A version of this piece first appeared in http://mailonline.com
January 31st 2023. I am on the phone to my brother, sobbing and sobbing. I miss my mother and father, both now deceased. I feel a failure, both personally and professionally. Mistakes I have made in the past are weighing heavily on me. I am worried about money. And I am obsessed with thoughts of dying and what a complete waste my entire life has been.
This really isn’t me. So, what’s different?
A misguided attempt to broaden my horizons and have a bit of a laugh by turning to the Moon to ‘change my life’, that’s what.
It’s the end of a whole month in which I’ve been trying to live my life by adhering to Moon cycles, and what started out as a fun venture I was interested in exploring quickly turned into a nightmare. A horror story that stripped me of self-confidence, laid bare my deepest insecurities and vulnerabilities and seriously made me wonder whether life was worth living.
Instead of enlightenment and happiness, what I uncovered was a sinister web of scheming snake oil salesmen (and women) who emerge from the depths of the internet to prey upon vulnerable people hoping to find a new-age remedy to life’s many bitter pills.
Seeking solace and guidance in mediums, psychics and celestial predictions is a tale as old as time, yet somehow this vindictive group of scammers has found new life – and new victims – thanks to the modern-day advances of web searches and cookies that immediately alert them any time a potential target dares to enter their territory.
But back to December 2022.
The end of any year inevitably brings about reflection. It’s why we make New Year resolutions, after all, and ask ourselves what we can do to break free of the shackles of the past that might be hindering our endeavors.
My inbox is always inundated in December with enticing offers of life-changing advice guaranteed to bring about the new me, and as my resolutions tend to falter round about mid-day on January 3rd, this year I decided to try something new when an advert piqued my interest: the offer of a daily Moon reading for the whole of 2023.
Thrilled by the promise that a Moon reading could tell me what date would be best to play the lottery (they could see me coming a mile off), I signed up and decided to try living by the Moon’s cycles for a month. At best, it would be a bit of fun. At worst, I’d thrown away $72.95 for a year’s worth of entertainment. Or so I thought.
Humans have long been fascinated by the Moon and a full Moon is undoubtedly one of the great beauties in the sky. But does its cycles, as many believe, affect human behavior? Can its waxings and wanings really teach us things about ourselves? I was keen to find out.
My overall Moon chart was astonishingly accurate with regard to my personality and working life – creative, hungry for change, loyal – and the individual day readings started out well. ‘An inspired day if you are artistic in any way’ promised January 2nd.
The next day was even better, with an aspect that ‘favors money, business and romance.’ That seemed like a good day to play the lottery. I won $3. I’d be hoping for the $1.3 billion that eventually was won by someone in Maine. Probably Jessica Fletcher, who might at last be able to retire from writing murder mysteries and trade up her bicycle for a car.
The positivity didn’t last long, and the 4th was going to bring ‘romance problems’ and, for the creative, ‘confusion and a lack of confidence, leading to creative blocks and setbacks.’ Jeez. Thanks, Moon. Four days into the New Year and I’m already a wreck. I’d been fine until you told me about the confusion. In fact, so distressed was I by this prophecy, I went to go to my bathroom but inexplicably opened my apartment door, wandered along the hallway to the elevator and stood there wondering what I was going down to reception to get. Then remembered I’d been going to the bathroom. Which wasn’t by the elevators.
Now, did the Moon foresee and try to forewarn me about the confusion, or did it plant that seed in my brain and bring it about, thereby becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy? That’s the problem – which comes first?
The idea of living by Moon cycles is that you align your mental and physical energy with the different phases in order to use them to your greatest advantage at any one time. The New Moon – when the Sun and the Moon are on the same side of the Earth is, for example, a time to regain your strength and reconnect with yourself. A Full Moon is when emotions are at their highest. Don’t even think of going out or even talking to anyone during the Waning Crescent, when you’ll apparently feel empty and exhausted.
On 10th, I fell ill. I haven’t had to take to my sick bed in 30 years, and the Moon did nothing to warn me. ‘Manipulation is rife’ said my Moon reading. Really? I could barely manipulate my hand to reach out for the Tylenol.
There was more frustration promised for creative types on 14th January, followed by ‘spite, jealousy and scheming power struggles’ on 16th. Come on, mate. Cut to the chase and just tell me when I’m going to win the damned lottery. At this rate, if I follow the Moon, I’m never going to want to get out of bed.
The Moon was already proving to be a bit of a downer, but it still failed to prepare me for the legions of spiritual sidekicks who jumped on the bandwagon once my computer had alerted them to the fact that I was living by the Moon and, therefore, clearly ripe for celestial picking. And that’s where the horror story began.
Suddenly, there were daily ‘Moon Cards’ in my inbox, inviting me to pick Tarot cards. It seemed harmless enough and I was encouraged by picking the ‘exciting and auspicious’ Ace of Wands, which is apparently a good one for stimulating creative drive. Maybe my Moon reading of 20th would help in this – ‘Start keeping a dream diary’ it said, encouraging me to listen to my subconscious. I dreamed about Gordon Ramsay three nights in a row! I really don’t want to be a chef, no matter what my subconscious is telling me. ‘A new dream is calling to you’ said my reading for 26th. Good. Just don’t let it be one in a kitchen.
