In France, fortune-tellers are consulted by stock market investors, lawyers, and TGV engineers. And presidents

Tenderness and freedom

‘Anyone who, for money, predicts or guesses the future or interprets dreams is subject to a fine in the amount of F600 –1300’ – it was only in 1994 that this provision was removed from the French Penal Code.

It did not apply to fortune tellers employed by presidents.

January 1991, the Gulf War is underway. ‘I will have to intervene. What do you think is the best day?’, says the president into the phone. ‘Sunday, Monday, Tuesday?’

‘I need to look into this’, responds Elizabeth Teissier, an astrologer.

The day after: ‘What do I see in the sky, Mr. President? On the sixth, it is not very clear, but the seventh in the evening is a very good time to intervene’.

January 7, 1991, Mitterrand speaks to the French people: ‘We are entering a very complicated phase of the war. It’s a tough challenge. The French must prepare for this’.

The president consulted with the astrologer six times during this period.

Teissier began her career as a model, was an actress in porn films, then hosted the first live horoscope on French television before becoming a celebrity astrologer. She received the first doctorate at the Sorbonne in astrology, although the award was opposed by many scientists. In 2000, she published recordings of conversations she had regularly with Mitterrand during the five years of his rule. She advised him on which day he should address the French, prepared horoscopes of potential collaborators, and suggested the date of the Maastricht Treaty referendum.

Many politicians in France have used and continue to use the services of fortune tellers and astrologers. No one has admitted it, because what was acceptable under the ancien régime and kings ‘by the grace of God’ is different in the republic that did not separate church and state in 1905 to allow spirituality to influence political decisions. And yet: de Gaulle regularly advised with Maurice Vasset, a military man and astrologer after hours, and in the early 20th century Madame Fraya read the political future out of Aristide Briand’s or Georges Clemenceau’s palms.

40% of French people do not believe. In God

France is a secular country. Atheists are the most numerous here in Europe, right after the Czech Republic. In 1968, revolutionaries decided that there was no God. France – the land of enlightenment and rationalism. Descartes’ state, as every child in a republican school repeats proudly. 40% of French people do not believe.

In God.

Because 58% believe in one of the disciplines of parapsychology: astrology, divination, witchcraft or numerology. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of consultations has been increasing. One in three French people look to the stars for answers about the future. One-third believe in fairies and witches (twice as many as in the 1980s). The number of people who check horoscopes daily is twice as large as the number of those who never check it. Believers are mostly young: almost half are under 35. Half of women in the 25-34 age range believe in witchcraft and magic. It is not known whether they are atheists, Christians or Muslims – in France you cannot ask about religion in statistics.

Divination, witchcraft and astrology are not subject to any legal regulation, yet in France there are about 100,000 people (there are three times less clinical psychologists) who enter ‘esotericism’ as their specialisation in their tax returns. The number of consultations with clairvoyants has doubled in 20 years – from 8 million to 15 million per year. The divination market is estimated to be worth €3.5 billion.

All forms of payment accepted

Before I got to the clairvoyant that the French dream of but not everyone can afford, I typed into Google: ‘Fortune teller via phone’. This is the most popular form of consultation. It’s not easy to choose among 265,000 pages:
The Perfect Fortune Teller,
True Fortune Teller,
Medium in Paris.

Clairvoyant Katleen, Cathy, Claudia via phone, text or e-mail. All forms of payment accepted. From €30 to €90 per hour consultation.

Finally, I rely on the ranking of the most reliable clairvoyants made by one of the esoteric weekly magazines. Sophie Vitali, working as a fortune teller for three years, runs the Infinita Corse Voyance service and employs 40 clairvoyants who work remotely.

Vitali has a code of ethics:

‘A clairvoyant is not God. We have a right to be wrong’.

‘When someone asks if they have cancer, send them to the doctor’.

‘Do not reveal anything about death, even if you have a vision’.

‘Encourage change! If Josette has it written in the sky that she’s going to meet Jean, she needs to stop watching Netflix after work and go out to people. The most important events of our lives are written in the stars, but in most cases we should activate our free will’.

‘Do not cast curses, play magicians or sorcerers’.

‘Do not be afraid of COVID. The world is changing, but human problems are not changing at all. Pandemic or not, people want to be loved just as much. If quarantined, encourage dating through apps. Advise a meeting, for example, at the carts near the supermarket’.

