Sylvia Browne, Amanda Berry, and Psychic Arts

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 8, 2013 — 116 Comments

Earlier this week three missing Ohio women were found after one of them, Amanda Berry, managed to gain the attention of a neighbor from the home that had become their prison. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight were held for over a decade, and police are now unraveling how it happened, and why the captives weren’t discovered sooner. In the midst of the media frenzy a variety of angles and personalities have emerged, including the involvement of infamous professional psychic Sylvia Browne. In 2004 Browne told Berry’s mother, Louwanna Miller, on The Montel Williams show, that her child was dead.

Sylvia Browne and Montel Williams.

Sylvia Browne and Montel Williams.

“She’s not alive, honey,” Sylvia Browne told her matter-of-factly. “Your daughter’s not the kind who wouldn’t call.”

Further, Browne said she saw a jacket with “DNA on it,” implying that Berry was murdered. This is not the first time that Browne, who enjoys a mini-empire built around her psychic predictions and spiritual teachings, has given bad predictions to grieving parents. In 2007, CNN explored the issue, prompting a defensive statement from her publicist.

“She cannot possibly be 100 percent correct in each and every one of her predictions. She has, during a career of over 50 years, helped literally tens of thousands of people.”

However, it’s one thing to be wrong about a new job, or if you’ll find true love this year, it’s another thing entirely to destroy (or lift up) the hopes of desperate parents. Louwanna Miller died of a heart attack in 2007, those who knew her said she was never the same after Browne’s prediction. She died never knowing the truth of what happened to Amanda. With this latest callous prediction proved wrong Greg Taylor at The Daily Grail lashed out at Browne, joining those who say the psychic must be stopped.

“I’m not an easy person to anger, but this list of cases gets my blood boiling, and here’s why: the incorrect calls I could live with, if it was offered privately just as a “I’ve got a feeling, but I could well be wrong”. But to go on TV, and tell these people outright the fate of their children in public – sometimes even rebuking them when they throw doubt on what you’re saying – is just wrong on so many levels. Perhaps some readers of this blog are Browne fans; I can’t apologise for my opinion. If there’s one skill I have, it’s being able to pick a person’s character very quickly, and Browne has always sent a shiver up my spine (for all the wrong reasons). The growing list of cases where she hurt families with misinformation only confirms my gut feeling.”

Browne is hardly alone in handing out these kind of predictions. Marc Klaas, whose daughter was abducted and murdered, said he was inundated with requests from psychics in the immediate aftermath. 

“I was insulated from most of them by family and police, but there had to be at least a dozen I personally dealt with. They hope you’ll pay them and they hope they’ll get really, really lucky and make a guess so close to the truth, they can say they solved it.” 

So with the near-miraculous return of these three women, we should ask the question of what divination, mediumship, and other predictive arts are for. How should we use them? In our interconnected communities divination is everywhere, as are psychic predictions and other intuitive arts. Should we be having a larger conversation about incidents like this? What moral responsibility do we have if we tell someone something that turns out to be horribly wrong? What do we do if our predictions actually turn out to hurt people instead of help them? Do we simply hold out examples of correct predictions as if they somehow balance the incorrect ones?

Assuming for a moment that Browne is sincere in her beliefs, and not an elaborate con artist, what kind of individual potentially gives thousands of bad predictions with little to no remorse? Were I in Browne’s position I would feel endlessly tormented over the people my predictions have hurt. I think incidents like this should call us collectively to examine how we practice, and in what contexts do we feel comfortable handing out predictions. I have no doubt that most Pagans engaging in psychic work are sincere, which calls me to ask how responsible they feel they are regarding life-or-death predictions, and what recourse do they engage in should a prediction turn tragic? Rather than become defensive, and work to distance ourselves from the hucksterisms of Browne, I think this is a call to introspection. How do we prevent ourselves from becoming the things that Browne now embodies to an outraged public?

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Psychic does not equate to Pagan, or vice versa.

    To spend time worrying about it as though it is a ‘Pagan Problem’ does nothing more than convince those who would seek to demonise Paganism in general that all Pagans are charlatans.

    Conversely, I think that it is important to send out a strong signal that Pagans disagree with charlatanry and feel that such behaviour is not only inappropriate, but also extremely damaging.

    • Dave Burwasser

      I concur.

    • Well Said

    • Also be suspicious of any charging $$ for their services, Truthful mediums will and gladly accept donations, but to charge the kinda fees that some of these people do is sick. Go to to see what kind of person she truly is

      • PhaedraHPS

        I charge for my card-reading services. It is a service, it is a skill, and it is something I’ve practiced for nearly 40 years. I think I deserve to get paid as much as a plumber or a gardener. Just because there are bad plumbers or gardeners or roofers who rip people off doesn’t mean that none of them have the right to ask to be paid for their services, nor does it mean that the ones who do charge are the bad ones.

        • Dorian

          Very well put Phaedra. Not sure why we are expected to work for free. Also, any “psychic” who would chase after a family should set off red flags right there…..I equate them to ambulance chasers. Really tired of being called names because of people like her though.

          • kittylu

            I had a tarot carder reader chase me and a family member down the street after 2 seperate doctors appointments. Friends of the doctors office receptionist.

        • Bob Cash

          You charge for “reading” cards?
          ALL con artist should be fined, imprisoned and the money they stole returned to their feeble-minded victims.

          • Aine

            I’m rather surprised your comment is still around, since it’s incredibly rude and offensive (to be who use reading as a spiritual and religious service, to people who provide it, pretty much anyone that isn’t you).

          • Bob Cash

            Is it rude to attempt to educate someone?
            If someone choses to believe in something which does not exist, I believe they still have that “right” but I, like most sane people, should be willing to try to put them on the correct wavelength.
            Since the deluded souls on this site are not interested in the truth but wish to amuse themselves in a make-believe world; go ahead. Stay stupid!

          • Aine

            *pats* Be a good troll now.

          • Anne

            Lol. Why are you on a Pagan blog?

