Faithlessness, Skepticism

Horsham Mind, Body, Spirit (woo) Fayre


woo1

“So what problems can these necklaces treat?”

“Everything”

Everything.

Just Another Local Woo Fayre

I was at Horsham’s Drill Hall for a Mind, Body and Spirit Fayre. It was only 15 minutes walk away from my flat and £2 to get in, so despite my determination to stay in bed all day I went along. Horsham is one of many towns that is blessed with a Skeptics in the Pub group, so it just seemed right that there should be a skeptical presence at the show. My mum had never been to this kind of event before so I invited her along too. First-timers are always amazed at what they find at these things. Normally I like to ask a few awkward questions but I thought on this occasion I would just try to get on well with everyone, more like a Louis Theroux than the irritating know-all I usually am.

The necklace to cure all ills was just the most egregious of the panaceas on offer at the show. I asked how the Energetix magnet-necklace worked and was told:

“We have created an electrical smog with all the electrics and computers and things that are all around us. They stop us from feeling the natural magnetic field of the Earth and we have come to need that natural magnetism. The magnets in our bracelets help get 15% more oxygen into your cells and they make the blood alkaline which is the blood’s healing mode. When blood is acidic it isn’t healing but when it’s alkaline it will heal. The magnets stop the blood from being sticky too; we all need iron and chromium but without the natural magnetic forces it all clumps together in our blood so although it’s there, our body isn’t using it fully.”

I was shown some before and after photos of blood cells,displaying a string of cells all stuck together. After a magnet had been applied all the cells separated! To back this up, I was shown a badly drawn picture of a blood vessel, clogged with “sticky” blood cells. Next to this was a magnet with blue lines emanating from it, releasing the little flecks of iron that had been stuck together and allowing the blood cells to drift apart.

So why don’t hospitals and doctors use this? Well apparently that’s because the drug companies and doctors wouldn’t make any money from it.

“Goodness me, really? That’s awful. But how come we haven’t evolved, like, magnetic bones if magnets are that good for us?”

“We have evolved to need the magnetic field of the earth but the electric smog blocks it out”

“Oh right, I see”

After I had satisfied her that I was fascinated and that I had lots of friends who would be really interested, she suggested that I might like to consider becoming a fellow merchant, selling the products myself. I’m sure I could could make a few quid if I bought into the franchise, but you know what? [expletive deleted] off.

This conversation was the low point of an otherwise rather pleasant trip. There is always one stall that gives me the distinct feeling that they are deliberately taking advantage of vulnerable people. These stalls are the ones that make me keep going back.

How Angels Can Help You Make Art

Earlier in the afternoon, as soon as we had arrived, we went into a side room to see a demonstration of Angelic Drawing. Before we went in, my mum asked me

“How do you keep a straight face?”

“Practice”

We joined twenty or so people to listen to “Justine” tell us about how angels help her produce paintings. I had seen a similar demonstration earlier last year where the artwork was unbearably naff. Thankfully Justine’s paintings were actually rather lovely; moody, shadowy impressions of feminine figures in swirls of starry smoke. Justine had been told throughout school that she could not draw, but once she found out how to harness the power of angels, she discovered that she had a real gift.

Pens and postcards were distributed so we could all call upon our angels to guide our hands to make some art.

We were told to close our eyes and call out to our angels, repeating the phrase “I am beautiful and I can really draw”. Once we were in touch with our angels, we were to repeat “I am that guardian angel and I am beautiful”. We then opened our eyes and Justine showed us all how to draw an eye. We formed them by drawing a trapezium and then adding the other components line by line. Once the eye was finished we could add whatever we felt needed to be added.

The terrifying eye what I drew (with scribbled blog notes):

eyesnip

The reason we drew eyes, she told us, was that “Eyes are the window to the soul.” I was hoping she wouldn’t say that, but she did.

I am moved; Justine is Cool

A selection of our eyes were displayed by Justine and she started to comment on what the eyes meant. She was quickly interrupted by a lady in the audience who said “I’ve learnt, doing this, that it’s okay to make mistakes”. Justine listened and agreed earnestly. The lady went on “When I was little I always used to scribble out all the mistakes until you couldn’t see any of it at all but now I feel like it’s alright to get it wrong”. I had to deliberately stop a tear at this point. The woman didn’t sound like someone who had benefited much from school. I could just imagine her as a child, scribbling out anything she thought would be wrong instead of being given the space to express her unique self. I wasn’t expecting to encounter anything so sad and profound. Maybe it was just me.

More of our eyes were shown to the group, and Justine praised all of them in a way that made people really glow. They were all encouraged to feel proud of their unique pieces of art. She started suggesting that some of the eyes looked more like animal eyes. Returning to the woman who had made the comment about mistakes, she told her that her eye actually looked to Justine like a shark’s eye. The Shark, she said, was a very strong and powerful spirit and it was clearly there in this eye.

