It's as clear in my mind as if it happened yesterday. I was ten years old, and had been befriended by a middle-aged lady who lived a few houses away. She was a good cook, and regularly invited me in to try her baking. I usually sat in the kitchen with her, but on this day the phone went, and she put me in their library, as it was an important call.
I had never been in a home that had a library, and as I was a keen reader, it was exciting to sit in a room with books up to the ceiling on all four walls. I walked around the room, eating cake, and looking at the books. I happened to notice a dozen or more books on palmistry. I had no idea what that was, and when Mrs. Tompkins finished her phone call, I asked her. She explained that her husband read palms, and they were books on the subject.
Although I was only ten, I understood some of what she told me. My mother read tea leaves, and used a pendulum, mainly to determine the gender of unborn babies. When I expressed interest in learning more, she said I should speak to her husband. He was reluctant to say anything, as fortune telling was illegal in New Zealand at that time, and he had to be careful. However, when he saw how interested I was, he taught me a few things, and I started looking at the palms of my fellow students at school. It was one of a number of interests I had, and didn't mean much until puberty hit, and I discovered what a wonderful way it was to meet girls.
When I was twenty, I moved to the United Kingdom and spent several months working in a bookstore in London. I was barely making ends meet, and started reading palms in my spare time. I was also introduced to other forms of divination, especially when I moved to Cornwall and joined a group of like-minded people. I learned several methods of divination there, most of which involved river stones. I still use three methods of divination that I learned there: Sky Stones, the Oghams, and rune sticks. I also met an elderly gypsy lady who gave me my first crystal ball. She told me I'd be making my living with it in two years. I laughed, as that seemed impossible, but it happened.
I spent some months in India on my way back to New Zealand. I had hoped to learn more about palmistry, but found that most of the palmists I met had learned from old English books on the subject. Consequently, I spent more time teaching palmistry, than learning it. However, I did learn about yantras and yantra reading while I was there, and have made good use of that information ever since.
Once back in New Zealand, I discovered that divination was still illegal, but astrology was acceptable. I spent two years studying astrology, and set myself up as an astrologer. However, when people came to see me, they received palmistry and numerology readings, unless they'd specifically asked for astrology.
By this time, I had several methods of divination in my arsenal. At some stage, I learned divination with playing cards, and that naturally led me to the tarot. It was only when my work took me regularly to Asia that I realized I'd become addicted to divination. Everywhere I went I sought out readers and people who could teach me the basics of feng shui, Chinese astrology, and Chinese numerology.
In the early 1980s, I started a psychic development school to teach others what I'd learned. This became extremely popular. I also spent one week every month reading palms in shopping malls. Divination was still illegal, but I got around this by selling a small booklet and giving each purchaser a "free" reading. I ended writing about thirty of these booklets, as people came back for additional readings, and naturally wanted a different booklet. In addition to this, I was conducting horoscope parties in the evenings at people's homes. These included a psychic demonstration, crystal ball gazing, and a brief palm reading for each guest in another room. As if that wasn't enough, I was also doing stage hypnosis and some hypnotherapy. I was doing too much, and eventually gave up the horoscope parties and the readings in shopping malls. This gave me time to write, which is what I always wanted to do. I'd also learned a great deal of information that I could share with others.
I started traveling more, and this enabled me to have readings from a wide variety of readers. I've had some amazingly accurate readings, and some that were abysmal. Most were somewhere between these two extremes. I always had a special room to perform my readings in, and it came as a shock to discover how many people do their readings in kitchens with unwashed dishes in the sink, or in bedrooms with unmade beds. I once had a reading in a bedroom that contained a sleeping man. Of course, I've also had readings in coffee shops, hotel lounges, art museums, and offices in high-rise buildings.
I had a banana reading in London. This was in a market, and I had to wait in line for my reading. While waiting, I ate the banana, and when it was my turn, the reader interpreted my banana peel. Fifty years ago, in Glasgow, I had an egg reading for the first and only time. It was helpful to me, and I'd love to find another egg reader. Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to have a paper reading from Dr. Joe Slate, and he kindly explained the principles of the art to me afterward.
I would have liked to have had a knee reading in Phoenix, Arizona, but the reader had a sign saying that he read for women only. My good friend Jon Kealoha gave my wife and I impressive mah jongg readings when we were in Hawaii. In Reykjavik, Iceland, I gave a quick palm reading to a woman sitting next to me in a restaurant. Much to my surprise, she produced a set of rune stones and reciprocated by giving me a reading with them. I've drawn trees and had them interpreted in several countries.
I've had numerous crystal readings over the years, but the most memorable one was in Johannesburg, South Africa. This was partly because the reading room was full of crystals, and the crystals the lady used for the reading were enormous. I had a "water" reading in Rio de Janeiro. The reading was excellent, but I was slightly disappointed, because the reader used the glass of water as a crystal ball. I'd been hoping for something more exotic. I've had a few trance readings, in which the reader goes into a trance to perform the reading. On one occasion I thought the trance reader had fallen asleep, as he lay down, closed his eyes, and began snoring. He started speaking only when I stood up to leave the room. I've had a number of aura readings. According to the aura portrait produced at one of these readings, my aura is similar to the map of the London Underground system. A friend and I studied the I Ching for a few years. He's carried on with it, and has become an excellent reader. I've had a number of good I Ching readings, especially when traveling in Asia. I've had several geomancy readings, numerous palmistry readings, and probably hundreds of tarot readings. One of the weirdest readings I've had was a palm reading. The reader had memorized, word for word, the sample scripts I'd included in my book, Revealing Hands0. It took me a few moments to realize that he was using my own words to read my palms.
Recently, I drove a hundred and fifty miles to have a flower divination. I've given many of these over the years, but had received one only once before. As it was winter, I wondered where the reader would find enough flowers to give me a reading. I needn't have worried; behind her house was a large hothouse full of flowers. Driving home afterward, I wondered how many people would make a three-hundred-mile round trip to have a thirty-minute reading. Before setting off that morning, my wife jokingly said I was a divination addict. I agreed, and that addiction is why I wrote Llewellyn's Complete Book of Divination.
Richard Webster (New Zealand) is the bestselling author of more than one hundred books. Richard has appeared on several radio and television programs in the US and abroad, including guest spots on WMAQ-TV (Chicago), ...