          • Bob Cash

            Strange that NONE of you appear to be too bright.
            ANYONE should be pleased to be educated.
            Or does being a “pagan” preclude that possibility?

          • kittylu

            Which kind of witch hunter are you?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Appearances can be deceptive.

        • PhaedraHPS

          Don’t feed the trolls.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Can’t help it, fighting trolls is pretty much part of my religion. 😉

      • Bob Cash

        Truthful mediums?
        Don’t be silly!

    • Even if it isn’t necessarily a ‘pagan problem’ it is a problem that can affect pagans and hurts a lot of people every year. A lot of psychics claim paganism and even if we don’t agree they have no repercussions from claiming it. Therefore it hurts pagans, and it hurts people in the population of humans which we are all a part of.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I’ll ignore the ‘all humans’ argument, because I always disregard that.

        I did address the ‘it can affect Pagans’ part. I said it was important to condemn her actions, and the actions of those like her.

    • Moon Sister

      Indeed, I agree totally

    • Luminous_Being

      Neither does psychic equate to charlatan.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I agree, completely. Which is why I said “that Pagans disagree with charlatanry”, not psychics.

    • I am a Pagan and I have nothing to do with psychics. It’s just a stereotype.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        A stereotype to be countered where possible.

    • Ginger

      If more people would read your reply.. You said it right.

    • SkyeRanger

      I do not see a unified pattern of thinking by today’s Pagans. We are all sorts and across the boundaries of all ethical standards as is the rest of USA (for example.) We have as many unethical people as does any other group.

      Also, second sight knows no boundaries. Most psychics do not consider themselves to be contemporary Pagans. Tarot decks, runes, and other divination tools, in addition to simply being a psychic medium are used mostly by other than Pagan folk. The Tarot card business would fold if it relied on today’s Pagans ~ albeit, most Pagan Tarot card people I know have many decks.

      The celebrity psychics of our time are not catering to contemporary Pagans, and I do not think there is any confusion out in the larger public regarding this. Doing psychic stuff is not the basis of Paganism per se, it is at the foundation of all religions ~ always has been, always will be.

      And a failed prediction by a celebrity psychic of 10 years ago is not a bellwether of anything.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I am not concerned of modern Pagans having a unified pattern of thinking (or not). I am concerned that many of those who would seek to demonise Paganism do. I am concerned that a great many people see psychic ability as pagan (note the small p). As such, I think it is both important to distance Paganism from any attempts to make it synonymous with psychic ability and also to decry charlatanry whenever it appears.

        For the record, I do not see divination as a form of psychic ability. Anyone can do tarot, with a bit of training. Not everyone is psychic.

        • kittylu

          Its like a ouija board.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Which is marketed as ‘a game’. Mostly used as a laugh by people with little genuine spiritual interest.

            But yes, it is. The individual(is) is/are not required to have any kind of special psychic sensitivity in order for the equipment to work.

  • Browne’s prediction was unconscionable, unethical and contemptible.I’ve been a professional astrologer and Tarot card reader for over 20 years now, and, while I see my role primarily as that of counselor, looking at how current patterns are likely to play out in the future — predictions — is part of what I do.

    I have, over the years, thought long and hard about the ethics of prediction, and I never make a cast-in-stone pronouncement. I am very clear with my clients from the beginning that nothing is carved in stone, and we are looking at probabilities and possibilities. My goal is to help my client make appropriate choices that help them reach their goals. Browne helped no one with that assertion, and probably did real harm.

    The research behind what the scientists who study the subject call “psi” is actually quite clear — precognition does exist, and it is worth pursuing how, when and why it does. Two books I recommend are “The Reality of ESP: A Physicist’s Proof of Psychic Abilities” by Russell Targ, and “The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena” by Dean Radin.

    Browne’s appalling “prediction” is a clear reminder that ethics should be closely studied along with the science of prediction.

    • RabbitGoddess

      Check out H.I.S.S. of the A.S.P

    • Ginger

      I seen that show were she said that: (

    • Ellie S

      THIS. I always make it clear when I’m doing a reading that anything can change, you’re in charge of your own path.
      I can see how you see yourself more of a counselor. People seem to like to talk to a neutral party. 🙂
      Anyways, nicely said!

  • People want answers when events like this occur, if they can;t get them any other way-they turn to psychics..Then the charlatans make their appearance..I see events myself, but they come to me-I do not seek them out..In this Universe all is in flux, one action leads to another and so on and so on..Not all seer’s are fake and looking for profit..In fact, that is what I always point out to people-if they charge, you are paying for a service and in that payment you want results..They are telling you what you want to hear..You are gullible and then want to blame all that see future events..And this has nothing to do with Paganism, I knew of one seer whose predictions that were always correct, she never missed..She was Christian and always had a picture of Christ in her board area..She said a Christian prayer before she began her readings and she was uncannily correct, always..

    • widescreen

      Sorry, but there is no such thing as a Christian “seer”. Why? Because God has told his people to stay away from spiritism. Just because someone has a picture of Christ and says a prayer doesn’t not make them a Christian – just someone who is trying to convince others that they are.

      From Deuteronomy chapter 18: “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD”

      • elorie

        No true Scotsman…Lots of Christians do many, many things forbidden in the Old Testament especially, such as eating shellfish. There are many Christians who take the passages in Acts and Joel to mean that prophesy is proof of the presence of the Holy Spirit: ” I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your
        daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your
        old men shall dream dreams:”

        Also, never argue the Bible with Pagans. Most of us know it better than Christians do.

        • widescreen

          If someone does not believe belief in Jesus as the Son of God and his death and resurrection as the ONLY way to heaven, then you are not a Christian. Period. The Holy Spirit is for Christians alone and therefore the passage you quoted only applies to Christians as I described above. Therefore psychics are not Christians because they rely on power not from the God of the Bible (assuming they have power at all). I’m sure you’ll reply that my definition of what a Christian is is too narrow. But my definition comes directly from God’s Word – the Bible. Any “Christian” who disagrees with my definition of what it takes to be a Christian must also admit they don’t believe the Bible is God’s Word. Which by definition means they are false Christians.