I wanted to applaud Justine at this point; in so very few sentences she made this woman feel like her individuality was worth something, that she had created real art (she had) and that she should be proud of it. Wonderful stuff. Could I have made her feel like that by blathering on about the discoveries of science? Nope.

Holding up another eye drawn by a quiet lady to my right, Justine said it was “really good” and that the proportions were just right and even gorgeous. She asked the quiet lady “Does anyone ever tell you that you’re good?”

“No”.

“Well you ought to know we all think this is good”

I like Justine.

The remainder of the session was Justine talking about her approach to life, it was all pretty harmless, positive stuff (not too wishy-washy) and I suspect that some of the people in that room would never have heard such concepts uttered out loud before.

Finally, Justine told us a story of how she had been rescued from an assault in South Africa by a kindly baker lady. Justine returned the next day to thank her but it turned out that no women worked at the bakery at all. Justine is certain it was an angel. She told us how one of her friends was saved by a samurai warrior with a glowing blue sword. This, she tells us, was the archangel Michael. There were gasps in the audience.

Past Life Regression

I wandered over to a gigantic bearded man who was giving tarot readings at £20 a pop. I wasn’t about to part with that sort of money but I had a chat with him anyway. As well as the tarot, he had cards for his hypnotherapy and past- life regression business. I asked him if there was a connection was between tarot and hypnotherapy and he said there wasn’t. He does tarot at shows like this but he is primarily a professional hypnotherapist specialising in past-life regression. Apparently all hypnotherapists are capable of inducing past-life regression

I asked if the mechanics of how we live a sequence of lives were similar to how it worked in Buddhism and if there was an end goal or purpose to this sequence or if it was eternal. He told me that you just keep living lives until you have learnt all there is to know and then you never enter the physical world again. So yes, sounds quite buddhismy to me. He said he couldn’t comment on that as he didn’t really know about Buddhism.

He recommended a book called “Many Lives, Many Masters”. I had mentioned I was agnostic about life after death (I lied!) and he thought this would be the best book I could read if I wanted to know it was real. Apparently, when we are between lives, we exist in a realm that is governed by “The Masters”. It is these beings that decide which life we find ourselves in each time we are reincarnated. They are rather like angels, but he added that we can’t ever know for sure what the truth is when it comes to this stuff. I agreed and gave a brief summary of my humanist motivations for trying to affect the lives of those around me positively to the best of my judgement and ability. I managed somehow to shut myself up and moved to the next stall.

I Try Reiki and I Like Reiki

Reiki. I said hello to the chap on the stall and pretended that I always get reflexology and reiki mixed up. I asked him what it was all about. He gave me a vague answer about energy, spirituality and healing but said that the only way to understand this kind of energy was to feel it. Fair enough. So I paid him £8 for a 15 minute reiki session.

This was the hands-on type of reiki; often you’ll see demos where they don’t even touch the participant and you wonder what the hell is actually happening. He briefed me carefully so that I knew he would be touching my head, face, shoulders, knees and feet and asked if I had any particular health problems. I told him I’ve suffered with migraines all my life but that I wasn’t expecting this session to heal them. My more acute problem right at that moment was personal-space-awkwardness but as that is incurable I said “exhaustion” instead. He silently  prepared himself for the treatment.

When he was ready, he touched my shoulders and I closed my eyes. He placed his hands carefully onto the top of my head and stayed like that for about 5 minutes. I tried to relax by using some meditation techniques and eventually I found myself feeling pretty calm. He then moved his hands to the side of my head, covering my ears while his fingers hovered over my eyes. I was happily drifting through the colours on the inside of my eyelids when he lifted his hands and moved them to my shoulders. The sudden change in the light coming into my eyes, along with the increased volume as he uncovered my ears made me feel like someone had flipped a switch in my head. Bear in mind that by this point I had been sitting motionless for 10 minutes, relaxing myself deliberately. It was as if something bright and cool had been poured over my head.

He then spent 5 more minutes on my knees and feet before quietly telling me the session was over and that I could open my eyes when I felt like it. I was offered a glass of water while I told him about how I felt; deeply calm. He told me he got a lot of heat into his hands from my head and suspected that my exhaustion was due to something going on in there. He’s not wrong, I suppose but I think his hands were hot before he started. Still, that was lovely.

The Sussex Dowsers

I spoke briefly to most of the stallholders and finally came to the Sussex Dowsers’ stand. I saw he had a crystal pendulum setup as well as information about dowsing with rods. Feigning ignorance again ( I am good at this now) I asked what the difference was between dowsing for water and dowsing for answers. My dead-pan acting prowess was rewarded with a one to one personalised demonstration and explanation of dowsing in all its forms.

