Originally published in White Noise
Avril Price has been reading people and their cards with no-nonsense flair for over 30 years. Based in Shepherd’s Bush, she teaches at South Kensington’s College of Psychic Studies. Arnelle Paterson asked her about the often misunderstood and frequently secretive worlds of tarot and Spiritualism.
Sat near a window in Ca’pucino Westfield, I notice a vibrant figure with pastel pink-tinted hair and the smile to match walk in. As she makes her way over to our table, it’s obvious why people have been baring their souls and sharing their deepest worries with her for over three decades. After all, she’s a tarot and psychic consultant, as well as a medium. Past, present, future, dead or alive, Avril Pricehas got you covered.
Taking out the Psycards I’d bought a few days ago, Price’s eyes light up. “I never get my cards read, this is exciting!” she chirps with a Northern lilt. These aren’t quite tarot cards. Psycards are inspired by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s belief that symbols have the power to bridge the conscious and unconscious in order to make important decisions, as well as help with self-development.
Shuffling the cards, it begins to dawn on me that I, a journalist, am attempting to read an established psychic. This could be an embarrassing career pitfall, or the catalyst for a new one. I tell Price to stop me shuffling whenever she feels prompted and lay out a few of the cards haphazardly. Out goes Miss Analytical, in comes Miss Mystical. Relying on intuition paired with the cards’ vivid imagery, I deliver whatever comes to mind. I manage to pick up on an upcoming trip to Spain she’s just booked, her love for North African culture, and describe the relationship she has with two female friends in less than 20 minutes. Phew. “You have a real gift, you know,” says Price, and I can’t help but smile a little.
But what exactly are tarot cards? “They’re a series of archetypes. I call them mirrors to the soul. These archetypes embody every single human experience that we could possibly have based on the idea that in our journey through eternity, we’ve had all those experiences,” Price explains. “You can use the cards to bring a great understanding of what’s happening in a much wider, much bigger picture, and you can see the influences and trends that are operating in your life. It can be either supremely cosmic, or it can be really down to earth.”
The Yorkshire-born medium combines an ability to communicate with the deceased with tarot, which is a pretty unusual combination. Price references one of Spiritualism’s seven principles, the brotherhood of man. “Humanity is just one big community. We’re not islands, whether we’re in this world or the next.” When a psychic references ‘spirit’, they’re talking about the spirit world. This includes (but isn’t limited to) God, spirit guides, celestial beings such as angels, and the deceased.
While views on what form a spirit guide can manifest in varies, think of a spirit guide as your personal lifetime guide. The majority of psychics believe that we are all spiritual beings in human form, and your higher self is a part of you that remains in the spirit world. As a result, it’s wiser and eternal, and you can connect to it while giving a reading or looking for answers, as Price explains. But why is Spirit in the best position to give insight and advice? “Cause they’ve done it before!” she exclaims. “Been there, done that, won the t-shirt, love!”
“I never cease to be amazed. The client has the opportunity to talk about stuff that needs to come out, and it’s not necessarily difficult stuff. It could be, ‘I really loved my mum, or my animal.’ It’s always right on time. What tarot does is, it brings forward what’s in the unconsciousness.”
As a result, she’s able to help bring people closure. “Someone might say, ‘I really need to contact my mum; she passed away; I didn’t get to say goodbye.’ You work with the cards to illuminate what was happening at the time and have this esoteric conversation because Spirit knows what’s going on in your heart. You can bring great comfort, which in turn gives great confidence and people can let go. The one thing humans find hard is letting go. Cut your losses, do the healing and always look forward. That comes from bitter experience,” she laughs.
Price’s gift, much like a spread of cards, draws in a range of people. “I think I’ve met ‘em all. Ex-murderers, wives of paedophiles, women who’ve been really, really badly abused.” While some psychics refuse to talk about pregnancy, health, death and legal matters, nothing is off limits in a session with Price. “We can talk about death, but I won’t predict death. That’s probably the only golden rule I’ve got. I’m not afraid to hold somebody’s hand and walk you to the shadow if that’s what needs to happen.”