          And by the way, I don’t expect pagans to believe the Bible. Knowing and believe it are two different things. To me it’s far more than just a book of philosophy or nice stories.

          • elorie

            The person described in the comment above was certainly a believer. You are contradicting yourself. But thanks for reminding me once again why I left the church I was raised in. I’m with Gandhi on that one.

          • RabbitGoddess

            well that is too bad because the Bible is fundamentally a Pagan book…yep you read it right.
            Back before Israel was formed it was just a bunch of shepherding hicks in the sticks and there were no Jews, Muslims or Christians..just pagans.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            “Before Israel was formed”

            What 1948?

  • Rev Sylvanus Treewalker

    Sylvia Browne is a convicted Fraud, and has been involved in Shady dealings for 30 years, if you believe anything this nut says, then like it has been said, a fool and his money shall soon be parted

  • Katharine Hawk

    I’ve always had a problem believing in psychic ability, and I’ve never once taken Sylvia Browne seriously. It’s really sad that Miller died never knowing her daughter was alive and that her life really was ruined before her death.

    I think it’s important that Pagans distance themselves from psychics like her. I see an enormous difference between divination and making psychic predictions, and the latter contributes to Paganism not being taken seriously. I’ve often had to defend myself against associations made between Paganism and these types of TV psychics, and my own divination practices. I’m embarrassed by any connection made between myself, my religion, my witchcraft, and people like Browne..

    • ambermoone

      Honestly, the way I see it, I believe in intuition and perception. I think some people have sharper intuition or observation and that can be confused with or called precognition.

      I never took Sylvia Browne too seriously either. I don’t take John Edwards seriously. I think it is terribly sad that this poor mother was taken in and given this false “prediction”. If Browne has any, “ability” as she claims, I would say that she phoned this one in and gave an easy answer. Most girls who go missing are not found alive. It doesn’t take a “psychic” to make that “prediction”.

      I also don’t think that my skeptical views on psychics make me less of a pagan. I know plenty of pagans who feel otherwise. This is just an all around cautionary tale.

  • I think it is time for psychics, astrologers, et al, to be professionally licensed by the state and face state discipline, just like nurses, cosmetologists, barbers, and plumbers.

    • Krista

      OMG! How exactly would that license be measurable? Tell me what I ate for dinner this month? That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!!!

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        If they are inaccurate, then they are not providing the service they are advertising.

    • Luminous_Being

      This is actually a highly contentious issue in the fortune-telling world. What board is going to determine who is a diviner and who isn’t and what method will they use for this determination?

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Success rate?

        • As defined by what? Many practitioners of divination don’t believe that they can even make concrete predictions in the first place.

          For example, as an astrologer, I feel astrology is only archetypally predictive… within an archetypal situation, a near-infinite number of things can happen, while still fitting the archetypal principles in question. I would never dream of making a prediction that “specific event X” is going to happen, nor would I advertise such a claim. For me, it’s more about giving people a feel for the energies they’re going to be dealing with and suggesting positive ways to harness it. Contrary to popular belief, most astrologers don’t believe the planets “make” things happen, let alone think there’s some sort of set in stone “fate” that can be read in the stars.

          There are organizations in the astrological community that provide testing and give out levels of accreditation (NCGR, for one), but as there are about as many astrological traditions as there are Pagan paths, one size doesn’t fit all. Herding astrologers under one banner is about as difficult as herding Pagans or cats. I imagine other divination communities probably have a similar situation.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            How about predicting the past? That’s always a neat trick.

            More seriously, though? I am unsure. An easy get out is the ‘for entertainment purposes only’ disclaimer.

  • Hello. This is a Pagan publication which is why the author is addressing Pagans and their role. Divination is common in Pagan circles. It is a serious issue we need to address. I had a friend commit suicide after a bad tarot reading by a nasty psychic put her over the edge. He chastised her. I applaud the author for asking us to think about this subject. As someone who uses cards for guidance, I am deeply troubled by psychics claiming to know the future and willing to tell you for money. Even those claiming to council concern me when they have no counseling degree. Again I’ve seen good Pagans without proper training as counselors do harm giving readings. I used to be a reader myself and made honest mistakes.

    • I’ve also seen plenty of degreed, licensed counselors do considerable harm and many non-licensed readers do a lot of good. In the end, it comes down to taking personal responsibility for your life and deciding whether or not you will listen to a counselor. Counseling helps — we all need good counsel at various points in our lives, and I disagree that academic training or licensing is necessary for simple counseling. Hel, most people get counseling from friends and family. (Treating mental illness is an entirely different thing) I know I help people — they tell me so, repeatedly. It doesn’t take academic training to determine that telling someone their daughter is dead, when you can’t possibly be sure of that, is a lousy idea. Basic empathy goes a long way.

      • While I get where you are coming from, and on the whole agree, a good deal of Pagan priests could do with coursework in psychology, counseling, and the like if we’re going to employ them as religious counselors rather than ritual leaders or holders of a God’s cultus.

        • Sarenth — I agree.

        • Nick Ritter

          This is a good point with emphasis on the “if” in your statement, and is also why I think it is important to make the distinction between counselors and “ritual leaders or holders of a God’s cultus.” In my understanding of Heathenry, a “priest” (i.e. goði, blótere, weofodþegn, etc.) must be the latter, and need not necessarily be the former. There is nothing to say that a religious specialist cannot also be a counselor, but I wonder if the expectation that religious specialists also be counselors is a hold-over from religions like Christianity, where the religious specialist (priest) is expected to also be a counselor (pastor) to his “flock.”

          • Nick, I believe counseling from someone who is well-versed in one’s spiritual tradition, and can remind you of the underlying values of that tradition when you are trying to make critical decisions, is a spiritual service that is provided by clergy of any tradition, including many, if not most of the ancient paganisms. Ritual creation/production and counseling are both core competencies for any priest/ess/clergy/religious specialist, regardless of the religions.

