Ever the sceptic, I’m generally not a fan of tarot readers, fortune tellers or clairvoyants, tending to think it’s all just a rather shady and unregulated business. But a chance meeting with two young entrepreneurs who are reinventing the Psycards system has cast a new light on my perspective of the esoteric. Not everything should be tarred with the same brush it seems.
The Psycards were originally invented by London-based Nick Hobson and illustrated by Maggie Kneen in the 1980s. At a time of personal turmoil, the idea came to him in a dream. On awakening, Nick felt compelled to create Psycards to help others who were also experiencing personal difficulty to achieve the perspective – and peace – which he was able to feel in his dream. They now have an international following.
Yali Sassoon and Alexander Dean are the incredibly intelligent 30-year-olds who are trying to revolutionise the way people use Psycards. The cards are simple, unmysterious and effective to use for general introspection and wellbeing. The boys have also created a swanky website with an online shop, a growing Facebook and Twitter community and a comprehensive and fun iPhone app for those looking for a bit of soulful direction on the go.
As digital strategy consultants this is an extra-curricular venture, but I managed to catch up with Yali for an enlightening Psycards reading and good old fashioned chat.
When and why did your interest in Psycards start?
‘I’ve been interested in psychoanalysis and psychology for a long time. I was introduced to the concept initially by my mother, who’s a counselling psychologist working with children. She uses cards and figurines to provoke, explore and help kids articulate what’s going on in their lives. When I first heard about the Psycards, I quickly understood their Jungian roots and wasn’t surprised how impactful they could be. What surprised me was the feeling of using them: it’s one thing to understand how something works in theory, but quite another to feel it done for yourself.
‘I met Nick Hobson a year ago through his son who introduced us because he thought there might be interesting opportunities to build online and mobile apps for Psycards users. But when I heard about the Psycards in detail, I realised they were a very interesting system in their own right.’
Are you genuinely interested in the world of tarot and esoterism, or is this more of a business endeavour?
‘I’m genuinely interested in the Psycards, rather than tarot and esoterism. With the Psycards, I think there are two types of users: those like myself who buy into the psychoanalytic/Jungian side of things, and are interested in introspecting; and those that come at them from the tarot side, and are more interested in divination.’
What do your friends and family think about all this?
‘Reactions have been very mixed. Some loved the idea as soon as they hear about it, and really enjoyed their readings. Others were sceptical, but won over when they gave them a go. Others started sceptical and are still sceptical: when we’ve done readings they’ve spent more time quizzing me about how they work and less time actually relaxing, looking at the cards and then turning their thoughts inward and exploring the way they feel. I wish I were a better reader – but my experience is limited! I hope to get the opportunity to have readings from more experienced Psycards readers, so I can see how better to provoke a sceptical individual to approach the cards in the right frame of mind.’
How do the cards work for you?
‘I use the cards more and more, and in different ways. In the beginning, I’d take out a deck when I had a specific problem that was troubling me – nearly always something personal that was important to me – and do a five or seven card reading. That process was good for me, because it forced me to stop and consider my situation in a fresh light. The cards never pointed at a specific action themselves, but what I found using them was that after doing a reading and actually reflecting on my situation, in a new light for 10-15 minutes, I could better identify how I felt about the different possible outcomes. Then the rationale side to me could kick in and decide what I could do to encourage the preferred outcome.
‘That was useful but exhausting. I only use Psycards like that once or twice a month. In between, I keep a deck of cards by my desk. Sometimes when I’m at work, I’ll feel a bit stuck with something, often work-related. At that point, I’ll take the cards out of the pack and start looking through them. I won’t do a formal reading, but just leafing through the cards will trigger a creative process and get my mind motoring again.’
Why do you think they’re relevant in today’s world?
‘These days it’s harder to take time out to introspect than it was in the past. Mobile phones, email, television and the like mean we’re very rarely just taking a long walk and letting our minds wonder. Psycards help to provide that.’
What does the future hold for Psycards?
‘My hope is that many more people find out about them and better understand themselves as a result. I also hope we can encourage that by building an online community around it and making it easier for people to learn about the cards, do readings for themselves, get help and advice on interpreting the cards and help other people in the community better use the cards themselves.’
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
‘If we weren’t working on Psycards in our spare time, we’d be working on something else, I suspect. We like building things: websites, mobile apps, communities. So I reckon we’d be building something. But I doubt we’d find something as interesting or different as Psycards.’
Where do you live in London and why?
‘I live in Hampstead, in north London, close to where I grew up, in Finchley. My family live here, and lots of my friends, many from childhood, so although other parts of London are great, this is definitely my home.’
What would you recommend everyone in London do at least once?
‘Cycle through London late on a clear winter’s night. I love cycling and get around London on my bike. I think you don’t really know London until you’ve cycled through it and see how it all joins up. But there’s something special about cycling late on clear winter’s nights: there are parts that are so quiet, parts that are absolutely spectacular – just try cycling across any bridge over the Thames. And something very special about feeling nice and warm but with the cold winter’s air whipping across your face.’
Where is your favourite London eatery?
‘Jay’s in West Hampstead or Primrose Hill. Their home-made pasta hits the spot.’
What do you miss most about London when you’re away?
‘Hampstead Heath. It’s so beautiful as a park and a space designated for people to play in.’
What is your best London memory?
‘Kissing an intriguing lady, who has since become my wife, for the first time on Platts Lane on July 24, 2005. Magic.’
Where in London would you most like the Psycards to be sold?
‘In Covent Garden and Camden markets. I’d love to find a way to display the cards and give people the opportunity to try them, in a friendly outside space, to see for themselves how powerful they can be.’
Who would you most like to do a Psycards reading for?
‘Tony Blair. Everything politicians say is to affect a specific end. For once, it’d be nice to hear someone in politics talk from the heart.’
Psycards decks and books are available online from £12.