Yevgeny, 32, comes from Vologda, a city in northwest Russia. He works as the head engineer of a construction company, writes dubstep and drum'n'bass, loves Russian sci-fi writer Viktor Pelevin and… is possessed by a spirit. Fortunately for him, the grey-coloured spook that has settled in him — in the vicinity of his head, on the right side — isn’t demonic. This at least was the diagnosis made by a medium on Vkontakte. Yevgeny sent her his photograph and she was able to diagnose him remotely. The medium elaborated: such spirits — those in the vicinity on the head, on the right side — are usually connected with distorted thoughts.
There’s more. Yevgeny’s second earth chakra, responsible for the sexual and the emotional, is in a sorry state. Yevgeny, says the medium, is too soft; he doesn’t have a strong core. He has no sense of being a unique individual and even less of an idea of what he wants. His energy is overly represented by water while lacking earth and fire. Luckily, it’s not all bad. Yevgeny’s sixth chakra, which is responsible for clairvoyance, is not in the slightest bit blocked.
Last year, leading Moscow cardiologist Yuri Buziashvili complained to Interfax news agency that Russians’ annual spend on sorcerers, soothsayers, mediums and psychics came to around $30bn. That’s twice the sum spent on foreign doctors, he noted. Consequently, he continued, doctors in Russia not only have to compete with their foreign colleagues but also with purveyors of the paranormal. All this against a backdrop of declining atheism in Russia; people it seems are desperate to believe that there’s something out there to help them.
A search for “help, medium” on Vkontakte (VK), Russia's equivalent of Facebook, yields over 400 groups while “psychic” returns over 2,500. Social networks have proved the perfect platform for all manner of psychic services. It’s quick and easy. Find a sorcerer, join a group, send a message, pay through a bank machine (the Russian way), send a photograph, have your paranormal experience, close the browsing tab.
Take for example, medium Emilia Bogatyreva’s group with its 19,800 members. Bogatyreva offers various paid services, which she provides via private messages. Personal horoscopes, diagnoses of negative energy, and tarot and rune readings. Prices range from 200 to 1,000 roubles ($5 to $25). Occasionally, she holds free express consultations: one question, one answer.
There’s something sad about the rise in the use of psychics. People are out of luck, money or love. They’re stranded at sea. “What can I do?” they ask. “Maybe a medium can help.” Some ask if they’ll find a new job. The psychic answers: “If you haven’t gone about improving your skills and qualifications, then you’ll find work, but it won’t be what you wanted.” Another might upload a picture of their ex, asking how they can get them back. The psychic answers: “Your problem is a broken amorous union. Nothing can be done, so don’t be upset.” And, if you’re unhappy with the answer, don’t bother asking another psychic. In fact, many mediums ban clients for going elsewhere. “Respect other people’s work,” explains clairvoyant Emilia. “We don’t just pluck things out of thin air. It takes time and energy.”
There’s something sad about the rise in the use of psychics. People are out of luck, money or love. They’re stranded at sea. “What can I do?” they ask. “Maybe a medium can help”
Yevgeny from Vologda sent his photo to the psychic Viktoria Butova, who, with only 1,500 subscribers, has a relatively small following. Butova first realised her potential for clairvoyance when she was a child. Her maternal ancestors practiced healing and one of them was a white witch. She developed her capabilities through training and practice, and studied at the Alten Centre — an organisation not dissimilar to S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Avengers comic — in central Moscow. The organisation provides training courses for would-be magicians and mystics on a mission to protect the world from the forces of darkness.
Butova’s business model is as follows: she offers a free online assessment of negative energy from a photograph but anything more will cost you. She heals, tells fortunes, purifies, expels spirits and the souls of the restless dead, and holds exorcism seances. An online consultation costs 1,500 roubles ($40) while a personal appointment costs 3,000 roubles ($80) upwards, depending on the service. Psychic healing is Butova’s specialty. Not that there’s anything fun about the work, given the number of dead souls and spirits she comes face to face with; when you exorcise them, they shake and roar and smash their heads against the floor.
Being diagnosed with a malign presence — in the vicinity of the head, on the right side — leaves Yevgeny with mixed feelings. On the one hand, he’s not convinced that any of this actually works. But, people have left good reviews for Butova, so there must be something to it, right? Plus, his girlfriend went to a medium who cleansed her of her spirits and after that she felt as if a great weight had been lifted. And try though he might, Yevgeny from Vologda still hasn’t been able to figure out how to use his sixth chakra, unblocked though it is, for clairvoyance.