          • Nick Ritter

            I respectfully disagree with your last statement. Concerning counseling done by religious specialists in ancient pagan traditions, I suppose I would like to see the evidence for that. I also would assume that different traditions would have had different delineations of these two roles.

            Again, I am not disputing that these roles *can* go together, merely that they *must* go together. In my studies of the roles of pre-Christian religious specialists, the emphasis in the information is that these people were responsible for performing rituals, making offerings, maintaining the sanctity and ritual purity of the sacred grounds, objects and images, and in some cultures also remembering and administering law. I really haven’t found anything that suggests that counselling was a major duty of these religious specialists. If you could point me in the direction of sources that show that counseling was considered to be a major religious function in some ancient pagan traditions, I would be grateful.

          • Folcwald

            I think your belief has more to do with post Christian western cultural bias than with reality. As a single, contemporary (but also ancient) example, Shinto priests are not expected to act as counselors of any kind, only to perform proper rituals as needed and care for their temple. I think Nick Ritter’s account of the function of heathen priests is correct and that many pre-Christian European cultures had a priestly class whose function was essentially the same (i.e. to be ritual and mythological experts and not counselors). This is not to say that such people may not have been particularly wise and thus the sorts of people one might turn to when difficult matters were to be decided, but their function was not to care for the individual moral well-being of members of their community. That is a Christian idea, and indeed a strange kind of paternalism and, thus, a usurpation of a function that should be accomplished by one’s kith and kin.

  • I’ve always had mixed emotions regarding psychics. I’ve watched the “Long Island Medium” and seen how she picks up on visual cues during her “reading”. How she works large groups is a case study of hucksterism. On the other hand, I used to work with a woman who had lost a son. She told me that she had gotten a ticket on the John Edward’s show and I should watch when it came on(it was taped). I was working one day and had a very strong feeling I needed to go down to the doc’s lounge. I arrived just in time to see that show with her being called out of the audience. I watched as John brought up things about this women’s son only she (and me, because she had told me) knew. It was uncanny. I definitely think that someone who approaches you after a loss should be viewed with suspicions, tho.

    • John Edwards has scouts in the audience that go around asking what people are there for.

  • Cinaed

    If I don’t claim any psychic “powers,” yet still involve myself with Earth-centered spiritual traditions and call myself “pagan,” yet my good friend “Sister See-all Winsome Witch,” who does claim such powers also calls herself a “pagan,” don’t her claims affect the pagan community just as my claims of being a dirt-worshipping tree hugger do? Or, perhaps there is no such thing as a pagan collective.
    Now, I’ve read the article three times, and I still can find nothing in it that references or implies fake psychics as a “Pagan Problem.” Inference is, of course, on the reader’s shoulders.

    • Dave Burwasser

      Baruch Dreamstalker here.
      The problem is that all these things can get lumped as “occult” in the public view. Paganism can get a black eye if the Browne flap lasts as long as coverage of the Cleveland abductions/rescues.
      But I don’t think that’s happening. Being a Greater Clevelander I note all coverage of this story that passes through my monitor, and it’s not about Browne. It’s about the victims, the perps and the man who was pivotal in the rescue.

  • I think as soon as any psychic (pagan identifying or not) starts doing it for money and celebrity, it gets pretty iffy. Myself, I get these “feelings” and “flashes” from time to time and am right about two thirds of the time, generally….but I would never, ever, ever for any reason tell a parent their child is dead based on those ephemeral mental “zots!” I think the best protection against becoming Sylvia is to put oneself in the place of the person asking the question….and to remember any thing one sees psychically or with divination (like tarot) is but ONE of MANY possible realities.

    • Rayven0511

      I know exactly what you mean! Years ago, for the longest time I struggled with accepting money for my services. But, then someone pointed out that if my needs aren’t met, how can I be of use to anyone?

      I’ve done the 9 – 5 cubicle ride for many moons, while just doing my Tarot on the side and I was miserable in those “real jobs.” I was an awesome worker, but a shitty employee. Just a bad fit everywhere — especially for an empath!

      However, every time I take out the cards (which I have been using since 1981), I feel at home. It feels right. So, I took a real chance and started doing it full time about 4 years ago and though I live a lot more modestly than I used to, I’ve never been happier. No self-respecting service provider, in any capacity, would ever ask for more than they really need in exchange and that is where the real question of ethics comes in. Fair exchange is the key.

      Education is the best protection against frauds and the first and foremost is “never pay more than what they’re worth.” If someone in a fancy new age shop tries to charge me $100 for a reading with some chick in Stevie Nicks garb who still has to check with the LWB, or some “gypsy” or “psychic to the stars” wants to clean my savings out by scaring the crap outta me, then we push the “hell no” button…

      However, if someone does a 3-card spread for me and I found their perspective and insight helpful, you bet, I’m more than delighted to fork over a few bucks! It’s the least I can do to say, “Thanks.”

      • Unfortunately, there are a goodly number of folks out there who seem to become addicted to never making a move without consulting their paid “psychic” advisor or tarot reader. I am happy you enjoy your card work, but an awful lot of the people who make money at it really do take advantage at every opportunity.

        • Rayven0511

          …and lawyers and pharmaceutical companies don’t? 😉

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Does that make the practice of fleecing people any better?

          • My comment about taking advantage was not directed at you. But the very topic of this post proves there IS a problem with divination for pay…so it bears consideration. This is an old argument on pagan blogs and boards and is never satisfying concluded to everyones’ satisfaction.

  • Rayven0511

    I’m a professional, full time divinationist and I’ve been practicing for over 20 years. One thing to keep in mind is no psychic is doing anything that no one else does. Everyone — everyone and everything — has instincts, as they’re part of the survival package when we come into this earth. It’s like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. It’s nature, not supernatural.

    There is no art in ESP. We’re radios, nothing more…at least that’s what we’re supposed to be.