He said that the dowsing device is only there to enhance the natural twitches and tightenings of your own muscles; you are a sophisticated detector and the rods or the crystals just amplify your abilities. He showed me that you can program yourself to see answers in whichever way suits you best; you can have a clockwise rotating crystal meaning either yes or no as long as you are sure which is which at the outset. He uses clockwise to mean yes, anticlockwise no. To demonstrate this, he asked if his name was Michael and the crystal swung anticlockwise, for he is named David. It bloody worked. I saw that with my own eyes. Amazing.

He went on to say how energy leaks out of the earth through fractures in the same way it leaks out of injuries. If we have a broken bone for instance, energy will leak from it and he will see it as a yellow colour.

My picture1099

This was new to me, and he delighted in telling me how he can use his third eye to visualise the colours of energies and that this was all tied in to how dowsing works. When we close our eyes, he said, the colours we see are the colours of energy. Yellow or red energies signify something broken or wrong whereas blue energies are what things look like when they are perfect. To heal ourselves, we just will the injured limb to have blue energy. Easy.

Not a Test 

I asked if the leaking energy of long since healed broken bones would still be visible and he  said they could. Since we were getting on quite well I asked him if he would mind telling me which of my hands I had broken while playing drums some years ago.

“It’s not a test!” I laughed. It was definitely a test.

While I was thinking about making this challenge, I was careful to make sure I held both my hands in the same position and tried to avoid giving any cues about which hand I was thinking of. I didn’t look at either of them and tried to wave them around equally while I spoke.

He closed his eyes and checked my right hand, saying there was a red line in the energy near the wrist but he didn’t declare that this was the broken one. He then passed to my left hand and after some considerable period of silence (and a lot of people looking at us like we were having a wizard-flavoured arm-wrestle) said the energies seemed a little weaker there, especially in my left little finger.

Now, my right hand was actually the one that had been broken, so when he mentioned the left little finger I made a little sound “uh”.It’s hard to do it justice in writing, but I tried to disguise the meaning behind this little utterance. It would have normally sounded like a “Hmm” but as I was highly conscious of every sign I was giving him it came out as a “heh”. He immediately said “Judging by the “uh” I’d say it was the left hand that you broke”. I was surprised that he actually used those words – admitting outright that his judgement was based on my reaction rather than on his powers – but I was pleased to have tricked him so politely.

Finally, he showed me how to unblock the energy in my right hand. This was important if I want to avoid arthritis in the future, he said. He told me to imagine that I was firing bright blue energy out of my fingertips, generating it in my body and channelling it along my arms. I fired it at the nearby wall, next to a doorway.

“Do you feel a tingling in your fingers?”

“Oh yeah!” (no)

He looked really happy with the effect it was having on me. I mean, it was quite good fun standing there while a grown man encouraged me to pretend I was the Emperor at the end of Return of the Jedi, blasting blue energy at the wall.

A woman walked through the door next to where I was aiming.

“Careful!” he said.

I laughed. He didn’t.

7 Comments

  1. January 15, 2014    

    I can’t stand psychic fairs, despite being a Pagan. I encounter people who do some (not all) of these things all the time, but at least they don’t charge.

  2. hypatia
    April 29, 2013    

    Justine sounds like a nice person. It’s a pity she didn’t go into some kind of legit science-based caring profession, but it sounds like she’s still managing to do some good despite the woo.

  3. April 29, 2013    

    Loved reading this, thanks for taking the time to pen it!

  4. Hadge Hughes
    April 29, 2013    

    The only time I ever considered going to a Psychic Fayre it was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances . . . .

  5. April 28, 2013    

    A woo pyramid scheme! Perfect combo

  6. April 28, 2013    

    Oh wow, I hadn’t made the connection between this and the live blood analysis stuff! I found it rather telling that as soon as she thought I was an evangelist she invited me to buy into the franchise. There seems to be a very clear financial motive behind the promotion of this theory.

  7. April 28, 2013    

    Fascinating stuff.

    The comments by the Energetix magnetic necklace seller are typical of proponents of “alkaline” living. The idea behind this is that lifestyle affects the pH of the body and that living an “acidic lifestyle” causes your own cells to transform into bacteria, fungi and parasites. All health problems are caused by acidity. You can see this happening by looking at blood under a microscope. This is known as “live blood analysis”.

    Alkaline diets and live blood analysis are based on pseudoscientific nonsense. There have been quite a few ASA adjudications against practitioners’ websites: http://josephinejones.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/live-blood-analysis-and-the-asa-a-catalogue-of-complaints/

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