” like what numbers to pick for the Lotto or stocks to buy. That, she says, would be abusing her gift.

I wondered how a psychic could live knowing the future. If you knew what was going to happen all the time, there would be no excitement to life, nothing to hope for, or look forward to. And if they can predict the future, why aren’t they all rich. Madame Joanne answered, “If you misuse your gift, it will not work. I have to shut off my psychic ability or I couldn’t live. I would go crazy. Sometimes life just has to be lived. God intends for there to be mysteries in life. I choose to use my gift only when it’s helpful or absolutely necessary.”

This psychic gift must run in families. Madame Joanne’s mother was a psychic, her daughter is one, and she sees the “gift” in her grandchildren. “They’re too young to know they have it yet,” she says.

I remain a skeptic. I can’t say that Madame Joanne or other storefront fortunetellers do not have a psychic gift. They may. And she was certainly entertaining. I assure you, however, that if I do meet those three dark haired men that Madame Joanne says will make me rich, I will let my readers know. That column will be written from somewhere in a castle in France.