Until 1986, the practice of "occult arts" in Bend — including fortune telling, astrology, phrenology, palmistry, clairvoyance, mesmerism, spiritualism, and other spiritual readings — was subjected to a $250 per day licensing fee. The ordinance originated in 1913, a time of unprecedented growth in Bend. In 1910, the city was home to a mere 536 people. By 1920, the population had increased to a staggering 5,415 — a 90 percent increase on average each year. Although there are no specific historical notes about the reason for this law, along the West Coast it was a time of soothsayers and practitioners of the "occult" — and undoubtedly some were drawn to this boom town.
Over the decades, these concerns faded, but the law remained. Finally, in 1986, when Eugene-based astrologer Johanna Mitchell petitioned Bend City Council to remove the ordinance, the resolution passed easily.
Today, the number of people in Bend practicing the occult, psychic or intuitive arts likely dwarfs the number back when the ordinance was drafted. Local psychic medium and astrologer Eileen Lock estimates there are thousands of practitioners in Bend just performing Reiki, a form of energy healing. Gone are the days of "fortune tellers" and "soothsayers." Now, psychics are found under headers such as "spiritual awareness," "universal awakening," and "intuitive arts," and don't fit the popular image of an older woman with flowing robes, maybe a headscarf wrapped around her cranium, and various crystals and cards scattered about.
"We have a very strong intuitive and healing community," Lock says. "We have every kind of healing in Central Oregon that you could ever want."
To better understand these modern-day mediums, and why they've made such an impression on Bend, I talked to three local practitioners about how the became aware of their psychic abilities, what their practice looks like, and what they believe 2015 has in store for Bend.
Like many of her peers, astrologer and psychic medium Eileen Lock can trace her psychic roots back to childhood. Growing up, Lock was sensitive to her surroundings — and her environment was supportive of her intuitive approach. There were astrology books on the shelves and her mother had her handwriting analyzed when she was just 3 years old.
"I grew up in a sort of progressive household," Lock recalls. "My parents were into astrology and astronomy. I was exposed to things pretty early on."
Looking even further back, she reveals that she was a "veil baby," meaning that she was born with a membrane (sometimes called "caul") covering her face. Such births are relatively rare and the subject of folklore. Lock says veil babies are believed to grow up to be "kings or psychics."
She says she began studying astrology at 13 and by 18 was doing astrological readings and charts.
"It made sense to the practical side of me," Lock explains. "But then I started seeing people who were no longer alive."
At the time, she says books and resources on psychic phenomenon were hard to come by. But she made her way and, by the time she was in her 30s she was a working psychic and astrologer. Since then, she has taught a wide range of intuitive arts — astrology, clairvoyance, tarot, gemstone healing, Reiki — and established herself as a sort of den mother to Bend's growing psychic community.
Now a fixture in the community (when we sought leads on psychics, the vast majority recommended her), Lock (an Aquarius) first moved to Bend from Southern California in search of an Aquarius state (California is a Virgo state).
"I think a lot of people come here for healing in one way or another," she adds. "The are lots of different kinds of psychics because people are allowed to believe what they believe here."
When I first meet Lock in person, she's sitting knee-to-knee with another white-haired woman off to the side of the stage at the Old Stone Church, offering astrological advice. Her glowing white locks extend past her shoulders, clad in a coral cardigan sweater. Aside from her large, round glasses, she looks just like any other middle-aged woman in Bend.
She's there for the monthly gathering of the Spiritual Awareness Community, a sort of speed-dating style event in which a group of psychic and energy healers provide brief, free services in exchange for non-perishable food donations for NeighborImpact.
Lock has hosted the event for years. This night, the turnout is lower than usual, on account of the holiday, she posits. But there are still about 20 people scattered across the room, engaged in energy healings, tarot and astrological readings and massage. It's a smaller-scale version of the annual healing fair she has organized for more than 25 years each November. Like the monthly event, it also collects food donations for those in need.
For those seeking psychic healing, Lock encourages newbies to follow word-of-mouth recommendations.
"I love a good skeptic. I like to promote and inspire faith and trust, but if it doesn't feel right, you don't want to go blindly into the night," she explains. "If in the first 10 or 15 minutes you aren't feeling better, that it's helpful, there's no point in being there."
Predictions for Bend: "I think Bend's going to have a new beginning," Lock says. "I see a certain amount of the old trying to sustain itself. I see more of the old breaking away, more of the new coming in, but not like, 'Oh, they're taking over.'"
