Fortune Telling: Iran’s New Sensation

July 25, 2017 Fortune telling aims to predict the future through psychic means and communication with supernatural forces. Although it has little support in science, the practice remains popular in many countries. Many people around the world regularly consult palm readers, astrologers and psychic advisers.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, superstition has reportedly usurped religion as a stabilizing spiritual force. According to some reports, more Iranians consult fortunetellers than ever before. The average citizen escapes the hardship of daily life by taking refuge in the fantasy world of fortune telling.

A national study conducted with the help of 3,000 psychologists and 8,000 members of the public has shown that 7.5 million Iranians consulted fortune tellers in 2014. The report claims that 10 percent of the population visits a fortune teller at least once a year.

According to the same report, 68 percent of girls between the ages of 18 and 26 visit a fortune teller at least once a year. More than 50 percent of the same age group consult a fortune teller multiple times in a year. The data also shows that 83 percent of university students believe in fortune telling.

“Fortune telling has existed for millennia. We can trace its genesis back to the earliest human societies,” said the Iranian sociologist Amanollah Ghahraman in an interview with Salamat News. “Human beings have always sought out peace and tranquility. Our ancestors couldn’t find any explanation for natural phenomenon and disasters. Their fears and uncertainties prompted them to believe in a supernatural power, which they called Mana. Wizards and shamans were individuals who claim to have a direct conduit to the universal power. They fend off evil and ensure the safety of the group. Early shamanism has evolved through centuries and has morphed into modern fortunetelling.”

There are reports that government officials also consult psychic advisers.

During an open session of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) on May 10, Mojtaba Zolnour, the Qom deputy, claimed that President Hassan Rouhani’s sister-in-law had been arrested in Qom along with a fortune teller to whom she had reportedly paid more than $3 million dollars in fees. Neither Rouhani nor his brother Hossein Fereydoon have denied the report.

Many members of previous administrations have also been linked with various fortune tellers. Abbas Ghaffari is a famous soothsayer who, according to his father-in-law, has been an adviser to many senior officials since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. It is rumored that Ghaffari was routinely consulted about the selection of ministers while Ali Akbar Velayati was the Iranian Foreign Minister (1981-97).

In July 2011, the Judiciary Spokesman, Mohsen Ejei, announced: “Two exorcists have been arrested. Their case is currently being reviewed.” One of the exorcists was Ghaffari, who was tried and sentenced to death. His sentence was later reduced to eight years imprisonment. He was released in 2013.

The Internet and social networks have created a vast and lucrative market for fortune tellers. Vida is a 43-year-old coffee fortune teller who lives in Yerevan, Armenia, with her daughter. Her website has more than 10,000 members, while a further 10,000 people follow Vida on her Instagram. Vida’s husband lives in Tehran. He owns a shop that sells motorcycle parts.

Her clients contact Vida via Telegram (the cloud-based instant messaging service). They provide her with their bank card details. Once the fee has arrived in her bank account, Vida performs a reading for the client. Clients can hear Vida’s reading via Telegram, WhatsApp or Viber. Since the reading is done remotely, Vida has to drink the coffee herself and interpret the pattern for her client. On average, she performs 10 readings every week. Vida says that sometimes she reads six or seven fortunes in a single day.

In an interview with Kayhan London, Vida said: “I took a course on coffee fortune telling and tarot card reading over 20 years ago. At the time, I was working at my sister’s hair salon in Tehran Pars. I mostly did it for our regular customers. It was a hobby at the beginning, but gradually it became my profession.”

Vida claims to rely on her strong sixth sense for interpreting the coffee patterns and tarot cards. She also relies on her clients for inspiration. Vida claims to have a proven record of accuracy and a loyal following. When asked whether she believed in her own predictions, Vida answered: “It depends on how I feel at that moment. There are times when I truly believe that my predictions will come true. On many occasions, what I see resonates with the client’s view of events.”

When Vida worked out of her sister’s salon, she paid her a percentage of her income. “The authorities warned us about operating out of a hair salon,” said Vida.

“They kept us under surveillance, which made my sister uneasy. My husband wouldn’t allow me to work from our house. So I stopped working as a coffee fortune teller for a while.”

Vida immigrated to Yerevan in 2012. She operates a hair salon out of her house. Most of her clients are Iranian expatriates. She continues to tell coffee fortunes on the side. Vida has a number of Iranian clients on her Instagram and Telegram platforms. She is also visited by Iranian tourists who travel to Yerevan.

Vida is surprised at the popularity of her website and income it has generated. She makes more money as a fortune teller than a hairdresser. Her salon is, however, a great way to attract Iranian expatriates who seek out her services as a soothsayer. She has built up her client list through word of mouth. Vida says that many of her religious clients ask her help in finding a soothsayer who would write prayers for them.

According to Vida, many people don’t speak openly about their visits to a fortune teller. She claims that some of her clients work at the Islamic Republic Embassy in Yerevan while others teach at Iranian schools. She said: “Some people are true believers. They visit me two or three times a week. It has a calming effect on them.”

Fortune tellers charge a wide range of fees depending on the services rendered. Coffee, candle, rosewater and Tarot readings as well as writing prayers each demand a different fee. They are very popular among Iranians.

According to Vida a coffee reading costs between $15 and $90. Vida charges $16 for a session of Tarot or coffee reading.

Many psychologists and sociologists have tried to discover the reason behind the popularity of fortune telling. Some psychologists believe that despair, economic hardship and lack of job opportunity are some of the reasons for people finding solace in fortune telling. Economic prosperity, political progress, social welfare and employment tend to instill hope and confidence in society and eradicate fear and superstition.

Fortune telling, palm reading, consulting oracles, Tarot cards and astrology are not the only ways through which people escape their misfortune. Iranian society is plagued with various forms of superstition. Many people drop their written prayers in the Jamkaran Mosque well in Qom, believing that the 12th Shia Imam (Muhammad al-Mahdi) will grant their wishes.