    Sylvia Browne and other “superstar psychics” demonstrate is not the danger of using or abusing their psyches, but exploiting them. There is no way for any human being to be able to clear and ground themselves, then separate, translate, and interpret a single stream of information in a room full of hundreds and surrounded by electronics every day, with a string of endless private sessions in between, and not be completely exhausted, over-exposed, and therefore confused. She may be genuinely gifted, but she’s taxed herself so high all she’s doing now is embarrassing herself. She needs to stop.

    “Healer, heal thyself.”

    If you want to be rich, get in the market or go into porn. If you want to be a genuine assistance to others, keep it in a limited setting where you can actually focus and spend quality time with each unique human being. You’ll be of much better use, it’s healthier for the both of you, and you’re less inclined to misinterpret the signals, nevermind scar someone’s life forever.

  • SkyeRanger

    I am dumbfounded that people see the base story as about the veracity of a big name psychic. The story is about 3 women having been imprisoned and sexually assaulted for 10 years. If we are to examine anything from the story, it would better be about the safety of women and children in our society, and predatory sexual behavior. Certainly this is something we can ask about ourselves as Pagans; our own ethics and morals in USA (and global) society. Maybe major media outlets think this is a story about the predictions of big name psychics; that is a derailing of the real story: “Let’s not talk about the safety of women and children in our society, let’s talk about failed psychic predictions.” Dang, people.

    Marginal psychic ability hyped up to big time celebrity status is not a “big problem in USA”; however the huge percent of women and children who experience sexual abuse / assault and physical / emotional abuse in their lives is a epidemic in USA.

    We as Pagans need to find a relevant set of priorities on which to focus.

    • Why can’t we discuss both? Sexual abuse and child abuse are issues that affect all of us. I agree completely that those issues deserve to be widely discussed, but this is a site that specifically looks at issues pertinent to Pagan religions. I think we can all agree that sexual abuse and child abuse have no place in Paganism. So why not discuss this tangential issue which is specifically of interest to many Pagans, since, as a broad group, we tend to be more open to psychic phenomena than the general population. The fact that we discuss this doesn’t mean we don’t care about the larger issue of the abuse these women suffered.

      • SkyeRanger

        Psychics and Psi perception has no particular affiliation with Pagans; in fact I think we Pagans are in the minority. The billions of dollars and hours devoted to psychics and psychic readings are not being spent by Pagans, by and large.

        There are are plenty of Pagans with second sight too, of course, and who use divination skills for one reason or another ~ including business.

        In my view, the subject of fake psychics versus talented psychics has been with Pagans for the past 50 years (and humanity for over 10,000 years), and in my view, we do not need to segue from the plight of these 3 women to create “talking points.” Nor is there much value in talking about big name celebrity physics as a stepping off point, in my view.

        We can use our own personal experiences as the basis of the subject; which we could have been doing for the past 10 years, if not the past 50 years. We are ill advised to piggyback this particular conversation on the suffering of others (of this type).

        If we can not talk about our own work in a direct and open manner, we are doomed.

    • I think a discussion of both is valid, especially since due to the mother of one of the victims died believing her daughter was dead, because of the fraud-psychic. But yes, the predatory society women seem to find themselves dealing with daily certainly deserves to be a higher priority; unfortunately as pagans, we find non-pagan society always ready to drag us back to the ooky-spooky bits with us as the boogey men/women.

  • Luminous_Being

    With the steady rise in interest in Lenormand reading, we can see that there is a strong desire for predictive fortune-telling as opposed to the intuitive self-help vibe that has been prevalent especially in the realm of Tarot. This is a good thing, but it means added caution is necessary.

    It is very, very easy to let ego take over when practicing divination and assure the querent you know more than is actually true. You need not be a charlatan, you can sincerely believe in what you are saying. My takeaway from this incident is to approach divination with as much humility as possible.

    • I agree with this completely, but want to make an historical point for accuracy and clarity. I think it is probably important to remember that the “intuitive self-help vibe” has only been associated with tarot since the 1970s. Eden Gray and Mary K Greer were the trail-blazers that gave us tarot in that light.
      Yes, tarot had esoteric functions and associations since the 1700s, but only for adept occultists, never for the kitchen table as it has recently and wonderfully become.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I’m not sure I would agree with the ‘wonderful’ part.

  • SHE is a JOKE! and not a FUNNY one…I have seen her ACT on the shows she has guested on, and she fumbles for answers all the time…SOME of us have a gift and it is not taken as a parlor TRICK! WHAT AM I THINKING::::?::::: um it starts with F…

  • seanmichaelmorris

    As a former professional psychic, and someone who has relied on his intuitive abilities — and used them to help others — for 30 years, I find Sylvia Browne’s various harmful “misses” upsetting. While I acknowledge that no psychic will ever be 100% accurate, I think it’s her responsibility to be transparent about the fact that she may be wrong when slinging predictions. Certainly, during my tenure as a paid reader, I never once told a client that I was right beyond a shadow of a doubt. For me, being a psychic simply meant helping others clear the path to their own truth, to what they already knew about their lives but had too much emotional, psychological, cultural (etc.) detritus blocking their view.

    I was also always clear that when investigating such truths through psychic means, the information coming through me was necessarily a translation of information received through other sources (my own “higher knowing”, a spirit guide or other of the kindred, etc.). As such, my translation relied heavily on my personal dictionary of experiences, knowledge, symbol systems, etc. Psychic readings were always a dialogue between me and the information I was receiving. It was very rarely simply a “she’s not alive, honey”.

    Psychic information is like any information. Even empirical science will admit to estimation, guesses, theorizing, etc. It is as Heraclitus tells us: “Nature is wont to hide herself.” Perfect information is never truly available. We live in a world where we use our instincts, our interpretations, and our inclinations to guide ourselves toward something close to the truth. Anyone — psychic or scientist — who claims to have the answers should probably not be trusted.

