Name: Jessica Lanyadoo
City: San Francisco
Occupation: Astrologer/psychic medium
J.: What was your path to becoming a psychic?
Jessica Lanyadoo: Originally I’m from Montreal. I moved to San Francisco in 1994 to pursue a career in astrology, which I’ve studied extensively, and it was through my work as an astrologer that I discovered I had intuitive gifts.
J.: How do you describe what you do?
JL: There’s a lot of stigma with the term “psychic,” which is part of why I prefer the term “intuitive counselor.” The simplest way to describe what I do is that I know things. I don’t have the ability to read minds, but I do intuitively get a sense of people and of situations, and I use that information in a counseling context, to support people in evaluating their lives and making healthy choices.
J.: You do use tarot cards, but are you a fortune-teller?
JL: No. Fortune-telling is when someone asks, “Will I move to Florida next year?” and they want someone to say “Yes, and you’ll meet a tall, beautiful, blue-eyed man.” Whereas I’ll try to get at why you’re wanting to move to Florida, is that a good choice for you, are you moving because it will be good for you … or because you’ve dated everybody in San Francisco and you want a new playing field? [Laughs]
J.: In your visits and phone sessions, what are the most common things people bring up?
JL: People always want to know about their love lives, and work choices. I also do medium work, which is communicating with people or animals that are deceased. Another specialty of mine is medical intuitive work and medical astrology, so I get a lot of questions about peoples’ physical and mental health. I’ve always been really interested in health issues … being a neurotic Jew and all.
J.: Does your Jewish identity figure into your work? How would you describe your spirituality?
JL: My mother’s parents, who were very involved in raising me, are Holocaust survivors from Poland. And my father’s family are Jews from Iraq, where they lived until they were expelled; they became Israelis when he was very little. So I have two very different Jewish backgrounds, and my parents have very different relationships to Judaism, with different ways of observing holidays, etc.
I’m not observant, in terms of going to synagogue. I guess I’m what they call a Yom Kippur Jew. But my spirituality and my Judaism and my work all definitely collide. As a Jewish woman, I feel that I was raised to question everything, and to believe that was both an intellectual and a spiritual pursuit.
J.: How does Judaism affect your work?
JL: Especially as a medium who helps people who are struggling through bereavement, I think with the rituals we have around sitting shiva and how we mourn our dead — as a community and as a religion — we provide such a huge space for mourning. That’s something valuable I’m able to bring to people who aren’t from my same background.
J.: What are the misconceptions about what you do?
JL: There are so many! One is that I can read minds. I don’t really know that mind-reading exists, but it’s not the same thing as being intuitive. The other big thing is people have an idea that there’s a beginning, middle and end to every story, like a movie, so if you’re a psychic you’re able to read all of that. In reality, there isn’t a tidy path that every relationship will take. I can meet you and see where your life is now, but it’s more complicated than a single story — there are always a million different paths we can take.
J.: How do you deal with skeptics?
JL: Especially dealing with Jews — we call bullshit when we see bullshit — I don’t ever try to convince anyone that what I do is quote-unquote “real,” or that they should believe in it … That said, I don’t believe in aspirin, but it works. I don’t believe in the Internet, but I use it. What I do doesn’t require a belief.
“Talking with …” is a j. feature that focuses on local Jews who are doing things we find interesting.