Worryingly, a lot more people entered the fray, with money – in particular, the lottery – being uppermost in the benefactors’ thoughts. Mary and Christian – a ‘telepathic duo’ – turned up, claiming they would tell me what numbers to choose to win the lottery. This was more like it! ‘So, you’re a Scorpio, like me, said Mary, ‘No wonder I’ve been feeling strong vibrations since we’ve been in contact.’
Clearly not vibrating enough, because when I filled in the form to reach those ever-elusive numbers, it wouldn’t register my details and said, ‘An error has occurred.’ Yes. It’s called a telepathic duo.
Rose Ariadne was keen to get me involved with casting a ‘Magick spell.’ She was very persistent, despite my having answered her multiple-choice question about my opinion on casting spells with a resounding ‘It’s nonsense.’ She told me I could even cast a magick spell (I think she needs a magic spellcheck) while doing household chores. Which part of ‘It’s nonsense’ did you not understand, Rose?
The techniques these people use to rope you into handing over money – which is ultimately their goal – range from the plain stupid to the downright, and often disturbingly, threatening. The escalation is gradual. There’s the initial contact and the ‘special relationship’. Then the enticement – the promise of a fortune or a great love. Next comes the abandonment issue – how hurt the person is that you haven’t listened to them. Next comes the guilt factor – the problem lies with you, because you are putting up barriers to the help being offered. Then comes intimidation – your life is going to fall apart, you idiot, when it was all there for the taking!
They all have a familiar ring, with promises of love and money being top of their agenda. That plays into most people’s insecurities, but especially those of women, who tend to be the people searching for answers and paths to fulfilment. How do you find the right person to love? Are you in the right job? Is there an easier answer to alleviating your financial worries?
Next, Cynthia arrived, courtesy of ‘Soulsearch’, offering to find my soulmate – oh, yes, complete with a video that would tell me ‘when to buy a Powerball ticket.’ As if this were not tempting enough, the added bonus was that the man who put this program together ‘was actually investigated by the FBI for predicting this celebrity’s death.’ Whoopee! Where do I sign? Should I wish to see a picture of my soulmate, I had to pay money, of course. Rose came with an even stranger offer – a picture of ‘how your soulmate looks naked.’
Eh? Isn’t it supposed to be a soulmate? Why do I want a picture of ‘his body type, how big they are, and more.’ Obviously, lesbians need not apply.
The more you ignore these people, the more they prey on your insecurities. And that’s when the real escalation and nightmare starts.
Every morning, I woke to another person stressing how imperative it was that I contact them if I did not wish to lose out on an impending fortune, meeting the love of my life etc. Elissa repeatedly urged me to take her up on the offer to perform both an ‘Astral Cleansing’ and a ‘Diving Rite of Celestial Protection’ – which she vowed would ‘change my life once and for all’ – graciously dropping her price from the usual $120 to just $35.
A guy called Chris with a Seventies haircut was particularly pushy. After ignoring him for a week, he came up with the promise that during my forthcoming ‘Three Days of Light’ I would come into a large sum of money and he had reduced the cost of the talisman he had created from $69 to $49.
But – in return for such a favor – could I also give him a slice of my winnings as a gift when I received them?
Why, why, why was I ignoring him, he demanded to know. He was asking himself, ‘Chris, what have you done wrongly or badly to justify the silence of Jacqueline?’ His tone became more impatient and started to sound more bullying than supportive. ‘If I get angry, it is because I know you are worth the trouble.’ That’s just what I need. Another angry man in my life.
When you scratch the surface of the internet’s many celestial offerings, it’s not hard to find a bevy of alluring opportunities, from ‘astral cleansings’ which promise to prepare your body and soul for a prosperous and happy future to ‘divine’ ceremonies that will guard you ‘against evil’.
The people behind them are cunning and sly. All of them lure you in by vowing to fix or solve your biggest weaknesses and vulnerabilities, offering kind words and pie-in-the-sky promises… before ultimately sticking the knife in with often-threatening demands for money.
Astral cleansing you say? That will be $100. A daily tarot card that will predict what lies ahead in your love life? Cough up $30. On and on it goes until your bank account – and your spirit – are all but drained.
They all use your first name, hoping that the illusion of knowing you might establish a connection, and you feel singled out, a special globule in the stratosphere.
Clearly, the algorithm doesn’t always work, because I received quite a few missives with ‘Insert first name here’ in a blank space. So much for the personal touch.
Little by little, everything about my life was chipped away at – by Chris, Elissa, Gabriel, Rose. Every day, a new name arrived to pile on the pressure. It was a catalogue of missed opportunities, failures, and a litany of details about how I would never be able to escape my past unless I took heed, listened to the kind advice being offered, and sent money to ward off the evil that was doubtless coming my way.
It’s nothing short of intimidation, and on 31st, the end of my Moon living, the feelings of worthlessness, powerlessness and hopelessness these con artists had brought about finally became overwhelming.
If I, as someone who is fairly immune to tricksters, could so easily go into meltdown, what chance for the more susceptible without access to the resources of friendship and support from real humans that I have?
The desperately lonely? The needy? The sick? Addicts clinging to a last hope that someone might hold the key to their illness?
My last Moon reading on 31st, was a transit in which ‘compulsive decisions lead to regrets.’
Yep. That compulsive decision to shell out $72.95 that led to a month of regrets.
I went in search of the man in the Moon. What I got was all the conmen in the universe.