    And this is where the hard onus comes. For, we must always take upon ourselves the responsibility for various truths we receive. The Buddha said, “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” I have received much information both as a psychic and from other psychics — just as I have received information from teachers and friends and the broad fields of psychology and the sciences — and what I choose to believe, how I choose to incorporate that information into my life or my view of the world is up to me. This is not just freedom and autonomy, though, it’s a responsibility.

    Someone who comes to a psychic needing to believe whatever he hears from that psychic should stop a minute and question his willingness to rely on the intuition of a stranger. Psychic information can be helpful, but it is never definitive, never certain, and never unquestionable.

    As for Sylvia Browne, I cannot begrudge her the celebrity she’s worked hard to establish for herself. She wanted rich and famous and she got rich and famous. As a celebrity psychic, we onlookers are allowed to inordinately (and in some ways unfairly) turn up the heat on her. We are both more amazed when she’s right and more appalled when she’s wrong because she has put herself (and we have put her) in the spotlight. Celebrity is always a two-way road, remember. Her intuition about Amanda Berry (not technically a prediction) was no more wrong than I have been in some readings. It was her celebrity that made it that much more appalling.

    As far as seeking wisdom from psychics, or from our own intuitive abilities as Pagans, my sense is that we should always take everything in moderation. No one person has the answers, no one person holds the key. Likewise, inspiration that comes during meditation or ritual may be affecting, but it is also questionable. It’s always worth taking another look before assuming that information you’ve received (from any source) is perfectly accurate.

  • SillyGO_ose

    Divination has never been about seeing a physical result or the future, it’s been about a guiding hand to a path – that falls to logic just as much as it does to any extrasensory perception – and helps those receiving the reading to perhaps think outside the box. No one can tell you that so-and-so died, or you’ll get a new job, or meet your future partner through tarot cards, runes or scrying. They CAN say that, if you take this approach, this is a possible or even probable outcome. What the people do with it is up to them. It should never be used to see the future, but instead to help us keep on our paths, and perhaps help us reinforce whether we are on the right or wrong one.

    Any time someone says they ‘know’ a specific thing about another person in a place and time that they have no connection to – question it. A LOT.

    Sylvia Browne has been a huckster for a long, long time, and unless there is a serious backlash, she will continue to be one in the future.

    • “Divination has never been about seeing a physical result or the future

      Absolutely wrong. Divination was frequently consulted by ancient Pagans on whether or not to go to war, when to plant crops, if the harvest would be good, and so on to so many examples it would be exhaustive to list them here. Divination has affected every part of human life from who to marry to decisions by rulers.

      • SillyGO_ose

        It may have been about whether or not to go to war, or plant crops, but that again only shows examples of how it guided them, not showed them the future in a definite manner (as of ‘she’s dead’ vs. she’s likely dead). It HAS had a guiding hand, which is all it’s really meant to do. But no one can absolutely predict the future, which is my point.

  • Moon Sister

    I never say it, when I see the death of a person (knowing full well one can be terribly wrong), but when the client insists; I truthfully say that I cannot tell the outcome one way or the other. Then move on to the police and tell them what I think I saw and let them do some more searching before anything is said to the parents at all. I think that is the only correct way to go about. I always shuddered when Sylvia Browne made this kind of predictions, it is so devastating for the people at hand. At her age she should know better.

  • Elysia

    My coworker Angela here at Llewellyn blogged about this, sharing her own experiences and stressing the need to see the shades of grey in this (and any similar) situation. I think in the end it comes down to knowing where you’re not wanted, knowing where to draw the line on your confidence and infallibility, having a HUGE amount of respect for the families, and so on. Here’s Angela’s blog:

  • kenofken

    “How do we prevent ourselves from becoming the things that Browne now embodies to an outraged public?”…………

    I would say by doing what we have long tried to do to set ourselves apart from the New Age Industrial Complex. We can emphasize an ethic of service rather than profiteering. That doesn’t mean we can’t seek any renumeration, but we should approach the work with a sense of humility. That means admitting there are some problems which are too big for us to answer definitively. None of us are omniscient, and even Yoda coudln’t see all possibilities. I can’t see any way it would be ethical for any of us to presume to tell someone the fate of a loved one with any certainty. To do so is the most cynical forms of fraud or the worst sort of megalomania.

  • As a professional psychic who happens to be Pagan I think these questions are quite valid.

    My feeling in short is this. Sylvia Browne has always seemed to me to lack compassion. If I cannot work with compassion I am failing at both being a good psychic and a good Pagan.

    Making predictions should never be the most important aspect of psychic work. When predictions are made readers should be clear that they are not infallible.

    And, agreeing to read for the parents of missing kids on TV is the worst kind of sensationalism. We need to be rooted in our faith enough to avoid the sensational and the greed.

  • Phae

    “Assuming for a moment that Browne is sincere in her beliefs, and not an elaborate con artist, what kind of individual potentially gives thousands of bad predictions with little to no remorse? ”

    You hit it on the head in this sentence. What kind of person does that sort of thing? A charlatan. She cares only about making a buck, just like any other conman.

  • I’d be gunning for Williams more than for Browne.

    We’re always going to have con artists and frauds, and of course we should do something about them, but when people like Montel Williams and Oprah Winfrey act toward fraud much as pimps to toward prostitution – protecting it so they can profit from it at one remove – it gives them a great platform that lets the fraud reach further than it could hope to on its own.

  • Charles Cosimano

    There are some things you just do not do and telling a parent that their child is dead is one of them. Better to be wrong and give hope than to be right and give despair.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I’d rather the painful truth to a pleasing lie. Of course, in this case it was a painful lie.

  • RabbitGoddess

    Long time back i read that Sylvia Browne had been told by her guide that if she tried to make money by using her gifts she would lose them..

    That said, The only good readings i have had in my life have been by witches. Have had white lighters, and christians who tend to be very controlling and have a whole grab bag of forbidden things (like never saying anything negative) that tends to block their vision, and tend to be judgmental.of people they do not consider as “evolved” as them.

    If they start pontificating on God’s perfect plan with a certain gleam in their eye….i usually run for the hills. I am silly like that.