Vitali (named after her grandfather, who, according to the fortune teller, was a Hungarian medium and healer) tells me that coming out as gay and esoteric has the same effect: you lose contact with family and friends because most think you’re crazy. Before she ‘came out of the closet’, she worked as a hairdresser and did a degree in funeral home management, but never worked in the profession. Since she started a fortune-telling business, which, she stresses, is on the INAD’s (National Institute of Divination Arts, which is ‘national’ in name only) list of verified offices, she no longer has time to tell fortune over the phone, so she takes on more demanding jobs, including exorcisms. Recently a young woman has asked her for help. She confessed that she had asked God for a child so many times that after several miscarriages she turned to the devil. And she got pregnant. Ever since the boy was born, she has been convinced that Satan is after his life.

Can Sophie break her pact with the devil? ‘I made it. I haven’t told anyone about it since because it sounds like I’m insane. And yet I helped this woman. She never had to be afraid any more.’

I click on the ‘true fortune teller’ link. Rachel Hermann is a kabbalist. She specialises in communication between the visible and invisible worlds. When I ask why people need it, she replies: everyone is looking for meaning in life. Everyone is afraid of death. By believing in the invisible, life is easier. Hermann claims to be of Polish Jewish descent. Does she have contact with people in her family from before the war since she can talk to ghosts? Did anyone die in the Shoah? She doesn’t want to tell. She invokes Judaism, but her philosophy has little to do with that religion. ‘Our time on earth is only a brief stopover. The most beautiful awaits us in the hereafter’, says Herman. She recommends talking to Patricia Darré, the most popular medium in France (she has an average of 2 million views on YouTube).

Darré recently released a book in which she revealed that her guardian angel turned out to be a young Nazi soldier. They talked for a year during the first wave of coronavirus. Through him, Darré learned, among other things, what happened with Hitler ‘on the other side’ (I won’t tell).

Invoice from France’s most expensive fortune teller

1988. Maud Kristen, 25, gives a television interview: ‘Some politicians show maturity. They know that a clairvoyant will not tell them on what day and year they will finally win the election. Rather, they want to know which way their party will go. Others come to me under so much stress and require me to give them an exact vote count. I explain that this is not what divination is about, but...’

‘Are they more left-wing or right-wing?’, asks the journalist.


Maud Kristen, the most expensive fortune teller in France, is anxious not to let me down.

The consultation lasts a minimum of 1 hour and 15 minutes. It costs €370. Companies pay even more. She issues invoices. We talk via Skype – that’s where all the consultations take place because she lives in Uruguay. Kristen has been a star for 35 years. Her services are used by famous actors, politicians, headhunters, entrepreneurs, including stock market investors. She has her calendar booked for four months. As she says, she is unlikely to be wrong, and certainly less so than Providence. Clients gain time with her. They invest capital or stop investing. In the late 1990s, Kristen has been a guest speaker at many scientific conferences and has been pushing for years for parapsychological research to be considered worthy of science.

The fortune teller appears on my computer screen. Her no longer young face looks like it has been bulked up with botox. She has a soothing, powerful voice. A large, dark blue amethyst shines on her chest. Banana leaves are waving outside the window. In an e-mail, I asked her if she could tell me anything about the faith of the French. ‘I will disappoint you, but clairvoyance has nothing to do with faith. I never tell clients: in a previous incarnation you were Marie Antoinette. But: you grew up by the lake, you were attached to your cat, and you were very emotional when it drowned. Or: You have been in a relationship with an abusive man for years. This may or may not be confirmed. True clairvoyance is not a belief system based on unverifiable hypotheses. Science can’t explain it, but after all, fire was used by humans before it was proven what its physical and chemical process was.’

When will I sell my house? What their relationship with a loved one is like? What will happen in the country? Should I leave it? Will my re-branding plan succeed? Will the book be successful? These are the kinds of questions customers ask. For some, the consultation is a strategy and they are the best to work with. Divination can help only them. Efficiently and without stupidity along the way. Others just want assurance that what they believe is true.

‘The man I met yesterday is really in love with me and will leave his wife for me’, they narrate over the phone. Clairvoyant charlatans confirm their assumptions. Most know very well that what they hear is not true, but it suits them because they don’t want to change at all. In fact, they seek comfort. She used to get a lot of calls from women about sentimental matters. A classic example: Kristen ‘sees’ that the client is divorced, works at a hospital, but is fed up with her job. Everything is correct, however, she can feel from the woman’s face that she is not happy. ‘Don’t you see a rich, handsome man who will change my life?’, she asks full of hope.

‘No’, Kristen says plainly. And it hurts.

