Last March, while others were figuring out how to work from home, I was texting my go-to spiritual advisor, Fay Koliai, aka Mama Fay. Based in Los Angeles, Mama Fay is a hallowed name among the spiritual set, with clients ranging from A-list celebrities to actual royalty. In her 40-year career, she has granted only three media interviews. She has no website, no social media, and no listing for her number. You have to know someone to know her.
I live in New York and had planned to have a session with her during a work trip to LA last spring. Instead, due to lockdowns, I had resorted to texting her everything that was going wrong in my life. Suddenly, her face showed up on my iPhone. I thought I was hallucinating. “Sometimes this is better because all my concentration goes to you, my love,” she said of the FaceTime format. “If we are in person, there is some level of distraction in the room, [like] ‘Can I use the bathroom?’ or ‘Oh, by the way, I like that fish tank.’ It all becomes socializing.”
Here’s the situation: Going to see Mama Fay in person was always an unusual experience. Years earlier, she had moved into a Beverly Hills office after paparazzi started hiding in her bushes at her home. (Did I mention her clients are A-list celebrities?) Her new space was in a commercial high-rise building, on a floor otherwise occupied by a law firm. The receptionist could usually sense you weren’t there for an attorney. Hidden in the back, after a walk that seemed like miles, was Mama Fay’s office: an ultra-chic room with signed pictures of clients, opulent flowers, crystals, and the Hermès deck of playing cards she reads from.
During the pandemic, however, she decided not to renew her lease. For her, it felt like a return to her early days. “On this table, I started everything,” she told me, tapping the table at the bottom of our FaceTime frame.
After we hung up, I started thinking about the metaphysical and wellness communities, whose livelihoods have historically relied on private, in-person sessions. Before COVID-19, I had traveled every few weeks and would often pre-book sessions with metaphysical practitioners in various cities: a psychic medium in London, a tarot card reader in Paris. Would they be forced to migrate to digital? Could they give accurate readings through a screen? I decided to take a trip around the world — from my New York apartment — to find out.
On Finding A Spiritual Advisor “Near” You
In the past, even just locating an authentic metaphysical healer was a lengthy process. Most of the practitioners I spoke with had only recently built websites or social media presences. Case in point: Estelle Bingham, a crystal healer in London. I did a session with Bingham through Zoom while she was in Kenya, working remotely. Until recently, Bingham had been incredibly hard to track down. “I have worked for 20 years, and it has always been word of mouth,” she said, noting how in June 2019, Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop colleagues had been desperately trying to locate her. But she had no website or social media, and was gently nudged by Team Goop to get online, she says. Since lockdown, her business has tripled. “I was busy [before], but now I’m out-of-control busy,” Bingham told me. “I get people emailing me from everywhere.”
For Alan Dolan, who teaches a healing modality called conscious connected breathing, going digital gave him location flexibility. “I would commute to London every month [before the pandemic], which frankly was a drag, but I loved going for my clients,” said Dolan, aka Breath Guru. Now, neither he nor his clients need to be in London — and business is booming. “I couldn’t be more gobsmacked or surprised at how it’s gone,” he said. For our Zoom session, he called from his home on the island Lanzarote, part of the Canary Islands. (He’s leaned even further online with a free app, BreathGuru, which offers daily ten-minute practices.)
On Recreating An In-Person Experience
Many practitioners I spoke with think that virtual sessions are not only possible, but sometimes better. “When we're committed to our own healing, whether it’s via Zoom or on the phone, any positive change can take place,” said Ana Tucker, a clinical hypnotherapist and licensed psychotherapist in Northern California. Malgosia Zamolska, a homeopath in Southwest London, agreed. “I can find out more about the person when they are in their own home, because people are more at ease,” she said. “They sit in their living room or they chop carrots in the kitchen as they talk to me. They know that they are safe, secure, and I find them more relaxed.”
But not everyone has leaned into virtual sessions. For Emmanuelle Iger, a tarot card reader and author in Paris, the pandemic was a welcome rest from reading and writing nonstop, even if that meant shutting down her income stream. When she tried to transfer her five-person workshops online, it didn’t feel right. “When I did digital sessions, it felt like I was a project manager, wanting to get results as fast as possible,” she told me over Zoom. “I did not feel this was the reason why I had chosen to do this job.”
Online And On Point
Research nearly complete, I was excited to connect with Ruby Ong, an energy healer and owner of the Hong Kong spiritual center Reflections. “I wish more people would talk about this,” she told me over WhatsApp. “I have friends in Africa and Asia who are not able to meet with clients, and that automatically turns off their livelihood.” Ong gave me a Sekhem session, a form of ancient Egyptian healing. While I lay in my bed in New York, she put the WhatsApp audio call on speaker and did her work with bells from Hong Kong. Near the end of my 45-minute session, my left knee started twitching. We switched to WhatsApp video for the first time when the session was over, and Ong gave an analysis of my energy. Then she asked what was wrong with my left knee, which sent chills up my spine. I could actually connect energetically with someone halfway around the world — through a screen!
After four nonstop days of virtual calls and sessions, I sat in wonder in my New York office. As we start to emerge from our pandemic lockdowns, I find comfort knowing I can reach into my toolbox of spiritual advisors from my phone. Some communities, however, are digital natives, like #witchesofinstagram and WitchTok, but it’s hard to confirm practitioner reliability on social media like TikTok. It’s another reason the old guard is choosing to be more active online: to assert their legitimacy over spiritual influencers.
But establishing an online presence requires summarizing a career that resists easy summaries — into one-sentence Instagram bios and LinkedIn endorsements. Before we hang up, I ask Mama Fay how I should describe her. “I hate ‘psychic,’” she says. “I’m a healer. I could be ‘the business guru.’ I give people advice. ... I think I’m a life coach, friend, Mama Fay. I call myself an intuitive genius, my love,” she says, spinning her magical laughter as the call ends.
And still, you have to know someone to know her. Fortunately, now you know me. To contact Mama Fay, text or call 760-898-5440, and say Jaspre sent you. She will get back to you when the time is right.