The Tarot Reader
Like so many psychics, Kaira Sherman says she first realized there was something different about her when she connected with someone no longer living. She was 4 years old at the time, she recalls, when she saw her recently deceased grandfather standing in the living room amid her grieving parents.
"Unfortunately, my parents were unable to see this and I was sent to my room. I spent time alone in my room often, communicating with Spirit to maintain the link," Sherman explains.
But it wasn't until the early 1990s that she learned to trust her senses and abilities. In 1998, she began offering psychic services professionally. In particular, she was drawn to the ancient art of tarot card reading.
"I was very drawn to the Tarot as a divinatory tool, as well as for self realization. I can't say if I know why I chose it. Sometimes I feel my career chose me," Sherman says, echoing a line I hear from each of the psychics I speak with. They all feel called to their profession, while maintaining that their abilities are not altogether unique. "I do not feel I am any more special than anyone else," she continues. "I believe we are all intuitive and have abilities that can be developed if we choose."
Sherman says she sees her work as more than simply predicting future events. (What many psychics consider a parlor trick.) Instead, she aims to use the information she gleans from readings to help clients grow.
"I feel my readings go beyond typical psychic readings in that I not only offer proof that I am reading them psychically," she says, "but also help my clients to see what spiritual lessons are hidden underneath their situations."
She admits not all of her clients are looking for a spiritual experience; some just want answers or to satisfy their curiosity. But whatever they come looking for, Sherman says there are few important points to consider in choosing a psychic.
"I would encourage people to choose a psychic who they trust and who they feel understands them. Even more importantly, I would say that we need to choose a psychic who has worked on themselves spiritually," Sherman says, adding, "Make sure your reader is coming from an objective place, and that the advice given seems pure and impartial."
Predictions for Bend (and the nation): "Bend's strength will be tested. There will be more financial growth, there are also people pulling in two different directions for its best future. There will be some conflict," she says. "More money in Bend and new laws being passed to maintain justice for the community. Also, I see some sort of small disaster in the mid-summer. It could be a fire downtown? Whatever it is, it is downtown Bend."
If you met Carl Seaver at a party and he told you he was a psychic medium, you probably wouldn't believe him. The lifelong New Jersey boy, who moved to Bend sight unseen (as did the other psychics interviewed for this story) in April, is fond of '80s rock and motorcycles. He is not eccentric, but rather remarkably ordinary in appearance. Bald headed, casually attired, and soft-spoken, Seaver seems like a regular-old nice guy.
"I don't think I fit the stereotypical role of [a psychic]," he says.
Perhaps that's because Seaver didn't become aware of his psychic potential until he was in his 20s. His first encounter with the otherworldly occurred after the passing of his grandfather. Seaver says he had a long, detailed conversation with the deceased relative and proceeded to spend the following two decades pushing the experience away. In that time, he became a chiropractor and went on to own a successful environmental contracting company.
But "the Universe" kept sending him hints, so eventually he set aside some time to delve into his experiences, taking classes in various intuitive practices and discovering an aptitude he never knew.
"Like a bodybuilder," Seaver explains, "I decided to work out that psychic muscle."
Like Sherman and Lock, he says he believes everyone is capable of developing their intuitive or psychic powers. Still, there are varying degrees of aptitude: "Everyone can work out, but not everyone is going to be Arnold Schwarzenegger."
He argues that the work he does is neither magical nor evil. Rather, he sees it as a skill set. Seaver adds that he aims to provide people with the information they need to make positive changes in their lives.
"I'm of the belief this is not our first time around the block," he explains. In addition to mediumship — that is, connecting clients with their deceased loved ones —he also practices past-life regression.
"When I do a reading I can see or be shown where somebody is on their path, where energetically their path is compared to where they are," he says, explaining that he receives information about people's lives and needs through all his six senses.
If the reading or mediumship session goes well, he explains, the client may never return. Because the goal of connecting people with deceased loved ones is often to help them process their grief, it isn't healthy to have them continue to come back. Repeat visits are more common for reading clients, but he adds that, as with any kind of therapy, they have to do the work. He compares it to a spiritual GPS — it's only helpful if you leave the driveway.
Predictions for Bend: "This is a magical area, and people know that. People are drawn here and I don't think everybody knows why," Seaver says. "I think the area as a whole is at the beginning stage of an awareness."