  • sherry

    most pagans do not run around making predictions about missing people or any thing else,other than trying to keep the earth healthy…

  • Bob Cash

    What’s the point of these silly comments?
    Just to state the most obvious FACT.
    ANYONE claiming to be psychic is in one, or both, of only two states.

    1) A CON ARTIST.


    Joint the campaign to change the stupid, highly ambiguous laws which actually condone LEGALISED THEFT.

    Email your M.P. (or rep) and request he raises the issue in parliament.
    Let’s get rid of these thieves.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      You missed out option 3) Actually Psychic.

      There have been enough scientific studies to show that psychic ability can (and does) exist. Just making it reliable and/or explainable with current science is difficult.

      • Guest


        That was not missed out!

        If you care to read my post carefully, I mention FACTS!

        Together with ghosts, gods, goblins et cetera, psychic abilities do not exist.
        I also regret to advise you, you are totally incorrect regarding your statement that scientific studies have shown it does! That is simply not true. You may be talking about reports conducted by deluded people made to look official but,,in over THIRTY YEARS of studying why many people believe in such drivel, I have never come across any indication it could possibly exist.
        If you believe people can see ghosts or communicate with dead people, I can only suggest you seek immediate help!

      • Bob Cash


        That was not missed out!

        If you care to read my post carefully, I mention FACTS!

        Together with ghosts, gods, goblins et cetera, psychic abilities do not exist.
        I also regret to advise you, you are totally incorrect regarding your statement that scientific studies have shown it does! That is simply not true. You may be talking about reports conducted by deluded people and made to look official by deception but,,in over THIRTY YEARS of studying why many people believe in such drivel, I have never come across any indication it could possibly exist. For some strange reason, people just want to believe in things which, quite simply, can not exist!
        If you believe people can see ghosts or communicate with dead people, I can only suggest you seek immediate help!

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Out of curiosity, Bob, What is your aim here, if you disbelieve in gods? (I can demonstrably prove that gods exist, along with goblins and ghosts and dragons.)

          • Bob Cash

            Oh Dear!

            PLEASE seek help!

            I am genuinely sorry for your condition but I am afraid I cannot help. If you choose not to get help, I regret you will lead an extremely sad life.

            I still say people can believe in whatever they want, no matter how foolish! However SANE people should try to educate them. How can anyone, in this day and age, believe in something which quite obviously does not exist?

            To reiterate. ANYONE claiming to be psychic is in one, or both, of only two states.

            1) A CON ARTIST.

            2) MENTALLY UNWELL.

            ANYONE who believes psychics to be “real” are MENTALLY UNWELL. In other words, no alternative!

          • If you look at this person’s comment history, he basically has gone to any article about psychics, fortune tellers etc and made the exact same comment(s) over and over. In other words, it’s best to just ignore him.

          • Nick Ritter

            What does a guy need to do to get banned around here?

          • Northern_Light_27

            Demonstrably prove how, exactly?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I cheat. Semantics and pedantry work really well.

        • Luminous_Being

          You know Bob, given that this is a pagan blog you can generally bet a lot of us believe in all sorts of “drivel” like Gods. I don’t think you are winning over anyone with your tone.

          • Bob Cash

            Well, you know, I would have thought even pagans would want to be educated, Why on earth would I be interested in “winning over anyone”? I am not interested in gaining points. As I said before you may believe in whatever you want, NO MATTER HOW FOOLISH. That’s entirely up to you and I I don’t care what you chose to believe in personally.
            It’s just a shame so many people are so deluded. I would hope everyone’s aim was to improve one’s life, not believe in things which simply do not exist; have never existed and never could exist.
            If you do not object to people ridiculing you for being foolish that is your prerogative. No problem I certainly do not mind being ridiculed for being sane.
            Why not listen for once? Get the urgent help you need as soon as possible!

  • Bob Cash

    Fascinating variety of pointless comments!
    Just to state the simple, most obvious FACT.

    ANYONE claiming to be psychic is in one, or both, of only two states.

    1) A CON ARTIST.


    Join the campaign to change the stupid, highly ambiguous laws which actually condone this LEGALISED THEFT!

    Email your M.P. (or rep) and request the issue be raised in parliament to stop these thieves advertising or performing.

    ust to state the simple, most obvious FACT.

    ANYONE claiming to be psychic is in one, or both, of only two states.

    1) A CON ARTIST.


    Join the campaign to change the stupid, highly ambiguous laws which actually condone this LEGALISED THEFT!

    Email your M.P. (or rep) and request the issue be raised in parliament to stop these thieves advertising or performing.

  • Cathryn Meer Bauer

    Yes, divination is common among pagans, common enough that the two are intertwined in a lot of minds. By association, Browne’s reprehensible and callous statements do reflect on pagans; therefore, it’s relevant. I think the best course of action is to be utterly frank about what we think of her. In some cases, this could be a teaching moment about the variations in Pagan belief, e.g., “But, you know, not all Pagans believe in psychics” or about psychic consultation: “There are good and bad people in every profession.”

    I am not an experienced consumer of psychic services, but it seems to me that making such a blanket statement, particularly one so devastating, is bad practice. Credible professionals in all areas nearly always acknowledge that error, including their own, is possible. I base this statement on years of experience with expert witnesses in legal matters, some credible, some not.

    Browne should have the decency to withdraw from any sort of self-promotion. At the very least, she should never appear on television again. Of course I would like to see a public apology, but this is not a realistic hope; I’m sure she’ll have some self-serving excuse for her actions.

  • “Three words shall I give you, for wisely shall you use them: USE F&^%ING COMMON SENSE!” – Odinn

  • Really Jason, the only thing I would find SB sincere about is the size of her bank account. She’s a rude, insulting woman who now avoids fans and press alike even at her own events. And she’s giving the media a nice hook to hang the sincerely gifted and intended mediums / psychics on. How’d ya like to be the bellhop at the hole she lands at in crossing? The karmic luggage would crush an army.