No one comes to her with questions of a spiritual nature. She has Christian, Jewish and Muslim clients. If they want religious consultation, they go to church, and that’s very well because Kristen thinks she has no competence in that domain. ‘People who pretend to have knowledge of the afterlife are not real fortune tellers. Before they talk about life after death, have them predict whether your business will last or whether your property will be sold.’

‘I direct my vision toward life, not death. That’s the barrier I set up for myself. If I saw death (and I rarely see it) or even worse, talked about it – I would have too much power over people. For example, I sometimes get a premonition that my client’s mother is about to die. I don’t reveal it to her, but when she asks if she should go on holiday or rather stay with her mum, I advise the latter.’

Headhunters consult with Kristen about their future or potential employees. The great designers and engineers of the TGV super train. Attorneys preparing defence speeches that could keep their client out of prison ask which of their arguments will ensure success. ‘Jewellers are creating a new line of jewellery and want to know if they will be successful. If not, that’s the end of the conversation, and if yes, I advise them on how to sell even more. It’s the same for feelings. “Will I reconcile with my father?”, asks a client. If yes, I explain how.’

She never took advantage of the fact that she has many high-profile clients with a lot of influence: ‘I never accept invitations to any banquets. What if I am invited by the wife of a famous actor and three years later I have to tell him that he should leave her? That would be suspicious, and I need freedom. Many politicians use my services. I could lose their trust. What do they ask? They are as specific as businessmen: is it worth becoming a minister at the expense of another position?’.

She was once approached by the police about Guy Georges who killed seven women. Kristen prepared a psychological portrait of the killer for the police. But so what? She couldn’t tell his address or his name. When he was arrested, the commissioner congratulated her, but the fortune teller believes he had nothing to thank for. After all, she didn’t help. She didn’t work for the police any more because it’s too much responsibility.

Most clairvoyants claim that they inherited the gift from their ancestors. Kristen doesn’t. She had a difficult childhood and the paranormal world saved her from psychosis: ‘I was able to look at the complicated family life as a puzzle. A riddle to solve: why is my mum hurting me? I love to untie knots. To fix faults around the house, sometimes looking for three hours to figure out how to do it. Consultation is a similar challenge. After a successful session, I feel a sense of satisfaction, like I’m putting the world in order. Because of this, the most important relationships in my life are those with clients. I don’t like to leave the house, I have few friends. I prefer to take care of animals. My partner and I rescued 30 dogs for whom we created a shelter at home’.

I ask Kristen if people asked her different questions in 1988 than they do now. ‘Nothing has changed. Being alive still brings us the same problems.’

Angels of Paris

I visit an esoteric store in Paris – Arc-en-Ciel (Rainbow). It smells of incense and myrrh. Salt lamps and electric candles emanating orange light illuminate the interior. Dream catcher beads ring from the ceiling. Wind chimes sound gently.

The saleswoman is a tarot expert and can also advise you on your choice of healing stones. A client calls: ‘Do you have agate? Because my son needs to concentrate better in school...’. ‘Yes, of course.’ An elderly woman walks in, her cheeks are red from the frost. She shakes off her shoes as if it were snowing: ‘I came for new tarot cards, but I won’t stay long because I’ll spend a fortune here! Have you seen how many feathers are floating all over town? We were visited by a great many angels!’. I ask the tarologist if a lot of her clients believe in angels. ‘Almost everyone.’

Who says an atheist doesn’t believe in ghosts?

I ask experts because fortune tellers don’t explain everything. How is it that there are so many spinning tables in Cartesian France?

‘Are you surprised by this? I’m not’, responds Hervé Le Bars, spokesman for AFIS, an association that promotes knowledge backed by science. ‘It would be a mistake to think that the more atheistic a country is, the less esoteric it is. An atheist is a person who rejects the existence of God, but who says they don’t believe in ghosts? We have removed the clergy from power, but that doesn’t mean that the French don’t have a need – like most people in the world – to believe in something and make sense of life. Imagining the afterlife where justice will finally prevail can allow for a more bearable life here on earth. Incidentally, Descartes believed in God and separated the material world from the spiritual. We rationalists only believe in what we can touch and see. Because of this, in France we are seen as more inhuman than ‘esotericists’ because if someone believes only in materialism, they can’t be fully trusted. France is actually a country with a deeply rooted spirituality. It is present in all spheres of life. In agriculture, biodynamics is promoted, the production of which is based on the belief in anthroposophy. Homeopathy is extremely popular, and the French are eager to consult magnetisers and other quacks about their illnesses.’