But it isn’t just the broken or downtrodden who visit her. “Sceptics say, ‘Oh, you psychics you only deal with very broken people or people in misery.’ Actually, that’s not true,” she says. “I get some very whole people that come to see me that literally are just curious about their lives.”
Of course, people still visit psychics for their traditional use – an insight into the future. Some psychics believe in free will, and others believe in destiny (you may have delays and detours, but if you’re destined to become an actor, you will become an actor). Others don’t give future predictions at all.
Price isn’t one of them. “If you’re telling a story, you’re talking about the past, that then becomes the present. I think it’s natural that you’re going to start scoping the future. It’s a bit like a soap opera with several endings; you can have a look at how it’s all gonna turn out. It’s only a suggestion, you can’t insist that somebody walk that path.”
On the other hand, predictions aren’t always the most important aspect of a reading. “Very often, it is about the past, as much as it’s about the future,” she reveals. “Sometimes, we make life choices based on stuff that we were doing as a child.”
As we’re chatting away, it becomes increasingly apparent that psychics are counsellors with added benefits. “The really important work for me is actually breaking those cycles so you become free.” Price divulges. “For example, somebody ends up in a terrible relationship time and time again, the cards will show you how it works and trace it back to when you perhaps had difficulties with a significant family member that created that whole chain of events. I suppose someone can argue that it’s textbook psychology. It’s about giving people that information so that they can break that cycle.”
A good tarot reading lies with the choice of reader. Like a new pair of shoes, you just have to fit right. “Tarot finds you, you don’t find tarot,” Price reveals between sips of English tea, careful not to tamper with her magenta pink lipstick. “A certain kind of person will link to tarot – often very physical, very sensual, very visual people. Warriors. A good tarot reader knows how to fight.” I grin and nod in agreement. “Most mediums, psychics, healers come from quite difficult life experiences. It’s part of our training. My teachings were quite hardcore and that’s because that’s what I was like when I was younger – I lived life! So Spirit thinks, ‘Oh you can cope with this, off you go!’”
Amongst this metaphysical discussion, it’s easy to forget that psychics are also human. Price homes in on this concrete element. “I like taking quite lofty ideas and making them earthy. I’m the most sceptical psychic you’ll ever meet, because a lot of it is just fluff and absolutely no good and it’s dangerous.”
Whilst card reading can be effective, it also has a dark side. “It can be habit forming. I advise that everyone that there should be a three-month limit between readings because if you keep asking the same question, or you have too many readings, the cards will lie to you. It’s not a malicious thing, but it’s like, ‘C’mon, how many bloody more times?’” She’s quick to defend the cards: “There are some really bad readers. There’s no such thing as a bad card, just a bad reader.”
The media has delved into the psychic ability with robust distrust, but what about the psychic community? “Oh we’re weird. We’re so weird,” she says. “ I love being part of the tarot community. It’s not an easy community, it can be quite cut-throat sometimes. It certainly helps if you’re confident and know your stuff.”
Do spiritual people and psychic people deliberately separate themselves from the rest of society? “I remember in the early days when I was training, we really believed that we were different to other people. But as I sat down I thought: is that actually so? Or did we create that environment of specialness in order to support wherever we were at, at the time, or to save us, or help us a little bit?”
Although there’s been a recent rise in New Age lifestyle, a number of psychics still struggle to be open about their abilities. That’s a thing of the past for this psychic tutor. “What are we trying to protect? I think it’s something intrinsic within ourselves where we feel vulnerable and maybe that’s the whole point. If you’re on this path and wanting to work with other people, it’s about facing that vulnerability, because in vulnerability comes great power.”
What about those who aren’t quite convinced? “Everybody’s spiritual. Some of us just don’t know it. We’re alive. That’s the most spiritual thing you can do.”