  • Gate Lion

    I looked up the original story
    and compared it with this one;

    – Sylvia
    Browne was clearly correct when she said, “Your daughter’s not the kind who
    wouldn’t call.” As soon as she could
    she did call out. Now without further information I can’t say that she hasn’t
    called out before or not, and the cry went unheard. She likely tired before.
    But she did in fact call out.

    – The Bible
    says, “Judge not” for a very good reason. The word “dead” has many definitions.
    It could mean “physical death”. It could also mean, “change”. But in this case,
    it more then likely meant that the “soul feels dead thought the body is
    living”, lets face it if you have been kidnapped and held for a long time, you
    would likely feel “dead” too.

    – “Berry’s
    6-year-old daughter was also found inside the home, cops said. It wasn’t clear
    where she was born or who her father was.” — Looks to me like there will be a
    “jacket with DNA in it”.

    Thus the message
    was badly worded and or badly misinterpreted. Not all of that is Sylvia’s
    fault, the listener must also use their discernment when such messages are

    – Louwanna
    Miller may have died from a heart attach in 2007, but she didn’t die after
    hearing the news and she couldn’t have died without an exit point. Thus this
    wasn’t Syliva’s doing, but it was part of Louwanna’s soul contract with the

    – The story
    says, “those who knew her said she was never the same after Browne’s
    prediction.” This was also Louwanna’s choice, not Syliva’s doing. Again
    discernment is important factor here.

    – Those who
    condemn Sylvia Browne, clearly are operating at a human not spiritual level and
    they don’t understand. Those whom are psychic need to forgive them for it is
    the right thing to do.

    To Greg Taylor, You said, “here’s why: the incorrect
    calls I could live with, if it was offered privately just as a “I’ve got a
    feeling, but I could well be wrong”. Syliva never said she was more than
    80 percent correct. Thus in saying this she was saying “I could be wrong” She
    also said, take what “feels right and ditch the rest”.

    — What is divination,
    mediumship, and other predictive arts are for. How should we use them? – Like
    any other tool, with great care.

    — Should we be
    having a larger conversation about incidents like this? – Remember the psychic
    should not “interpret” what they ‘see’. Nor should those who go to psychics
    ‘interpret’ what is told to them. Not everything is as it seems. Depending upon
    the angles at which you are viewing things, you can both be 100 percent correct
    and 100 percent wrong at the very same time. The chosen perception is the only
    difference. Again remember “Judge not!”

    — What do we
    do if our predictions actually turn out to hurt people instead of help them? –
    How was anyone hurt, except by their own choices in the matter?

    — What moral
    responsibility do we have if we tell someone something that turns out to be
    horribly wrong? – I can’t speak for Sylvia of course, but the truth of the
    matter is expect for the bad press, I would think Sylvia would be grateful to
    have been wrong. I know I would be.

    — Do we simply
    hold out examples of correct predictions as if they somehow balance the
    incorrect ones? – What would be the point? Things are what they are.

    — Assuming
    for a moment that Browne is sincere in her beliefs, and not an elaborate con
    artist, what kind of individual potentially gives thousands of bad predictions
    with little to no remorse? — This question is based upon judgment of
    Sylvia. Judge not! She never claimed to be 100 percent correct. NEVER! — I
    have to add, I am not her biggest fan.

    — Were I in
    Browne’s position I would feel endlessly tormented over the people my
    predictions have hurt. – That is your choice. Browne can choose differently. I
    hope she does.

    — How do we
    prevent ourselves from becoming the things that Browne now embodies to an outraged
    public? – Be careful what you say and how you say it, as the way we state things does matter. As she often
    said, “I’m not always correct.” So stop with the judgment.

    — Amanda,
    survived it, she is far stronger for the experience.

    — And
    you have to understand from a spiritual point of view, it wouldn’t have
    happened if it wasn’t in Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight
    “charts”. Who knows maybe this is a Karma event, a pay back for them being the
    one who held others against their wills long term. Who knows, these very souls
    could have been guards at Jewish internment camps during WWII. You will never

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      “Judge not…” is a Christian sentiment. Not Christian. At all.

  • kittylu

    Last year I got to listen to Sylvia Brown’s Angel’s and Spirit Guides audio cd. On that cd, she tells depressed people to kill themselves (and that they wouldn’t be missed), that its okay to hate people if it feels good, that people who can see auras and hear voices need medication (shes clairsentient not clairvoyant or clairaudient). She’s a bad habit for me- she’s damaging and entertaining but she is definitely part of the problem.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      In fairness, there is nothing wrong with hate. It’s what you do with it that counts.

  • RE: “Psychic does not equate to Pagan, or vice versa.”

    I have to strongly agree with this statement, and add that I’ve been saying this for 15 years or so now. When and how did the two become synonymous with each other to begin with?

    For quite some time, I’ve long thought that there was entirely too heavy an emphasis on all things psychic in the pagan world….

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I think this is a Pagan/New Age overlap. You can also see a lot of Pagans who put more interest in magic/the ‘occult’ than the religious aspect.

      Not saying these things are not welcome, or that by believing/doing these things makes you not a Pagan, just that you can, quite easily, do without them and still be Pagan.

  • I agree with Diotima Mantineia that being too concretely predictive is unethical. The psychics who have traumatised the families of kidnap victims are behaving unethically Yes some pagans ( i would see myself as one)psychics, mediums etc are on a continuum of gifts… some can genuinely see the now and the future but I believe they are rare, and all of those in esoteric practices need to be well and ethically trained, and be a part of ongoing professional development and supervision ………..…tarot-paganism/

  • facebook

    I am very happy these poor women were found!!! I watched this Brown woman on the Montel Williams show throwing out these predictions like candy with a matter of fact attitude that rubbed me the wrong way. I was disturbed as the look on the face of one woman when this was said was absolute horror and heartbreak. They then moved on as if they told her nothing more than that her shoe was untied. The look on her face still bothers me now. I never watched his show again. These kinds of predictions are harmful as they can strip hope from these people, there are consequences. Shame should be this woman’s partner.