‘There is little research into the esotericism of the French because scientists think it’s not very serious’, says Arnaud Esquerre, a sociologist at the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research). ‘In France, people from all classes are interested in astrology. Clairvoyants are visited by more women, but maybe that’s because men are more secretive about it, and besides, women earn less and worry more about the economic future. One fortune teller told me that if a man meets another in the waiting room, he will not come again out of fear.’

But astrology is not a matter of faith. People simply want to know the answers to questions about their lives. When they go to an astrologer or clairvoyant, it doesn’t mean they believe it. They worry, the specialist helps them because they provide concrete, reassuring answers. And that’s enough.

Astrology tutoring: online and live

Clairvoyance can also be learned. I find 22 tutors on, the website with the most tutors in France. Prices range from €20 to €100 per hour. Tarot, numerology, communication with past lives, radiesthesia and white magic. I choose Antoine because he has the most recommendations and an affordable price. The profile picture shows an elderly gentleman with mid-length grey hair, gazing at tarot cards that glow in the candlelight.

We connect via Zoom. I say I would like to learn clairvoyance, although I don’t think I have the talent. Is it possible to work on this? ‘Of course’, says Antoine, who learned everything from his father. ‘He had a tarot school and healed through magnetism. Now he continues his journey up there. And I’m keeping the family tradition alive down here. My son helps me because I don’t know anything about the Internet. He taught me how to use eBay...’

‘What do you sell there?’

‘Divination, courses, energy consultations and amulets (a divination with one question by e-mail costs €5, and by phone – €8).’

‘What will our learning be like?’

‘If you don’t have an innate talent, we’ll deepen your intuition with tarot. I prefer the Marseille one. It is versatile and works well for our times, as complicated as they are.’ Antoine likes to talk. He doesn’t ask me any questions. ‘Through genetic changes, man is slowly turning into a robot. Google knows everything about us! Those who run the world want to think for us. They take our energy like vampires. You have to protect yourself from that, and I can teach you that too. People like us are there to help others who are not armed to fight the problems of this world. I even created a new working method, I called it “psisycholosophy”.’

‘A combination of parapsychology and philosophy?”, I guess.

‘Bravo! I registered the name with the patent office. I know it’s weird. But a crazy sage like me gets away with everything. Like Einstein or Freud.’

‘What if divination doesn’t come true?’

‘Of course, it happens sometimes. I ask the client to ask me the question again and explain its context. I lay out the cards again. They are generally the same as before, so the blocking is on the client’s side. And indeed, in the course of the conversation, it suddenly occurs to me that they had previously hidden something from me. Homosexuality, infidelity, a scam at work. The job of the clairvoyant – write that down – is not to “steal” thoughts, but to unlock them. I know my therapy works when clients begin to let go. The body relaxes. It is not uncommon for them to cry, especially men, because they hide more than women do. The clairvoyant has the role of a priest during confession. Nowadays no one in France would go to a priest any more because few people believe in God. They would rather to a psychologist but it is not easy to find a good specialist, especially in small towns. So the French come to us’.

‘Do you make good money in divination?’

‘Dreadful! Look where I live.’ Antoine shows through the camera a small room with a kitchenette. The ceiling is covered with old beams. There is a view of the forest from the window. Provence. ‘I don’t earn much, but I get a lot: fig jam, mushrooms, or chocolate from my neighbours. It’s because I’m connected to the cosmos, to extraterrestrial life. And I give that energy to loved ones. And that is what I propose to share with you in our class. I offer a 30-hour course. And it costs €600... A client is coming, please give me a moment.’ I hear him open the door; he doesn’t recommend a mask because “he’s a healer, so there’s no danger in his house”.

After a few hours I get a contract signed with the symbol of Antoine’s school: Ecole Universelle du Monde des Arts Divinatoires (Universal School of the Art of Divination). I will need a tarot deck, an eraser, a set square, and a compass, among other things. Before class, Antoine recommends listening to relaxing music (no rap or rock). He tells me to cover the table with a warm-coloured tablecloth and light two candles and incense. To drink a glass of water from a mountain spring. After six months, I can start working as a clairvoyant and tarot reader. Or even tomorrow as a clairvoyant via phone.




Author: Anna Pamuła – reporter, author of the book ‘Wrzenie. Francja na krawędzi” (Turmoil. France on the Edge). She lives in Paris


The text was published in „Wolna Sobota” a magazine of „Gazeta Wyborcza” on 4 December 2021