Businesswoman Turns Professional Psychic
“Even as a child, Tatyana frequently scared everone with her frightening predictions.”
Published: February 20, 2013 (Issue # 1747)
Tatyana Ikayeva left a high-profile finance job to pursue a career as a psychic.
St. Petersburg psychic Tatyana Ikayeva, one of the final ten contestants in the current season of the popular Russian reality television show “Battle of the Psychics,” has made a remarkable career transition. With degrees in finance and law under her belt, and after a successful fifteen-year career as a financial analyst, in 2008 Ikayeva decided to trade it all in for a business of her own — as a psychic.
“My colleagues in the financial world were lost for words when I told them that I was quitting,” Ikayeva, who calls her business Store of Wishes, remembers. “I was doing very well, and there was no obvious reason for me to change careers. Yet I now feel that I have made the right choice. I have always had an ability to predict the future and used it for fun, but I did not really know how to make it work as a business. At some stage I realized that I could use it to help others while also making it my main activity, and now life feels just right.”
In 2012, Ikayeva decided to challenge herself and auditioned for the “Battle of the Psychics” television program, in which participants who claim to have paranormal abilities put them to a series of entertaining tests.
Out of 16,000 hopefuls, around 300 people, including Ikayeva, entered the first round of the competition. The task was to describe what was happening on the other side of a wall.
“It felt like a madhouse. Many of those trying to secure a place in the finals, apparently in an effort to make an impression on the jury, were trying to turn their participation into a visual spectacle: Some sang, some danced, some performed bizarre rituals,” Ikayeva remembers. Behind the wall stood a large aquarium in which a school of piranhas was fiercely tearing apart bits of chicken. Ikayeva told the judges that she sensed aggressive activity taking place on the other side of the wall, and she mentioned the presence of water and glass. This test secured Ikayeva a place among the top 25 finalists of the show. “At that stage things eased up in the sense that everyone in the group truly deserved their place there: Their intuition was above average,” she said.
Then Ikayeva went on to win the next test, where in a vast hangar she successfully detected a car in which a man was hiding. The fortune teller, however, is most proud of her performance in the round in which she was asked to give a description of a person sitting next to her while blindfolded. “I said it was a man who was destined to have a career in singing but who chose a different path and now mostly talks,” Ikayeva recounts. When the blindfold was removed, the popular Russian actor Mikhail Kokshenov was revealed to be sitting next to her. Kokshenov confirmed, in amazement, that he had actually had a musical education, and had considered a career in singing.
Ikayeva appearing on “Battle of the Psychics” in a dowsing challenge.
Unfortunately for Ikayeva, the Kokshenov episode never made it into the final version of the show. “I understand that the producers need to make it visually engaging, and to achieve this they use a lot of short segments that make little sense but are visually exciting. Indeed, I was prepared for the fact that out of one or two hours of filming, sometimes just a few seconds of footage might be used,” she said. “But even so, the final edit was frustrating to watch. To stay in an episode, you constantly need to turn everything into a performance — bring rats, burn incense, or mumble some sort of nonsense and roll your eyes. I am not a clown and do nothing of the kind.”
Ikayeva is one of more than 800,000 fortune tellers, healers, and practitioners of magic, who, according to state statistics, are officially registered in Russia. The numbers also include shamans, who are especially common in Siberia.
“Even as a child, Tatyana frequently scared everyone with her frightening predictions,” reads a brief introduction to the St. Petersburg psychic on the “Battle of the Psychics” website. When asked about the origins and accuracy of this sobering description, Tatyana said the summary resulted from a story that she had told the crew during filming.
Tatyana discovered her gift at the age of five, when, upon meeting a female friend of the family, the little girl told the assembled company that the woman was ill. She then shocked everyone further by giving a spontaneous and rather specific diagnosis, which later was confirmed by doctors.
“I cannot say how I gain insight into people’s situations. What I do is concentrate, and then I have thoughts or see images that flash through my mind,” Ikayeva said. “When I was young, I tried to wave these things off. Eventually though, I realized that the insights were true. I grew up in Dushanbe, where my father was deputy agriculture minister of Tajikistan, and I could predict an earthquake a couple of days before it happened. At some stage I noticed that people were listening to me when, for example, I suggested that they cancel a trip to the mountains that I had a bad feeling about.”
Now that making predictions has become her livelihood, Tatyana says that she doesn’t even need to advertise, as word of mouth brings her all the clients she needs.
One of Ikayeva’s challengers for the title of top psychic.
“My clients can easily be divided into two categories: The curious and the desperate,” Ikayeva said. “The curious see a visit to a psychic as a form of entertainment — a kind of thrilling alternative to clubbing. The vast majority though are desperate; those who have lost ground, or, even worse, lost hope owing to the various hardships they have been through.”
As Ikayeva points out, about 90 percent of her clients have psychological issues, but many of them also complain about having been placed under “spells” or are suffering the effects of “black magic.”
“I try to bring them back to reality by pointing out the attitudes that keep them from breaking out of a depressing situation,” Ikayeva said. “My task is to give my client the drive they need to move on.”
Over the past five years, the Ministry of Health has made a concerted effort to tackle depression and mental health disorders. There has been a vast increase in these illnesses since the collapse of the U.S.S.R. The Health Ministry claims that while more than 80 percent of Russians will at some stage need treatment for a mental health disorder, only 3 percent seek counseling.
By comparison, the prophecies of fortune tellers, unlike psychological counseling, are very popular in Russia. Various nationwide surveys held in the past decade have shown that more than 20 percent of people admitted having used the services of a fortune teller, shaman or practitioner of magic.
Although each fortune teller, faith healer or shaman has his or her own list of services and prices, they are all essentially selling the same thing: Hope. This hope is offered to clients in the form of a new romance, a vast inheritance, a plum new job or a successful medical treatment.
So why do so many people in Russia choose a shaman or some other kind of psychic practitioner over one of the country’s psychologists or physicians? It is unlikely to be connected with advertising, since there is no shortage of ads for professional counseling services. It seems that many people who opt to enlist the services of psychics are seeking a form of escapism, an attempt to enter an alternative reality. And very often they get duped, according to Ikayeva.
“It is hard for a desperate person to assess things critically; if you have decided to visit a psychic, pay close attention to what you say and what they say,” Ikayeva advises. “Do not start your visit by bombarding them with information. Let them demonstrate their intuition and skill. Also, beware that the more cunning ones use vague phrases to describe events that could fit almost any situation. Spend money wisely? Do not trust strangers? Show affection to your loved ones? Is this not universal advice? A true psychic is always specific.”