Would You Ask a Psychic for Stock Tips? More Often, Clients Do

Excerpted from the New York Times


Published: September 22, 2008

James Estrin/The New York Times
Rosanna Schaffer-Shaw, a psychic known as Fahrusha, offers a general caveat: “I always tell my clients there are no guarantees.”

In an apartment in the East Village, opposite Tompkins Square Park, another psychic, Rosanna Schaffer-Shaw, a former belly dancer, offers her insights under the name Fahrusha, which she translates from Arabic to mean butterfly or moth. “I prefer butterfly,” said Ms. Schaffer-Shaw, who specializes in tarot card reading and palmistry, as well as photograph interpretation and communicating with animals.

“People are concerned about their jobs,” said Ms. Schaffer-Shaw, sitting in her brightly painted pink room devoted to readings, where she charges $150 per session. On a shelf were a couple of crystal balls, candles and a feather. “I hear more questions about jobs lasting even if the person is not in the financial sector,” she said.

On a recent afternoon, Ms. Schaffer-Shaw advised three clients, all of whom requested that they be identified by a single initial, some because they worried that their turning to a psychic might cause problems at work.

Mr. S was an artist who said he hoped to reap a windfall from the stronger market for contemporary art. Ms. Schaffer-Shaw told him, “In the past, you have been neglectful of the business aspects of your career.” Mr. S laughed and replied, “Have I ever,” as Ms. Schaffer-Shaw conjured up the names of Manhattan galleries that might be interested in his artwork.

She pointed a lavender-painted fingernail to two tarot cards, the Six and the Nine of Pentacles: “This card says you are worried about your finances. You won’t want to spend money on luxury items. You also will not be able to be as generous to others as you would like.” She advised against buying stock in financial firms and urged him to consider investing in utilities or water purification systems.

Ms. E, who is planning a business venture with another client of Ms. Schaffer-Shaw’s, a Chinese investment banker, asked questions about the Shanghai economy, where the two plan to open a frozen yogurt company. She wanted to know whether the media stock she had bought on the Chinese market would go up after its recent loss, and even what flavors and toppings her company should offer.

Then there was Mr. P, who until recently held an executive position at a major financial firm at the center of the mortgage meltdown. “I don’t really know these companies,” Ms. Schaffer-Shaw admitted. “But I meditate on them, throw some cards on them. I always tell my clients there are no guarantees.”

Mr. P appeared skittish sitting in an office chair across from Ms. Schaffer-Shaw. “I’ve used her in a number of situations, and she’s been remarkably accurate,” he said, explaining that he worries about medical coverage for his family. “Currently, I’m caught up in the chaotic financial situation. I am very concerned about my next move in regards to my personal portfolio.”

Mr. P posed his first question: “Should I discontinue my relationship with my employer?” (He had been offered another position at the same firm.) Ms. Schaffer-Shaw laid out three cards. “Probably not,” she said. More questions: “Should I move to Puerto Rico?” “Should I write a book about what I know?” “Is there any possibility I will be in jail in five years?” “Is the information I know sufficient to protect me?” “Should I retire?”

Sensing his anxiety, Ms. Schaffer-Shaw pointed to the cards and exclaimed, “You got the Ace of Happiness!” After Mr. P left, she said that while she was always straightforward about what she reads in the tarot cards, she tried to couch negative prognostications in positive terms and make clear to her clients the role free will plays in their lives. “When I see things are dismal, I feel compelled to make things better,” she said. “I tell people the truth, but I try to tell the truth on the upside. With an extraordinary will, a person can change their future.”